Australian Press Council Criticizes Climate Denier Columnists For ‘Highly Offensive’ Comments

by Graham Readfearn, via DeSmogBlog

It’s the new must-have accessory for any self-respecting climate science denialist commentator in Australian newspapers — their very own “Australian Press Council” adjudication showing exactly how they stuffed up the facts and misled their readers on their stories.

Whether they like it or not, serial climate science misinformers James Delingpole and Andrew Bolt are the latest News Ltd contributors to have their online articles furnished with freshly-added hyperlinks to APC judgements finding against them.

Earlier this week, the APC found that Mr Delingpole’s article “Wind Farm Scam A Huge Cover-Up”, published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian back in May, had misled readers on several points.

Presumably to the shock of the UK-based columnist on The Daily Telegraph, it turns out that it’s not OK to write that the wind farm business is “bloody well near a pedophile ring. They’re f . . king our families and knowingly doing so,” as Delingpole did when quoting an anonymous sheep farmer. As the press council said in its judgement:

… the report of the anonymous remarks concerning paedophilia, a very serious and odious crime, were highly offensive. The Council’s principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful. They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to paedophilia.

Neither was it OK for Delingpole to write that law firm Slater & Gordon had sought to place “rigorous gagging orders” on landholders without offering any actual evidence and when the firm in question denied it.

Second, [the council] has concluded that the claim that a law firm sought gagging orders has been publicly denied by the firm and, in the absence of any supporting evidence, constitutes a breach of the Council’s principles concerning misrepresentation. The newspaper’s prompt publication of the law firm’s denials prevented aggravation of the breach but did not absolve it.

… Besides professional embarrassment and the requirement to publish the press council’s adjudication, The Australian is free to carry on regardless, as it has been doing for several years in misrepresenting climate science.

Perhaps predictably then, rather than politely decline any further contributions from a writer adjudged to have been too offensive (a bar which you have to jump very highly to get over) and to have misled readers, The Australian has instead published another offensive rant from the same writer.

Writing again in The Australian, Delingpole says of the press council’s judgement: “I stand by every word of the piece — especially the bit about pedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the pedophile community.”

And what of News Ltd blogger and columnist Andrew Bolt? Back in February (yes, the wheels of the APC turn slowly) Bolt wrote in a story headlined “Time That Climate Alarmists Fessed Up” that the UK’s Met Office had issued data showing there had been no global warming for 15 years.

Bolt had failed to check back with the Met Office, which had two days earlier issued a statement saying such a conclusion was “entirely misleading”. The APC adjudication, delivered earlier this month, said

The Met Office description should have been mentioned in Mr Bolt’s print article and blog of 1 February, even if he then rebutted it as unconvincing. It was not sufficient in these circumstances to assert ignorance of the response or to rely on the reader’s previous posting to inform other readers about it.

The press council also concluded that statements made by Bolt about sea and ice conditions “were likely to be interpreted by many readers as indicating that the longer-term trends had ceased or were reversing” and that he “should have acknowledged explicitly that all of the three changes in question were comparatively short-term and were statistically compatible with continuance of the long-term trends in the opposite direction”.

While judgements such as these are welcome, the APC did stop short of finding against the writers with regard to other elements of the complaints.

For example, the APC decided it was acceptable for Delingpole to claim categorically that wind farms were causing people to fall ill, despite several scientific reviews finding no evidence for such links.

In a curious conclusion to the complaint against Andrew Bolt, the press council said ambiguously that its “adjudication neither endorses nor rejects any particular theories or predictions about global warming”.

“[The council] observes that on issues of such major importance the community is best served by frank disclosure and discussion,” it said.

One has to ask then, how the council aims to judge the merits of “frank disclosure” if it isn’t able to accept that decades of peer-reviewed research on climate change has found the community isn’t “best served” by ignoring the causes of climate change?

Graham Readfearn is an independent journalist based in Queensland, Australia, with 15 years experience as a reporter and writer on newspapers, magazines, radio and online. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.