Home > Environment > Crowdsourcing the links between climate and tobacco hackery

Crowdsourcing the links between climate and tobacco hackery

August 17th, 2011

In this very silly hit piece in the Oz, Graham Young says that I “imply” that many climate delusionists are (or were) tobacco hacks. His wording in turn implies that they aren’t or might not be. Of course this is a simple question of fact, well documented in Naomi Oreskes Merchants of Doubt. But, as a fun exercise, I thought readers might be interested in a “Six degrees” crowdsourcing exercise for the leading individual and institutional advocates of climate delusion. Candidates score

1. If took tobacco money or public anti-science position on tobacco (denying risks of active or passive smoking)
2. (a) Direct link (co-authorship of, or institutional affiliation for, climate delusionist pieces) to person or institution in group 1, or advocacy of tobacco interests on issues like advertising, plain labelling etc
3. Direct link to group 2


Bonus points for

(a) anyone who can make a clear case for a climate delusionist with a score of 4 or above
(b) first anti-science commenter to claim “ad hominem”, “guilt by association” etc. Working for, or with criminals like the tobacco lobby, is indeed a guilty association. Those who have inadvertently entangled themselves with links to the tobacco lobby can always repudiate them.

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  1. August 17th, 2011 at 23:49 | #1

    Clayton Utz?

    For giving OK to BAT for destruction of thousands of documents linking smoking to cancer.


    Q: Other than the destruction of documents, are you aware of any other aspect of the Document Retention Policy?

    A: Yes. Another important component of the Policy was routing of documents through lawyers for the purpose of ‘privileging’ the documents, that some documents should include a notation to the effect of ‘for the purpose of legal advice’ and be routed through a lawyer, so that a document which would not otherwise attract privilege would now attract privilege.

    The Document Retention Policy was a contrivance designed to eliminate potentially damaging documents while claiming an innocent ‘housekeeping’ intent. While I was uncertain about whether the ruse was legal or not, I knew that it was a ruse and that made me uncomfortable. The policy didn’t pass the smell test. The whole purpose was to keep evidence out of the courts.

    Q: At the time you started working at Wills did you discuss the implementation of the Document Retention Policy with anyone?

    A: Yes. It was part of the initial discussion about the Document Retention Policy that I had with Nick Cannar and Andrew Foyle. When I first started, I was told by Nick Cannar that the Document Retention Policy had been implemented by the law firm of Clayton Utz, and that all documents at Wills that were potentially damaging to the BAT Group had been destroyed or otherwise put beyond the reach of discovery.

    Q: Why did you come to question the effectiveness of the implementation of the Document Retention Policy when you visited Wills Scientific Research Group?

    A: During the course of this visit, I examined some of the documents in the [scientific] library. What I saw alarmed me, because it was immediately apparent that the Document Retention Policy had not been fully implemented despite assurances to the contrary.

    ‘Clayton Utz’ has myriad and complex ties to all sorts of fossil-fuel and extractive industries around the world.

    It would be mean-spirited to suggest that their approach to climate change would be anything like their approach to tobacco.

  2. fred
    August 18th, 2011 at 00:50 | #2


    Is this the sort of info you want?

    From Wiki
    – “The IPA funded by its membership which include both private individuals and businesses. Among these businesses are ExxonMobil,[5] Telstra, WMC Resources, BHP Billiton, Phillip Morris,[6] Murray Irrigation Limited,[7] and Visy Industries.”

    -The IPA adopts a position of climate change scepticism and supports most Australian climate sceptics.[17]
    FN 17 takes you to:


    This article includes this:
    “Roskam has helped finance and give structure to Australia’s often self-contradictory band of climate sceptics.

    ”Of all the serious sceptics in Australia, we have helped and supported just about all of them in their work one way or another,” he says, listing some prominent figures on the local circuit. ”Ian Plimer – we launched his book – Bob Carter, Jo Nova, William Kininmonth.”

    For a link to tobacco, try this:
    ABC Radio National “Background Briefing” 20-2-11
    From the transcript:
    “Tim Wilson, Director of the Intellectual Property and Free Trade Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, or the IPA. He’s been warning that plain packaging could cost billions a year in compensation to big tobacco.
    The IPA was funded by tobacco in the past, but today refuses to disclose whether tobacco is still among their financial supporters.


    Tim Wilson says he’s recently obtained Freedom of Information documents proving that the government agency Intellectual Property Australia, has advice that plain packaging isn’t legally sound.
    Those FOIs are also being used by the Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris International, who’s mentioned them in a recent investors’ conference in New York.

    Louis Camilleri: IP Australia, the government’s own agency responsible for advising on intellectual property policy matters have stated that it believes that plain packaging may not be consistent with Australia’s intellectual property treaty obligations.

    Hagar Cohen: In Melbourne, Tim Wilson says the documents he’s obtained are revealing.

    Tim Wilson: Well the documents tell a surprisingly large number of things. Firstly, that there are people within Intellectual Property Australia who believe that plain packaging would violate WTO obligations, and Intellectual Property Australia wasn’t consulted, that there may be breaches with our bilateral trade agreements, that the evidence or that robust legal advice the government has, would appear to be very weak, according to internal discussions, and that they believe that it will not necessarily cover the government.

