Another bad day for delusionists*

With Al Gore winning the Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth and the CBC news “The Denial Machine” airing on Four Corners last night, it must be getting hard to hold on to the delusions that have been propagated so vigorously throughout the parallel universe created by Fox News and similar bodies. While it’s no news to anyone who reads blogs on the topic, the revelation that the “skepticism” propagated by our local delusionists was produced by recycled hacks for the tobacco industry, such as Fred Singer and Fred Seitz (I was mildly disappointed that Steve Milloy didn’t get a run) must have shaken a few more people awake.

“Happy Feet”, an Australian animated feature about penguins that has been attacked by the Fox News delusion machine because it refers to overfishing, also scored a gong. No doubt, Neil Cavuto would have preferred an award to the Astroturf exercise on penguins produced by DCI. It’s delusion all the way down with these guys.

* The problem of terminology has always been difficult. It’s obviously unreasonable to use terms like “skeptic” or “contrarian” to describe people who produce or swallow transparently fraudulent propaganda like that of Singer and Seitz because it happens to suit their preconceived ideological views or financial interest. On the other hand, there have been vigorous objections to “denialist”. So, I’m switching to “delusionists”, a term which covers:
(i) people who manufacture delusions for a living like those mentioned already and their local counterparts
(ii) people who prefer to accept ideologically convenient delusions rather than face the truth
(iii) people who have genuinely been deluded by this propaganda (not many of these left in Australia now).

122 thoughts on “Another bad day for delusionists*

  1. Not that I want to be pedantic, but in areas where people really are concerned about delusions, the term really only refers to (iii) in your list — i.e., you need to believe it for it to be a delusion. If you are simply dishonest (as in (i) and (ii) ), then it isn’t a delusion. Perhaps crapologist is a better term of (i) and denialist is better for (ii).

  2. It was quite amusing, and a little bit infuriating to hear the “architect” of the Republican Party campaign of denial (on last nights Four Corners) state that the problem (to paraphrase) was above politics.

  3. ProfQ, I don’t think this will make the slightest difference to the delusionists. Andrew Bolt posts 4 or 5 stories a week from credible sounding experts who are “speaking out” against the global warming religion. For example:

    Heretics defy Hollywood
    A model sceptic
    Gore all at sea

    IMO Bolt’s campaign of disinformation borders on the criminal, but what can be done about it? No doubt, many, many more people read Bolt’s column in The Hun than read this blog.

  4. Nothing will make much difference to Bolt and his hardcore supporters, or to the Oz and the rest of the rightwing punditariat. The main point to make to people who are aware of the reality on this topic is that Bolt and co should not be believed on any topic.

  5. For those of you who missed your weekly dose of Bolt on the ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, he stated that the new Federal Government policy of mandating compact florescent light bulbs was pointless because it would only account for 1/1000th of our carbon emissions. As Gore stated in his movie, it looks like Bolt has gone from denial to despair.

  6. I forgot to add: No doubt many more people read the Hun and the Oz than watch Four Corners!

    I take some comfort in the fact that mainstream media (e.g. 60 Minutes, Sunrise etc) now accept global warming as fact and are talking about solutions rather than debating the science, but Bolt and his loopy band of followers show absolutely no sign of giving up.

    Bolt is not in despair, his position is that the science is not settled and the effects of climate change will not be disastrous and may be actually be beneficial. Mad I know, but this is a man who believes Rumsfeld was a great Secretary of Defense.

  7. I strongly urge readers to check out Juan Cole’s excellent post today in which he suggests a global boycott of ExxonMobil may be in order. He calls for “a Manhattan Project-scale government effort” to develop green energy.

    Continued heavy dependence on gas and oil therefore not only turns the world into a hothouse, with rising seas, ever more destructive hurricanes, and possibly disastrous shifts in the ocean currents, but it also drives the United States to more and more wars.

    And, note that the wars are not even successful in allowing a practical oil grab of the sort Cheney and Lee Raymond dreamed of.

    Indeed, you could now, in retrospect, turn their whole argument around on them. US militarism cannot secure petroleum and gas supplies from places such as Iraq, because the pipelines are so easily sabotaged and local nationalisms and religious activism make it impossible for people to accept that kind of US hegemony.

