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Deniers Finally Discover Twitter, Social Media, Where Climate Hawks Soar

By Joe Romm on January 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm

"Deniers Finally Discover Twitter, Social Media, Where Climate Hawks Soar"

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It’s 2013, and the deniers have finally figured out that twitter and other social media are important tools — and that they are way behind.

How big is the social media gap between deniers and hawks?

The world’s most well-known climate science denier, Sen. James Inhofe, has a whopping 13.3 thousand followers. The world’s most well-known climate hawk, Al Gore, has 2.58 million followers on Twitter (subscribe here).

Famous writer-denier James Delingpole (one of the UK Guardian‘s four suggested deniers to follow on Twitter) has 12,900 followers. Compare that to these writer-hawks:

  • Bill McKibben: 69,400 (subscribe here)
  • Dave Roberts: 28,800 (subscribe here)
  • Kate Sheppard: 38,600 (subscribe here)

Grist itself has 97,500 followers (subscribe here).

Climate Progress has 36,900 followers (subscribe here). And, as I noted recently, a key reason our traffic has been growing in the past year is social media, which also routinely brings CP headlines to hundreds of thousands of people.

Let’s compare that to the self-proclaimed “world’s most viewed climate website” (not!)  WattsUpWithThat, with its astounding 6,130 followers. I guess it’s not the most viewed via social media.

Heck, even Watts’ bête noire, climatologist Michael Mann, has 6,800 followers! And you should really follow Mann (here) if you don’t already. He tweets links to the science and to debunkings of deniers. That way you can join the growing ranks of those who don’t read the deniers’ websites. The traffic of WattsUpWithThat, like ever other major denial site, has been flat or declining since Copenhagen (check it out at quantcast.com).

I don’t think it is a big mystery why climate science hawks soar on social media and deniers don’t.

The Internet was made possible by scientists, with a little help from Al Gore. More importantly, science is inherently a social enterprise — whereas denial, being anti-science, is in some sense an anti-social activity whose goal is to stop society from listening to the scientific community about the ever-growing risks to society posed by unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases.

Science is an exciting voyage of discovery in which people build on each others’ work toward a better and better understanding of life and the world around us. As Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

For deniers, who are on a monotonous treadmill of anti-truth, misunderstanding, and disinformation, the quote might be, “If I have seen nothing, it is by standing with my head in the ground” (or maybe, “… it is by standing on my own shoulders”!)

WattsUpWithThat has finally noticed the importance of social media in an unintentionally humorous post dated January 2, “Why social media is important in the #climatewars.” That would be January 2, 2013, not, say, 2009.

Watts is shocked, shocked to learn that climate hawks and activists have been using twitter and social media as “glue for the cause” and yes — oh, the horror — to communicate with each other! That’s of course why it is called social media. Watts admits:

A few years ago, I never much thought social media was worth much, but seeing how Michael Mann and Bill McKibben have been using it to their advantage, my view on the importance of it has changed.

[Memo to Deniers: Try replacing "social media" with "science" in the above sentence.]

Of course, the deniers have never been very good with either numbers or web tools. Until I called him out, Watts used to regularly hype himself with the most discredited web metric (hits!) — and the ironically named climateaudit.org still does. Of course Watts has used the unreliable Alexa web statistics comparison website for years — and recently used it to attack Al Gore. He might enjoy this post from Techcrunch, “If You Cite Compete Or Alexa For Anything Besides Making Fun Of Them, You’re A Moron.” D’oh!

Anyway, the point of Watts’ post is to boost the deniers’ use of social media, apparently for the usual quote mining and disinformation. I don’t actually think it’s very good for those things because, being social, it just ends up embarrassing anyone who uses it to spread falsehoods. Then again, if the deniers have proven anything conclusively, it is that they are beyond embarrassment.

Bottom Line: You may see an increase in disinformation on social media. The antidote is to subscribe to some must-follow twitter accounts of climate hawks listed above.

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29 Responses to Deniers Finally Discover Twitter, Social Media, Where Climate Hawks Soar

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Another great post, though as we have the deniers on record for repeatedly falsifying data i wouldn’t be surprised if they use fake followers too.

    Sitting cross-legged in the leather chair of my home office, it took me fifteen seconds to find someone who was willing to sell me 2,500 “quality Twitter followers” to boost my account — for the low price of about $25 bucks. http://thenextweb.com/twitter/2012/12/15/fake-followers-an-easy-game-but-not-worth-the-risk/

    ps. I would also recommend to start a YouTube channel, if possible.

    • Superman1 says:

      So what? How has this dominant ‘lead’ in Twitter followers translated into reducing CO2 emissions? Another meaningless metric.

