Bolt: Every word he says is a lie, including “and” and “the”

Andrew Bolt (no link) has repeated the lie that I drastically overestimated the impact of a carbon tax on global warming. In fact, it was Bolt who was out by a factor of 100 (Full details here). Rather than rehash this dispute, I’d thought I’d list some of Bolt’s greatest hits, or rather misses.

* Here he is, confusing the stratosphere and the troposphere, and claiming to have disproved climate science as a result

* Here, being fooled by a David Rose claim so absurd that even the Mail on Sunday had to retract it

* Here, denying the fact that Arctic ice is disappearing fast, a fact that is now regularly proved by sailing through the previously impassable Northwest Passage, and by the intense international negotiations about sovereignty over the newly opened waterways

* Here, claiming the carbon tax would be “ruinous”

* Here, claiming that radioactivity is good for you

* Here, unable to understand the meaning of the word “average”

* Here, defaming the Bureau of Meteorology, and lying about it

* Here, being fooled by a LaRouchite conspiracy theory on DDT

That’s just from my blog and just for the last five years. I haven’t even got to the Iraq war, where he combined credulous faith in repeated announcements of victory with vicious denunciations of all who predicted, correctly, that the war would be disaster, and documented that disaster as it unfolded.

Anyone who believes anything Bolt says is a fool. But I suspect that, like Bolt himself, most of his fans know he is talking nonsense and don’t care. He’s a tribal ally, and he’s good with snark and slander, and that’s good enough for them.

38 thoughts on “Bolt: Every word he says is a lie, including “and” and “the”

  1. You take Bolt much too seriously. He is in the entertainment business, and knows it. His job is to tickle the prejudices of his readers. Citing instances of where he has got it wrong is about as fruitful as citing instances where Homer Simpson has got it wrong.

  2. That is a correct assessment. Bolt is a knowing liar and opportunist. He cares nothing for the truth. He has no attachment to objective truth nor to any political or ideological position. Even his “attachment” to neocon ideology is completely non-genuine. No matter who had the real power and money, he would lie and shill for them for pay. That’s his game. He’s a conman for sale to the highest bidder.

  3. @Uncle Milton

    The problem is that he has considerable popular appeal and sway. I hear people I know quite well quoting him as if he is an authority on climate change and other matters. (Note: He failed or abandoned year one of an Arts course so his scientific credentials are non-existent.) As a propagandist for biosphere-wrecking business as usual, Bolt does enormous damage.

  4. John your outrage is justified but there seems too much of a pattern here to dismiss Bolt’s utterances as simply bone-headed stupidity. The question for me is what is the underlying set of drivers which maintains pests like Bolt? Can I offer 3 alternatives for discussion:

    1. One option is that Bolt is in fact part of a large ‘conspiracy’ (shades of LaRouche). The goings on with Heartland, the Koch Bros, and the general nature of the dirty tricks public relations industry (i.e. Green-washing) suggests this option cant be dismissed out of hand and Bolt is one mouthpiece for this conspiracy – like all hypotheses this would need serious testing – perhaps looking at his income sources (newspaper salary cant be that great these days though I guess he gets to eat at various cocktail parties), endorsements, associates and other influences and see if this explains his chronic attachment to misinformation.

    2. Alternatively what you have here is some sort of self organising system at work which promotes the likes of Bolt because there are not many loonies who come across as sane though good editing and rhetoric rather than just another LaRouchist. One possible ‘push’ group are the reds under the bed lot who miss the good old days but are now having serious problems since they got into bed with the Chinese successors of the real McCoy.

    3. Or perhaps Bolt is just a nihilist mouthpiece like Alan Jones whose views are more aimed at getting an audience who can be sold stuff they don’t need like four wheel drives in the city i.e. Bolt is nothing more than a soap opera star (remember Mad Money on Fox). In which case his attacks on you are not personal but just good business and by reacting you may actually be helping him sell his equivalent of soap or is it Dove these days? (Actually Dove is good especially when you get it cheaply from Aldi).

    I never read Bolt since I saw that appalling ABC program which mocked up a ‘balanced’ interchange between his pea brain and your eminent colleague Ove Hoegh-Guldberg in the manner of the Roman Colosseum.