    Since the Pentagon cannot practically speaking hope to safeguard US petroleum supplies from the Gulf, national security requires a massive and rapid research and development program of green energy.

  8. Thank you, John Quiggan, for drawing attention to the Four Corners program. Alas, I missed it, and they don’t seem to repeat Four Corners, these days. Another annoying thing, is that the program was not really advertised – I did not see any mention of its content, certainly not outlined in the TV guides.
    Are they doing a bit of self-censorship at the ABC these days? I wouldn’t be surprised.
    Clare Booth Luce, decades ago, wrote strongly on the advantage to governments of having the media, and the public, put “chains on their minds”. That way. governments don’t need the expense and trouble of organising real chains.

    I have to agree with Conrad.Yes, let’s be pedantic. It’s important. There’s a whole history of lies, (e.g the Iraq war, the asbestos, the tobacco industries). Calculated lies are not delusions.

  9. I was interested in the deliberate efforts of EXXON to obscure the debate by hiring PR firms to exploit fault lines – for example by using terms like ‘climate change’ rather than ‘global warming’ and by turning scientific claims into a ‘debate’. The Four Corners show demonstrated that this has had at best short-term effect. Longer-term it has only bought discredit on the companies.

    One simple idea puzzled me. Could corporations be so stupid as to endanger the future of the planet by telling lies about global warming? Or is it that self-interest obscures their vision and makes them believe what they want to believe. In terms of consequences it doesn’t matter but, still, I suspect the latter.

  10. ghandi wrote:

    He calls for “a Manhattan Project-scale government effort� to develop green energy

    And I’m afraid that’s what it will take. IMO, an EU-style emissions trading scheme (even if implemented globally) will have negligible impact on this problem.

  11. For those interested in the 4 Corners episode last night; the material mirrored closely the first few chapters of the George Monbiot book ‘Heat’. The remainder of this book discusses what can be done. I’ve read a few books of climate change, but his was the best…5 stars.

  12. Harry – “I was interested in the deliberate efforts of EXXON to obscure the debate by hiring PR firms to exploit fault lines ”

    And the best one of all they used was the Hockey Stick. The volumes of crap written about MBH99 by a mining engineer beggers belief. It was an extremely effective tactic as the simple false message that they got through so effectively was that “the hockey stick is broken so AGW is false”

    Very effective almost as good as “Labor will raise interest rates”.

  13. The CBC news “The Denial Machineâ€? was a mild Canadian attack on the shills. The actual truth is far worse and the ABC should have been able to do better than this.Just send a reporter around to Lambert and your goodself ( for audio only ) for example. Also shill central is not these recycled smoking hacks but The latest incarnation of the delaying tactic is the green coal/ carbon sequestration nonsense. How long do we have to put up with that before it’s ” Oh sorry its not going to work”. Both Howard and Rudd have climbed aboard that Titanic.

  14. As an interesting corrollary, the anti-green ‘movement’ in the US has been peddling fabrications about allegedly heavy-handed envirocrats oppressing battling pioneer landowners trying to make an honest buck. It’s all a well coordinated attack on the US Endangered Species Act, funded by the usual suspects in the mining and land development lobbies. No doubt the same thing is happening here on a smaller scale. The trouble is that it is peddled through testimony to dodgy congressional committees and then reported as fact on the MSM.


  15. I have found the delusionists become despairists and fatalists as soon as they see the evidence is overwhelming. That is, they do not believe that there may be a solution once they realise the have to accept that the earth is warming from human activity. The mantra becomes “we cannot stop it anyway so let us not worry but let it take its course”. Given that this is their response I suggest we ignore them or better still laugh at them while the rest of us keep on working on solutions.

  16. Dear John Quiggin

    I agree!

    “The problem of terminology has always been difficult. It’s obviously unreasonable to use terms like “skepticâ€? or “contrarianâ€? to describe people who produce or swallow transparently fraudulent propaganda like that of Singer and Seitz because it happens to suit their preconceived ideological views or financial interest. On the other hand, there have been vigorous objections to “denialistâ€?. So, I’m switching to “delusionistsâ€?.”

