MIT Climate Scientist’s Wife Threatened in a “Frenzy of Hate” and Cyberbullying Fomented by Deniers

JR:  Cyberbullying of climate scientists is on the rise, thanks to the hard-core deniers (see “UK Guardian slams Morano for cyber-bullying and for urging violence against climate scientists“).  MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel, whose family is the target of the latest attacks, writes me, “I had heard about the hate mail and threats received by others, but am surprised at how little it takes these days to trigger hysterical and hateful responses from the ideologues out there.”

UPDATE:  You can read below the comments of climate ethicist Donald Brown, who has been the focus of Morano’s “reprehensible” tactics four times.  He calls it “sheer intimidation.”

By James West at The Climate Desk via Grist

Prominent MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel has been receiving an unprecedented “frenzy of hate” after a video featuring an interview with him was published recently by Climate Desk.

Emails contained “veiled threats against my wife,” and other “tangible threats,” Emanuel, a highly-regarded atmospheric scientist and director of MIT’s Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate program, said in an interview. “They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive.”

“What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn’t feel very good about that at all,” Emanuel said. “I thought it was low to drag somebody’s spouse into arguments like this.”

Climate Desk has seen a sample of the emails and can confirm they are laced with menacing language and expletives, and contain personal threats of violence.

Emanuel began receiving emails “almost immediately” after the video was posted on Jan. 5, and the volume peaked at four or five emails a day. The threats have now petered off.

Threats are nothing new in the world of climate science.

But Emanuel was surprised by the viciousness of the emails. “I think most of my colleagues and I have received a fair bit of email here and there that you might classify as ‘hate mail,’ but nothing like what I’ve got in the last few days.”

“This was a little more orchestrated this time,” he said.

The video — “New Hampshire’s GOP Voters Speak Out About Climate Change” — documented a climate change conference run by a group of Republican voters upset by their party’s anti-science rhetoric. Emanuel was a keynote speaker, along with former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who, incidentally, has not received any threats since the video.

In one clip, Emanuel says, “It makes me feel to some extent disgusted with politics and to some extent ashamed to be an American.”

The comments were seized upon, Emanuel suspects, by “bloggers bent on distorting that message and amplifying it.” One website, Climate Depot, posted Emanuel’s email address.

Emanuel notes that in the full video, he went on to explain that the Republican candidates “have either been misled, in which case it’s not great to be part of the political system where candidates for the president of the United States could be so misled on such an important issue, or they were dishonest, which [is] equally bad in my view: How could we live in a country where candidates are being dishonest about an issue of such importance?”

Another website, Junk Science, raised questions about his wife’s anti-war feelings in the 1960s.

“Somebody came to the conclusion that back in the ’60s she was a Marxist — which she was back then,” Emanuel said. He notes that “conservative heroes of today like Norman Podhoretz [and] Jeane Kirkpatrick” were also socialists in the ’60s. “So I don’t quite know what the problem was there!”

In June 2011, top Australian climate scientists said they had been targeted by death threats and menacing phone calls, including threats of sexual attacks on family members. Australian National University in Canberra reacted by tightening security, and the police began investigating. U.S. researchers received a torrent of hate mail in the wake of “Climategate,” in which a trove of emails was stolen and released at the University of East Anglia in the U.K.

Emanuel decided not to alert police.

Emanuel says climate scientists are not used to the intensity of political debate around climate change: “We scientists are usually not in any kind of heated public debate, as is the case in climate; we’re not used to this, we’re not trained for it.”

“I’ve done a lot of public speaking, and I’ve spoken to many types of audiences, including audiences that are very conservative, and while I certainly have people push back — which is understandable and encouraged, and people debate; that’s all part of that, that’s fine — I’ve never ever encountered in direct contact with the public any behavior that I thought was bad or threatening or vile or anything like that. So I don’t have any trouble communicating directly with the public. I think it’s the distortions that occur sometimes in certain formats that are the root of the problem.”

