McGauren’s attack on CSIRO: throwing the denial movement a bone

The impact of the CSIRO’s “State of the Climate” report becomes more evident, as noted by Crikey:

“The basic denialist technique is to sew confusion in the community by repeatedly throwing up confected and disproven claims about the science, or attacking the credibility of climate scientists and scientific institutions, and keep doing it until people figure there must be something to their claims. And it has worked, with assistance from the media.

..But once Australians start making the connection between their own experiences and climate change, and moving climate change from a nebulous future threat to something happening in Australia right now, that technique stops working.  And that’s what the CSIRO-BOM report did.”

I think this confirms my initial analysis of the impact CSIRO’s report will have.

Obviously the denial movement is looking desperately for someone – anyone – in politics to “tell it as it is” and pander to their fantasies of conspiracies and data manipulation. It would be inappropriate for Leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, to attack the CSIRO: it would look incredibly foolish (as I’ve noted here).

Abbot tends to shoot from the hip, and get himself into trouble. Heck if even Andrew Bolt criticises Abbot on his statements about gays, then he really needs to start watching his words.

Avoiding the CSIRO report is probably a smart strategy, Abbot does want to be caught between having to support the science or attack the CSIRO.

Still, the small but electorally significant denial movement that has thrown it’s support behind the Liberals needs to feel that their concerns are being noted.

Release the hounds on climate science! Or a hound. Actually, release a small rather toothless puppy…

Leave it to Victorian Senator Julian McGauren’s to attack not just on the CSIRO report, but the organisation itself:

Senator McGauran says the organisation has been stripped of its independence and is doing the bidding of the Minister for Science, Kim Carr.

“Minister Carr without doubt has wandered through the CSIRO offices, intimidating the scientists and the executive to do as they’re told,” he said.

“This is now a political organisation. The executive have become compliant to the minister, utterly.”

A few pot-shots from a Senator barely anyone knows is the denial movements white knight. A quick check of his history demonstrates a rather colourful history and repeated incidents of behaviour that borders on the unethical:

On 11 August, after the Liberal-National Coalition narrowly won a vote in the Senate, he made a gesture to Labor Party senators on the floor of the Senate in response to comments. This prompted calls from Labor senators and Greens Senator Bob Brown that he be sacked as Deputy Government Whip in the Senate. Senate President Paul Calvert ruled that the gesture was “unseemly but not obscene.”[1]

In 2005 McGauran was accused of releasing to The Age newspaper the private patient records of a woman who had had an abortion, in breach of a Supreme Court suppression order; however, he denies this accusation.[2] The Victoria Health Minister, Bronwyn Pike, is quoted in the article as saying that McGauran was “exploiting this woman in pursuit of his own ideological agenda”, describing the act as an assault on the doctor-patient relationship.

A man of high ideals and integrity indeed.

Give the dog a bone: go get ’em Senator!

The short-termism of this strategy will no doubt rebound on the Senator. No doubt he’ll get a flood of emails from deniers complementing him on his bold statements, but for mainstream Australia it just looks, well, nuts.

It will further convince most Australians the denial movement is a bit like that embarrassing uncle that turns up at family weddings: a bit of a duffer obsessed with JFK conspiracy theories and perpetual motion machines. Harmless and best avoided: “A conspiracy you say? Oh my that’s interesting…. is that the canapes? Must go!”

Really, it’s just dog whistle politics – get a unknown backbencher to throw the denial movement a few bones and keep them happy. Deniers will chew over and relish the comments in their forums and blogs and be kept happy, distracted and amused.

We can safely ignore McGauren’s comments, it simply highlights how the ground is slowly shifting beneath the feet of the denial movement.

And again, it shows how science communication done correctly is a powerful tool to counter the distortions and misinformation of the denial movement.

Note: Crikey has a wonderfully funny comic on the issue here.

2 thoughts on “McGauren’s attack on CSIRO: throwing the denial movement a bone

  1. […] Conspiracy theories – When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes something is true, the denialist won’t admit scientists have independently studied the evidence to reach the same conclusion. Instead, they claim scientists are engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The South African government of Thabo Mbeki was heavily influenced by conspiracy theorists claiming that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. When such fringe groups gain the ear of policy makers who cease to base their decisions on science-based evidence, the human impact can be disastrous. […]

  2. […] In 2010 Victorian Senator Julian McGaure attacked the integrity of the CSIRO claiming they were merely acting according to the whims of their political masters stating “Minister Carr without doubt has wandered through the CSIRO offices, intimidating the scientists a…“ […]

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