    Hagar Cohen: Background Briefing has read [see Editor’s note below] a transcript of this explanation to Intellectual Property Australia, and we received this comment in response. It reads in part:

    Reader: IP Australia can confirm that the claims made by the Institute of Public Affairs are incorrect and misleading.
    IP Australia’s advice in documents released under the FOI Act acknowledged that tobacco companies would see plain packaging as a restraint on the use of their trade marks. The advice indicated that they may try to challenge the legislation implementing the policy. The advice did not suggest that a successful challenge would be made or that the tobacco industry would be entitled to compensation.”

    From Source Watch : “Tim Wilson”
    “Tim Wilson is Director of Climate Change Policy and the Intellectual Property and Free Trade Unit at the IPA …”
    The IPA adopts a position of climate change scepticism and supports most Australian climate sceptics.[17″

    Follow the link given to TW and you find an archive at the IPA of articles by TW on climate change.

  3. Alan
    August 18th, 2011 at 01:05 | #3

    Clearly we all listen to Background Briefing. I think Fred Singer takes the cake:

    Naomi Oreskes: Fred Singer is the most extraordinary, he has had the most extraordinary career, because he has essentially made a profession out of doubt-mongering. I sometimes think of him as being a serial contrarian. So this is a man who has challenged the scientific evidence of the harms of second-hand smoke; in the 1990s he worked with the Philip Morris tobacco company — and there are many, many documents that attest to this — he denies it in public but the historical documentation is overwhelmingly… overwhelming to demonstrate that this is factually correct. He challenged the scientific evidence relating to acid rain, tried to minimise it. He cast doubt on the science related to the ozone hole.

    Wendy Carlisle: In our Sunday broadcast we said Professor Fred Singer ran the Science and Public Policy Institute. That was incorrect. In fact Professor Singer founded the Science and Environmental Policy Project, which these days has switched its attention from tobacco, acid rain and the ozone hole to climate change.

    Naomi Oreskes: And over the last ten years or so, he’s been deeply involved in challenging the scientific data related to climate change. Again in our book we tell the story of an extremely vicious, hostile and completely unprincipled attack that he and two other scientists launched against Ben [Santer]*, who’s one of the scientists that really did the critical work that demonstrates that climate change is caused by human activity, it’s not natural variation; this is some of the most important scientific work of the twentieth century. Singer attacked the work; he attacked the man; he launched attacks not in the scientific literature, but in places like the Wall Street Journal. He said things that were demonstrably false and other scientists tried to refute it, showed how his claims were false. He said them again. But it doesn’t stop him. He just goes on and on and on and on and on.

    So given his track record of opposing science, no one argues anymore about tobacco, right? No one argues anymore about the ozone hole. In every one of these cases, we’ve seen that his previous position was not correct; it was not on the side of science.

    Not just passive smoking and climate change but acid rain and the ozone hole as well.

  4. Freelander
    August 18th, 2011 at 01:34 | #4

    One thing that policy makers seem to have ignored in the war on tobacco, is that not only should the intention be to make smoking undesirable for its potential victims, which has been achieved with some measure of success, but a sensible subgoal should be to make investment in tobacco peddling, that is, tobacco companies less profitable. If tobacco were not so profitable, then the companies would not and could not spend so much money innovating new ways to peddle it.

    An obvious reason tobacco companies are outraged by the plain packaging initiative is that it is an attack on branding which has the implicit threat of turning their product into a commodity. There is no profit (except risky ‘normal’ profits) from agricultural commodities. Breaking the brands would put the tobacco companies into direct price competition with each other, and also with any number of new entrants who would no longer face brands as an entry barrier.

    One thing has been obvious for many years in that the big two supermarket chains (the MasterCard and Visa of that industry) have been engaged in a brand destruction strategy to ruthlessly negotiate down the prices they pay producers for the products the chains sell. Over the years it has been interesting to watch (during trips for weekly purchases) the variety of tricks they have been using to facilitate brand destruction.

  5. rog
    August 18th, 2011 at 04:59 | #5

    Try this where BAT attempt to adopt the practice of being responsible and being reasonable, a policy endorsed by John Roskam from Rio Tinto.

  6. rog
    August 18th, 2011 at 07:46 | #6

    Just by chance there was this bit where IPA admits that they receive “support” from tobacco companies.

    Sinclair Davidson is on record saying that he is against the ban on tobacco packaging as it is an affront to “freedom of speech”. He is also on record saying that he is against using taxation for the purposes of “social engineering”. Brendan Nelson is also on record talking about how his knuckles were rapped for speaking out against tobacco as they were contributors to the Libs.

  7. rdb
    August 18th, 2011 at 08:40 | #7

    Climate change : the facts
    Author: Alan J Moran; Institute of Public Affairs (Australia)
    Publisher: Melbourne, Vic. : Institute of Public Affairs, 2010.
    ISBN: 9780909536718 0909536716
    OCLC Number: 521424303

    With contributions from Ian Plimer, Richard Lindzen, Nigel Lawson, William Kininmonth, Willie Soon, Christopher Monckton, Garth Paltridge, Alan Moran, and John Roskam.

