More on Climate Trolls

January 4, 2014

Most climate denial comes from simple ignorance – people who are genuinely alarmed, embarrassed, and actually pissed, when they find out how they’ve been lied to and for how long.

Then, there’s the sociopaths. People for whom climate denial, science denial, and paranoia politics, are evidence of emotional or organic dysfunction.
This is part 2 of the discussion Chris Hayes convened on thursday night to  discuss the willful ignorance of climate deniers stretching to bend a snowstorm into a refutation of 200 years of physics.

My own theory, based on long observation of the infantile, paranoid, “you are not the boss of me”  strain of libertarianism often expressed by these folks, is that we need to review the way we toilet train children in this country. Something’s gone terribly wrong.

I’m a big believer in free discussion, but if you are having a free discussion and you notice the other guy is throwing up on your shoes, generally you make some adjustments.
Recent threads on this forum are causing me to review my policy on trolling. Stay tuned.


82 Responses to “More on Climate Trolls”

  1. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    This is such a massive and complex subject – I never dreamed that reality could be so misinterpreted and misrepresented and that a loud and small fraction of society could be so wilfully dismissive and destructive.

    Intractable and ambiguous signals have given way to very clear messages, yet right wing belief has become so lithified that they are incapable of backing out of the hole they have dug for themselves.

    The people that started this campaign of disinformation, and destroying rational thought in a large section of the population are guilty of a most egregious crime.

    If and when people wake up and realise they have been used and abused on an industrial scale with artificially implanted beliefs, the anger should be orders of magnitude more than finding out Santa doesn’t exist.

    This should put the final stake into the heart of the Greedy Obdurate Party to sink into electoral oblivion.

    You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, if they don’t run out of time to try everything else.

  2. jimbills Says:

    Commenters are afraid to touch this one. Hee hee.

    I’ll explain why I’m here, and maybe that will help. I check in here, because it’s a great source of recent climate and energy news. I’ll read the posts if they peak my interest, and if I do I’ll read some of the comments. Occasionally a post (or a comment) will push some of my buttons and I’ll comment, too.

    Personally, I lost my appetite to battle trollers a while back. It’s like talking to a brick wall. They have no interest in serious reflection. They are simply debaters plying their craft to support a worldview that forms a key part of their self-identity (psychological, religious, financial, personal, whatever).

    On one hand, though, such people do support your site, as one of its focuses is on AGW denial specifically. For every bogus denial point, there are very knowledgeable commenters here to easily point out the flaw. I think this helps anyone who is willing to use their brain sort out the details and arrive at their own conclusions. I think it might also be a reason why some of your readers are here – to perform just that action. If the trolls were gone, you might lose some of that support.

    But it’s also true that some trollers are just here as cranks, endlessly repeating the same things out of personal need, political and/or economic agenda, or possibly financial reward. It does get tiresome.

    My advice would be to continue to take a soft stick to it. I don’t think it’s out of hand here, really, and in some ways it might add to your readership. But if you decided on it, I’d give an informal 3 (or 33) strike rule to it with periodic warnings.

  3. andrewfez Says:

    Here’s a video of a troll getting embarrassed on T.V.:

    “David Bellamy being humiliated by George Monbiot over climate change. David Bellamy and bad science”

  4. And yet they ignore the latest data from Global warming alarmists like Roy Spencer

    “The global average anomalies by year (2013 was the 4th warmest since satellite monitoring started in 1979):”
    And we are still on track for a warmer 2014

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    Seder: “The [global warming] argument… is rather nuanced, its statistical… it’s a much harder case to make, frankly, to a layperson than ‘there’s snow there’.” While I DO believe this drives the triumphalism on Faux News and other rightwing outlets, I think its a great mistake to underestimate the understanding of the ‘layperson’ on this topic. They know the stakes are their future, and tend to ‘get it right’ when the stakes are that high.

    As for the fundamental rejection of AGW by many on the Right, I think it has to do with ‘marching orders’. The Right idolizes the military, it celebrates military culture and admires military thinking. But fundamentally, military ethics boil down to “when I say jump, you ask ‘how high?’ “. You are given orders and on behalf of Mom, the Flag, and Apple Pie, you do them. And THINKING is a liability for someone given orders. In combat, its the guys who THINK about it who run away or who can’t pull the trigger.

