Heartland Calls Wahhmbulance, Anticipates PBS Frontline will Report Truth Tonight

by Peter Sinclair, via Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Heartland Institute, famous for billboard craziness (see above) and hosting the semi-semi-annual woodstock for wackjobs known as the International Conference on Climate Change (hereafter “Denia-Palooza) – which this year featured the (wildly applauded) racist rantings of “Lord” Christopher Monckton, once mere climate crank, now AIDS curer and full-on Obama birth certificate nut-job – that Heartland – has now released a press release pre-protesting whatever treatment they might get in tonights PBS Frontline production “Climate of Doubt”.

Heartland screed as follows:

On Tuesday, October 23, PBS’s “Frontline” program will broadcast a special titled “Climate of Doubt.” It promises to go “inside the organizations” that helped turn the tide of public opinion, and then of elected officials, away from excessive concern over the possible threat of man-made global warming.

The Heartland Institute is likely to be a central figure in this program as we welcomed “Frontline” producer Catherine Upin and her crew to our Seventh International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago in May. Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor also gave a three-hour interview to the film crew in August. Earlier this year, The Economist called Heartland “the world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.”

We hope the program is accurate and fair, but past experience both with PBS and other mainstream media outlets leads us to predict it will be neither. Several Heartland staff will be watching the program and commenting live via Twitter and on our blog, Somewhat Reasonable.

The Frontline crew, rumor has it,  have been doing some exhaustive digging into the climate denial movement. My only hope would be that the affair doesn’t boomerang with too much face time for crazy people, and not enough for explanatory science.

Moreover, at that conference, a well known denier told me that his biggest concern about public opinion was that it might be swayed by extreme events. I told him to bet on it.  That was a few weeks before we knew that the corn crop was in trouble – and subsequent polling has confirmed his premonition. This summer was a hinge-point in US Public awareness of climate change.

If you think Mitt Romney’s recent threats against Public Broadcasting were about budgets or Big Bird, think again. The reason the right hates PBS is that sometimes it commits the unpardonable sin of journalism.

Peter Sinclair is editor of Climate Denial Crock of the Week. This piece was originally posted at his website and was reprinted with permission.

25 Responses to Heartland Calls Wahhmbulance, Anticipates PBS Frontline will Report Truth Tonight

  1. Chris Winter says:

    A three-hour interview with James M. Taylor? I’d call that dedication above and beyond the call of duty on the part of the interviewer.

  2. BillD says:

    Sounds like a good Frontline to record. How such blatant anti-science ranting is supported by large companies is beyond belief.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice to hear from you, Peter, keep up the good work. I’m going to watch the PBS show now. It will be interesting to see if they throw a few punches, and get away from their staid and timid persona.

  4. Chris Winter says:

    Yesterday, Michael Mann filed a defamation suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

  5. Ozonator says:

    “Lord” Christopher Monckton is just trying to justify stealing a lifeboat seat escaping the Titanic. A few nights ago his genetic programing returned him to Gibraltar to show the last Neanderthal how low H. sapiens could go. Lordy Lordy was only ~30,000 years too late – proving that he is part of the natural cycle/psycho.

  6. prokaryotes says:

    Watch Now! Climate of Doubt – FRONTLINE explores the massive shift in public opinion on climate change.

  7. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    It is interesting that frontline discussed the koch brothers involvement, with david koch being a major contributer to pbs. We will have to see how pbs balances their obligation to report important issues like this,when it conflicts with the for – profit interests of thier contributers.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    About bloody time! These ‘people’ have to be confronted by every peaceful means available, and when they smear and vilify they must not be allowed to get away with it. Mann should see if he can sue in the UK, where the libel laws are cruelly punitive. Usually it’s the rich using them to intimidate the proles-let’s see a reversal of fortune for once, and for a start.

  9. TKPGH says:

    The Koch Brothers funded the Berkely Earth Surface Temperature study and still (which supported the evidence for AGW), to my knowldge have made no move to change course and address climate change. For these guys, the cash register is the only way to keep score.
    I was Frontline last night. I can’t help but be enraged at these people. They make decisions every day that are compromising our kid’s futures.