  8. Watching the deniers
    August 18th, 2011 at 11:47 | #8


    The Galileo Movement, of which Alan Jones is the “patron” has clear associations with sceptics who easily qualify as “paid lobbyists” of the tobacco and climate change denial industry.

    Listed as one of their as expert on the list of “Independent Experts” is Prof. Fred Singer whose activities are well documented in “Merchants of doubt”


    Singer is very well known, and could be called one of the worlds most prominent deniers. He is on record for denying everything from the effects of second hand smoke, CFCs and their impact on the Ozone layer and climate change. Thanks to documents released during the various rounds of tobacco litigation in the US, we have good documentary evidence on how Singer operates. In 1995 he helped author a document called “The Top 5 Environmental Policy Myths” – this sprung from a direct request by “big tobacco”.

    The following document is a must see: http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/llw69b00/pdf

    In it the right wing Alex de Tocqueville think tank is shopping around for an expert to counter the idea of that second hand smoke is a risk. The document contains a resume of Singer, and is proceeded by a fax cover sheet that calls Singer the “guy” for the job. The recipient is “impressed” and notes that the work Singer would perform would cost around “$20,000”.

    In this document form the Tobacco Institute, Singer is named as an expert they can rely upon to produce a report “in a few weeks” to suit their purposes:


    This is the same Singer helping the Galileo Movement and working with the likes of Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova, Bob Carter etc. in their war on science. The relationship is really not that far removed. Indeed, they are tightly integrated.

    I can think of no clearly link between the our local deniers, and the tobacco/climate change lobby than this.

    Imagine, if there was a memo demonstrating a climate scientist asking for payment to come up with a position that suits the need paying the funds. Climate “sceptics” would scream murder, and it would be front page news on The Australian for weeks on end.

  9. John Christy
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:17 | #9

    John Christy, score = 2:

    Roundtable speaker with the George C Marshall Institute, who have Score 1 for advocating public anti-science position on tobacco

  10. Steve
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:18 | #10

    whoops that last comment was me, not John Christy.

  11. Steve
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:21 | #11

    Lindzen and Spencer are also on George C Marshall list of roundtable speakers, which gives them a max score of 2 also.

  12. andrewt
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:26 | #12

    This notion that co-authorship implies some commonality in belief is nonsense, for example:

    Fred Singer has co-authored with JR Christy
    JR Christy has co-authored with N Nicholls
    N Nicholls has co-authored with J Quiggin

    Fortunately your Singer-number of 3 says no more about your views on tobacco than my Erdos number of 4 says about my mathematical capabilities.

  13. Freelander
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:35 | #13


    Network analysis is capable of being more discerning, and informative, than the naïve approach you have illustrated.

  14. darkpaw
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:40 | #14

    DeSmogBlog has a post on Fred Singer:


    It has some interesting links to the tobacco documents archive, but some of the documents seem to have been pulled from public access. I applied for access and asked why they were no longer available.

    Quote for $20,000 to “produce a research paper”

    Fred Singer is the man for the job

  15. John Quiggin
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:41 | #15

    Umm, who is N Nicholls? I don’t recognise the name, and I can remember most of my co-authors

    But, I agree that in talking about co-authorship, I intended to refer to collaboration specifically in anti-science pieces on climate change, and didn’t spell this out. I will fix this, thanks.

  16. John Quiggin
    August 18th, 2011 at 12:46 | #16

    OK, Google Scholar reveals that we both spoke at the same conference a while back, and are listed as joint authors of the resulting volume. I’m happy to agree that links of this kind are inconsequential.

  17. Watching the deniers
    August 18th, 2011 at 15:16 | #17


    Darkpaw, I’ve got links to those documents above.

  18. Watching the deniers
    August 18th, 2011 at 15:43 | #18

    Two more candidates:

    Steven Miloy of “Junk Science” fame with proven links to big tobacco (Philip Morris) and also the denies climate change. He has received funding from Exxon-Mobil.

    He is also (surprise) a Fox News regular:

    SourceWatch: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Steven_J._Milloy

    “Milloy was involved with R.J. Reynolds Project Breakthrough: An activity report created for R.J. Reynolds by the lobbying firm Powell Tate indicates Steve Milloy was involved in RJR’s Project Breakthrough, an multi-year effort to link tobacco prevention to alcohol prohibition in the public mind. Milloy’s junk science web site appears to have been part of, or used in this project. An item under the heading “Project Breakthrough” in the report states, “Reviewed and revised junk science Website including calls with Steve Milloy, researching and compiling Website visitor comments, and reviewing and editing new materials for inclusion on Website.”

    Original document discovered in litigation where Miloy showing how Miloy sources funding . In this instance he is asking from Brown & Williamson Tobacco for $50,000 to “educate” the public.


