Trump, Cruz, and the Gullibility of Climate Deniers

February 21, 2016


It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Climate deniers Donald Trump and Ted Cruz know their audience. If you believe climate denial, you’ll believe anything.

Below the news item, some context.

Toronto Star:

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump finished his South Carolina campaign on Friday night by praising a mass murder of Muslim prisoners in the early 1900s.

The murder never actually happened: Trump, it appears, was credulously repeating an online hoax. Regardless, his words represented yet another escalation of his open Islamophobia and his explicit support for war crimes.

Trump is running on a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country. He made the new remarks near the end of his speech in North Charleston on the eve of the crucial South Carolina primary in which he leads in the polls.

Speaking in his usual extemporaneous style, he vowed to go “much, much, much further than waterboarding,” the torture tactic defended by some conservatives. He said: “I read a story. It’s a terrible story, but I’ll tell you. Should I tell you or should I not?”

The crowd asked for the story.

Trump described the late U.S. general John Pershing, a “rough” man. He then claimed, approvingly, that Pershing had summarily executed 49 Muslim prisoners during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines in the early-1900s — and had added religious insult to the supposed killings by dipping the bullets in the bloods of pigs, which Muslims are forbidden to consume.

“This was a terrible problem. They were having terrorism problems just like we do,” he said. “And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and he took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. You heard that, right? He took 50 bullets! And he dipped them in pigs’ blood.

“And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, OK? Twenty-five years there wasn’t a problem.”

He concluded by linking the story to present-day problems for a second time.

“So we better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks,” he said.

The myth-busting website Snopes found no evidence to support the story, which has circulated by email since at least 2001. Snopes found anecdotal accounts that Pershing or other military leaders had threatened to bury Muslims along with pig carcasses.

Peter Dykstra in the Daily Climate:

Back when he was a mere Reality TV star, Donald Trump published a less-than-140-character dissertation on climate change. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” That tweet from Election Day, 2012, drew 40,000 retweets or likes.

His Republican presidential rival, Senator Ted Cruz, sees a climate conspiracy as well. But it’s a different conspiracy, with different perpetrators, for different reasons. His culprits? “Liberal politicians, who want government power over the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives.”

There has been so much lunacy, bombast, and ideological hair-pulling and eye-gouging in the current presidential campaign that the madness of these conspiracy theories has been overlooked. And even with the multitude of debates, the journalists who moderate them have almost totally avoided mentioning the issue at all.

May I offer two suggestions?

First, the ideal climate question for a Republican debate would be to ask Trump about Cruz’s conspiracy theory, and vice versa. They can’t both be right, though there’s ample opportunity for both to be wrong. And if past is prologue, they can’t possibly not disagree with each other.

It would be the kind of catfight that the debate producers have come to rely on for high ratings. Have at it, lads.

Second, I’d counsel the pundit class now covering this sorriest of presidential elections to seek the wisdom of the man whose multiple presidential runs were built on a fortress of wild conspiracies. Now mostly forgotten, 93 year-old Lyndon LaRouche was a candidate in every presidential election from 1976 to 2004, either as a Democrat, an Independent, or under the flag of his own U.S. Labor Party.

In 1992, he ran his campaign from a federal prison in Minnesota following his conviction on credit card fraud and obstruction of justice.  For a time, fate conspired to give him disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker as a cellmate.  In his autobiography, Bakker wrote, “to say that Lyndon was slightly paranoid would be like saying the Titanic had a bit of a leak.”

Oh, could Lyndon LaRouche spin conspiracies. Queen Elizabeth, Henry Kissinger, and the World Wildlife Fund, he said, controlled the worldwide heroin trade. Her Majesty has also held every U.S. President since Harry Truman by the short ones, as if the Brits never really surrendered at Yorktown. And popular culture, represented by The Beatles, Harry Potter and Pokémon among others, is a vast and centralized mind control effort to steer the world’s youth into either violence or torpor.

While dismissed as both a political theorist and a candidate, LaRouche did draw widespread attention. In the 1984 election cycle, he dropped millions of dollars on primetime network TV buys, giving rambling hour-long speeches to a national audience. LaRouche’s presidential aspirations peaked that year at about 78,000 general election votes.


Lyndon LaRouche is worth mentioning here because what Cruz and Trump have said about climate change is competitive with his lunacy. Unlike LaRouche, these men have a genuine shot at leading America and setting its climate agenda.

