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DelingpoleGate: Monbiot slams anti-science columnist for leading “Telegraph into vicious climate over email”

By Joe Romm  

"DelingpoleGate: Monbiot slams anti-science columnist for leading “Telegraph into vicious climate over email”"

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The Brits manage to make our anti-science reporters, columnists, and media seem like Walter Cronkite.  One of the most notorious is James Delingpole and his “paper,” the UK’s Telegraph, who recently helped launched a major effort to intimidate and harass climate scientists.

Delingpole is a self-described “libertarian conservative” who likes “recreational drugs.”  He’s the Glenn Beck of climate writers who puts out stuff like, “Build-a-bear: the sinister green plot to turn our kids into eco-fascist Manchurian candidates.”  Seriously (see “Right wing bullies Build-A-Bear into removing videos about manmade climate change“).

For Delingpole, every transgression by scientists — real or imagined — is a scandal.  In his Monday column he jumped the shark gate, with his piece “After Climategate, Pachaurigate and Glaciergate: Amazongate.”  Later I’ll deal with the “substance” of that piece, which begins absurdly, “AGW theory is toast.”

Right now I want to focus on what it best described as Delingpole-gate.   George Monbiot elaborates in his Wednesday blog post, “James Delingpole leads Telegraph into vicious climate over email“:

I think I have worked out where commentator James Delingpole is coming from. He pretends to be a climate change denier and enemy of environmentalists. In reality he’s a mole, paid by Greenpeace to inflict as much damage on the anti-green cause as possible. And he’s doing a marvellous job.

His blog posts for the Telegraph consist of the kind of ill-informed viciousness provided for free by trolls on comment threads everywhere, but raised by an order of magnitude. He puts a wrecking ball through any claims the denial lobby might have to being civilised, intelligent or serious. His followers act as an echo-chamber, magnifying his nastiness. Between them they succeed in alienating anyone who might want an informed debate. But this week he surpassed himself.

On Sunday he published a letter sent to a Conservative candidate asking about his position on climate change. Here’s what the letter said:

“Dear Edwin Northover

I was concerned to note the results of a survey of 140 Conservative candidates for parliament that suggested that climate change came right at the bottom of their priorities for government action.

I hope you can reassure me that you recognise the importance and success of climate change action by the UK government at home and internationally.

Can you clarify that:

You accept that climate change is caused by human activity?

Do you support the target to achieve 15% renewable energy by 2020?

Do you support the EU imposing tougher regulation to combat climate change?

Kind Regards, *** ***”.

It looks to me like a polite enquiry from someone concerned about climate change. Delingpole, however, saw it as a “nauseating email” which must have come from a “disgusting eco-fascist organisation”, though he didn’t know which organisation this might be. His post was headlined “Conservative candidates stalked by eco bullies”. Much worse, he published the man’s name and home address.

Delingpole’s bootboys took the hint and immediately swung into action. Within a few minutes of the comments opening, they had published the man’s telephone number and email address, a photo of his house (“Note all the recycling going on in his front garden”), his age and occupation. Then they sought to tell him just what a low opinion they had of “stalking” and “bullying”.

One commenter wrote: “I tried to telephone *** *** on the number helpfully posted in this blog, but he’s out until tomorrow. Perhaps he is out ‘tackling climate change’? – anyway his missus didn’t seem to know where he was.”

Paradoxically, their hounding of this poor man demonstrated that he was just what he seemed to be: an ordinary citizen, exercising his democratic right to ask a parliamentary candidate about his position on an important matter.

The comment thread was rich with unintended irony, as Delingpole’s readers lambasted the man who had sent the letter:

“This intrusive and abusive lobbying is disgusting”

“I cannot stress enough how dangerous and vindictive the environmentalist movement is.”

After some 20 hours of this venom, the Telegraph took the post down, but not before an article purporting to oppose bullying and stalking had been used to launch a campaign of bullying and stalking.

The paper has issued no apology or explanation: if you click on the link it just says “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.” This suggests an absence of transparency and honesty and a failure to admit to what looks to me like a grave breach of media ethics.