    Included on the board members listed on the above letter is Frederick Seitz (deceased), the second candidate:


    This internal report from Philip Morris notes Seitz and his activities to help their campaign to confuse the public on second hand smoke:


    It states they had:

    “…Initiated a strategy to publicize and communicate the results of a Marshall Institute report that challenges the scientific basis of various environmental regulations . The report was written by Dr . Frederick Seitz who is a world renowned scientist. Dr . Seitz is President
    Emeritus of Rockerfeller University and past President of the National Academy of Sciences . In addition to his criticisms of the global warming and ozone depletion issues, Dr . Seitz also addressed the ETS issue. With respect to ETS, Dr . Seitz concluded that “. . .there is no good
    scientific evidence that moderate passive inhalation of tobacco smoke is truly dangerous under normal circumstances” . The report will be used to challenge the EPA’s report on ETS in domestic and international markets.”

  19. Freelander
    August 18th, 2011 at 15:55 | #19

    One possibility for amassing this sort of crowdsourced data would be to set up a wiki and let people contribute to it. Of course, there would have to be rules to avoid, for example, libel. Maybe a way of managing the wiki would be to require that contributers register?

  20. Watching the deniers
    August 18th, 2011 at 16:05 | #20

    DeSmogBlog notes that Bob Carter is associated with an entity that receives funding from tobacco companies:

    “…Carter is listed as a expert reviewer of the Independent Summary for Policymakers (ISPM), essentially a critical review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report.

    The ISPM is published by the industry-supported Fraser Institute. The Fraser Institute has received over $60,000 from ExxonMobil and is also financially-supported by several tobacco companies including Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.”


    See Fraser Institute here:


    So Carter produced work partly funded by big tobacco? Interesting…

  21. darkpaw
    August 18th, 2011 at 16:10 | #21

    @Watching the deniers

    Thanks, yep they seem to have them.

    Here’s another one:


    “SEPP reviewed the CRS report on the recommendation of our public relations agency, Shandwick, which
    served as intermediary for B&W. SEPP initially was reluctant to publicly take the lead on a tobacco
    issue, so Shandwick recommended the concept of creating a “myths list .” Although the CRS report would
    be the focal point of publicity activities, SEPP packaged four other issues – global warming, radon ,
    “zero risk” and stratospheric ozone.”


    “Dr. Singer was particularly pleased with the response to his messages during discussions an `call-in”
    radio programs . Based on the interest in ETS and the CRS study, Dr . Singer has agreed to additional
    news media interviews and will incorporate the CRS messages into future speeches . Dr. Singer also
    plans to write articles for editorial papers . The Shandwick public relations agency will continue to
    coordinate .”

  22. John Quiggin
    August 18th, 2011 at 19:36 | #22

    As I mentioned in comments on the previous thread, Milloy was most famous for the blood libel against Rachel Carson, claiming that the (US) ban on (agricultural) use of DDT she inspired somehow caused millions of deaths in the Third World. He is a truly evil and despicable person, but as far as Young is concerned, Milloy is the victim and I’m the oppressor.

  23. Robert (not from UK)
    August 18th, 2011 at 21:06 | #23

    One thing perhaps worth stressing is that it wasn’t always nearly as simple 15 (or even 10) years ago as it is today, to find out whether a particular organisation is funded by the tobacco lobby. I, for instance, did some (badly) paid work in the 1990s for a think-tank which kept its tobacco affiliations a secret from its employees back then, and which wasn’t nearly as forthcoming about these affiliations in general as it has had to be in the Internet age. (No names, no pack-drill.)

    Had I known about these affiliations at the time of my employment, I would not, of course, have undertaken the work. I can think of several of my (then) colleagues who would now, I’m sure, say the same.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain
    August 18th, 2011 at 21:15 | #24

    I think that we all know that the pro-Big Business Right is evil incarnate, it’s just that the brainwashing is so deep that we have trouble acknowledging it. As well as tobacco harm denial, that facilitates their business model of killing millions in search of profit, you have (amongst countless other examples of inhumanity) the decades of cover-up over asbestos, and the hideous infamy of the attempts to avoid liability by, amongst other methods, tying mesothelioma victims up in court for the few months they take to die an agonising death. The truth is that capitalists, with a few exceptions, will do anything to pursue money, and that certainly includes causing the deaths of others, without remorse or conscience. To avert the end of our species within the next few decades they must be prevented from working as they have for millennia-for themselves and against the rest of creation. And, in the unlikely event that this miracle occurs, I believe that trials for crimes against humanity must be the order of the day for the knowing denialists, if only to prevent the more outraged and less restrained from taking the law into their own hands. In truth, I believe that the anthropogenic climate change denial industry is committing the most monstrous crime in human history.

  25. August 18th, 2011 at 23:06 | #25

    @Freelander Sourcewatch, which a few others have already used in their comments to this piece, does this quite nicely.


  26. rog
    August 18th, 2011 at 23:09 | #26

    IPA like to deride the “nanny state” claiming that individuals need to be free to make their own informed decisions. Yet in John Roskams interview his answer as to why the IPA would not make public details of their funding was that the public was “immature” and “unsophisticated”.

  27. Michael Marriott
    August 18th, 2011 at 23:43 | #27

    John Quiggin :
    As I mentioned in comments on the previous thread, Milloy was most famous for the blood libel against Rachel Carson, claiming that the (US) ban on (agricultural) use of DDT she inspired somehow caused millions of deaths in the Third World. He is a truly evil and despicable person, but as far as Young is concerned, Milloy is the victim and I’m the oppressor.

