Controversial Telegraph blogger and arch climate skeptic James Delingpole has been up to his old tricks again, but this time he may have gone too far: by NOT calling for the execution of climate scientists.
It started with an article he wrote for The Australian (paywalled) in which he apparently ssays:
The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.
This was met by outrage in some quarters, so Delingpole has penned another post in the Telegraph explaining that this is only a metaphor, and that he does not really think that either climate scientists or activists should face the death penalty:
Should Tim Flannery be fed to the crocodiles for the role he has played in the fleecing of the Australian taxpayer and the diversion of scarce resources into pointless projects like all the eyewateringly expensive desalination plants built as a result of his doomy prognostications about water shortages caused by catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?
It ought to go without saying that my answer to all these questions is – *regretful sigh* – no. First, as anyone remotely familiar with the zillion words I write every year on this blog and elsewhere, extreme authoritarianism and capital penalties just aren’t my bag. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would be counterproductive, ugly, excessive and deeply unsatisfying.
The last thing I would want is for Monbiot, Mann, Flannery, Jones, Hansen and the rest of the Climate rogues’ gallery to be granted the mercy of quick release. Publicly humiliated? Yes please. Having all their crappy books remaindered? Definitely. Dragged away from their taxpayer funded troughs and their cushy sinecures, to be replaced by people who actually know what they’re talking about? For sure. But hanging? Hell no. Hanging is far too good for such ineffable toerags.
Not surprisingly, instead of calming the situation down and reassuring everyone that real, actual execution is not what he had in mind, the response has been… well, rather confused I would say.
Greg Laden writes that this is bad because
Imagine a call for violence and death and so on such as this coming after, rather then before, some nut bag actually kills a climate scientist? Or, to put it in more realistic terms, imagine an analogous (you know what an analogy is, right?) stream of hate speech about, say, how bad Democrats are (by a Rush Limbaugh type character) just AFTER the Gabby Gifford shooting, or a rant from a frenzied fundy on how great it would be to kill abortion providers just AFTER such a doctor is killed, or a rant from some libertarian yahoo about how teachers and schools all suck and shooting a few would be beneficial just AFTER the Sandy Hook Massacre. Think about this and then go read this man’s hate post.
Well, it is all a matter of opinion I guess, what constitutes “hate speech” and what constitutes an impassioned critique laced with provocative metaphors to make a point.
If “hate speech” it is, then this kind of thing definitely exists on both sides of the climate issue, yet Laden’s post was entitled ““It is not my job to learn the science. It is my job to call for the execution of scientists”*- with the asterix leading to a footnote explaining “*Note: The quote in the headline is a paraphrase. It’s a rhetorical device I learned in school.”
But this seems confused and misses the point: Delingpole is bending over backwards (if you will excuse the metaphor) to explain that he is not actually calling for executions. He even labors the point with a whole paragraph to show that he means it in the same way that in the testosterone-charged changing rooms of a rugby team they may say they want to “rape” the opposition, without meaning it literally. So when Laden uses the same rhetorical device he is in fact defending Delingpole’s use of the same, not exposing it.
I tweeted Laden to try to clarify:
— Graham Strouts (@Skepteco) April 7, 2013
— Greg Laden (@gregladen) April 7, 2013
and after several attempts to get him to explain why- during which he repeatedly calls my questions “stupid” without answering, Laden- a prominent scientist- confirms my suspicions- that he takes Delingpole literally:
@skepteco Plz also note that he was sarcastic about trial and execution,saying that this was to good for them. It was bad, stop defending it
— Greg Laden (@gregladen) April 7, 2013
But this “hanging’s too good for ‘em!” is just more of the same kind of rhetoric, pythonesque, – he doesnt really mean it Greg! Seriously! But to Laden, any kind of critique of climate science and the policies it leads to (expensive desalination plants in Australia being the example Delingpole is on about here) is simply “denialism”: the science has spoken, end of story, closed ears, closed minds. And I really left that particular exchange feeling, what Laden is really aggrieved about is that JD’s black cap references are not serious- so he attacks him as if they were anyway.
Meanwhile, I came across another example of Delingpole’s critics being worse than him on Pharyngula, where Chris Clarke has written a post ending with this extraordinary paragraph:
Delingpole should be careful what he pretends he isn’t really wishing for. Life on this planet is likely to get very nasty for a large number of people in the next decades. At some point, as Britain suffers the third or fourth or fifth triple digit summer in as many years, and crops fail and people go hungry and the urban aged drop dead when the power goes out, there may well be calls for a “Climate Nuremberg” — and it’s doubtful that prominent denialist writers who call metaphorically for executing scientists and climate change activists will go unsummoned.
