According to Wikipedia, self-ownership is “the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one's own body and life.” Odds are, though, if you’re hearing about a self-own these days, it’s not referring to the political philosophies of individualism.
Instead, it’s likely to be in the Urban Dictionary context: when you do something in an attempt to “own” someone else (insulting or attacking them) and instead it backfires so badly that you’re revealed to be the real idiot. Back in January, Slate declared our era the Age of the Self-Own, with plenty of deliciously humorous examples of, among other things, how hilariously conservative attempts to “own the libs” can backfire.
In denierland, it’s no different. Two recent examples show how the lack of self-awareness in the deniersphere sabotages their attempts to be taken seriously.
Denier blogger Tony Heller (who long operated under the pseudonym Steve Goddard, and whose temperature-adjustments-are-a-conspiracy-schtick is rejected even by other deniers) took to Twitter the other day to attack News-O-Matic, a children’s news service, as “propagandists.” In response, News-O-Matic said it tries to cover the other side of climate change; Heller subsequently asked to write something for them. News-O-Matic said it would “love to hear” from him, which Heller apparently took as an agreement that the site would publish something he wrote.
But that’s not what it meant. In an incredible display of self-ownership, Heller took to his “Deplorable Climate Science” blog to complain about the “thuggery” of Drs. Michael Mann and Katharine Hayhoe, who tweeted warnings to News-O-Matic about Heller. That included a tweet from Hayhoe, who recalled when she met Heller in-person he was far from the loudmouth figure he strikes online and instead “smiled and nodded and acted like the sweetest little baa-lamb in the world.”
Why Heller felt it necessary to include a screenshot of Hayhoe pointing out his cowardice is unclear, but the moral of the story is that he then launched a Twitter tirade against News-O-Matic for refusing to run something he wrote. In response, a site representative clarified that it was potentially interested in interviewing him, and never intended on publishing a piece from him.
But instead of talking it through and reconciling the miscommunication, Heller accused News-O-Matic of bowing to pressure from Mann and others, and in doing so, revealed his deceptive nature. In an email Heller posted, News-O-Matic explained that due to Heller’s “disingenuous post about [the site’s] intentions” it would not be proceeding with an interview. And the site’s staff’s interactions with him “supports all the other claims that [Heller doesn’t] rely on the facts.”
Instead of proving himself a level-headed and intelligent skeptic, Heller self-owned himself out of an interview by going on a deceptive Twitter rampage.
A day after Heller’s magnificent swan dive, WUWT ran a guest post by Dave Middleton responding to Steven Novella at Nuerologica explaining the difference between skeptics and deniers. Predictably, in an attempt to argue that they’re skeptics, Middleton instead demonstrates exactly the sorts of behavior defined as denial.
One of the characteristics of denial, per Novella, is that deniers “attempt to magnify scientific disagreements over lower level details as if they call into question higher level conclusions.” Another is they “focus on sowing doubt and confusion” to create ambiguity as opposed to offering a counter-explanation.
And that’s exactly what Middleton did in response, first attacking the consensus by magnifying low-level scientific disagreement about just how historically unprecedented this warming is, and then attempting to create ambiguity by claiming that “medium confidence” in the NCA “is equivalent to a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess.”
So in conclusion, Middleton exhibits nearly every behavior on the denial checklist in an attempt to *checks notes* argue he’s not a denier.
And that, friends, is a beautiful self-own.