    John, indeed… and the attack on Carson is still repeated by the likes of Bolt et.al.

    Soon they will be attacking Louis Pasteur for his “theory” of “germ disease”. I mean, what harm could those invisible, weightless and harmless microbes cause? They’re naturally occurring. But those corrupt scientists have an agenda to push. Imagine, making us wash our hands and sterilising things! It’s a damn socialist plot I tells ya!

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain
    August 19th, 2011 at 07:32 | #28

    Michael Marriott, the utterly villainous attack on Rachel Carson, for no other ‘crime’ but being an early and honoured environmentalist establishes the primary parameter of the fight between the forces of the Right and those of decency and humanity. It quite simply is a struggle between good and evil. I cannot accept any other description for people who lie, distort, intimidate, bribe and vilify in order to continue to make money out of killing people and destroying the planet’s biospheres. I believe that the failure to state this absolute truth, that the denialists and all the other creatures spawned by the Right are, at the very least, behaving wickedly, (many I fear are inherently evil and almost certainly irredeemable as decent human beings, the psychopaths to the fore)is a real moral failure of the Left. Attempts to placate the denialist Right, to ‘reason’ with them, to rely on their ‘better instincts’ etc, are all futile. That must be apparent by now. It has been to me all my adult life, and I had intimations of it all even as a child.

  29. Michael Marriott
    August 19th, 2011 at 10:02 | #29

    Mulga Mumblebrain :Michael Marriott, the utterly villainous attack on Rachel Carson, for no other ‘crime’ but being an early and honoured environmentalist establishes the primary parameter of the fight between the forces of the Right and those of decency and humanity. It quite simply is a struggle between good and evil. .

    Agreed – by attacking Carson, they hope to discredit both the entire environmental movement and the idea that we should regulate risks.

    There are very successful examples – CFCs, DTT – of where we treaties and legislation have controlled environmental damage. The regulation of CO2 is yet another example of this…

    However the denial movement is trying to break that link in order to confuse the public.

    It is a massive rewriting of history that would make Orwell shudder.

    And I don’t think “we” talk enough about these obvious successes, and that there is a long established process that has worked at both the global and national levels to curb pollution.

    It’s why the “war” on Carson is so vindictive: the deniers are desperate to wave away over half a century of regulatory controls on business and polluters.

  30. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 10:48 | #30

    Milton Friedman did a similar shoot the messenger trick in his Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Lose to argue against an influential expose in the early 20th Century on the appalling and dangerous food preparation and handling practices in the USA. Armed with Friedman ‘facts’ libertarian zealots here and elsewhere managed to dismantle a lot of food safety regulations and have food safety inspectors laid off.

    No doubt, rather than far too few, we now have the optimal numbers of people becoming ill and occasionally dying from food poisoning. Pretty soon, the light handed approach might be seeing some of the still(?) call Oz home planes falling out of the sky through optimal non-maintenance, and optimally unqualified staff flying them.

    Soon we will live in the best of all possible worlds as long as these ‘lefties’ don’t spook at the results and re-regulate!

  31. Fran Barlow
    August 19th, 2011 at 11:41 | #31

    Jakerman over at Deltoid drew our attention to the client list for Jackson Wells PR. British & American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and the Gallileo movement are all clients, along with such others as the Exclusive Brethren, and the Church of Scientology.

    Disturbingly, the Sydney Peace Committee, Cambridge Uni Press and University of Western Sydney are also clients.

    On the question of ad hominem

    The delusionists love this one, because they define it to mean any remark that seems capable of causing offence, rather than an argument goping to the standing of a person to make claims about the world. For them, ad hominem si simply a synonym for uncivil or perhaps snarky.

    In their case, cries of ad hominem are simply exercises in victim-playing and attempts to shield themselves from, to borrow the language of their allies in the Murdochracy, “scrutiny”. Because this is culture war that they are doing, for them, it’s only ad hominem when they can play victim. When they say, for example, that the world’s scientific community are engaged in fraudulent science, or “group think” or grant-grubbing or gaia worship, or have a desire to return humanity tho the pleistocene era, or to support big taxes or socialism, that’s not ad hominem at all.

    Clearly, if their claims against the world’s scientists had any basis in practice at all, then to the extent they did, these iterations of ad hominem would be entirely warranted. They would be legitimate ad hominem.

    The conclusion is urged that they have reached for this ad hominem precisely because that is how they operate, or would if they were running the affairs of those they see as their sworn enemies. Their projections are an echo of their appetites and practices.

  32. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 12:58 | #32

    Ad hominem is not always invalid anyway. For example, for Bayesian purposes to avoid wasting limited time where sources have in the past proven to be rather poor. Or to judge whether or not to assume that purported ‘facts’ are ‘facts’ where there is no way of checking, or to decide whether to investigate further. For a variety of reasons simple application of logical rules is insufficient. In fact, using logical rules will not take you beyond what is entailed, and according to Gödel, won’t necessarily take you that far.

