Jo Nova: claims she is no conspiracy theorist while stating 9/11 was a “building accident”

Inside the world of climage change denial...

..and how the denial movement is “tone deaf” to true knowledge 

 Jo Nova takes umbrage to being labelled a conspiracy theorist in an irony free post  that goes on to indulge in text book conspiracy making. Take her comments on the 9/11 Truthers who posit the Bush Administration orchestrated the September 11 attacks in 2001:  

Is the planet warming from man-made CO2? Lewandowsky “knows” it is. Why? Because the 9/11 truthers are conspiracy theorists (and conspiracies are always wrong). O’ look, a few people ask odd questions about an accident in a building years ago, and sometimes those people are also the species Homo Sapiens Climate Scepticus (!). So it follows (if you are insane) that because some people still doubt the official story of an unrelated past event, man-made global warming will contribute 3.7W/m2 in the year 2079, and we’ll all become souffles in the global Sahara.         

9/11 was a building accident? And 9/11 Truthers are merely asking “odd” questions?     

Oh no Jo, you’re not a conspiracy theorist at all… But Nova knows that many of her core constituents are conspiracy theorists (viz this post in which one of her fans postulates the theory of AGW is being used to depopulate the US and destroy capitalism).      

Indeed, if you mine the comments on Nova’s site you will find pretty every species of conspiracy theory. These are the “angry minds” who see the hand of socialists/greens/liberals behind the science of climate change.     

As a consequence she is an equal opportunity conspiracy theorist: all these theories are given free rain on her site without being challenged. Otherwise she risks putting off side core elements of her “community”.     

But, but… it’s on the Internet!      

Further into her post, Nova makes reference to the thickness of sea ice and an incident with a US submarine in the 1950’s. For Jo, this story it disproves AGW:  

“Lewandowsky tries to casually slide some evidence in there, but nothing much is going his way. He speculates that US Navy submarines must be part of these “conspiracy theories” because they show so much Arctic melting, but if they are in on the Big Scare Campaign, the US Navy got the wrong memo. The USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole in 1959, and the US Navy has photos of it…”      

Here is the photo that “smashes” climate science:   

Yes, I can confirm it is a submarine. With ice.. ergo, no climate change!

She then states:      

The Skate records says: “We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick.”       

Apparently there a many similar examples all over the web.      


One submarine recording local events?         

The Arctic is a very big place. To then draw a connection between one isolated event and assume those conditions apply to the entire Arctic is  sloppy, irrational thinking. In any other field you’d be laughed out of the building. This is what passes for climate “scepticism”?       

To wave away any concerns with such “data” with the claim that there are “many similar examples all over the web” is incredible.     

No references, citations or further evidence is presented. This is “Google research”: plug in some search terms and pick the information that suits your purposes.     

It’s also text book pattern seeking.        

A “beautiful mind” seeks patterns, even when none exist      

There is a powerful scene in the film “A beautiful mind” (depicting the life of John Nash) that perfectly illustrates how conspiracy theorists piece together disparate sources of information and build them into (for them) a coherent world view.        

The wife of Nash and colleges enter his room in order to determine what he has been working feverishly on. As they enter the room they are confronted with thousands of paper clippings and papers pinned to the wall, each one evidence of “communist” plot to rely messages to “sleeper cells” via coded messages in the mainstream press. As we know, Nash – who is a paranoid schizophrenic – is under the influence of his delusions.       

Sure – I get this scene is taken from a heavily fictionalised account of Nash’s life, but it offers a powerful analogy/image for understanding the conspiratorial mindset.       

Pattern seeking is one of the inherent qualities of our species. Normally it a useful tool, its a trait we evolved over millennium:    

“Oh look those antelopes keep coming to this water hole… they are tasty. I will come back tomorrow because there will be more antelopes…”        

However, it means we assign patterns and intentionality to nearly all events. As Michael Shermer, one of the world’s leading sceptics (and I mean a real sceptic) explains:      

Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.        

When Lewandowsky states the we understand the cognitive basis for conspiracy theories, this is what he is referring too.       

It’s well understood and studied. Simply put, homo sapiens have a host of cognitive biases built into our consciousness and they can result – for some – a conspiratorial world view.       