I left this comment:
So if I understand you correctly, when you say “there may well be calls for a “Climate Nuremberg” — and it’s doubtful that prominent denialist writers who call metaphorically for executing scientists and climate change activists will go unsummoned.” you are NOT being metaphorical? so while Delingpole is merely calling for a Climate Nuremberg rhetorically, you are actually serious. The only difference is that you believe Delinpole should be in the dock rather than Mann and co.. And your emotive use of language to summon up visions of a future holocaust caused by “deniers” – as if there is any straightforward agreed policy we can follow to control the weather and make it more favorable to us over the whole globe- is incredibly manipulative: you have no way of knowing that these things will happen rather than, say, an increase of cold weather deaths or simply an increase in poverty and related deaths as a result of following misguided policies to “combat climate change”- eg wind power, biodiesel, biomass or excessive carbon taxes, all of which could obviously have a much more immediate and tangible deleterious affect than climate change may or may not have at some point in the future.
This is because, let me explain since you appear to be new to the debate on climate, that the impact of climate change will depend very largely on the level of wealth and technology people have achieved; and this could be severely limited by the wrong energy policies now. But Im sure your Nuremberg trial will work through all this in a fair and balanced way and pass the correct judgement, just like all courts always do.
I was of course being facetious when saying Clarke was new to the climate debate- he has apparently been at this since 1974.
The thread then has some revealing comments: number 12 for example, “Back up your claim with peer reviewed scientific literature, and you might have a valid point.”- which at least acknowledges the validity of discussion, but why I am the only one who is supposed to come up with peer-reviewed evidence? In the context of a debate governed largely by people shutting down any dissent by use of the charge “denialist” that is actually a big win.
Comment number 23 also makes a start at engaging with the points I had made, but completely misses the point-
What about the people who don’t have that comforting buffer of wealth? Let’s not even talk about the 99% in the rich countries of the world for whom this would still be no picnic – let’s focus on the people who would really suffer in scenario like this; those who already live in the poorer regions of the world, where those government who even care to try to help their citizens lack the resouces to do so today, let alone in the wake of ongoing climate change resulting in mass crop failures and natural disasters.
This is a valid question, but what is fascinating is that the author clearly has never considered these issues- of the costs of mitigation- before. You can almost hear the cogs beginning to turn…
-of course what I am trying to say is, there seems to be something of a conundrum: burning coal has allowed 600million Chinese people come out of abject poverty over the last decade alone, thus making them less vulnerable to any future putative climate change; but clearly contributing rather a lot to global CO2 emissions.
So I wrote a response to this which was- deleted. In the comment I referred to the recent Economist article on climate sensitivity being on “negative watch”- which climate scientists Ed Hawkins has just told me on Twitter was
— Ed Hawkins (@ed_hawkins) April 11, 2013
- and this interesting article on the proposed increase in use of heavily-subsidised wood to run power stations in order to meet climate targets- another Boondoggle as a result of over-hyped dangers of climate change.
For my troubles Clarke tells me:
There will be no climate denialism or apology therefor in my threads here. Graham Strouts, take your pseudoscience somewhere else.
How odd. It would surely have been easy enough for the author and legions of commentators on this science blog to prove me wrong- and educate me in the process- by linking to peer-reviewed consensus science. Instead, they prefer censorship, the simple removal of any dissenting views, thus ensuring their blog remains a kowtowing echo-chamber.
Delingpole has maybe gone too far this time in refusing to literally call for death sentences for those who he believes to be corrupt scientists and bureaucrats riding the gravy train of carbon taxes and “renewable energy”, and he has also met with the approbation of some of his skeptical allies.
I dont really know what I think about this- as it was pointed out to me on Twitter, all this outrage about the words of Delingpole when there are indeed real attacks and threats of violence on scientists from other disciplines where the level of rhetoric runs much higher still.
But Delingpole also could be seen to be playing a valuable role, rather like the archetype of the Joker or the Fool, provoking a reaction from those who would claim the higher moral ground but who foolishly allow themselves to be drawn out to show their true colours.
Delinpole has defended himself vigorously, saying that we need to fight back. Maybe we need a Delingpole to hook all the self-righteous climate extremists. Maybe the Metaphor really is more mightier than the sword.