Anyway, James should be congratulated for a magnificent attempt to do even more damage to his purported cause. Greenpeace is doubtless posting another fat cheque to him as I write. Unfortunately his noble and self-sacrificial campaign is probably being waged in vain. If the comments are anything to go by, his regular readers appear to be devoid of humanity, reflection or any sense of irony. However vicious or stupid their spokespeople become, they will still go along with it.

Dry British humor aside, Delingpole-gate is but one piece of evidence that the British media is calving icebergs of disinformation as it melts down.  More to come.

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18 Responses to DelingpoleGate: Monbiot slams anti-science columnist for leading “Telegraph into vicious climate over email”

  1. Peter Wood says:

    I suspect that the other mole is Lord Monckton – and with Monckton’s help the communist world government will be upon us!

  2. DavidCOG says:

    > The Brits manage to make our anti-science reporters, columnists, and media seem like Walter Cronkite.

    Nonsense. The US ‘invented’ climate change denialism, and us Brits still have plenty to learn from the masters, notwithstaning the occasional ‘libertarian conservative’ wingnut columnist in our midst who has realised he can get good viewing figures – a lot of it from the US – by feeding the mob what they want.

  3. DreamQuestor says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that the word “gate” is being seriously abused? One would think that with an English vocabulary of a million words, journalists could find a different word for scandal.

  4. BillD says:

    I’m not sure how the over the top, largely false comments from extreme deniers affects the less engaged, general public. I think that it clear that mainstream journalistic media need to point out mistakes and falsehoods. I at least hope that the more general public, when they happen to read, hear or watch these “libertarian” commentaries might begin to realize that many of premises and facts presented by deniers are false and easily debunked.

  5. JakeU says:

    The voter who dared ask a Tory MP candidate questions about his political views is certainly brave enough to report his stalkers to the authorities.

    I wholeheartedly hope he does.

  6. Doug Bostrom says:

    DreamQuestor says: January 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

    “Am I the only one who thinks that the word “gate” is being seriously abused?”

    No, you’re not. Look for “ApostropheGate”, coming to you via a flock of loons, soon.

    They’re pushing the button a little too hard, a little too often and are going to lose the attention of mainstream journalists by so doing. Massage the hockey stick too often and it’ll fall off.

  7. mike roddy says:

    I agree that Monckton is probably also a Greenpeace mole, along with Ian Plimer from Australia, who was the recent victim of a Monbiot faceplant on UTube. In this country, the best candidate is Morano.

    These guys of course just get out there and lie like hell, with no shame whatsoever. Let’s put this in perspective, though….From Lawrence of Arabia:

    Dryden the diplomat (to T.E. Lawrence): “People like me lie to hide the truth. People like you, who tell half lies, have forgotten where you put it”.

    This applies to more dangerous and effective purveyors of half truths and fuzzy fabrications, who gain much more traction in mainstream media outlets, and are therefore more dangerous. I’m talking about you: Roger Pielke Jr., The Breakthrough Institute, Joe Lieberman, Anthony Watts, and Steve McIntyre.

  8. DreamQuestor says:

    BillD says:
    January 30, 2010 at 9:59 am

    I’m not sure how the over the top, largely false comments from extreme deniers affects the less engaged, general public. I think that it clear that mainstream journalistic media need to point out mistakes and falsehoods. I at least hope that the more general public, when they happen to read, hear or watch these “libertarian” commentaries might begin to realize that many of premises and facts presented by deniers are false and easily debunked.

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a study linking climate change denial with scientific illiteracy. I have participated in quite a few arguments on the issue and quite a few people do not even understand how carbon dioxide traps heat. I think part of the problem is that the field of science has expanded so dramatically over the past century that it is impossible to generalize now. The best that any scientist can hope to achieve is to be able to specialize in two or three different fields. The problem, of course, is that the average American still believes in that old Hollywood cliché that a scientist is a generalist and can answer just about any question on any “scientific” matter. That is one reason why progress on combating climate change has been so slow: We are not just battling self-interest, but also, in effect, mythology.