Climate change sceptics are tone deaf to the “music” of real knowledge  

Like a legion of magpies with a dystopic worldview, the army of angry “climate sceptics” scour the Internet into the wee hours of the night, scanning for factoids and “proofs”. Anything that looks shiny is built into the “nest” of climate change scepticism.  A picture of a submarine, Al Gore’s personal wealth, snippets of scientific papers. It is an ugly, miss-matched collection of data.      

These “bits and bytes” are incorporated into their fantasies of global conspiracies. They are proudly collected and added the collection of other “facts” that is the totality of the deniers world view. That these facts constitute a “nest” that is a ugly, misshapen object lacking elegance or functionality is beside the point.   

For the denial movement, “facts” are trophies they hold aloft:       

“See! See!” they scream “… A submarine, with thin ice!”   

They forget that facts are just that: facts.    

 It is the ability to discern what is essential from the trivia that constitutes the scientific method. Wisdom and knowledge comes from determining the true relationship between facts and robust theoretical models.    

The denial movement is tone deaf: it treats all “noise” as equal.   

They fail to see the true, elegant and beautiful “song” that a robust scientific theory is. Instead they hear white noise, and believe it has meaning.    

What a cramped, limited and yet – paradoxically – overwhelming world view it is. How sad that the “denier” fails to recognise the majestic sounds of true knowledge.  

For the denier, the world is a cacophony of clashing, ringing and terrifying sounds mixed with disparate images and words. No wonder they retreat into the fantasy of climate change denial.    

Yes Jo, the effects are well understood. But then of course, Nova’s posters dismiss the entire field of psychology as well…       

Ask him about the great fraud of the 20th century, in his own area: Freudian psychoanalysis. It’s been totally discredited and is now an embarrassment. Freud was a cocaine addicted ratbag with his crazy theories. But he held them up as “science” and fools followed him for half a century.        

You and your fellow deniers are tone deaf to wisdom, knowledge and insight.  

Your world lacks beauty. 

10 thoughts on “Jo Nova: claims she is no conspiracy theorist while stating 9/11 was a “building accident”

  1. J Bowers says:

    ROFL! Good post!

  2. Ben says:

    Excellent deconstruction. About that silly submarine “evidence”: normal winter pack ice movement constantly creates open leads that freeze over but remain much thinner than the surrounding pack ice. Submarines under that pack ice have to carefully locate these places before attempting to surface…

  3. klem says:

    Wow you must be some smart to be able to determine from your Jo Nova quote that she is a 911 conspiracy theorist. I only have masters degree and I can’t arrive at your conclusion no matter how many times I read that convoluted quote.

    And no matter how much I look around, the number of 911conspiracy theorists continues to remain very low. They may be vocal but there still aren’t many of them. All of my friends who are AGW deniers, none are 911 conspiracy theorists. And of my friends who are AGW Believers, none are 911 conspiracy theorists. I have yet to see a link between the 911 conspiracy people and any group except with the UFO crowd. Where are they all coming from? I don’t know.

  4. manuelg says:

    I partially agree with “klem” – I am not sure that quotes proves anything about Jo-Jo’s take on 911. It is so badly written, I cannot be sure of anything.

    Also, in partial agreement with “klem”, the significance of overlap between 911 deniers and AGW deniers has not been demonstrated, in magnitude or importance.

    Where I don’t agree with “klem” – I think the comparison is enlightening (the comparison between AGW alleged-skeptics/deniers and 911 conspiracy theorists).

    What is the difference between being skeptical and being a denier?

    (1) If skeptical, you realize the goal is to eventually replace the mainstream narrative with a new, fundamentally different narrative, at a _higher_ standard of argumentation from statements of certainty. If you are a denier, you are content to perpetually muddy the water to generate fraudulent controversy. The test between the two is that the skeptic will dish out their harshest approbation to people on *their own side* who have no capacity for being constructive and who have no capacity to make valid judgments about quality of argumentation; where the denier in comparison will hold embrace any momentarily useful troll.

    (2) The mainstream must accept the discipline of the highest standard of argumentation and demonstration – that is only right to be seen as mainstream. If you are a denier, you take this to mean that the enemies of the mainstream are allowed to have *no* standard. If skeptical, you allow the opponents of the mainstream to have a lower standard, but a standard none-the-less (to remain productive until a cohesive alternative narrative has been fully developed). The test is that the skeptic will throw people on *their own side* out of their camp if they cannot maintain consistently a minimal standard of quality of argumentation and demonstration. The denier will continually forgive transgressions for any momentarily useful troll.