As his star continues to rise, Trump has uncharacteristically mellowed on climate denial, telling a gullible Fox News interviewer last year that the Chinese line was a joke. But he still deploys the word “hoax” on a regular basis, and drops a soundbite and a tweet on every cold weather day to refute climate change.

Cruz has doubled down, comparing himself to the persecuted Galileo and adding a parallel conspiracy theory about climate scientists, saying they’re only in it for the money. “In the debate over global warming, far too often politicians in Washington – and for that matter, a number of scientists receiving large government grants – disregard the science and data and instead push political ideology,” he told NPR. This is particularly ironic, given Cruz’s deep financial support from oil and gas men.

Either way, it’s chilling. The kind of paranoia and delusion that once resided on the fringe is winning presidential primaries and caucuses. And in case you may think we don’t have Lyndon LaRouche to kick around anymore, his think tank, the Schiller Institute, published a paper last September accusing the still-prolific Queen Elizabeth of strong-arming the Pope into stumping on climate change as a population control measure – despite the Catholic Church’s singular stance against population control even on a personal level.

So Lyndon LaRouche is a has-been, an ex-con, a tinfoil-hatted crackpot who was quadrennially laughed off the national stage. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are serious contenders for the presidency.  Other than that, on climate change, I’m not sure I can tell the three of them apart.

The Guardian:

A new study has examined the comments on climate science-denying blogs and found strong evidence of widespread conspiratorial thinking. The study looks at the comments made in response to a previous paper linking science denial and conspiracy theories.

Three years ago, social scientists Lewandowsky, Oberauer, and Gignac published a paper in the journal Psychological Science titled NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.

The paper detailed the evidence the scientists found that, using survey data provided by visitors to climate blogs, those exhibiting conspiratorial thinking are more likely to be skeptical of scientists’ conclusions about vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change. This result was replicated in a follow-up study using a representative U.S. sample that obtained the same result linking conspiratorial thinking to climate denial.

This shouldn’t be a terribly shocking result. When confronted with inconvenient science, those in denial often reject the evidence by accusing the experts of fraud or conspiracies. We saw a perfect example of this behavior just a few weeks ago. When scientists at NOAA published a paper finding that there was no ‘pause’ in global warming, one of the most common responses from those in denial involved the conspiratorial accusation that the scientists had somehow fudged the data at the behest of the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, nobody likes being characterized as a conspiracy theorist, and so those in the denial blogosphere reacted negatively to the research of Lewandowsky and colleagues. Ironically, many of the attacks on the study involved conspiratorial accusations, which simply provided more data for the social scientists to analyze. For example, the authors were accused of everything from faked data to collusion between Lewandowsky and the Australian government.




33 Responses to “Trump, Cruz, and the Gullibility of Climate Deniers”

  1. pendantry Says:

    I haven’t really been paying that much attention to the US election (I’m a Brit, I can’t vote for the US President, and I have better things to do with my time than watch the bizarre antics on the idiot box the pushers dress up as ‘information’).

    As a result, I’m a bit in the dark… but if I’m reading it right, this article says that it’s likely that the next US president will be in denial of climate change. If that’s right, then it’s yet more proof that I’m right to insist we should rename our species ‘homo fatuus brutus’ (though, naturally, the Dunning-Kruger effect ensures it can never happen).

    • I see this tragicomedy as evidence of a cultural-evolutionary speciation currently in process. We are splitting into Homo Sapiens Fatuus (hominin who foolishly thinks he is wise) versus Homo Sapiens Erectus (hominin who walks his brain upright).

    • dumboldguy Says:

      You misread this article if you think it says that “it’s likely that the next US president will be in denial of climate change”. It’s speaking of the Republican candidates, none of whom are likely to be the next president of the U.S. We will elect a Democrat, most likely Hillary Clinton. You need to spend more time studying the “bizarre antics” of our electoral process so that you can comment with less pedantry.

      • pendantry Says:

        Thank you for the clarification, dumoldguy. I would have been more thankful still had you deigned to clarify whether the opposition candidates are any more likely to do any more than the current incumbent (who, despite his rhetoric, appears to have essentially done bugger all apart from maintain the status quo).

        As I pointed out already, I have no say in who wins, and no interest in the outcome other than being a concerned resident of the same planet. And as for the bizarre antics, I wasn’t specifically referring to the US electoral process.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          I would have been thankful if you had taken taken my advice and deigned to study our political process in more detail so that you could comment on it with intelligence rather than more pedantry.

          (And before you point at Obama, I would ask you to name ANY politicians of any significance on this planet who have done much more than “maintain the status quo”).