    I see these people as delusionists because they are perniciously attempting to delude the public, as they did on the war against the people of Iraq and the planned war against the people of Iran, not so much that they are themselves deluded. They are pseudo public intellectuals in a similar way to our current crop of ‘security discourse’ scholars who are heading into over-paid and redundant careers in ASIO.

    These people share one important attribute in common with John Howard and his acolytes: they are postponing effective government action to deal with climate change, which is a far greater threat to human security (and our own security) than any terrorist plot yet devised. I wonder if anyone has done an emissions audit on the war in Iraq – it would stagger our imaginations. What carbon offsets would Andrew Bolt recommend?

    I would describe the ten years of the Howard government as a reckless travesty of lost opportunities, whilst the product of the minerals boom has been squandered on slick vote-buying and pork-barrelling exercises. I suspect that the Labor Party is not really up to the mark either. Peter Garrett needs to say with certainty and purpose that renewable energy coupled with energy conservation trumps Mr Howard’s sudden introduction of nuclear power and the mental aberration called “clean coal technology�, which Kevin Rudd still says he thinks will deliver a drastic reduction in emissions.

    If these people, including the ‘late converts’ and opportunists, think they can simply toy with the global warming issue and ‘fcuk with our heads’ with more ‘smoke and mirrors’ at the coming federal election – we should tell them to get out of the way.

    I hope that Andrew Bolt may be remembered as a bitter old man who was the last to leave a failing disinformation newspaper as people lost interest in his rantings. Till then – here’s to free speech. It is our only hope of holding these people to account and changing the agenda.

    Willy Bach

  17. Dear John Humphreys

    Please produce an argument that we can engage with. To describe what I have said as “just rudeness for rudeness sake” doesn’t explain what your point is.

    Willy Bach

  18. I wasn’t talking to you Willy, but if you agree with calling me a delusionalist then it applies to you too.

    There is no benefit to the debate in calling the other side names. If I were to suggest that all pro-Kyoto people should be referred to as “fcukwits” it would be only a slightly more obvious attempt at being insulting.

    I don’t think that pro-Kyoto people are fcukwits. But neither am I trying to delude anybody nor do I have any sort of mental problem.

  19. John,

    But some people, like Roger Pielke Jr., are simply contrarians, who have this need to always give the “on the other hand” side of the issue. Or who focus on minor issues to exclusion of the vast majority of information. I don’t think Pielke is delusional.

  20. John, it’s not anti-Kyoto people but anti-AGW people who are being called delusionists. There’s a fair argument to be had about whether Kyoto is the optimal approach or even worthwhile, but its quite a different argument from whether anthropogenic global warming is happening.

    As I’ve said before, scepticism was quite reasonable 10 or 15 years ago (I was a denialist – not a delusionist – myself then) but you have to ignore a helluva lot of evidence now to still be sceptical. Climate denialists now belong, in my view, right alonside creationists. Except at least creationists aren’t in it for the money.

  21. People like Bolt are making a healthy living out of being outrageous. They don’t really care about the facts. They are the political version of media whores like Paris Hilton, riding the slime machine for all it is worth. I do my best to ignore them, although one cannot ignore the sad fact that some powerful people use their nonsense words as justification for their own nonsense deeds.

    The real culprits are the people who pay, publish and promote these fools. Follow the money and you get back to people like Rupert Murdoch, whose complicity in a whole range of disasters (Hicks, Iraq, climate change, etc) has to date received very little REAL scrutiny.

    Don’t hold your breathe waiting for Kevin Rudd to attack Big Rupe, of course. So what to do? Personally, I do my best to boycott News Ltd products (not easy in SE QLD) and talk them down at every opportunity. But I would certainly like to see Murdoch asked some hard questions whenever he appears in a public forum. Let’s get him on record publicly denying his complicity in the major political and military stuff-ups of the past ten years.

  22. PS: Dick Cheney has just achieved victory in Iraq:

    Iraq’s cabinet has approved a draft of a national oil law that would share revenues from the country’s vast oil reserves among its ethnic groups.

    Prime Minister Nouri Maliki described the agreement as a “gift to all the Iraqi people”.