      • prokaryotes says:

        The strategy of deniers is to make the impression that they are a majority, when in fact they are a tiny minority. For instance to use sock puppet’s to flood comment sections

        Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd? http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/02/20/207554/denier-bots-live-why-are-online-comments-sections-over-run-by-the-anti-science-pro-pollution-crowd/

        And the very same is a common way to disturb based on twitter hashtags.

        • Superman1 says:

          Your assumption is the deniers are the main roadblock to ameliorating climate change. I would maintain that even if we sent every denier to the next world, very little would change in actual actions to significantly ameliorate climate change. You need to identify the main roadblock.

          • prokaryotes says:

            The main road block is a opinion threshold in the public mind, which is continuously watered down by various actions from the orchestrated manipulative campaigns by the deniers.

          • Superman1 says:

            Sorry. The main roadblock is an addiction to a fossil fuel energy intensive way of life that is incompatible with sustainability on Earth. Until that addiction is broken, progress toward resolving climate change will be nil. Pointing the finger at the deniers is the real ‘denial’ problem.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            Looks like you don’t have a super human ability to learn Superman. We went through all that addiction rubbish last week, ME

  2. Bill Walker says:

    The core of the deniers is, I suspect, the same as the core of the GOP: old, white men. And generally less-educated and closed-minded ones, as well. Social media is something “those pesky kids” do.

    • bjedwards says:

      I’m not sure you can describe Anthony Watts as “white.” He always appears blue to me, probably from trying to hold in all that excess methane and CO2 he knows he contributes to anthropogenic global warming.

  3. Yeah, except those 2,500 twitter “followers” do not vote.

  4. Kat says:

    Case in point #NoKXL – the tag for Keystone XL protests – has been trending for over an hour on twitter in conjunction with protests in Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

  5. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Social media will be the deniers’ downfall. On a site like WUWT a relatively small group of overly enthusiastic followers can make it look like they are a large group of people. But you can’t do that on social media. I think they’ll never be able to acquire the number of followers that an Al Gore or Bill McKibben do, simply because there are just not that many of them.

    Anthony thinks he’s big just because of how many comments he gets on his site (thus the reference to hits). But if you watch their site closely you can see that the volume of comments is generated consistently by the same few dozen people.

    Let’s hope that the deniers start believing social media is an important metric to measure their success. It will only serve to expose their true numbers.

    • I admire your intestinal fortitude. There is no way I could stomach watching WUWT closely. My blood pressure would soar, my nerves would give out, and I would become utterly apoplectic. Fortunately, the climate hawk movement has a cadre of brave foot soldiers like you. { :-)

  6. Scott says:

    Conservatives are never early adapters. They are always late to the party. It’s like Carl Rove rapping in 2007(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln5RD9BhcCo), it’s painful to watch. They are bad at doing anything new, yet they congratulate themselves on being hip and cool. Self-awareness is not their strong suit.

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe OT & Heads Up
    Sea level rise could lead to a cooler, stormier world

    Most other climate scientists think the ice sheets will only melt slowly, largely because this is what happened at the end of past ice ages. Hansen, however, thinks this logic is flawed. The reason that sea level only rose slowly in the past, he writes, is because the planet only warmed slowly. After the last ice age, for instance, it took 10,000 years for the average global temperature to rise around 4 °C. Now the world is on course to warm this much in less than 200 years.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23048-sea-level-rise-could-lead-to-a-cooler-stormier-world.html

  8. Thanks for another great post Joe. Keep them coming. You hit it on the head. The same can go with IT and clean technology, both are practically joint at the hip and heavily related to science. Science kicks butt. This coming from a economics and accounting wonk.

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    It’s the fevered writings of a monkey wedding , where the groom’s family hurls feces at the guests.

  10. Ozonator says:

    Extremist media outlets are only great at repeating EssoKoch talking points. Server farm plantation owners consider even “spellcheck” as a scientific tool that could lead to their handful of hired liars escaping past union lines.

  11. Phil Clarke says:

    On a site like WUWT a relatively small group of overly enthusiastic followers can make it look like they are a large group of people. But you can’t do that on social media [...] Anthony thinks he’s big just because of how many comments he gets on his site (thus the reference to hits). But if you watch their site closely you can see that the volume of comments is generated consistently by the same few dozen people.