Kerry asked me to publish the full audio of our interview, which you can listen to below.

MIT”s Kerry Emanuel Receives “Frenzy Of Hate” (mp3)

— James West, The Climate Desk

Related Climate Progress Posts:

33 Responses to MIT Climate Scientist’s Wife Threatened in a “Frenzy of Hate” and Cyberbullying Fomented by Deniers

  1. Donald Brown says:

    Morano’s tactics are reprehensible. I have been the focus four times. Almost all of the respondents not only are simply hate filled expletives and occasional threats, they clearly have not read the materials that they are responding to. They often clearly communicate that they have no idea about what they are responding to. For instance, in my most recent ethical examination of the tactics of the disinformation campaign. I say over and over again that climate science skepticism is to be encouraged not vilified if it plays by the rules of science despite ethical problems with some tactics used by the disinformation campaign such as cyber-bullying. The responses I get, when there is any substantive response at all, start with the assertion that I claimed that scientific skepticism is immoral, just the opposite of what I said. This must be understood as sheer intimidation.

  2. Dr. Strangegas says:

    Dr. Emanuel said this during an interview aired on NPR entitled “Taking the Politics Out of Climate Science” 2/4/2011:

    “My feeling is that at this point in history, if a politician simply denies that there’s any human influence in the climate, in face of all the evidence, it so much casts doubt on that person’s ability to weigh evidence and come to a rational conclusion that I can’t see myself voting for such a person, no matter what they say about other issues.”

  3. Um, “distortions that occur sometimes in certain formats”? That’s a very serious understatement.

    An understatement with serious national security implications, one might say.

    When there’s nothing short of wholesale corruption of all three branches of the US government, it takes a special kind of political ignorance to think that anti-science hate mail is merely due to “distortions that occur sometimes in certain formats”.

    And that’s why I think — with all due respect — that your beloved America is doomed.

    — frank

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    While anger and hate come easy, they won’t help. As much as it hurts, we are trying to help all people. Love is the answer.

    Read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “letter from a Birmingham jail”.

  5. david g swanger says:

    This is insane. Emanuel is a Republican. They are turning on and devouring their own.

    Oh, excuse me. Believing in global warming on the basis of overwhelming scientific evidence
    makes him a RINO (“Republican In Name Only”). That’s different. Carry on, boys.

  6. News flash for Mark Shapiro:

    We’re not in the 1970s any more. In fact, we’re now in a different century.

    The anti-science and anti-logic propagandists have come a long way since those days.

    Time to come up with methods and strategies that’ll work in the current political environment, instead of continually hearkening back to Martin Luther King.

    — frank

  7. Evil NYC Liberal says:

    Historically speaking, these kinds of haters come to very sad ends. They will either watch impotently as their treasured beliefs are ground under the jackboot of reality, or they will be taken down by their own side after the victory of their cause.

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I think he made the wrong decision in not going to the police. When it started happening in Oz, there was concerted action to stop it and protect the scientists and others involved. These nasty little morons have proved they are not about to stop – why would anybody let them think they can act with impunity? What happened to valuing a peaceful, orderly society? ME

  9. catman306 says:

    Remember when Bush said “You’re either with us or against us”? That was a statement that made it OK to bully, stalk, vandalize, or terrorize anyone with whom the corporatists and fascists disagree.

    The thugs haven’t forgotten. It’s become their standing order.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    “What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn’t feel very good about that at all,” Emanuel said. “I thought it was low to drag somebody’s spouse into arguments like this.”

    Does anybody disagree? I didn’t think so. I would not. Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson certainly would not.

    “This was a little more orchestrated this time,” he said.

    If it’s organized, there might be a way of tracing the source. I hope somebody is on that.

    “Somebody came to the conclusion that back in the ’60s she was a Marxist — which she was back then,” Emanuel said. He notes that “conservative heroes of today like Norman Podhoretz [and] Jeane Kirkpatrick” were also socialists in the ’60s. “So I don’t quite know what the problem was there!”