  5. @Uncle Milton

    1. I know that at least some of his readers/viewers also read this blog. So, I’m pointing out to them that they are either fools or knaves.

    2. It doesn’t take much effort to compile list posts like this one. So, anytime I find out that Bolt has mentioned me, I repay in kind. Game theory says this is the ecologically optimal strategy

  6. @Newtownian

    I think it would helped him if I linked him in my responses, which is why I don’t. The comparison with Jones is interesting. Until quite recently, Jones was taken very seriously by nearly everyone, even those who understood that the actual content of his rants was pure nonsense. Then the spell was broken and everyone suddenly claimed to have known all along that he was a pure charlatan with an audience which was of no political significance, since it consisted mainly of old people with fixed prejudices, who tune in to get those prejudices reinforced.

    Bolt is in the same position now as Jones then: he gets invited on to supposedly serious talk shows and similar, even though he’s an obvious fraud. Once he’s reduced to the status of Alan Jones, I’ll start ignoring him.

  7. Conspiracy theories are not necessary to explain Bolt. There is a market need for a right wing trollumnist, and he fills it. The only invisible part is the hand of the market.

    My question is why there isn’t a left wing version of him. There would be a willing audience.

  8. If he was just a buffoon that would be fine but the damage he and his type do to our democracy (and, our climate etc..) is very real.

    To treat him as just a joke is a dangerous underestimation in my view.

    A documentary is in the works called: “The Brainwashing of My Dad”. You can see a short trailer online.

    People like Bolt have a very real effect, and it isn’t nice.

  9. @John Quiggin

    I sometimes read his blog too. I find it morbidly fascinating (up to a point), in the way that other people are morbidly fascinated by car crashes.

    Of course if you want to play tit-for-tit, go for it. And of course if you ever get defamed, there’d probably be no shortage of people willing to underwrite your legal expenses if you wanted to pursue it. (For a share of the winnings, of course :))

  10. @Megan

    If Bolt and others like him are as influential as you fear, we’d be living in a very different country. Cory Bernardi would be Prime Minister and the far right generally would be in absolute power, everywhere, always.

    But they’re not. A careful reading of Bolt shows that he is a reactionary, complaining of things that do exist because his ilk are not in permanent power. He appeals to people whose chief complaint is that they’ve lost.

  11. American-style right-wing anger-ridden douchebaggery in the style of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck. One rants and raves and carries on like a spoiled five year old happily churning out lies for people lacking empathy or too lazy to think for themselves. The worst part is that their audience somehow prides themselves as being part of a special intellectual in-group. It is appalling.

  12. It’s a peculiar business, the influence that Bolt has in Australia. I think that there is an education divide and that his followers, and those of Jones et al, are on the lower side of that divide. The inadequately educated, however, have changed. They are aware of their incapacity and deeply resentful of those who are better educated and better able to think things through. This is the politics of envy, but not envy at material success, rather envy over different values.

    Last night Abbott declared to his forest industry audience:

    “When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists.”

    Anyone familiar with forestry practices in NSW at least will recognize this as a deeply stupid and provocative comment. It’s just the culture wars on a different front. Round where I liver, here in Tuggadogalong, there is much popular support for the notion that farmers and loggers know so much more about it than any tertiary educated ecologist and this despite the fact that most of them have never been past the 50 k zone sign and can barely speak the English language.

    I don’t want to oversimplify, but I don’t want to over complicate the point either. Basically these people hate the gutz of anyone who is different, tertiary educated and not prepared to kiss their arses in gratitude for their role in preserving an Australia that no reasonable person wants any more.

    We should say so more often.

  13. I tried to find, on YouTube, the Dick Cavett Show interview where Mary McCarthy uttered (apropos Lillian Hellman) the famous line from which Professor Quiggin has taken his title. No luck, alas, though there’s plenty of other Mary-McCarthy-related material available there, some of it much earlier (and in black-and-white).

  14. Where have all the naysayers gone from 2006?!

    Has the polarisation of views become more extreme to the point we do not bother conversing?

