Pepper spraying the truth and speaking in dead tongues: how the deniers seek to irritate, confuse and blind us

There is much to be said for stepping away from the climate change “debate” and coming back refreshed.

In many respects it’s disheartening in a way to see to the same old deniers trotting out the same old tired arguments: “the climate has always changed”; “it’s the sun”; the absurd “it’s not happening”; and the wonderfully insane “it’s a conspiracy!”

Watching Plimers recent performance in London reminded me of  some of the basic tactics employed by the denial machine and its operatives.

Firslty, just how proficient the deniers are at what is called the Gish Gallop: throwing out hundreds of little factoids and arguments in order to a) sound authoritative and b) confuse.

Fact checking their statements is both tedious and time consuming: the “Gish Gallop” allows them to make dozens of absurd claims without risk of being challenged. Both Ian Plimer and “Not-really-a-Lord” Monckton are practitioner’s par excellence.

Playing dress up

Coming back into the debate also reminded me how much the deniers love nothing better than playing the adult version of dress-ups by assuming the garb and vocabulary of scientists and other authority figures.

Plimer loves to take the “trust me I’m a scientist” line in order to assume the authority of science, while simultaneously attacking what is settled science.

It is why Monckton is so strident in his attempts to claim he is a “member of the House of Lords” when he clearly is not.

But in order to accept the claims of Plimer and Monckton and the roles they want to play, one needs to also wave away hundreds of uncomfortable facts.

Even though Monckton is famously not a member of the House of Lords, to his supporters he “really is”.

It helps explain why Jo Nova and Andrew Bolt will accept Monckton’s claim to being a “Lord’ over official statements by that very body. One only has to see Jo Nova’s post on the issue to see the depth in which the denial community is desperate to protect the status of one of their “tribal elders”.

Can Monckton claim to be a member of the House of Lords Nova asks rhetorically?

According to a constitutional lawyer. Yes, quite so.

Monckton, on returning fromAustraliafrom his tour this autumn, consulted Hugh O’Donoghue, a leading constitutional lawyer at Carmelite Chambers, overlooking the River Thames just a mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament. His question: “Am I or am I not a member of the House of Lords?”

O’Donoghue, who specializes in difficult human-rights cases and Peerage law, spent months carefully researching Monckton’s question. He says Lord Monckton “was and is correct at all points”. The conclusion of his 11-page opinion (see PDF at bottom of this article), reviewing 1000 years of Peerage law, is clear on the issue:

Yes… because the opinion of one single lawyer trumps the official view of the UKs upper house.

I mean this lawyer sits just one mile downstream from the Houses of Parliament! Golly gosh, that makes them really authoritative. And its 11 pages!

To have any real validity, either statute law would need to be changed or the matter taken to court where a Judge would make a determination.

Until then, this advice is merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Caution, extreme usage of dead languages ahead

The classically trained Monckton loves to sprinkle his monologues – and I say monologues because Monckton doesn’t have conversations, he simply talks and talks, and talks – with snatches of Latin.

Monckton’s use of dead languages is intended to do two things: intimidate his critics and demonstrate his arcane knowledge to impress his gullible audience.

It very much reminds me of the very things George Orwell noted in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language“.

Cautioning the reader against words used to “dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements”, Orwell notes:

“Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones…”

Monckton arguments are so fatuous, fact free and incredibly fanciful that he needs to dress them up what is essentially verbal pyrotechnics.

To which all I have to say is caveat emptor.

Pepper spraying the truth

So why all this dressing up and verbal pyrotechnics?

The denial movement exists to do one thing, and it does it very well: to confuse.

It uses a variety of tools and techniques to support this strategy of confusion: denying climate change is real; attacking the reputations of scientists; hacking into computer systems; threatening scientists with death threats; engaging in email campaigns of intimidation and  harassment; plastering online forums with sound bites and denier memes.

Their campaign is nasty, relentless and effective.

I call it “pepper spraying the truth” because their tactics are designed to itimidate, bully and force us to look away.

The millions of words generated by the denier blogs posts and Andrew Bolt articles are simply the individual particles of a pepper spray applied to the public debate. It forces the closure of our eyes, blinding us to urgency of climate change.

In their application of their pepper spray, the deniers have degraded public discourse.

There is no “debate”.

There is no “reasoning”.

There is the denial machine whose only function is it is whip out the pepper spray and violently apply it to the public “eyes”.

“But what if climate change is real? What can we do? What should we do…” asks the public

“It’s not real! Look away! “ the deniers scream as they keep up a steady spray of false memes.

Read any online forum or comments section on a newspaper article discussing climate change and you’ll see the “spray” of denier memes and arguments. Every word, every post, every article from the deniers angrily sprayed into our eyes.

Don’t look.

Don’t engage.

The “pepper spray” makes it too painful to engage in any form of discussion or debate.

Tragically all of us are left irritated, confused, and blinded

17 thoughts on “Pepper spraying the truth and speaking in dead tongues: how the deniers seek to irritate, confuse and blind us

  1. Great point…and much in sync with a view of – a site that I thought I respected – with a recent article by Bjorn Lomborg that fits perfectly your discussion. Kind of shocking.

    More to the point is the real world event of the Air France plane crash of a few years ago… the black box now just analysed and it seems the pilots ignored loud and persistent alarms – and flew the plane into the sea. A tragic example of willful tunnel-vision in a crisis.

    • klem says:

      “the black box now just analysed and it seems the pilots ignored loud and persistent alarms ..”