    Iraq’s Shia majority and Sunni and Kurdish minority groups have squabbled over how to distribute oil revenues since the US-led invasion in 2003.

    The draft bill must now be submitted to Iraq’s parliament for a vote.

    There may be some grandstanding in parliament, but it is basically just an up-and-down rubber stamp. Dick Cheney has won. Big Oil will control Iraq’s oil for generations to come. The new law states that the oil belongs to “the Iraqi people” but EXTRACTION RIGHTS will belong to Big Oil. This effectively puts big Oil in control of the tap, which they can switch on or off at will. The law, which was written by Big Oil consultants to the US, UK and Iraqi governments, is also intentionally vague about revenue sharing.

    This is NOT a victory for the Iraqi people, it is a tragedy, a travesty and a disgrace. Expect major protests across Iraq and neighbouring countries.

  23. DD — it is not clear to me at all that I (or other skeptics) am outside of the scope of the GW activists aim.

    I first wrote on global warming in 2003 and I assumed the truth of AGW. But I think that some GW commentators overplay the certainty of what did or will happen and they overplay the negative consequences and they exagerate the argument for government action. I’m thankful there are some people out there pushing against the alarmist position being promoted in some quarters.

  24. The New York Times notes (in the next-to-last paragraph) that Iraq’s oil will controlled by the iron fist of a “central body called the Federal Oil and Gas Council” which will have “a panel of oil experts from inside and outside Iraq” as part of the operation… without telling us that these “oil experts” will in fact be executives and representatives of American and other Western oil companies.

    More here.

  25. Quoth John Humphreys “I’m thankful there are some people out there pushing against the alarmist position being promoted in some quarters”. Let’s be specific about who you are saying is alarmist. Perhaps the IPCC?

  26. One issue raised by the IPCC report that has received less attention than it ought is what we might call the ‘negative dividend’ from inaction. As I understand it, the IPCC laid out fairly clearly that a tonne of GHG emissions cut today is worth a whole lot more than a tonne cut in 20 years’ time. So what is implicitly the John Humphreys prescription – ie do nothing until the data is all in, say about 2050 – is a policy with real costs, while much can be achieved right now with negligible costs (indeed, in terms of efficiencies, gains).

  27. I don’t think the IPCC is generally alarmist. I think Stern & Gore were. There are plenty of good scientists (and policy analysts) who want to see action on AGW who aren’t alarmist. I’m not trying to lump all people who disagree with me together.

    And my position has never been “do nothing until the data is all in”. My position has been do nothing unless doing something will give a net benefit.

  28. Yes GW has spawned a whole industry of delusionals. There are those that pooh pooh the denialism of GW overall, who now believe we can reduce CO2 emissions to 40% of 1990 levels without any serious tradeoffs in GDP and furthermore, without nuclear power. Mike Rann is the typical new denialist on that account, along with all the ‘one percenters’.,23599,21296890-1702,00.html

  29. John Humphries wrote:
    “…I think that some GW commentators overplay the certainty of what did or will happen and they overplay the negative consequences”

    Given that a well qualified hydrologist recently predicted that without above average rainfall in the next two years the murray river will be reduced to a series of long pools. Perhaps you could give us your positive version of Adelaide surviving without water within the next two years.

    My problem with people who downplay the effects of GW is the way in which reproductive necessities are ignored. Water and food are reproductive goods. They are time compulsory, cyclical in nature and are necessarily social(require a social contract) as opposed to socially necessary. The failure to consider this leaves us slouching towards armageddon to misquote Joan Didion.

  30. “Looking at the desperation with which opponents of climate science, and of sensible policy responses such as Kyoto, are holding on to positions that have clearly become untenable, has prompted me to think about my own views on a range of issues…”

    “While I’m not ready to join the optimists just yet, it’s clearly necessary to rethink the implications of a Chinese economy that is already a substantial part of the global total, and growing rapidly.”

    But perhaps still sticking to the delusion that Kyoto will work in the absence of China John…..or without nuclear power replacing coal?

  31. Observa, Kyoto is, as you would know if you had bothered to follow the history, a first step requiring action on the part of the developed countries only. Talk about China is just part of the delusionist armory.