  15. @John Quiggin Anne Summers has produced a profile on Bolt for The Monthly Summers, quoting Bolt (from memory) and others, says Bolt designed a niche career as a Conservative commentator to fill a perceived gap and based his style on Faux News’ Bill O’Reilly. He tosses out the bait and then feeds the fish who bite.

    See recent stories (Google search) on new season The Bolt Report. Extended to 1 hour; includes media watch segment (he wanted to do ABC’s Media Watch — was he serious?). Murdoch is financing the new 1-hour show on channel 10 (part owned by son Lachlan and Gina Rinehart and others).

    See also last week’s ABC One Plus One interview, where Bolt talks about himself. Says he’s an agnostic; claims to be a “doubter” who doesn’t trust people who are not doubters. It’s obvious from his commentator career that he’s not a doubter. He’s made up his mind about a lot of things.

  16. @m0nty There should be an outlet to counter Bolt and it needn’t be Left wing. There is (or there may be) a market for someone who can counter what Bolt is doing and expose his propaganda. There is ABC Media Watch. Perhaps they’ve given up the fight.

    Bolt IS a journalist. People who deny this are offended by the suggestion and are seeking to insult him. You can’t defeat him by denying facts. I don’t know if he’s a member of the MEAA (journo union). If he is, there’s a Code of Ethics to follow (I know; it’s a joke). There is also the Australian Press Council (No! Listen. They do deal with complaints — thousands of them). There is Ch 10 complaints dept, the Free-to-Air TV authority and maybe the ACMA. There’s the Minister for Communications and if all else fails there’s various Ombudspersons or even the courts.

    The comments of one or two judges delivering findings against Bolt make you wonder how he can still be appearing in print and on TV.

  17. I watched Bolt the other Sunday and I reckon Peter Costello makes Bolt look good. Costello is a liberal dissembler of the 1st order, no wonder they hate him in Melbourne.

  18. I think most ordinary people who read Bolt disregard him. I play golf with a group of ordinary blokes who don’t see him as an idiot (as you and I do) but simply as biased and prejudiced. He repeats himself and is obsessive.

    Agree with Uncle Milton. You take him too seriously. Most people are too intelligent to buy his junk.

  19. Thank you John Quiggin, for your public action and inspiration. The subject at hand is a bullying and it needs to be dealt with accordingly. I’d suggest just like A. Jones was dealt with, by targeting those who bankroll his bullying.

    Any apologists using the ‘entertainment’ excuse should seriously look at themselves re lack of maturity and of responsibility given the probability and magnitude of the risk associated in this matter.

  20. Liberal MP Dennis Jenson, a man who wanted to be Science Minister, says sacked car workers could find employment running nuclear plants:

    He believes nuclear power can be competitive in Australia despite electricity from new nuclear in the UK having a minimum price over three times as much as Australia’s average wholesale electricity price. He also believes that global warming is not occuring.

    Australia clearly has a serious problem with people in positions of power being unable to tell fantasy from reality and people like Andrew Bolt, who should be telling truth to power instead of playing the role of Dungeon Master in a fantasy game, are not helping.

  21. @Ronald Brak

    I heard him last week, on the radio, speaking in parliament.

    In the 15 minutes or so of my car trip he:

    1) said he was the only research scientist with a PhD in Parliament;

    2) said climate change is not real, because (every denier argument from ‘it’s not happening’ to ‘natural causes’);

    3) advocated nuclear energy as the only solution for reducing carbon emmissions!

    After hearing that, I had to check whether he actually had a PhD (he does, in material science from RMIT) and whether he actually had done research (apparently he did, for ‘defence’, but that doesn’t mean he was actually allowed near any sharp objects).

    If it isn’t real/isn’t happening/ is natural; surely we should just it rip with the billionty years worth of fossil fueals they keep telling us we have?

    Unless of course we actually don’t have the ability to cheaply produce all that lovely FF at the ever-increasing volumes required to fuel eternal exponential growth.

    The man is a nutter.

  22. AGW = Fraud.
    There is no measurable average global temperature, only an ever increasing anomaly constructed by the fraudsters.

    Climate Change = The new manifesto

    After the AGW fraud was discovered , the climateburo standing committee now states the climate can be controlled/ changed with carbon, without providing one skerrick or measure of causation.