    I’m not a psychologist (but I play one on TV), but I think many public figures on the Right studiously avoided combat when their number came up. Now, they admire the military, love its ‘take no prisoners’ no-nonsense attitude. So when they avoided service I’m guessing they feel more than a little guilt about it. How to assuage that guilt? How about, as long as the orders don’t involve getting killed, spend the rest of your life marching to orders as if you were born in the Trenches? You get to think you’re a Storm-Trooper, you get to hate the weaselly Liberals for their ‘cowardice’, and there’s that beautiful Flag you get to wrap yourself in. And, best of all, as far as your perfect life goes, you ain’t risking @$#&^%$!!

      • dumboldguy Says:

        An interesting article. Perhaps my favorite piece of graffiti is something some U.S. Marines scrawled on a wall in Fallujah.


        It drew many thumbs up and hoots of approval from the young Marines who passed by the wall, and turned up in several variants all over Iraq.

        • andrewfez Says:

          Sounds about right. The U.S. polices the world to keep the global economy stable. The U.S. likes it when the global economy is stable as it maximizes American’s expendable income. And what should you do when you have expendable income? According to 10 out of 10 CEO’s of large corporations (i.e. ‘The U.S.’; (see above)) you should buy things. But where is a good place to buy things?

          The U.S. has demonstrated over the last half century that it’s perfectly willing to disrupt another country’s democracy if there is financial/asset gain in doing so. It’s also demonstrated that it’s willing to tolerate dictatorship and humanity crimes as long as they promote economic stability (otherwise known as ‘stability’ or ‘regional stability’).

          Now there are some religious crazies out there. Publicly burn a few Korans, and they’ll start a murderous riot and destroy an embassy here or there, in reaction to such. And who was the Saudi poet guy that tweeted something about Mohammad along the lines of ‘I will not bow down before you; I will shake your hand like and equal’, that instigated 12,000 some people on Facebook to join a group called ‘The Saudi people demand the execution of {whatever the guy’s name was}’. Yeah, that guy served some jail time for that silly tweet, and for a while he wasn’t sure if he was going to be executed or not.

          Any time the U.S. has an opportunity to knock that type of stuff on the head, they are fighting for freedom. But for the most part the U.S. is fighting to maximize our mall shopping capacity.

          Speaking of freedom (disclaimer TYT are just as bad as Fox News and sometimes get science stuff wrong, so…):

          • dumboldguy Says:

            “Speaking of freedom (disclaimer TYT are just as bad as Fox News and sometimes get science stuff wrong, so…):”

            TYT are “just as bad” as Fox News? Personally, I find TYT’s occasional mistakes as they “pursue truth’ and justice”to be far less disturbing than Faux News’s deliberate lies and misinformation.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Nice rant, ubrew, but I think you do a bit of a disservice to past and present military with these comments. I suspect your experience with the military is about as “real” as your TV experience as a psychologist. Did you serve?

      I think what you were really looking for was the idea that conservatives are in love with the idea of Authority and Authoritarianism, a topic that Mooney addresses in The Republican Brain. Check that out.

      • ubrew12 Says:

        No, I never served. “conservatives are in love with the idea of… Authoritarianism” is what I was trying to say. To my astonishment, I’ve always had a revulsion for War. When the Gulf War came around I was against immediate action (although eventual action seemed inevitable) and found myself at odds with the fairly liberal engineers I was employed with (we were working in Renewable Energy). Years later, I found myself working for the MIC and at odds with the fairly conservative engineers over the Iraq War, a stance I’m pretty sure cost me that job (you never know for sure: they just put you in a windowless room, give you nothing to do, and let you figure it out). Not all wars are fought on the battlefield.

        My revulsion, I think, stems from the suspicion that War is a societal cop-out. It’s an entire society, imbued with Pride, unable to settle or forgive, asking an 18yr old to face off with another the same age across a plain, and thus settle ‘all accounts’. When you’re asking your children to be ‘the adult in the room’ something has gone horribly wrong.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Well said, particularly “When you’re asking your children to be ‘the adult in the room’ something has gone horribly wrong”.

  6. jimbills wrote:

    Personally, I lost my appetite to battle trollers a while back. It’s like talking to a brick wall. They have no interest in serious reflection. They are simply debaters plying their craft to support a worldview that forms a key part of their self-identity (psychological, religious, financial, personal, whatever).