  33. may
    August 19th, 2011 at 13:09 | #33


    hope not too off beam but the filaments of connections get everywhere.

    the koch bros “alec”political incursion is worth a squiz.

    as far as the “murdoch-eclipsed-by-riots-in-the-front-of-attention”scenario,nasty suspicion finds that a bit too convenient.

    but that’s probably just me.

  34. may
  35. may
    August 19th, 2011 at 13:32 | #35

    it works, weey.

  36. NickR
    August 19th, 2011 at 14:11 | #36

    I don’t think it is a good strategy to point out the links between tobacco, Exxon-Mobil, Koch brothers etc and climate change denialsim, even though I don’t doubt that the associations are correct. There reason is that I feel that these arguments can easily be mischaracterized as conspiracy theories.

    An uninformed party (and let’s face it, pretty much all swing voters are uninformed) might be persuaded to think that while climate change deniers are ridiculous conspiracy theorists, perhaps ‘alarmists’ (scientists) are too. The debate then (incorrectly) looks like two groups accusing the other of all kinds of silly things which is likely to end as a political stalemate. When you are as dead wrong about an issue as the climate change deniers are, a political stalemate is a great victory.

    I think a better approach is to consistently point out that denialism requires the assumption that the overwhelming proportion of the tens of thousands of climate scientists are either wrong (where laypeople are correct), or are engaged in a massive conspiracy. Both of these assumptions are clearly stupid, which I think makes this the best line of attack.

  37. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 14:38 | #37


    How can they be mischaracterised? There is an agenda. Whether it is a conspiracy or not is debatable. The agenda has been spelt out again and again. At various times different political parties have agendas, both publicly disclosed and otherwise. Whether one describe those political parties as being engaged in a conspiracy or conspiracy is often a question of how one uses words rather than a substantive disagreement about reality. Not being completely clear about what you are up to, to those who might not like what you are up to, and might try to block it, is a fairly normal way for humans to behave. It could be characterised as conspiracy if those people are people you don’t like trying to implement by stealth changes you don’t like.

    This particular constellation of people have been active for a very long time and have a comprehensive agenda, again, both publicly disclosed and otherwise. They are not completely upfront about their activities because they have had a long term strategy of influencing all sides of politics, the bureaucracy, academia, and anyone else ‘who matters’ in society, so that their agenda is implemented regardless of the outcomes of the democratic process. That is not exactly a secret because they have even bragged about it!

    My principal objection is that rather than being a political party and being more upfront and allowing the public to choose whether to vote in their policies or not, they purposefully attempt, rather successfully, to subvert the democratic process. In fact, in doing so, they base their strategy on what they say was the strategy of the Fabian Society during the first half of the twentieth century. Hence, if those ‘lefties’ allegedly did it, fine to copy them! Their noble end justifies any means.

  38. Chris Warren
    August 19th, 2011 at 14:55 | #38

    Any one trying to pile-on odious connotations as “conspiracy theory” need to explain where precisely the element of conspiracy is and how it differs from normal commercial-in-confidence and lobbying activity.

  39. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 15:13 | #39

    @Chris Warren

    The truth is that there are ‘conspiracies’ galore, with different people getting together to try to advance what they are interested in to the detriment of others and often the public good. That is a normal part of life. Didn’t Adam Smith say something about business people never meeting (socially) without attempting to conspire against the public good? Lots of conspiracy come and go with almost no one knowing about them. Some of them successful, some not. But also, there are plenty of imagined conspiracies that never happened or never existed. In fact, the profusion of conspiracy ‘theories’ is great cover for actual conspiratorial activity. With so many theories, often advanced by crackpots, who would recognise a real one?

    In that way, people in the Soviet Empire were lucky. The suppression, more or less suppressed the crackpots, no one believed their government, and when they heard something the government didn’t want them to hear they knew it was probably true.

    In our ‘free’ society, it would be naive to think that there is not a lot more going on than most know about. And even those knowledgeable about one or more of these, probably knows next to nothing about almost all of them. In the ‘free’ world we live in a fog of misinformation, and self-delusion.

  40. NickR
    August 19th, 2011 at 15:32 | #40


    Sorry, yeah clearly it is possible that conspiracies (in a weak, undramatic sense of the word) can exist and hence a ‘conspiracy theory’ can be valid. The ones debated here probably have enough substance to warrant serious investigation, but as Chris Warren points out they are onerous and I think are generally greeted with skepticism by the disengaged public.

    I think it would be a tactical mistake to become involved in a battle of ‘conspiracy theories’ with climate change deniers (even if ours are reasonable and well substantiated and theirs are not) as it may make us look as crazy as they are, especially to people who are not paying much attention. I think there are better approaches such as the one I described previously.

  41. Fran Barlow
    August 19th, 2011 at 16:17 | #41


    I think it would be a tactical mistake to become involved in a battle of ‘conspiracy theories’ with climate change deniers (even if ours are reasonable and well substantiated and theirs are not) as it may make us look as crazy as they are, especially to people who are not paying much attention. I think there are better approaches such as the one I described previously.

