Washington Post: On the Harassment of Climate Researchers

May 30, 2011

FREEDOM OF information laws are critical tools that allow Americans to see what their leaders do on their behalf. But some global warming skeptics in Virginia are showing that even the best tools can be misused.

So writes the Washington Post in an editorial over the weekend.

It’s more evidence of the twisted and perverse nature of America’s right wing know-nothing brigade, that legislation dedicated to greater openness in politics could be used as an instrument of repression.  Lately we’ve seen a number of instances where far right wing organizations and individuals are attempting to use the Freedom of Information Act as a tool to intimidate, silence, and punish their perceived adversaries.  In Michigan, educators have been put on notice that their emails may be subject to seizure if they contain key words such as “Madison”, “Scott Walker”,  “Wisconsin”, or even “Maddow”.  The obvious take-away for would-be thinkers in academia is that if you are discussing current events with students or colleagues, you are a person of interest.

In Virginia, the State’s Climate denialist Attorney General, Ken Cuchinelli, along with the American Tradition Institute (ATI), a right wing think tank, have been demanding to see emails from climate researcher Michael Mann, formerly of the University of Virginia, now at Penn State.

Kuchinelli’s primary claim to fame has been his crusade to change the Virginia State Seal so as to cover an all-too-arousing nipple on the figure of the Roman goddess Virtus.


A judge recently denied Kuchinelli’s request, but is granting ATI’s.

The Post continues:

ATI’s motives are clear enough. The group’s Web site boasts about its challenges to environmental regulations across the country. Christopher Horner, its director of litigation, wrote a book called “Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.” (We wonder whether the “alarmists” who wrote the National Research Council’s latest report on climate change are threatening, fraudulent or merely deceptive.) And ATI declares that Mr. Mann’s U-Va. e-mails contain material similar to that which inspired the trumped-up “Climategate” scandal, in which warming skeptics misrepresented lines from e-mails stored at a British climate science center.

Going after Mr. Mann only discourages the sort of scientific inquiry that, over time, sorts out fact from speculation, good science from bad. Academics must feel comfortable sharing research, disagreeing with colleagues and proposing conclusions — not all of which will be correct — without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them. That give-and-take should be unhindered by how popular a professor’s ideas are or whose ideological convictions might be hurt.

For the fossil fuel interests that fund right wing think-tanks and politicians, the goal is merely to keep the US, and the world, wedded to the technologies of the 19th century. But for climate deniers, often that’s not far enough. In their minds, the 14th century knew best how to deal with those who preferred reason to dogma.

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14 Responses to “Washington Post: On the Harassment of Climate Researchers”

  1. omnologos Says:

    FOI is a very important achievement (it developed in its modern form against the US Government lies and obfuscation at the time of the Vietnam War, if I am not mistaken) and as such should be treated with all due respect, by all sides.

    Instead, it is just another tool of political machination, and there isn’t anyone that truly cares about it.

  2. kronocide Says:

    I demand to see the emails of these public servants. Do a search on ‘Cato,’ ‘Exxon,’ ‘Heartland’, etc. If the money needs to be followed, let it be followed.

  3. kronocide Says:

    After watching all our videos Greenman, it’s hard to say which is my favorite. Yet this video seems to deliver the most impact of any I recall.

    The science and the solutions seem to be the easy part. The hard part is getting us to think and act together.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    If Galileo is any guide, Dr. Mann should be getting his apology in about 500 years.

    • neilrieck Says:

      Your comment is more profound than you know. During the time of Galileo, many scientists supported the church’s position by ignoring the new science. While some of this was due to fear of the church, most was due to scientists clinging dogmatically to their original positions. Believe it or not, it took almost 100 years for the scientific community to flip from “90% against solar-centric” to “90% for solar-centric” but even then, many non-scientists refused to believe the science. After all, how could God ever consider not putting Earth in a prominent place?

      Many academics today will admit that science only advances by the [natural] death of the dogmatic (just Google “clovis first” or “clovis people” to see what I mean; there was absolutely no way new candidate cultures could be considered as long as the people who built their careers on “Clovis first” were still publishing; the same thing happened with “continental drift” which is now known as “plate tectonics”; or K-T extinctions being caused by a planetary impact at Chicxulub).

      Getting back to the solar-centric model for a moment, once a new generation begins their education believing “this fact”, the older dogmatic generation who cling to the opposite belief begin to seem anachronistic if not outright ridiculous. Something similar appears to be happening with “climate change”. The only question remaining is this: “can humanity survive the delay caused by us waiting for climate change deniers to wake up?”

      • pendantry Says:

        … “can humanity survive the delay caused by us waiting for climate change deniers to wake up?”

        If history tells us anything, it’s that the answer to that is ‘No.’

  5. livinginabox Says:

    Visited the Wapo and read the article, some dyed-in-the-wool Dunning-Kruger Climate zombies singing the praise of skeptics, citing Montford as a reliable source and raising endless crocks and some abusing Scott Mandia.

    Does intense stupidity combined with Word-class ignorance hurt?

  6. otter17 Says:

    Gaarrr, the Flogging the Scientists video made me angry before, and a second viewing seemed to make me angrier still.

  7. neilrieck Says:

    Today it appears that religious and political extremists are actually cultivating ignorance. For this reason I hope that the following 7-minute video will help humanity put a stop to that nonsense. This video is based upon a rebuttal by Isaac Asimov to a letter set by a student critical of science and progress.


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