  9. espiritwater says:

    From DreamQuestor– “I wonder if anyone has ever done a study linking climate change denial with scientific illiteracy. I have participated in quite a few arguments on the issue and quite a few people do not even understand how carbon dioxide traps heat. I think part of the problem is that the field of science has expanded…”
    ————————————

    Nope. I know of many very intelligent, highly educated individuals who reject the idea of climate change; can’t even talk to them about it; they come all unglued! The people I know who realize its happening is the poorer, less educated individuals!

  10. Mark Shapiro says:

    THis sort of bullying and stalking of complete innocents by folks on the “right” has a long, sordid history. Michelle Malkin published the name and address of a young boy who had the temerity to ask for S-CHIP funding in Congress, and O’Reilly smeared Dr. Tiller until one of his listeners murdered him.

    It makes one sad and angry — very angry. But we keep working and hoping — always.

  11. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The rich are trusting their sources, that they do not get global warming is clearly evidenced by relative property prices.

    I want to move my family to an affordable property a little closer to the pole, but they do not want to go yet. They want to wait until global warming is a problem. We could afford to move now, but when when the rich understand they will force up the prices until we cannot afford to move.

    The likes of Delingpole will need to fear those they have so effectively deceived. They will be very upset at the missed opportunities. The lowness of his actions is evidence of his desperation.

  12. Brian GA says:

    “I wonder if anyone has ever done a study linking climate change denial with scientific illiteracy.”

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out that education just polarizes people, and makes them feel more confident about their previously held views. Just look at chemical engineers. They are mathematically and scientifically literate, but they tend to fall on the denier side of the spectrum. They see the world through the lens of industry.

    In market based economies, incentives are usually forces of tremendous good. In this case, following natural economic incentives will lead us to ruin. It will take brave political leadership to go against the grain, and enact unpopular solutions. That’s just the way it’s always going to be.

  13. 13. Brian GA,

    Different kinds of education have different kinds of effect, and I suspect that the real difference is not to be found in the level of the degree. Forms of education that are highly specialized and technical do not, by themselves, lead the person to a broad ranging ability to engage in critical thinking (= “scientific methodology” writ large). Consequently, outside of their narrow areas of expertise, such people can actually have little more than a high-school education.

    (FWIW, the ideal of the liberal education was precisely to counteract this narrowness.)

    Finally, the question of scientific literacy and education are not strictly the same. An engineer — even one with an advanced degree — need not be especially scientifically literate. The kinds of inquiry that engineers engage in are much more concerned with the application of known facts rather than the discovery of new ones. That in itself might be a source of rigidity with respect to dealing with the new and the unknown.

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    Logic Deferred says: January 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Great post.

    “FWIW, the ideal of the liberal education was precisely to counteract this narrowness”

    And as our universities and colleges more resemble technical training institutions more directly focused on creating a “workforce”, the less successful are they with liberal education.

  15. DreamQuestor says:

    I should clarify that education by itself is no guarantee that anyone will accept the facts. However, it does at least improve the odds that a person will understand the facts that they reject. How many times have we heard someone say that global warming cannot be happening because it is so cold out or because there has been so much snow? Most such people simply do not understand that global warming can actually increase the amount of snow because higher temperatures increase the amount of water vapor available for precipitation.

    There is a fascinating article in the January/February issue of the Columbia Journalism Review which explores this issue when it examines the question of why so many meteorologists reject anthropogenic global warming.

    http://www.cjr.org/cover_story/hot_air.php?page=all

  16. espiritwater says:

    Dream Questor, I know this guy who you can’t even mention climate change to without him coming all un-glued. (This is a highly intelligent person, a devoted father, with a college degree). Recently he commented how nice it was to have spring weather after all the cold (implying my “theories” about climate change were wrong). It doesn’t matter that this fall was unusually warm and this winter has been more like spring than winter. He sees what he wants to see. He knows the difference between climate and weather but refuses to acknowledge climate change is taking place! But then, his job depends on climate change being a hoax.

  17. espiritwater says:

    A few years ago, when we had a real bad heat wave, my mom commented, “what’s going on with this crazy weather? I’ve never seen anything like it!” I told her about climate change and she said, “I think you’re right!” But then, she has nothing to lose by seeing the Truth. (She’s 90 with only a grade school education).