    Strictly speaking a conspiracy theory approach entails a lot more than the mere suggestion that two or more people within the poltical elite are involved in some sort of common, furtive, unethical/illegal acts. That’s a conspiracy, but we know such things occur fairly regularly. Organisations such as “ICAC” are set up precisely because such things occur.

    A conspiracy theory seeks to explain the behaviour of the political elite as a whole as an instantiation of the conscious will of the parties to the conspiracy, rather than as an artefact of more general and only partially articulated sets of class and sub-class interests. In the best known conspiracy theories, the objects of the conspiracy are only loosely defined, and every departure from the conspiracy theory advocate’s most plausible script is rationalised as either a manoeuvre to ward off suspicion, an artful trick or evidence of some new conspiracy asserting itself. These conspiracy-based accounts can span centuries and even millennia and thus entail a quasi-metaphysical view of history, it being impossible for the underlying interests to persist for so long after the deaths of those originally involved in the nefarious activity.

    Quite clearly, the suggestion that there exists a common interest amongst holders of substantial hydrocarbon assets in business-as-usual does not entail elaborate meetings in smoke filled rooms and furtive phone calls to those on high. Equally, it’s not the least bit surprising that in as much as these folk occupy a powerful position in the system and have the means to make their interests felt strongly within the political class, they act to disrupt those who would act in ways that would subvert the value of these assets, and in so doing, attempt to tap into the concerns those outside their number might have with such action. Their concerns are easily reconciled with more nebulous concerns over “excessive regulation”, “big government” and thus can be presented as something other than an experession of their personal stake in the policy. In a struggle in which one group has scientific authority, and the other huge wealth, it takes no great mind to work out that the latter group will use its huge wealth to subvert scientific authority. This is why the tobacco industry is an excellent example. Like those who own hydrocarbons or have a stake in hydrocarbons being used as an energy source, those involved in the production and distribution of tobacco used their wealth from the start in attempting to subvert scientific authority, and used just the same methods as the deniers on climate change did now. The same methods were used in the struggle over CFCs and SO2 and for much the same reason. That in a number of cases, the PR and “scientific” folk involved in the attempt of wealth to stifle inconvenient science were the same is indeed instructive.

    One doesn’t need a conspiracy theory to explain this at all. One just needs to open one’s eyes and ears.

  42. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 16:33 | #42


    I wasn’t suggesting getting involved in any battle of ‘conspiracy’ theories. As far as climate change denial goes, deniers, most or almost all of them, believe their own bull, in this way they are much like creationists or flat-earthers.

    In contrast, holocaust deniers, I think, don’t believe their nonsense. In fact, I imagine they would like a repeat, and their denial is basically to annoy people and to say, implicitly, well it didn’t really matter whether it happened or not, I don’t care if it did, and ‘what are you getting upset about’. In much the same way, I conjecture that the recent rewriting of Australian history by Mr Windschuttle, and the cheering of his cheer squad, is quite possibly not even believed by him, and may possible be along the I really don’t care whatever happened, and I am going to annoy the hell out of these ‘terrible’ ‘lefties’. Similarly, I think it not impossible that a lot of the nonsense that Bolt writes and spouts, he doesn’t believe, but produces with similar motives.

  43. fred
    August 19th, 2011 at 17:49 | #43

    Actually, to feel UNABLE to say something, as in point out the connections between tobacco/oil companies and tobacco issues/climate denialism, for fear of being painted “conspiracist” by said denialists is to be restricted by their power to smear and divert.
    The only answer is to assert boldly and back up with evidence etc.
    NOT to give in to their stupidity and cupidity.

  44. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 18:01 | #44


    Not only that, but by not pointing out the connections you are restricting denialist’s freedom by not providing them choice opportunities to smear and divert. And far be it from me, or any of you ‘crazy’ ‘tree hugging’ ‘leftists’ to deny them their ‘freedom’.

  45. alfred venison
    August 19th, 2011 at 19:22 | #45

    dear Watching the deniers @ 16:05 (i’m a slow reader)
    good call & thanks for highlighting the fraser institute’s nefarious association with this kind of amoral advocacy. they dishonour the old country – shine the light on ’em!

    for the record, their left leaning nemesis is the pembina institute – one the oil corporations & their cowboy barrackers hate with a vengeance [ http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Pembina_Institute ]. all the right wing blog commentators like to include at least one reference to pembina insitute sandal wearing commies in their execratory tirades at the cbc & where ever.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  46. Freelander
    August 19th, 2011 at 20:01 | #46

    Hmmm… Sandal-wearing… Smacks of poverty! People willfully choosing to be poor so they can willfully work long hours for next to nothing in a fully-flexible labour market. The commies!

  47. John Mashey
    August 21st, 2011 at 12:08 | #47

    1) In the US, many of the relevant thinktanks are at 1.
    See CCC, pp.93-95.
    That’s a matrix of Funders vs {thinktanks, front groups, etc}.
    The top row shows “T” for a tobacco connection, gathered from various sources, like the Tobacco Archives. See this lovely list of payees, just 1997

    2) Now, each 3 -page group in pp.97-105 shows
    people X (activities, organizations) in sets of decreasing visibility.
    You will find some Australians on the list, like Robert Carter, Joanne Nova, even though this was a USA-centric piece. See the Google Map of the thinktanks, most of which are located near Washington’s K-Street (lobbyist central).