    And guess what, no one can deny the climate changes.

  23. Is it possible for media-makers who serially misrepresent facts to be taken to court somehow?!?

  24. @phoenix

    “without providing one skerrick or measure of causation”

    This tells me you don’t understand atmospheric physics. From this I understand you don’t have a PhD in Atmospheric Physics or any knowledge of basic science for that matter. So, pray tell me, why would I listen to your opinion in this (or any other) matter?

  25. @Anna K

    Because if it were a crime to deliberately and continually lie for personal benefit then all politicians would be in jail. Pollies don’t make laws against themselves nor against the graft machine that fills their donation coffers.

  26. And we’ve had a player in the fantasy role playing game chime in above. It’s very easy to show other people that the players don’t know what they are talking about by asking them a few simple questions, but almost impossible to show the player themselves, as if they were in the habit of thinking things through they wouldn’t be in the game in the first place. Just like in Dungeons and Dragons these people like to feel like heros by battling evil and the more evil their enemy is the more heroic they feel in comparison. And so it’s not really a problem for them if they have to include basically all the world’s scientists, the weather bureau, and basic maths as part of some enormous conspiracy against them, as it just makes them seem all the more heroic in comparison. Some players are still connected to reality to some degree but this can result in just more elaborate fantasizing in an attempt to paper over the cracks. Sometimes these players can be embarrassed by asking them simple questions, although these are not likely to be the ones you meet online. Players are not in the habit of thanking you for pointing out their errors. Instead, since they perceive any challenge to the factual validity of their claims as an attempt to stop them feeling like a hero they react emotionally. After all, if you’re attempting to stop them feeling like a hero then you must be one of the bad guys and in their minds they will battle you to the finish like a hero, although to observers it often seems more like the Black Knight fight scene from Monty Python as they resort to sillier and sillier arguements or often just abuse.

  27. “He’s a tribal ally, and he’s good with snark and slander, and that’s good enough for them.”

    Well yes, that’s why I think it’s a mistake even to acknowledge that he is worth discussing. The fact that he gets attention validates his importance.

  28. @Anna K

    Is it possible for media-makers who serially misrepresent facts to be taken to court somehow?!?

    Not unless what they say is defamatory or in breach of some parts of the Racial Discrimination Act. Bolt has been taken to court for both and lost.

    When Bolt got sued for defamation by magistrate Jelena Popovic the matter ended up in the Court of Appeal which (source: Bolt’s Wikipedia entry) described Bolt’s conduct as “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”.

    This was in 2003. Which just goes to show that there are no career penalties in the commentary business for being at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”. There aren’t even financial penalties if you are indemnified by your employer.

  29. @Ronald Brak
    As a regular player of D&D-like roleplaying games who knows a bit about the sociology of the field, I would like to note that a) nearly all roleplayers are university educated, the majority in quantitative-oriented fields (engineering, phys/chem/bio, etc) and have opinions about the value of science to match, and b) very few of them have the difficulty telling the difference between fact and fantasy that convicted racist Andrew Bolt’s fans display.

    Trekkies, on the other hand…

  30. JamesH, yes I’m afraid that Dungeons and Dragons players are certainly the pearls among the swine in my comparison and don’t at all deserve to be lumped in with with people who seem determined to pretend the world is a worse place than it is so they can feel a little better about themselves. Dungeons and Dragons is a role playing game where the participants are fully aware that they are playing a role while the one and only rule for those playing the Indignation and Denial fastasy game appears to be to never admit that it is only make believe.

    And Trekkies? Trust me, they are nothing compared to the threat that people who like 4th ed pose…

  31. “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

    – John Rogers

  32. Bolt is merely a self-promoter trying to claim the main local media extremist role like his US counterpart Rush Limbaugh.

    It’s not enough just to be one, he needs to be THE one.

    He does seem to have an unusual fixation with both race and global warming that goes beyond the rational but is mainly there as a well-paid apologist for the rich and powerful.

    “Gina’s Bitch” perhaps – although Bananaby Joyce is a contender for that role.

    It will be entertaining to see him switch from gratuitous attack mode to snivelling defense for the next couple of years however. Somehow I think it will not play as well to his audience.

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