      Oh I get it, its analogous to climate deniers. They ignore the loud and persistant alarms from the world saving climate nazis just like the Air France pilots. Hmmm wow that’s deep.

  2. Geoff Brown says:

    What a load of codswallop. It is as confused a diatribe as your tougnes in your title.
    “Monckton doesn’t have conversations, he simply talks and talks…” probably because all you deniers of the truth run away from debate. Al Gore is frightened to debate him.

    • zoot says:

      Out here in the real world Tim Lambert debated Monckton and in the process demonstrated that Monckton didn’t know the gender of one of the experts he was misquoting. George Monbiot was prepared to debate him until Monckton withdrew and I believe John Abraham managed to demonstrate the fallacies Monckton was peddling in the US. That’s just off the top of my head. A bit of googling will probably find more.
      You’ll have to do better than that Geoff.
      BTW is Al Gore still fat?

    • Watching the Deniers says:


      I do have to ask: do you support Monckton’s claim that he is a sitting member of the House of Lords, or accept the official statement from the Clerk (see below).

      I could claim to be a member of the US senate and do lots of hand waving and blustering. But if the US senate emphatically denies my membership who do you choose to believe.

      Now who would be the one living in a fantasy? Me or the US senate?

      Or if I claimed to be a neurologist, but the Medical Board stated I was not.

      Again, who is living in the fantasy?

      Its a yes or no question Geoff.

      Is he a sitting member of the HoL as he claims?

      Does it not concern you that he is making an unsupported claim, and that the HoL has taken the unprecedented step of publishing this letter on their website?

      Text from Clerk below. Read carefully and then comment:

      “…My predecessor, Sir Michael Pownall, wrote to you on 21 July 2010, and again on 30 July 2010, asking that you cease claiming to be a Member of the House of Lords, either directly or by implication. It has been drawn to my attention that you continue to make such claims.

      In particular, I have listened to your recent interview with Mr Adam Spencer on Australian radio. In response to the direct question, whether or not you were a Member of the House of Lords, you said “Yes, but without the right to sit or vote”. You later repeated, “I am a Member of the House”.

      I must repeat my predecessor’s statement that you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a Member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms. No-one denies that you are, by virtue of your letters Patent, a Peer. That is an entirely separate issue to membership of the House. This is borne out by the recent judgment in Baron Mereworth v Ministry of Justice (Crown Office) where Mr Justice Lewison stated:

      “In my judgment, the reference [in the House of Lords Act 1999] to ‘a member of the House of Lords’ is simply a reference to the right to sit and vote in that House … In a nutshell, membership of the House of Lords means the right to sit and vote in that House. It does not mean entitlement to the dignity of a peerage.”

      ****I must therefore again ask that you desist from claiming to be a Member of the House of Lords, either directly or by implication, and also that you desist from claiming to be a Member “without the right to sit or vote”.****

      I am publishing this letter on the parliamentary website so that anybody who wishes to check whether you are a Member of the House of Lords can view this official confirmation that you are not.

      David Beamish
      Clerk of the Parliaments

      15 July 2011″

    • klem says:

      Did you notice Al Gore did not attend Durban? I think he had a cold or something. As predicted. Lol!

  3. Moth says:

    “Monckton arguments are so fatuous, fact free and incredibly fanciful that he needs to dress them up what is essentially verbal pyrotechnics.”


  4. Geoff Brown says:

    “Monckton arguments are so fatuous, fact free and incredibly fanciful that he needs to dress them up what is essentially verbal pyrotechnics.”


    At least Lord Monckton is more accurate than the above diatribe.

  5. john byatt says:

    while on the subject of gish gallop, cop this nonsense from Bob Carter,
    at unleashed, Does this guy have a clue?

    “A further increase of 0.5°C is guaranteed even without further emissions. (Such computer model projections conflict with the fact that no warming has now occurred for the 15 years since 1995 despite an increase of carbon dioxide of 10 per cent – an increase that of itself represents 34 per cent of all the extra carbon dioxide contributed since the start of the industrial revolution. Remembering that the radiative effects of extra carbon dioxide occur at the speed of light, and that both the ocean and the atmosphere are currently cooling, just where is this 0.5°C. of “pipeline” heat supposed to be hiding?).”

    rgds JB

  6. zoot says:

    Monckton is in fact a Lord (he has the letters patent to prove it) so … Monckton’s claim to being a “Lord’ … should read … Monckton’s claim to being a “Member of the House of Lords’ …

  7. Watching the Deniers says:

    @ Zoot

    A point well made. Monckton can use the title Lord, which is not in dispute. However in my discussing I was using a short hand to highlight the fact he is not a member of the House of Lords.

    For the general reader I should make that point more clear.
    Not a pedant, good to ensure clarity.

    Mike @ WtD

  8. Geoff, we are waiting. Did not Monckton lie and distort about his link to the House of Lords? And as such what other lies or distortions does this person present to a gullible public that is provable?

    • john byatt says:

      Merry Xmas to you Ross,

      geoff is a total denialist, even monckton accepts that CO2 will warm the planet, geoff lives in his own fantasy world,

      waste of time commenting on his blog as he just censors whatever he cannot confront.

  9. Sylvia says:

    I see that “Lord” Monckton is now encouraging the hard right wing deniers in Australia to control a media channel here. Imagine Fox news in Australia!
    here’s he is Lording it over some of some leaders in the Australian mining industry:

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