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Distorting David Frum weighs in on ClimateGATE/Swifthack

December 7th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Linked from CNN.com’s home page, David Frm weighs in with a disingenuous discussion of ClimateGATE (SwiftHack) with The Distorted Global Warming Debate that is a combination of truthful insight and distorting truthiness.

Frum’s argument that the United States (and, well, likely elsewhere) is descending into self-ghettoization intellectually, with people seeking ‘facts’ that support their beliefs rather than allowing facts and knowledge to influence their beliefs, seems a truism.  Whether internet or cable news or email chats, Americans no longer have the Walter Cronkite’s voice to provide a common undermining to water cooler chats.  As From notes, however, this ghettoization is not entirely new:

Maybe customers always wanted to have their pre-existing opinions confirmed. Notice how often 19th century newspapers had names like the “Clay County Whig” or the “Jacksonville Democrat.” What were these old county papers if not the Fox News and MSNBC of their day?

Frum’s discussion also factually (perhaps less truthfully and certainly less insight) examines how Republican Party members acceptance of the science on Global Warming has plummeted over the past two years.

Gallup has recorded an amazing 20 point drop since summer 2008 in the number of Republicans who believe that global warming is occurring. Among Republican conservatives, the drop is slightly smaller — 13 points — but that’s because so few of them believed in the reality of global warming in the first place.

When it comes to ClimateGATE, Frum highlights how ‘environmentalists’ seem to be ignoring it (blowing it off as meaningless) while:

on the right, the story is the biggest scandal since the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

From is correct, this is an issue ignored by the scientific community, environmentalists, and reality-based politicians at the risk of undercutting our ability to develop sensible policy to mitigate climate chaos.

In the posting, Frum reinforces that “biggest scandal” via distorting, misleading, and simply false (out of context) statements related to the hacked emails.

The whole global warming debate has been distorted from the start by intellectual self-ghettoization. Suffused by self-righteousness, the East Anglian scientists felt entitled to twist the evidence and delete the counter-evidence.

Quite simply, Frum’s talking point relies, it would seem, on the simplistic quoting of material entirely out of context.  If he is an honest man, watching this 10 minute video providing factual context (easily sourced context) of two of the critical emails (as an example) would lead Frum to rewrite that sentence and other material in this post. If he is …

Frum writes:

Everything important about global warming remains disputed:

How fast is it happening? How much of it is attributable to human activity? How dangerous is it? How much should we pay to avert or mitigate it? Who should do the paying?

Yes, all of these points are ‘disputed’.  And, they should be ‘disputed’.  However, this is an utterly deceptive construct as the opening line of this quotation is utterly misleading.  When it comes to the most “important [items] about global warming”, there is little dispute within those who are open to science and the scientific process. What are those ‘most important’ items:

  1. The earth is getting warmer
  2. People are causing this
  3. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate
  4. This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it.

These “most important” items are not in serious dispute even while there is real (and legitimate) dispute about the sort of questions that Frum raises.

A fundamental problem, which Frum ignores, is that the growing Republican Party questioning of global warming reflects the growing power of anti-science syndrome advocates in the base and the leadership. This does not bode well for the Party or the nation or, sadly, the prospects for humanity’s future prosperity globally.

A note about anonymous sourcing … if there is a source

From quotes an unnamed “knowledgeable environmentalist” as follows:

I asked a knowledgeable environmentalist earlier this week: “How big a story is the CRU scandal in your community?”

“The what?”

“The e-mails hacked at the Climate Research Unit at [the British] East Anglia University?”

“Ah.” He smiled. “It says something that I didn’t immediately recognize what you were talking about. I suppose on my side we’d take the same view that the Pentagon took of Abu Ghraib: a few bad apples on the night shift.”

Several questions and issues with this:

  1. What justifies this to be an unnamed source?
  2. This quotation is not what a truly “knowledgeable environmentalist” is likely to have said. Someone knowledgeable would have emphasized truthful analysis, rather than speaking from what seems to be ignorance. As examination continues, it really doesn’t seem to be “a few bad apples” somehow analogous to “Abu Ghraib”, but propagandistic distortions of material systematically quoted out of context. A context that is easily derived from someone interest in truthful, rather than deceptive, discussion of scientific issues.

These points combine.  What is the likelihood that Frum simply invented this ‘knowledgeable environmentalist’ out of whole cloth to have a false strawman to attack?

Note: Frum is a resident fellow American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which has a financial skin in the game of global warming denial.

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Tags: climate change · climate delayers · environmental · Global Warming · global warming deniers · journalism · republican party · skeptic · truthiness

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jon // Dec 7, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    This should be “David *Frum.*”

    Sigh … the typos that shame us. Thank you.

  • 2 Jon // Dec 7, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    No prob. He’s a conservative to keep an eye on– usually pretty sympathetic on climate change. I’m surprised he caved to the Morano crowd.

    It is the power of the talking points, assume that what he says is what he is seeing.

  • 3 Jon // Dec 7, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Frum knows there’s a problem with his party:

    http://www.canada.com/scripts/story.html?id=997a8dd8-948f-46f3-b02e-1c3270b3c41e&k=81710

    I think he’s been reading Sam Tanenhaus (who’s worth listening to some time. He’s got some good videos on “The Death of Conservatism” up on Youtube.)

  • 4 Mark Francis // Dec 8, 2009 at 6:14 am

    Frum, an expat Canadian, actually originated the ‘Axis of Evil’ line when he was a Bush speechwriter for a while.

    I once wrote a polemic comparing Frum to a Ferengi. I found no differential.

    One of the biggest problems with the uncoordinated response to this attack is that it in itself casts doubt on climate change. “Oh, the science still works without Mann’s hockey stick” or “We’ll wait and see if there’s anything wrong” or “Just maybe a few bad apples.”

    The only way to win is to play the long game on this. Swifthack.com is a good idea.

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