    3) See CCC, p.8 for the 1954 Hill and Knowlton cigarette strategy that has been carried forward into other anti-science efforts.

    Almost all the active people are involved with some entity that has a T; among other thigns, many have worked with Heartland.

  48. Jill Rush
    August 21st, 2011 at 16:38 | #48

    Brendan O’Neill of the Spectator, Australian


    believes in freedom for individuals to smoke themselves to death and that scientists don’t know much about climate change or the effects of smoking.

  49. TerjeP
    August 21st, 2011 at 22:00 | #49

    In this very silly hit piece in the Oz, Graham Young says that I “imply” that many climate delusionists are (or were) tobacco hacks. His wording in turn implies that they aren’t or might not be.

    He might be implying that the word “many” is a stretch too far and that the reality is that merely “some” are tabacco hacks. If you think it is many then does this mean you think it is the majority? As for the term “climate delusionist” this really ought to be nailed down before we try and quantify if you are right or wrong. Your claim might be more trivial than Graham and others understand it to be.

  50. John Mashey
    August 22nd, 2011 at 06:12 | #50

    1) One can perfectly well believe the right of any adult to take up smoking (or any other dumb thing), as long as they don’t inflict the problems and costs on others. BUT:

    2) For most people, the *only* way to get addicted to nicotine and not be able to stop … is to develop the habit during rapid brain development, which typically means 12-18. There is of course, individual variation, but people who start early have a much more difficult time stopping than anybody starts, say at 22.

    3) Cigarette companies have known this for many decades. The 6-page RJ Reynolds document The Importance of Younger Adults is a classic, ~1984.

    “Within five years, younger adults (18-24) will drop from 18% to 15% of the
    total adult population (18+) . They will continue to decline in numbers until
    at least 1995, as the crest of the Baby Bubble pushes farther past age 25 .
    This shift in the population will cause smokers aged 18-24 to fall from 16% to
    14% of all smokers by 1988 . Even 13% would not be surprising, since smoking
    incidence has been declining more rapidly among younger adults than any other
    age group in recent years (see Appendix A) .

    Why, then, are younger adult smokers important to RJR?
    1 . VOLUME
    Younger adults are the only source of replacement smokers . Repeated
    government studies (Appendix B) have shown that :

    • Less than one-third of smokers (31%) start after age 18 .

    • Only 5% of smokers start after age 24 .

    Thus, today’s younger adult smoking behavior will largely determine the
    trend of Industry volume over the next several decades . If younger adults
    turn away from smoking, the Industry must decline, just as a population
    which does not give birth will eventually dwindle.”

    (goes on to other reasons why it is important to get them early.)

    69% of adult smokers start during ages 12-18, say about 10%/year
    26% start during ages 19-24, i.e., about 4-5%/year.
    5% start after age 24.

    I’d guess that each of these is right-skewed, i.e., rises from 12 up to some plateau around 14-16(?), then starts to tail off, to form a smooth curve. (If anyone has that curve,I’d love to see it.)

    SO, this piece is NOT about “younger adults” (12-24), it is about children (12-18).

    3) SO, when people are working with tobacco companies, they may claim it’s for personal freedom … but whether they know it or not [some don’t, some must], it is to protect tobacco companies’ right to pit the best marketeers in the world against the judgment of children.

  51. Mulga Mumblebrain
    August 22nd, 2011 at 10:42 | #51

    John Mashey, what we know about the tobacco capitalists is that they knowingly set out to entrap their victims in nicotine addiction, and that they know that it will kill or severely injure them. They do so in order to make money out of human suffering. I’m no great moral authority, but, in my mind, that makes them, their apologists and those that knowingly peddle lies to suppress the truth and confuse the public, evil. Unless we start from plain axioms like this, that it is evil to slowly and agonisingly kill people for profit, we are doomed, and good riddance to Homo destructans.
    As for ‘conspiracy theory’-it, like ‘political correctness’, is a moronic verbal expectoration used to shut down discussion. The Right use these cliches all the time when they are intellectually or morally unprepared to debate facts. The conspiracy is simply the behaviour of wicked individuals who come together to pursue their ‘business interests’ and who are prepared to lie, misinform and confuse in pursuit of money. As the tobacco industry documents subpoeanaed in the USA show, very often the plans of this denialist industry were discussed at secret meetings of businessmen, Rightwing ideologues and PR flunkies, and the disinformation they produce was faithfully regurgitated by Rightwing MSM agit-propagandists, as an ideological duty in service to business. And as ‘The Fundament’ shows, this service, by the Right, to mass murder in pursuit of profit continues unabated.

  52. August 23rd, 2011 at 00:24 | #52

    No one’s mentioned Nick Minchin. Claimed tobacco was neither addictive nor harmful as passive smoke http://www.theaustralian.com.au/politics/nick-minchin-was-a-sceptic-on-tobacco/story-e6frgczf-1225805535960
    now the most prominent open denier in the ranks of current or former Liberal MPs.

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