      • MorinMoss Says:

        “We will elect a Democrat, most likely Hillary Clinton”

        No you won’t. Remember the old adage that “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line”.
        There’s just not enough love for Hillary and if she becomes the nominee, the GOP will be pulling all of the old crap against the Clintons out of the dustbin and there’s a LOT of history.
        And she’ll go down.

        While Sanders is still an outside chance, the more you learn about him, the more there is to like. I just hope he’s strong enough to last a term – whether you’re good at it or not, the Presidency is a very tough job.

        But winning / keeping the Oval Office is only 1/3rd the battle. The Dems HAVE to take back the House in 2016. With all 435 up for grabs, they have a fighting chance, even with the kind of gerrymandering and voting shenanigans the GOP have been been up to.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Did you miss the word “likely” in my comment? I like Bernie’s positions, but IMO he is not as electable as Hillary, whose “solutions” are a lot more workable and far less pie-in-the-sky than Bernie’s, and therefore are more likely to appeal to more voters.

          Don’t fall into the “love-hate” trap when the Repugnants start screaming “Benghazi-emails-Whitewater-wife of Bill–friend of Obama ETC” and all the other crap that they think will be a substitute for putting forth workable programs that will move the country forward. IMO, if Romney had run on his record as Massachusetts governor he would have been far more successful than running as the “last man standing” after the “race to the bottom” of the 2012 Repugnant primaries.

          The Repugs tried that “hate” campaign against Obama and it didn’t work, just as it won’t work this year unless the electorate loses its collective mind (in which case they will deserve whatever comes).

          You are kidding yourself if you think the Dems will take back the House this year. Citizens United, piles of dirty money, the gerrymandering, and voter suppression efforts in too many states make that unlikely. It IS good that all 435 are up for election every two years, but it may take a couple more cycles to get back the House. A far more likely prospect is taking back the Senate this year, where many more Repugnants are endangered in 2016 than in the past election (in which Dems were more vulnerable and lost seats).

    • ubrew12 Says:

      Trump means nothing. By that, I mean he allows Americans to engage in another four years of ‘navel-gazing’ by blaming their troubles on the ‘Latino illegals’. Also, China takes the South China Sea and possibly Taiwan, and Russia takes Eastern Europe, but if you haven’t noticed by now, those faraway places don’t exactly exist for modern Americans.

      What’s important is that Israel remains in Israeli control.
      Like that was in some sort of doubt…

  2. neilrieck Says:

    First off, I want everyone here to watch this Arabic video titled “Does the Earth Move?” (The video file is named “VID-20150517-WA0018.mp4” so you can google it in case someone deletes it again or replaces it with like-named crud). I am not going to criticize the speaker because in his world, the question and answer may be irrelevant (Muhammad died in 632 AD so using the Quran to support your logical arguments may be suspect) but educated people would never ask the question because we already know the answer and accept it as a fact. Let me also point out that there has been at least one Islamic astronaut and he has been unable to change the minds of most people in his society.

    The same may be said of people in North America like “some Mennonite sects” or “the Amish” who choose to live in the past, or Christians who prefer a literal interpretation of the Christian bible (a book which is even older than the Quran yet used in the 1600s to persecute the science of Galileo)

    So do American politicians actually “question evolution” and “believe in climate change denial” or are they catering to Christians who prefer an ancient interpretation? (and wouldn’t that be a case of the tail wagging the dog?) To most people in the West (whether those people are people of faith or not) hearing someone in the West deny science is almost as shocking our reaction to the contents of the video “Does the Earth Move?”.

    So let me ask North Americans this: do you stand with the uneducated bumpkins or do you stand with modernity?

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      The answer to your question is yes.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Ignoring the fact that this MEMRI clip is categorized as “comedy” by Youtube and that MEMRI is alleged to be a creation of Israel intelligence (via its Mossad colonel founder), and is accused of being a right-wing propaganda tool that seeks to make Muslims look bad, I agree that the answer to the question is “yes”.

      • pendantry Says:

        Well, speaking as an non-North American, I find it a bit worrying that, apparently, the concensus response to the question posed:

        do you stand with the uneducated bumpkins or do you stand with modernity?

        … is ‘yes’.

        … and I get accused of pedantry? :eyeroll:

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Well, when one asks a pedantic question, one must expect a somewhat pedantic answer. And perhaps the “consensus’ is really that “uneducated bumpkins” who are not North Americans should not be sticking their noses into North American affairs that they won’t bother to take the time to understand? Or is that a lesson that certain non-North Americans didn’t learn back in the late 1700’s?