    The problem, Doctor Emmanuel, is that to the hate-mailers you and your wife are them and they are us. That’s the root cause of it: their tribe is attacking your tribe. Logic doesn’t enter into it.

    Finally, at the risk of sounding callous, I point out that this is an opportunity for a useful comparison. Richard Lindzen and Kerry Emannuel are both at MIT. Both are atmospheric scientists. Both have taken controversial positions on climate change. Which of them do you think has actually gotten more, and more vitriolic, hate mail?

  11. Chris Winter says:

    Merrelyn Emery wrote: “I think he made the wrong decision in not going to the police.”

    At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much for the police to act on. Are any of the hate-mailers in their jurisdiction? It’s doubtful.

    I do hope he’s bringing in the people with the expertise to trace these e-mails — especially if, as he suggests, it’s an organized campaign. Of course, he might have done that without saying so. There’s no particular reason why he should tell the public.

  12. I agree. It’s puzzling that he didn’t go to the police, and if he still can, he should. He should also hire people to track down who these people are. Bullies need to be punched in the nose, otherwise they keep up their vile tactics.

  13. Then bring in the FBI, because most of these folks probably sent the emails across state lines…

  14. Charles says:

    frank, I appreciate your many postings on various climate blogs; I also realize you have your own particular approach to dealing with deniers.

    At the same time, I don’t think we can or should dismiss the message of King so easily. The extreme polarization around climate science can be addressed by communicative approaches outlined by, among others, Don Brown, Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap, John Cook, Naomi Klein, Brendan Nyhan, Dan M. Kahan et al., and Andrew J. Hoffmanan.

    I wonder whether you yourself might identify with some of the sentiments in King’s letter.

    From the letter from a Birmingham jail:

    “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

    “Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

    “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?”

  15. Dano says:

    The self-identity of dim-bulbs is threatened. The cognitive dissonance in their little brains makes them act irrationally. The police should be called and their weak, cowardly actions should be held accountable. Personal responsibility, ya know.



  16. Paul Revere says:

    Does this mean that we can defend scientists who do medical research on animals and are the victims of REALLY big time harassment?

  17. prokaryotes says:

    Marc Morano: No, I will not release my email, is that what you’re about to ask me? is being financed by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for free-market solutions to environmental issues. Public tax filings for 2003-7 (the last five years for which documents are available) show that the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ExxonMobil Foundation and foundations associated with the billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, a longtime financier of conservative causes, including being the primary source of money used to fund attacks against Bill Clinton during the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky eras of his presidency [1]. According to a report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists, from 1998-2005, approximately 23% of the total ExxonMobil funding for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow was directed by ExxonMobil for climate change activities [p. 32].
    Craig Rucker, a co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, said the committee got a third of its money from other foundations. However, Rucker would not identify them or say how much his foundation would pay Marc Morano.

    Before leaving CNS, Morano wrote an article featuring attacks on NASA global warming scientist James E. Hansen by George C. Deutsch, a former NASA press aide accused of censoring Hansen…
    Many believe that is it Morano who has been behind Inhofe’s latest attacks on the scientific theory of man made climate change [10], and this was confirmed by an appearance of Morano at the 2006 Society of Environmental Journalists, where Morano was on a climate change panel with Andrew Revkin (New York Times) and Bill Blakemore (ABC News).

  18. Mike Roddy says:

    It appears that the language that rocked their world was the “ashamed to be an American” part.

    People with a far right … temperament have wildly exaggerated but superficial patriotism, and go weak in the knees when they see the flag. When an American- especially an egghead intellectual- expresses worry about his countrymen, they fall apart.

    In other words, we are dealing with kooks here, not so much organized opponents of action on climate change. These kooks are being egged on by darker forces, including Mark Morano.

  19. caerbannog says:

    (This would cost some money — any “climate hawks” out there with some real financial resources willing to burn some $$$?)