    If I may rant for a moment…

    Frankly, I find the denialism and what I take to be its implications in terms of moral character more depressing than climate change and its implications for the future. It is one thing for someone to accidentally die. It is quite another if they commit suicide, and it is much worse when it is not an individual but a civilization.

    I likewise find arguing with denialists quite depressing, and given this, I have found it difficult to commit to a debate. Yet if you do not follow it through to the end, it appears to be a “win” to those who haven’t already been convinced by the science and the evidence, and are as unlikely to engage in deep analysis of the arguments being made as they were to follow the science and evidence in the first place. Moreover, the debate itself is a win of sorts for the denialists in that by debating them you have already conceded on a certain level that the issues they raise, however bizarre they may be, are debatable.

    Discussions between rational individuals is one thing. Debates between rational individuals and willfully irrational ones is quite another, and at a certain level I believe that by debating them, not only are we enabling their irrationality and providing them with yet another platform to express their “views”, but participating to a degree in their willful irrationality to the extent that we distract ourselves from rational discussions and entertain the denial of well-established points long enough to engage with denialists in extended argument.

  7. Tough decision. The dismissives sure bump up the comment count compared to constructive comments.

    A blog’s regular readership reacts to a “troll” like the immune system reacts to a pathogen. One blog’s white blood cell can be another blog’s pathogen. Although I still read WUWT, I stopped commenting. I was one of their trolls (and a socialist!).

    Here’s an interaction between a climate troll and a scientist. The “troll” resembles most of the climate deniers I know. The scientist is a typical scientist. The reporter is a reporter. The internet amplifies interactions between otherwise ordinary decent people.

    • fortranprog Says:

      That’s quite an interesting series of videos, thanks for sharing, and it is very true that normally you get no visual clues of the person you are interacting with on a blog (facial expression, anger, pleasure, age/demeanour etc.). I had no idea what DaveBurton looked like during our recent interaction on the snow troll piece, however since I did find a youtube clip of him on sea side properties and sea level rise – so now I do know, also I see he owns an IT business and knows how to program in Fortran and Cobra, and his last answer to our posts makes me very suspicious that he has computerized part of his blogging duties as it had absolutely nothing to the point I raised about sea rise/temperature figures available from non US/UK authority organisations.

    • I like the pathogen analogy.

  8. andrewfez Says:

    The computer programmer war happening presently over on the Snow Troll article might be interesting, based on lightly scanning over the conversation.

  9. omnologos Says:

    There’s the ambiguity around the word “troll”. It’s used too often as synonym of “somebody I disagree with and who didn’t change his mind when I showed him wrong”. That’s proto-fascist and wrong,.

    A troll is somebody who’s out to derail a discussion. It’s not difficult to spot them.

    • jpcowdrey Says:

      You’re so funny, maurizio.

      Is not refusing to engage in principled debate a tactic guaranteed to derail a discussion?

      Isn’t calling unnamed persons who defend principled debate “proto-fascist” (whatever that means) a wee bit disingenuous, and much more an egregious insult than, say, calling some specific someone who displays empirical traits of denial a denier?

      How about throwing out a meaningless and spuriously narrow definition of “troll”?

      Is that not an effort to derail this discussion?

      I know you don’t think this thread is about you (it is), but why is it so often projection with you, maurizio?

      If I may be so bold as to preempt your inevitable plaint of “telepsychology”, I would suggest that when one repetitively makes wild and unsupported assertions in blog threads, one is broadcasting one’s mental state far and wide.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “I would suggest that when one repetitively makes wild and unsupported assertions in blog threads, one is broadcasting one’s mental state far and wide”.

        As a licensed practitioner of “telepsychology”, let me add that you have clearly stated one of the basic truths of the discipline. How could we practice it if that were not true?

        I predict that Maurizio will NOT get your point (or mine).

      • jpcowdrey’s comment included a link to a rational discussion flowchart that could serve as a reader comment moderation guideline.

      • You mean name calling is not a method of improving discussion? Is that part of principled discussion? Does that mean I would not, for instance, call a blogger a
        “sad loser”? I thought there was a word for name calling, not quite the same meaning, but .. what was it… Oh yes. Ad hominem.

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