          • pendantry Says:

            Oh. My mistake. I had understood that this website was on the world wide web. I didn’t realise it was on the US-only-wide web.

            PS didn’t bother watching your video clip.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            No, your “mistake” is trying to substitute superficial glibness for substantive argument, as well as a failure to grasp what skepticman and I were implying. And I’m not the one who brought up “non North American”

            It doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t bother watching the video clip. Too bad, since it is quite stirring. The Battle of New Orleans is as well,although there hasn’t been a movie made of it.

    • If you follow the @TakeThatDarwin or @TakeThatScience threads on Twitter you’ll find plenty of flat-earthers and creationists; enough to make you weep for humanity. Most of the climate change deniers aren’t quite that bad, but the short-circuited thinking process is quite similar. I don’t know which is worse – knowing the deniers in Congress are lying for political gain, or knowing that they actually believe that BS. In the end it doesn’t matter, of course.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      The question was a false dichotomy, so there really isn’t one simple answer for all North Americans.
      U.S. politics has the patina of simple ‘left’ vs ‘right’ tribalism, but if you dig deeper, what you find is a broad continuum of positions that are vastly more nuanced than what the so-called (often self appointed ) leaders of those parties would suggest.
      The more flamboyant and loudest voices often drown out the vast majority of middle of the road voters, who often have mixes of both liberal and conservative stances, but who also get dragged in to tribalism based on single issue hot buttons.
      If you want to know in the broadest sense where the country approximately stands, it is roughly 50/50 on most (but not all) social issues, and leaning roughly 40/60 in favor of science based issues. Probably 50/50 on economic issues.
      That is not reflected in our political system however. The Tea-Party conservatives and religious right have distorted and hijacked the GOP agenda in my opinion.

      • pendantry Says:

        Ah, I see your false dichotomy now.

        Ironically, the same can be said of the entire voting system (and no, I’m not just taking a pop at the US system, the UK system is identical in this respect). We ‘voters’ have only the illusion of choice; the only people to whom it makes any difference who’s in power are… those who vie for control.

        The ‘democratic’ (sic) system is badly broken and will never be fixed because those who have the power to do so have no interest in relinquishing the control gifted them by the broken system. (Example: enfranchising the majority by enabling ‘none of the above’ votes would put the lie to the illusory ‘mandates’ claimed by the winners of each farcical spectacle.)

  3. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    If telling lies and perpetrating conspiracy theories were a capital offence, people would probably check their sources more carefully, and the halls of Congress would be nearly empty!

  4. Sir Charles Says:

    “First Donald Trump came for the Mexican immigrants, but I wasn’t a Mexican immigrant, so i didn’t speak up…” -said someone on the internet. Donald Trump and his supporters swear he is the hottest newest thing on the political scene since forever, but we all know that we’ve heard a campaign like this before. Maybe in the 1930s. In one of those countries that’s better than our loser country, according to this candidate. I think we should relearn this lesson and look into those history books, before someone bans them.

    (Cartoon: Herr Trump)

      • j4zonian Says:

        Yes, with all the pathetic, infuriating, profoundly saddening, disturbing moments in this election season, I still hadn’t heard any nearly as chilling as this, when a leading candidate for president of the most militarily, economically and culturally powerful country in the world–by far–promises genocide if elected, and everybody in the room didn’t turn their backs on him and walk out. Disturbing as well, though hardly on the same level is the petty, mean-spirited conversation here, almost completely ignoring the promise, and the possibility of such horrors as the 20th century brought us. And even more disturbing is the fact that if we descend into this hell, we will never emerge. The ecological and socio-political chaos and desperation caused by Climate Cataclysm will make sure of that.

        Thanks for making the comment.

  5. redskylite Says:

    When a member of the republican party and serving senator is hoping a democrat wins the presidential race (rather than the Donald), I would think something is deeply amiss within that party (and needs sorting out by some serious leadership). I wonder who Dr Richard Alley is rooting for too (I understand his natural allegiance is to the republican party too).

    Politician – Who is Trump trying to kid ? his name is mud in Scotland.

    In a statement tweeted Saturday by Time political reporter Zeke Miller, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that it would be better for a Democrat to win the White House than Donald Trump.

  6. You’d want to be fairly stupid to write an article saying that people who don’t believe in something are gullible. Go and check out the meaning of the word gullible before you start writing nonsense.

    • skeptictmac57 Says:

      That would indicate a very superficial understanding of the motivation of a climate change denier.
      A non-sequitur

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