  10. fj says:

    Heartland change deniers and their ilk have definitely been successful at causing a criminal climate with the moral equivalent of the prosecution of humanity’s worst horrors . . . which we must stop immediately to face down the climate change crisis head-on with everything we have.

  11. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Good journalism, a pure presentation of the facts. Beyond that, I would like to have seen a few minutes of editorializing at the end, including a pronouncement of grave warnings for inaction. But I’ll take it – without expectation that the show might sway public opinion. That, I fear, will require the desertification of Iowa; the draining of Lake Mead; storms, storms, and more storms; and thirst and hunger within the ranks of the Right.

  12. John McCormick says:

    Pro, I watched the Frontline piece. It put the real focus on the liars. The few ring masters controlled the mob and the rest is history.

    Fear and intimidation learned from the mafia.

    “You got a nice life here, Congressman. Would be a shame if you lose it”. Their message worked in the 111th Congressional Senate. Strong evidence from Frontline.

    We are up against an enemy far more powerful than we and all we hawks do is bitch and moan.

  13. Brent Winecoff says:

    The way they talk about PBS is the way progressives talk about FOX. If their reporting if neither “accurate” nor “fair” then why do they feel the need to hold a live blogging circle jerk to dispute PBS’ findings? Does it not stand to reason that, with the exception of industry insiders, no denier is going to be watching Frontline and no supporter is going to listen to Heartland’s made up word vomit? These people cant even convince themselves anymore.

  14. Larry Gilman says:

    “The reason the right hates PBS is that sometimes it commits the unpardonable sin of journalism.”

    Sometimes, but not too horribly often. Tuning in to PBS and/or NPR these days is like climbing into one of those giant inflated enclsoures at the state fair where kids can bounce around and never hit anything hard enough to hurt. And it was only a month or so ago that PBS was broadcasting mind-scrambling pap about the climate “debate” ( ). I go to Democracy Now ( ) and Counterspin ( ) for progressive journalism without the reams of smarmy filler.

  15. Donald Brown says:

    I believe the Frontline show should be welcomed but at the same time strongly criticized for missing important elements of the story necessary to get a full sense of the outrageousness if not criminality of the disinformation campaign. Missing from the discussion was (a) a stronger sense of the strength of the consensus view, (every academy of science in the world supports the consensus view, over a hundred scientific organizations whose members have relevant expertise supports the consensus view, most of the science that should make us worried was settled 150 years ago, the difference between peer-reviewed science and the manufactured science of the disinformation campaign), (b) a sense of the urgency for taking action not only now but decades ago, (c) the civilization challenging magnitude of the reductions that will be necessary to prevent dangerous climate change, (d) the tactics of the campaign which cannot be understood as responsible skepticism, such as making claims that not only have not been peer-reviewed but are at odds with non-controversial science, cherry picking the science, treating something as undermining the entire body of science even though the issue in contention is not consequential in undermining the science, the cyber-bullying that is going on, (d)the fact that large polluters are putting hundreds of millions of poor people at risk who have done nothing to cause the problem, the fact that the United States has been a major barrier to a global solution in climate negotiations for over 2 decades, (e) the fact that even the Obama administration is unwilling to make commitments for emissions reductions consistent with any reasonable interpretation of the US fair share of safe global emissions, (f) the fact that climate change must be understood as a moral and ethical issue, an understanding that undermines the purely economically self-interested arguments made by those in opposition to climate change policies, and (g) the fact that it already too late to prevent grave suffering for some people in some parts of the world. In short the Frontline program failed to mention why the disinformation campaign should be considered as some new kind of crime against humanity.

  16. Rick says:

    I just checked my local PBS station in San Diego. They’ve buried this edition of Frontline at 3:30 AM!