    Actually its worse than that. WUWT Site Moderator Dave Stealey has a history of logging on as poster ‘Smokey’, a prolific poster and outspoken defender of the site’s party line, who always seemed to benefit from extraordinarily sympathetic moderation. His cover was blown when ‘Smokey’ left a link to his gravatar.

    http://en.gravatar.com/dbstealey

    After which a new poster ‘D Boehm’ appeared (and the site moderators became anonymous, signing themselves ‘mod’ rather than using their initials). Boehm, however, used the exact same set of asinine debating points and library of bogus charts as ‘Smokey’. Recently Watts left a comment at Climate Audit on a thread about Peter Gleick and the AGU, questioning that body’s ‘professional ethics’. I left a response pointing out Watt’s gross hypocrisy given that his staff routinely ignore his stated site policy of deploring sockpuppetry and ‘encouraging open debate’.

    http://climateaudit.org/2013/01/05/agu-honors-gleick/#comment-391391

    and I asked Watts’ associate and Steve McIntyre pass on a few ‘climate audit’ type questions about Smokey/Stealey/Boehm – asking at WUWT being of course, a waste of time. The CA post was snipped of course and the response at WUWT has been for Stealey to assume a new screen name – his fourth – of ‘D Boehm Stealey’.

    So ‘Smokey’, ‘dbs’, ‘D Boehm’ and ‘D Boehm Stealey’ would seem to be all the same, rather busy person. It seems the WUWT post count needs to be adjusted downwards to cater for the fact that we don”t know how many comments are actually by staff masquerading as posters and using multiple screen names to do it.

  12. Phil Clarke says:

    Mod – near-duplicate post, would you please delete the first, made at 2.57am? Thanks.

  13. Aaron Reaven says:

    I’m a slow learner with digital media, and so have barely stuck my toe into social media. Yet, I check Climate Progress at least once a day almost every day. I have never to my knowledge “subscribed,” and don’t know what that means. I hope I am somehow included in your count of 36,900 “followers.” If not, the number is most likely higher, counting people like me. Thanks for all your great work and advocacy.

  14. Will Fox says:

    Australia posted its hottest day on record yesterday, with temperatures expected to rise even further today:

    http://www.news.com.au/national/national-heat-record-expected-by-bureau-of-meterology/story-fncynjr2-1226549102215

  15. Anne says:

    I don’t think anyone truly understands, just yet, the full range of effects of social media on public opinion, or, more importantly, public policy. The obvious benefit is that large volumes of information can be transmitted instanteously, but the words of my old boss Rep. George Brown Jr. ring in my head: “We’re becoming a society that is information-rich, and knowledge-poor.” Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that nothing can replace face-to-face interactions and in-person communications with all of the body language and nuances that make us uniquely human. Direct human contact builds relationships of trust and a deeper understanding among us than any number of tweets or FB posts or texts. My worry is that people are interacting with their machines as a replacement for interacting with other people. My worry is that, psychologically, tweeting or facebooking gives a false feeling of accomplishment and scratches the itch for human connection, leaving us more isolated and more vulnerable to misunderstandings. If used as an auxilliary method of communication, social media can be a great thing, a fantastic new way to share information and ideas. But if we begin to rely on electronic communication as a substitute for “being there” and showing up in person, we risk losing the very thing we should value the most: our humanity. I’m not arguing for less social media, but I am urging all of us to remember that nothing can replace looking a person in the eye, listening to the tone of their voice, reading their facial expressions, and, sometimes, giving that badly needed handshake, fist-pump, high-five, or, when appropriate, just a simple hug. Personally, I feel more comfortable with social media as enhancement, not replacement, for togetherness.

    • SecularAnimist says:

      Anne wrote: “I don’t think anyone truly understands, just yet, the full range of effects of social media on public opinion, or, more importantly, public policy.”

      Probably no one will ever “truly understand” it. We still don’t “truly understand” the effects of television, 50 years after Marshall McLuhan wrote “Understanding Media”.

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        No but we have shown that McLuhan was right about ‘the medium is the massage’ (Emery & Emery, A Choice of Futures, 1976) which Jerry Mander picked up . There is more extensive evidence in my PhD thesis (UNSW, 1986). TV reverses the normal waking balance between more fast and less slow wave activity in the brain meaning there is reduced intellectual and analytic activity while viewing, ME

  16. Jon Jermey says:

    Guess the climate-related blog this came from?

    Blog Stats: 135,984,044 views

    Not so dusty really, is it?

  17. Jon Jermey says:

    Sorry, correction — that’s now

    Blog Stats: 135,988,097 views

  18. Jon Jermey says:

    And now it’s

    Blog Stats: 136,004,217 views

    Can you guess the site?

    Hint: it’s not Climate Progress.

  19. Billie says:

    Good article. I certainly love this website. Thanks!