    As regards nuclear, I’ve discussed it at length. If fully-costed nuclear, including decommissioning and waste disposal can beat the alternatives, I have no problem. The failure of Howard’s attempted wedge on this should have alerted you that this dog won’t hunt.

  32. “There is no benefit to the debate in calling the other side names.”

    The issue is not “calling” someone a name, the issue is finding a name that is an accurate desciption of their behaviour. Bolt has said that he “agrees” that global waming is happening, yet he repeats arguments that are intended to create the impression that global warming is not happening. I think denialist is a pretty good description for this type of behaviour. Objection to the word “denialist” is to a large degree itself a denialist tactic. Bolt’s behaviour could also be described as “credulist”, except his errors are always in the same direction.

  33. John Humphrey –

    So long as you refer to Stern and Gore as “alarmist”, I will refer to you as “denialist”, “delusionist”, and in my less sanguine moments “blithering idiot”.

    You blithering idiot.


  34. Not really rog when the scientists say that he is pretty well on the money.

    JQ I was going to post on that one but it seems no matter how many times that this is pointed out about Kyoto it still gets trotted out time and time again. BTW this is from individuals who have trouble with their moral compass in that even though developed nations created the mess they have no moral responsibility in that regard.

    Sorta like Bolt on the Timor Sea resources Australia you didn’t have to treat East Timor fairly -even though they are one of the poorest counties in the worl-, if we took more than our fair share tough luck.

    John H

    What I want to know from guys like you is what do you think should be done, if anything? Energy efficiency, nuclear energy, carbon trading etc ?????? Or do we wait and see and adapt to come what may?

  35. And who of us relishes the thought of saying “I was wrong.” The politics of global warming, climate change, or whatever, are all dependant upon the amount of money a specific idea can raise. Global warming is a great fund raiser at the moment – like the coming ice age of 30 years ago. The real science of the global situation is smothered in money and politics. The “truth” may surface in about 50 years or so when some historian digs out all the dirty little secrets of both corporations and government. Meanwhile the people will be pushed from pillar to post on a sea of irrelevant junk from so called “ethical” sources. And the poor will get poorer, and the purveyors of all this rubbish, the rich, will get richer.
    Who will remember the “golden rule?”

  36. Did somebody just suggest that the problems with the Murray were caused by global warming? Do the other people on this blog (especially JQ) agree with this assessment?

    Stern suggested that inaction will lead to worse outcomes that the world wars & the great depression. That’s fear-mongering.

    Gore spent a disproportionate amount of time considering outcomes that are unlikely to happen and look really scary. That’s fear-mongering.

    On the other hand — I note that the IPCC has offered a much more balanced review of the available evidence, despite the valid points about some remaining bias. I would suggest that there are more scientists in what I call the “mainstream” camp than in the “alarmist” camp… but the alarmists just get more headlines.

  37. Quick point to Carbonsink, and even Gandhi, treat Bolt’s pseudo-blog as the parody of informed comment that it really is and you’ll feel much better. I know Carbonsink joins in the fray over there, but you’re really just upsetting the die hard loyalists, who don’t want any actual real, scientific, facts to get in the way of their perceptions. Treat it as parody, and it’s the greatest laugh you can have all day.

  38. Simonjm — some context. I have a very strong fundamental objection to the mindset that says: “there is a problem, the government MUST do something”. I believe something should only be done if it is likely to provide a net benefit.

    On the basis of the information I’ve seen to date, I don’t support Kyoto. I am generally a technology optimist and believe that adjusting will be relatively cheaper than drastic action to reduce emissions now. Having said that, I am sympathetic to discussions of a small carbon tax offset against other tax cuts and find that option significantly better than a carbon trading scheme.

  39. For those with digital, the Four Corners show will be repeated tonight on ABC2 at 9.30. It will also be reshown on ABC at 11.40 pm.

  40. “My position has been do nothing unless doing something will give a net benefit.”

    So where do you stand on energy efficiencies, JH? These are the low-hanging fruit and by definition yield a net benefit, and moreover they’re the central policy recommendation of those you call alarmists. What’s your real issue, then?

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