Last week, while talking about how often climate deniers are also fantastically gullible when it comes to conspiracies about coronavirus and other issues, we mentioned that Tony Heller was one such example of how “contrarians are often just habitually wrong and jumping from one fashionable issue to the next in their quest to make themselves feel smarter than someone.”
Turns out that Heller is hungry for any sign that someone outside his echochamber is listening, and produced an eight-minute video in response to the four sentences we wrote. He doubles down on his denial, but then cranks it up a notch — with “crank” being the operative word.
Apparently the fact that we didn’t reach out to get Heller’s side before writing (as though we’re not responding directly to his “side” of the story in the first place) he says, without a hint of sarcasm or hyperbole, is just like when a white mob lynched George Atwood in 1933.
Clearly Heller is a very well-balanced and serious individual who deserves to have his conspiracies (about a global cabal of climate scientists secretly tampering with data in a way that’s also somehow totally transparent for anyone like Heller to see) given all the respect they deserve. (None.)
That said, we have addressed the substance of his conspiratorial claims about the temperature record and whinings about censorship, starting nearly seven years ago and repeatedly since. So it’s not like his position is unassailable. In fact, even his fellow travelers don’t give it much credence — it was debunked at Judith Curry’s blog back in 2014, which was years after Anthony Watts booted him off of Watts Up With That.
If even deniers can see that engaging seriously with unserious people like Heller is a waste of time, it’s a pretty obvious lesson. But still, it’s always helpful for new audiences to see just how repeatedly wrong deniers are. For example, The Tyee recently published Sean Holman’s incredibly detailed fact-checking of Patrick Moore’s recent climate denial book. It clocks in at nearly 7,000 words, and tackles each of the eight “Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom” that give Moore’s book its title.
Moore’s guilty of all the standard disinfo tactics, for example Holman reveals how Moore’s book cherry-picks out of date graphs, misrepresents sources so that a graph becomes a “reverse” image of real rates of extinction, and makes claims that one expert described as easily “disproved with about 30 seconds of Googling.”
While many experts were willing to spend their time helping Holman trace Moore’s lies, others were a bit more blunt. “It would be an endless waste of time,” one told him, adding, “I would have to write a book to debunk” everything in Moore’s book.
Throughout his fact-check, Holman gives space to Moore to offer his “side” of the story, and for the most part Moore doesn’t engage with the critiques like a scientific skeptic might if it were a justifiable claim. Instead he just doubles down on his denial.
Which is a standard tactic for deniers who actually get a taste of the debate they so passionately claim to want, because really all they’re after is an opportunity to spread disinformation by saying the same wrong things over and over again.
And when that fails, threaten a lawsuit! That’s the standard response of (not-Lord) Christopher Monckton, longtime sender-of-threatening-letters and perhaps the only man in the world to have claimed to have found a cure for both the common cold and AIDS. (Unclear why, then, those things still exist.)
The latest target is Independent Australia’s Steve Bishop, who recently wrote a column calling him Lord of the Lies on climate change. Monckton, who falsely claimed to be a member of the UK House of Lords until they had to send him a letter demanding he stop, responded with a detailed letter alleging libel, and demanding the piece be removed and his own published.
And we can see why! Bishop not only makes clear that 20 of Monckton’s talking points are lies, labeling them as such, but he also shows how incoherent Monckton’s claims are, like that temperatures are only rising a little, but also that they’re cooling. Even more devastating is that Bishop points out that while Monckton’s schtick is to claim he was an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, others had a slightly different perception of his time in government. Thatcher herself thanked someone else for being her science advisor, while a minister in the Thatcher government said Monckton was more “a bag carrier in Mrs. Thatcher’s office.”
But we can see here that while deniers claim that deplatforming liars is censorship, they refuse to engage in good faith, and it’s their fellow deniers who are literally threatening libel lawsuits.