  17. mark E says:

    I would have preferred seeing that at the beginning more. If you blank your brain and listen to the opening few minutes the majority – not all but the majority – of airtime consists of assertive confident statements centered on assassin words like HOAX and HYPE. Other than that I thought it was well done and I would sure love to know who the real people are behind the money and shell outfits like Donors Trust Inc. Kochs sure… but who else?

  18. Joe Romm says:

    I agree.

  19. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Donald, I agree – point-by-point. But to do the topic its due would require a multi-part presentation; a documentary with perhaps 10 hour-long episodes. This is a job for Ken Burns. He has one that airs in November titled “The Dust Bowl”

    Seems like a perfect lead-in.

  20. Chris Winter says:

    I watched it online. It was a very good report. But I would have “amped up” the ending, I think.

    I liked John Hockenberry’s questions — especially this interchange with Myron Ebell at the end:

    JH: “What if you’re wrong?”

    ME: “What if anybody’s wrong?”

    JH: “What if you’re wrong?”

    ME: “Then I’ll have to say I’m sorry. I’ll wish that we could be faster at reversing the policies we helped put in place.”

    (Those quotes may not be verbatim, but the gist is right.)

    Ebell really ducks the question here. He obscures the critical point that if we act against climate change and it somehow proves unnecessary, we can stop acting against climate change. However, the smartest experts on the planet warn that if we fail to act, we will run into unstoppable troubles.

  21. Richard Miller says:

    I agree 100% with Donald. The true criminality and insanity of these groups had to be put in context. The sea level rise estimates for North Carolina were for 39 inches, Hansen makes a credible case for the possibility of 16.5 feet by the end of the century. We needed much more views of real scientists and their dire warnings and less chatter with the crazies.

    How about a full hour on the science and the possible solutions?

    My estimation of Frontline, like nearly every major news organization, is diminished because of this program.

  22. Richard Miller says:

    Exactly right, we cannot just turn the clock back and Frontline did not make this clear. One of many lost opportunities.

  23. Brian R Smith says:

    Yes to all your points. The public is a long way from well informed and needs to know everything (and a lot more) that you list. But Dennis Tomlinson,above, is right; it can’t be done in 53 min.

    I think Frontline & Hockenberry judged their limitations in the scheme of things well and did an excellent job of focusing on what I mainly took away, that the denialist machine has been wildly effective precisely because they have taken the initiative. “We” have not. I read the piece as a warning: allow this to continue and it will.

    So can we expect the kind of no-holds-barred depth and consistent focus on the issues we are looking for from Frontline or any major MSM news source? Almost certainly not, unless and until the climate science community and its allies in government, civil society and the private sector come together to demand it. Lead it.

    Climate advocates,climate funders, climate scientists and climate media activists have to collaborate on devising & deploying national and local media strategies – on a scale that can ACTUALLY counter the lies and create public outcry for action. I suggest a summit of the parties to develop said strategies. CAP is an obvious candidate for leadership in sponsoring initial steps on a serious, intense climate media strategy and funding.

    Are all the major players in this game going to continue to ignore the potential of a grand alliance to affect public opinion on the science, debunk the denier/delayers and define the hard choices that face us?

    The potential has been there a long time. It’s fading with every new scientific assessment and every new anti-climate, anti-clean energy ad from the Right. Is this an important track or isn’t it?

  24. Richard Miller says:

    I agree with Brian’s statement:
    “I suggest a summit of the parties to develop said strategies.”

    Frontline indicated that the American Enterprise Institute has 80,000 members and they were able to intimidate elected officials.

    Here is a quote from Dr. Robert Brulle’s essay entitled the “The US Environmental Movement”, which you can find at :

    “The U.S. environmental movement is perhaps the single largest social movement in the
    United States. With over 6,500 national and 20,000 local environmental organizations, along
    with an estimated 20-30 million members, this movement dwarfs other modern social
    movements such as the civil rights or peace movements. It is also the longest running social
    Now the environmental organizations are not silent on this issue, but they have not taken the necessary steps to deal with the planetary emergency. The necessary steps involve them uniting to push their members to have mass demonstrations as we had on the first Earth Day when 10% of the population at that time, 20 million people took to the streets.