Thursday, November 26, 2009

Modern McCarthyism
Have you no decency, Mr. Monbiot?

I hope everyone who thought that while George Monbiot was a scientific illiterate, at least he was our scientific illiterate, are jolly well feeling ashamed of themselves.

It's no use pretending this isn't a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging. I am now convinced that they are genuine, and I'm dismayed and deeply shaken by them.

Yes, the messages were obtained illegally. Yes, all of us say things in emails that would be excruciating if made public. Yes, some of the comments have been taken out of context. But there are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad. There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.

Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed. -[source]

The idea, presumably, is that by throwing Jones under a bus, this will show the public that while there were a few bad apples, there is no problem now. This will not work: feeding crocodiles only makes them hungrier. This make-believe scandal is going to be spun into an attack on all climate science and every time the old nonsense gets warmed-up and served as left-overs ("Climate change stopped in 1998!"[cheap LOLZ]; "There's no such thing as the greenhouse effect!" [seriously: we're along way down the rabbit hole when people are pretending classical thermodynamics doesn't work]) people will think "Oh, wasn't there some fuss a while back when that bloke had to resign - scientists, eh, what do they know?". It's a masterstroke: the mere fact of having expertise means they don't have to take your opinion seriously. Brilliant. Horrifying, but brilliant.

A number of the more excitable brethren are describing the email hack as a "blue dress" moment. This is quite correct, only not in the way they mean it.


Alex said...

The problem isn't that Monbiot is being McCarthyite; he's being liberal in the sense the authoritarians use the word.

Political Scientist said...

Perhaps he has stared into the Abyss for too long?

Unrelated, Hugo Rifkind (of all people) has an article in the Spectator (of all places) which is sensible.