    (3) If skeptical, you take delight in sound results, no matter from your own side or the opposing side. If a denier, you have boos and hisses for all results, no matter how sound, from the opposing side – and cheers and huzzahs for all results, no matter how shabby, from your own side. The true skeptic has more latitude with their boos, hisses, cheers, huzzahs.

    (4) if skeptical, you see the value of provisional agreement on results today, perhaps to informed by new facts tomorrow, perhaps not. If a denier, you shriek at *any* provisional agreement, no matter how relatively settled it is compared to matters of no discernible meaningful controversy, like planetary orbital physics. If a denier, you shriek at any attempt to blow the foulest vapors of shabby results out of the room. The denier does not need his viewpoint to prevail – the denier is satisfied with a permanent state of cacophony of controversy. The skeptic is motivated by having their viewpoint prevail by quality of status quo.

    (5) if skeptical, you see that uncertainty can be a valid reason to act today – for example, I buy home-owners insurance today because of uncertainty. Nobody waits to buy insurance until they get a letter of intent from an arsonist that their home is scheduled to be set on fire. If you are a denier, you give a privileged status to the status quo – if a denier you effectively say we must not deviate from the existing state until all uncertainty has been eradicated, which is a socially acceptable way to say we must not deviate from the existing state *ever*.

    (6) if skeptical, you value sound results over decorum – all things being equal, decorum is preferred; but no amount of decorum can substitute for sound results. If a denier, there is no amount of production of sound results that can forgive an opponent of a perceived violation of decorum.

    These 6 are unnatural for people, because humans will regress to tribal behavior under stress. The are only evident in people who value truth over the status of their own tribe.

    In my own case, I am most interested in the economic and political consequences for AGW or climate disruption, and I am not in complete agreement with the mainstream of the AGW believers when it comes to the economics and politics. But the standard is so weak on the alleged skeptical side, I can only meaningfully develop and test my personal ideas with the AGW believers side. That has been my experience. Even Joe Romm, who is supposedly the worst of the worst of the AGW mainstream believer bullies, has demonstrated nuance when it comes to considering different economic tools.

    I would like to see a demonstration that the AGW/climate-disruption mainstream side is worst at being skeptical of their opponents, than the skeptical/denier side. The standard is so low on the AGW alleged-skeptics/deniers side, they would never agree to the above 6 points.

  5. manuelg says:

    Huh? quoting myself (manuel “moe” g)

    > (4) if skeptical… The skeptic is motivated by having their viewpoint prevail by quality of status quo.

    which makes no sense. The last sentence should read:

    “The skeptic is motivated by having their viewpoint prevail by quality of argumentation and demonstration.”

    [From Mike, WTD… I’ve replied here as WordPress is doing screwy things again…]

    @ Klem and Manualg – I take you points, and I agree that Nova’s post is poorly written.

    And I appreciate your additional comments, I’m always keen to have my own writing and arguments challenged.

    I agree with what you’ve said: that there may not be a large overlap between the Truthers and Deniers.

    The main point I am trying to convey is about conspiracy theories and conspiratorial worldviews. This comes of the back of the Lewandowsky article, where he draws attention to the “mindset” of conspiracy theorists.

    One does not have to hold all conspiracy theories to be true – just one is sufficient to make one a conspiracy theorist. It is the type of thinking of 9/11 Truthers and the climate deniers that is worthy of comparison.

    I would state the overlap between creationism and climate change denialism is significant and growing. And not just creationism, take Monckton’s view on Obama’s birth:

    Nova is – in my estimation – intellectually slippery. I’m *still* not sure what her position is on 9/11.

    Indeed she is sufficiently (and deliberately) ambiguous on the issue. She does not say 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration. However she does not say it was Bin Laden.

    She hides behind the strange sentence: “O’ look, a few people ask odd questions about an accident in a building years ago…”

    She carefully threads the needle so as not to challenge anyone. The reason – which I tried to outline in my post – is that many of her community freely express a range of conspiracy theories:

    Graeme Bird, one the Internets most abusive and infamous trolls had a home with her community (though I’m not at present, he may have been banned from there even):

    Bird would post all kinds of crazy stuff, and he was either not challenged or people argeed with some of his points.

