For the latest update, go here.
The Heartland Institute has launched one of the most offensive billboard campaigns in U.S. history. The Chicago-based anti-science think tank is comparing all those who accept climate science — and the journalists who report on it accurately — to Charles Manson, the Unabomber, and Osama Bin Laden.
This far-beyond-the-pale ad campaign to promote their Chicago conference later this month is a moment of truth for both the think tank and the broader community of disinformers and their enablers.
Will confirmed speakers like Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Czech President Vasclav Klaus, Joe Bastardi, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer, or former NASA astronauts show up at the conference, thereby endorsing this beyond-extremist message? Will leading deniers denounce these offensive ads — or will they implicitly endorse this kind of hate speech? Will media outlets like PBS keep quoting Heartland ‘experts’ as if they were a legitimate source of information?
GM ended their financial support of Heartland earlier this month, as has AT&T, but why are State Farm and Microsoft still supporting it? Many other public corporations have donated money or provided resources to Heartland, including Eli Lilly & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Nucor, Pfizer, and Time Warner Cable. Will they cut ties or implicitly endorse these extreme ads?
UPDATE: Heartland ended their gruesome failure today at 5 pm, but in a release, refused to admit it was a mistake or apologize. Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast tried to call this an “experiment” even though a series of billboards were planned (see below) and stated, “We do not apologize for running the ad.” So, apparently, no lessons learned for the disinformers. What caused them to fold, then? The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent reported:
Congressman Sensenbrenner will not participate in the upcoming Climate Change Conference if the Heartland Institute decides to continue this ad campaign. We have contacted the Heartland Institute and voiced these same concerns to them.
You know you are off the deep end of anti-science extremism when you’ve offended the sensibility of Sensenbrenner, a man who once “sent a letter to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling for scientists whose names appear in the e-mails stolen from the U.K. Climatic Research Unit to be blacklisted from participating as contributors or reviewers of the forthcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.”
The UK Guardian, which broke the story this morning, calls this “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.
But let’s be clear. This is not some “oops” moment by an individual overzealous Heartland employee with catastrophically poor judgment. Quite the reverse.
This is a collective act by the Institute expressing its core worldview. A sustained billboard campaign would have to be signed off at the highest levels. Heartland displays the above image on its main website, proudly announcing its campaign and linking to its robust defense of “Our Billboards” on its conference website.
Heartland’s detailed rationalization for its hate speech confirms the very worst views of this right-wing group. I’ll quote it at length since it is so self-discrediting:
Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world’s most notorious criminals say they “still believe in global warming” – and ask viewers if they do, too…
The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).
These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.
Why did Heartland choose to feature these people on its billboards?
Because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming….
The point is that believing in global warming is not “mainstream,” smart, or sophisticated. In fact, it is just the opposite of those things. Still believing in man-made global warming – after all the scientific discoveries and revelations that point against this theory – is more than a little nutty. In fact, some really crazy people use it to justify immoral and frightening behavior.
You just can’t make this stuff up — unless you are a group of professional disinformers. As Climate Central puts it, “Heartland Institute Jumps the Shark.”
Oh, but Heartland wants you to know that not every single climate scientist — nor every member of the over 120 governments who sign off on the IPCC assessment reports nor every reporter who writes accurately — is like a psychopath:
Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.
Seriously. And yet they write:
The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.
Has there ever been a more insidious attack in this country on scientists and reporters — and millions of Americans who are alarmed and concerned about global warming based solely on what the science actually says?
One can’t even get into the internal logic of this nonsense. Outside of the climate blogosphere (and viewers of Fox News), it’s doubtful that more than a few percent of the public has any notion that these crazed individuals happen to have expressed views on global warming. They aren’t “the most prominent advocates.”
One word on the late Osama Bin Laden. Terrorists try very hard to spread their disinformation. A key goal is to get others to spread it for them, especially ones who are holed up in a cave somewhere — or who are now dead. Thus terrorists craft their disinformation into a sensational message that they hope gullible members of the global media will repeat. If Heartland runs a billboard with Bin Laden’s image pushing his disinformation, it will be even a lower low for them (see here).
UPDATE: Not that it matters to the disinformers at Heartland, but as E&E reports on the Unabomber’s manifesto (which you can confirm online):
The words “climate change” don’t appear in the manifesto, nor are there references to “global warming” or “carbon.”
Asked about this discrepancy, Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely pointed to a passage from Kaczynski’s manifesto that says the Industrial Revolution has “inflicted severe damage on the natural world.”
Heartland’s entire justification for taking anti-science, anti-scientist hate speech to a new level — and plastering it over the Dwight D Eisenhower Expressway in Illinois — are the “Climategate” stolen emails and the incident in which Peter Gleick admitted using deception to obtain Heartland documents (which Gleick subsequently acknowledged was “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics”).
Yet, several climate scientists who “had their emails stolen [in 2009], posted online and grossly misrepresented,” slammed Heartland for “spreading misinformation” and “personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.” The scientists specifically noted:
In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails said. Despite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.
You can read Heartland’s reply to similar charges here. Climategate isn’t a justification for Heartland to smear those who accept climate science. Quite the reverse. It is a reason for an apology, albeit one that pales in comparison to the mea culpas needed for this billboard campaign.
Does the Heartland Board stand behind these ads? The full list is here. Many of them live in Chicago. Does this really express their worldview?
Everyone needs to go on record on this. These ads are so extremist that failing to denounce them is an implicit endorsement of the worst kind of hate speech.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan comments on the billboard at The Daily Beast:
In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the “right.” A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association….
Mann and Ornstein are correct. Large sections of the American right are now close to insane as well as depraved. And there is no Buckley to rein them in. Just countless Jonah Goldbergs seeking to cash in.
It is worth nothing that the extremist disinformers at WattsUpWithThat were pushing this kind of hate speech long before Heartland (see “Purported eco-terrorist shot and killed by police“). When James J. Lee held people hostage with a gun and bombs strapped to his body at the Discovery Communications in 2010, this was Watts’ headline:
And the first line of Watts’ post is “Well, you filthy readers, see what happens when we don’t acquiesce?“ Remember, Watts is a guy who demanded others “dial back the rhetoric.”
And he stands by that headline and text to this day!
This post has been updated.
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NOTE: ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. The AP worked to independently verify the documents and concluded, “The federal consultant working on the classroom curriculum, the former TV weatherman, a Chicago elected official who campaigns against hidden local debt and two corporate donors all confirmed to the AP that the sections in the document that pertained to them were accurate. No one the AP contacted said the budget or fundraising documents mentioning them were incorrect.” Heartland Institute has issued several press releases on the documents. See also “CAPAF General Counsel Responds To Heartland Institute.”