    Track down the originators of those hate emails, send camera crews out to their residences and confront them with the video cameras rolling.

    Then upload the video footage to a well-publicized “climate denier thugs in action” Youtube channel. Publicize the heck out of it — leaflet the deniers’ neighborhoods with links to the denier-thug Youtube channel.

    Turn the denier-thugs into “YouTube stars”.

    Pretty nasty hardball, I’ll admit… but the times may call for tactics like this.

  20. Aubrey Enoch says:

    You got a good plan, there. You’d think someone’s life depended on it. They got the bucks to buy the best writers so they’re winning. It’s not like we have any choice but to fight for our lives any way we can. This is no virtual problem.
    This is the real deal. I’ve had heat stroke. Cancer, Diabetes, and all that might kill you some day, but heat stroke kills you that one hot day. And those hot days aren’t that far away.
    Sunshine is the only income we’ve got.

  21. jk says:

    It’s a federal crime to send an interstate e-mail that threatens to kidnap or injure a person: 18 U.S. Code Sec. 875(c) “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

  22. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    They ain’t got nuffin else. This is all they got left. Do not worry, their greatest ire will be reserved for those who knowingly deceived them.

    Inevitably they will eventually turn on themselves and it will be ugly. The true believers, who believed the bull, will be so so upset at the incredible cost of what could have been so cheap. The bubbly they try to drown their sorrows will have gone sour.

    The missed profits will have them crying in their coffee(ersatz).

  23. Many had long predicted this escalation in tactics. It is consistent with rising desperation and the spike in destabilizing events.

    Not surprising. And we should expect future communication will also be emotional and irrational.

  24. Oakden Wolf says:

    I have chastised Marc Morano for posting email addresses and inviting attacks several times, both in email correspondence and in tweets (and my blog, but I doubt he reads it). His continuing callousness regarding the damage that his tactics cause is a singular indicator of his lack of connection with normal human decency. He is truly a repugnant individual.

  25. prokaryotes says:

    But there is a critical mass, once met people will do everything possible to stop denial and climate change. Ofc some people will become very hopeless and such..

  26. bratisla says:

    Agree too. He thinks it is only temporary, but if he doesn’t bite hard right now he will be pestered. These cyberbullies are vicious behind a screen and will go on as long as they don’t have their nose bleeded, but wimps when the police drags them down.

  27. Charles, please actually read what I wrote. I’m not “dismissing” Martin Luther King. I’m saying that MLK’s methods worked in his time.

    But this is friggin’ not the 1960s or even the 1970s anymore. This is 2012. The bullmeisters have moved on.

    So why are we not moving on? Why can’t we move on? Why are we still quoting words from the ‘ancients’?

    — frank

  28. Lionel A says:

    And as grist to the mill on Michaels in particular, Skeptical Science has just published a new article on Michaels recent manipulations .

  29. Lee E says:

    I think there is a reason that conservative and Republican climate scientist such as Kerry Emanuel and Katherine Hayhoe have become targets. They put the lie to the story that Climate Change is a liberal plot.

  30. (This would cost some money — any “climate hawks” out there with some real financial resources willing to burn some $$$?)

    Track down the originators of those hate emails,

    caerbannog, even this very first step is looking to be quite difficult. The hate mails are with Dr. Emanuel, but he’s only provided copies to Grist, and he’s not forwarding them to the police.

    So I guess a question is, how much $$$ will one have to offer to Emanuel in order to obtain those precious hate mails from him? :-|

    — frank

  31. david g swanger says:

    Good point. I’d wager you’re right.

  32. JimmyB says:

    They need to go to federal @$$ rape prison.

  33. Omri says:

    Not just the Emanuels. James Keeling, the man in charge of the CO2 observatory program in Hawaii, is a staunch conservative.

    Tying scientific questions to politics is Lysenkoism. Globwal warming denial is the right wing’s answer to Lysenko.