    When I first started the blog I was a regular poster on Nova’s site, attempting to engage with her community. I tried to use evidence to debate them.

    I would attempt to draw an analogy between some of the arguments of the creationists about how the scientific community commits fraud and stifles the “Creationist” viewpoint:

    Nova would not allow the comments to be published on her blog.

    She would not allow any comparison. I asked “How do your claims differ?”. Such questions did not make it past moderation.

    I would post links to scientific papers on the paleoclimate as a good place to compare historical C02 levels with today’s. These did get, through she blocked further comments of mine when her community stated that they where based on “computer models”, and therefore of no relevance (which was a odd argument, given it was evidence from the geologic record).

    Nova works very hard to shape the conversation on her blog, and ensure that the worldview of her people is not challenged.

    This is what I mean her being an “equal opportunist” conspiracy theorist. She does not have to believe in them all. Nova has one “job” – to cast the science of climate change into doubt.

    Her blog actually makes very little reference to the science – even the denier’s take on science. Instead, post after post explores how “big finance” is somehow behind it all:

    She is of the “follow the money” school, and spends a great deal of time saying it is how the international banks are behind it all. Here she points out how one of Australia’s most beloved science journalists is being duped:

    “Robyn Williams is a good man who would be horrified to know that he is not defending the planet, but standing up for corrupt scientists, plundering bureaucrats, and profit-taking bankers. I make no suggestions that he is profiting from spreading such poor reasoning, or that he is corrupt. He is simply working from devastatingly mistaken assumptions: He assumes the modelers are right; he assumes the peer review system is working; he assumes that science will work properly if only one side of a theory is fully funded, and he assumes that UN bureaucrats will publish recommendations that don’t support an increase in their own power and status….”

    Nova’s brand of thinking is deconstructionists/post-modernist. She sees the conflation of powerful interest groups mixed with a scientific fraud. It’s not a “OMG aliens are taking us over” form of conspiracy theory, and she works hard to make it seem “respectable”… but ultimately her thinking is powered and informed by a conspiratorial worldview.

    My take is that if she starts to take apart another conspiracy theory, she would need to reflect on the standards of evidence and thinking of the “climate change scepticism”.

    Perhaps my post was not sufficiently well written.

  6. JMurphy says:

    Doesn’t she know that Watts at WUWT has already come unstuck by trying to claim things about the Arctic (open water, etc. back in the 50s) by using a photo of the USS Skate that was eventually discovered to be improperly referenced ? Shame.

    As for the link between the 911 troofers and AGW deniers – they both deny reality, facts, science and evidence, and see conspiracies all around them.

  7. Ian P says:

    I’ve been reading through a lot of comments on denialist blogs today and it seems to me it mostly boils down to a distrust of scientists for whatever reason. I think a lot of them are simply uneducated in the scientific method, critical thinking and real skepticism (ie. skeptical until the weight of evidence shows what is most likely to be true). It boggles the mind they could flagrantly disregard what the overwhelming majority of experts in the field and closely related fields actually think about the problem. The fact they give so much credence to denialist non-experts, and scientists either retired or not in a climate field shows how unskeptical they really are.
    My brain keeps going back to Inane Clown Posse and their “f’ing” magnets, how do they work?”. Ask the magnet scientists. How does the climate work, ask the climate scientists.
    I say we take back the word skeptical!

  8. Excellently written! I often am amazed at some of the conclusions many of the conspiracy theorists manage to attain. What worries me is that regardless of the angle that they take, regarding climate change, this just increases the doubt in the general public. Much of this nonsense ends up being sprouted at me by family and friends. These people vote… I find it difficult not to get quite irritated and I worry that I come across no better than them! lol

  9. […] This is the confused type of thinking that leaves people like Trump publicly saying absurd things like a snowstorm disproves climate change, or Donna Laframboise’s ridiculous “education” regarding climate science, or Jo Nova’s 1959 Navy sub coming through the ice (an excellent review is found here). […]

  10. Barry Woods says:

    I give you 9-11 conspiracy theorists that are very concerned about climate change… 😉 !

    “Stop Driving, The 911 boycott” is a call to action to reduce auto use and the enormous impacts driving is having on global climate change.

    They say: 9-11 Was an Inside Job

    which shows how pointless trying to label everybody as extremist is..
    Steve Mosher spotted their banner on a fly-over (commented at Lucias Blackboard)

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