When two tribes go to war: Bolt v Hamilton

Round one… let the blog war begin!

It’s no secret that Andrew Bolt’s blog is a perhaps the premier source of climate change denial in the Australia media. Bolt frequently publishes posts from well-known sceptic blogs such as “Watt’s up with that” and other prominent denialist web sites.

The forums – where the general public get to post their own comments – can be nothing less than a toxic waste land. It would seem the anonymity of the internet allow posters to not only make outrageous claims, but post some of the most venomous comments I’ve seen in a public forum. I’m happy to admit I’ll jump in there and make a few comments, but I try to keep my remarks civil.

In a recent article on the ABC website (more specifically, JJJ’s Drum) academic Clive Hamilton points our attention to this fact:

“…Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid….”

Hamilton’s article was  addressing how many scientists and journalists have experienced “cyber bullying” by climate change sceptics and whether or not this was part of an orchestrated campaign. His suggestion: some of it could be orchastrated by sceptic groups, while some of it is angry individuals feeding off the deabte. Hamilton then suggests the anger of so many of these cyber-bullies is driven by prominent blogs in the Australian media. In his estimation they often provide the “fuel for the fire” for “angry sceptics”.

Hamilton made reference to the fact that Bolt’s blog as virtual meeting place for conspiracy theorists and the general nastiness of many of the comments.

Bolt’s glass jaw, while Hamilton’s point is proved by the quality of the comments

Andrew Bolt quickly responded on his own blog:

“The ABC’s home site seems to me to be not just stupid but defamatory in implying with this graphic that I organise the cyber-bullying of warmist scientists…”

His post was accompanied images of Nazi’s burning books . Bolt also snipped the article to make it appear Hamilton was stating he was behind the disinformation campaign. What’ s interesting is how Bolt presented Hamilton’s text:

“The floods of offensive and threatening emails aimed at intimidating climate scientists have all the signs of an orchestrated campaign by sceptics groups. The links are well-hidden because mobilizing people to send abuse and threats is well outside the accepted bounds of democratic participation; indeed, some of it is illegal…

The posts on these sites often provoke an outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and vilification of individuals. There is no restraining influence and, in the middle of one of these frenzies, it would be a brave sceptic who called for caution and moderation in the ideas expressed or the language used.

In Australia, a handful of denialist websites stand out. They include the blog of Herald-Sun commentator Andrew Bolt…

Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid.

Clearly we get the impression that Hamilton is accusing Bolt personally of orchestrating these attacks. However, when one compares the original we see large parts of Hamilton’s article have been “snipped”. I’ve highlighted the text Bolt did not include:

“The floods of offensive and threatening emails aimed at intimidating climate scientists have all the signs of an orchestrated campaign by sceptics groups. The links are well-hidden because mobilizing people to send abuse and threats is well outside the accepted bounds of democratic participation; indeed, some of it is illegal. And an apparently spontaneous expression of citizen concern carries more weight than an organised operation by a zealous group.

Without access to ISP logs, it is difficult to trace the emails to a source. However, it is clear that hard-line denialists congregate electronically at a number of internet nodes where they engage in mutual reinforcement of their opinions and stoke the rage that lies behind them.

Those who operate these sites retail the “information” that reinforces the assertions made by their followers. They often post highly personal attacks on individuals who speak in favour of mainstream science and measures to combat global warming, knowing from experience that they will stimulate a stream of vituperation from their supporters.

The posts on these sites often provoke an outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and vilification of individuals. There is no restraining influence and, in the middle of one of these frenzies, it would be a brave sceptic who called for caution and moderation in the ideas expressed or the language used.

Recently, this stew of paranoia has been given a boost by the media exposure granted to Christopher Monckton in his recent Australian tour. Monckton propounded his extraordinary theory about climate change being a conspiracy by communists – assisted by the Hitler Youth and a craven scientific establishment – to seize power through a world government hidden in a climate treaty. A few months ago a fantasist like Monckton would have attracted only eye-rolling from news editors.

I am not suggesting that the individuals and organisations I have mentioned are responsible for organising the cyber-bullying attacks on scientists and others. However, they do create an environment that encourages them. The effect of these sites is three-fold.

1. They supply the ammunition that confirms and elaborates on climate deniers’ beliefs.
2. They provide a forum in which deniers can participate in a like-minded community that reinforces their views.
3. And they identify the individuals responsible for promoting climate lies, stimulating participants to make direct contacts with “warmists”.

Andrew Bolt’s blog deserves special mention both because it has become the most popular meeting place for deniers in Australia and because it is sponsored by a mainstream media outlet, Melbourne’s Herald-Sun, a Murdoch tabloid.

Bolt specialises in posts of angry ridicule directed at climate scientists and any others who publicly accept the science. Recent targets have included Ove Hoegh-Guldburg, Andy Pitman, and the CSIRO as a whole.

Bolt has admitted that his posts bad-mouthing climate scientists have incited his readers to send abusive emails to them…”

I’ve highlighted the text Bolt chose not to include.

 So what’s going here? Bolt is engaging in one of his favourite techniques: framing the issue. Indeed this is one of the favourite tactics of sceptics. Take the original text, cut and shape it to imply something else. 

However, what escapes Bolt’s attention is the quality of the comments made by anonymous posters supportive of his position back up Hamilton’s points:

Trouble is abc we were right you are backing a fraud ,you are now the skeptics of the truth ,and you did it yourselves with lies and deception ,hows your super money going in the green investments? you see that’s the thing abc, you are after the bucks yourselves and we are paying for the propaganda with taxes ,you have an interest in the loot” where as Andrew Bolt just wants the truth just like we do ,big difference ,there should be a lot more on here now ,you should know Australians never do what they are told especially by communist whacko’s who lie.

thanksforthefreeprdingdongs

Its almost impossible to reason with arguments like the above. Claims of conspiracies, vested interests and claims that Hamilton is a “communist whacko” who  lies.

Frankly, in my opinion this clash proves too things:

  • Andrew Bolt happily dishes it out, but is sensitive to criticism.
  • Clive Hamilton’s point that the forum on Bolt’s blog is a place where all kinds of conspiracy theories and vindictiveness take place is correct.

I’m sure we’ll see a a round two. Watch this space.

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