Conspiracy culture: how the Australian media overlooked the paranoid politics of the deniers

“….[it] would appear to be the Rothschild plan: to create an international authority on the pretext of saving the world from global warming, this salvation being somehow achievable by creating a “carbon exchange” as another source of speculative profit for the Rothschilds, et al. The international authority leading towards a “new world order” would have The City of London as its world capital…   – NWO Observer

Yesterday Ben Cubby of The Age wrote a brief article on the response of the Australian denial movement to Richard Muller’s BEST study and his conversion from scepticism to acceptance of climate change.

What immediately caught my attention was the quotes by Malcom Roberts, a prominent member of the Galileo movement:

A prominent Australian sceptics’ group, the Galileo Movement, said its views would not change at all because of Professor Muller’s study. The group features broadcaster Alan Jones as its patron and lists prominent sceptics Ian Plimer and Bob Carter and blogger Andrew Bolt as advisers.

“We’ve based our views on empirical science, and there’s nothing in the Muller study to undercut that,” said the Galileo Movement’s manager, Malcolm Roberts, a former mining engineer and company director.

Mr Roberts said climate change science had been captured by “some of the major banking families in the world” who form a “tight-knit cabal”.

Mr Roberts said he understood that the group’s views might sound strange, but claimed they were increasingly popular. “It does sound outlandish,” he said. “I, like you, was reluctant to believe it [but] there are significant things going on in Australia that people are waking up to”.

This is a claim I’ve familiar with, and is common currency amongst climate sceptics across the globe.

I noted some time ago some of Australia’s most prominent climate sceptics were proponents of this conspiracy. Jo Nova and her husband David Evans are perhaps the main proponents of this conspiracy in Australia.

It was very much on display during the protests last year in front of Parliament house, with cranks and conspiracy theorists painting their beliefs on signs and waving them in front of the media.

The mainstream Australian media have failed to appreciate that climate denial in is an example of conspiracy culture.

I’d strongly urge journalists and the media to note Roberts claims about cabals, international bankers and the conspiracy theories pushed by the Australian climate “sceptics” and review the world view of the sceptic movement.

This feature of the movement has been overlooked in an attempt to provide (false) balance in reporting on the climate change “debate”.

Indeed, the media have rushed to publish the views of sceptics such as Nova, Monckton and Roberts without checking their statements on “international bankers” and NWO/socialist conspiracies. Climate denial has all the hallmarks of conspiracy culture that holds the following beliefs:

  • a conspiracy of individuals and groups whose powers and reach is all-pervasive
  • history is a product of these forces, there is no such thing as chance
  • the conspiracy acts covertly to achieve a malevolent end/s

So why do the sceptics get so much play? The fossil fuel industry disinformation campaign promoted via think tanks is a factor.

But there is more to this story.

Due to the challenge climate change prompts (and the attendant anxieties), the intensity of the sceptics disinformation campaign and the willingness of some parts of the media fully embrace climate scepticism, conspiracy theorists have been given a major platform to espouse they’re all too frequently unchallenged views.

Conspiracy theories, to quote Christopher Hitchens, are the exhaust fumes of democracy. We see the anxieties and fears of our society expressed. They serve as a soothing and comforting narrative for individuals trying to make sense of the world.

The true story here is the one about human psychology and how global warming forces us to question the core values and infrastructure of our society: what does AGW mean for energy use, justice and sustainability?

Since the 1990s conspiracy theories have gained in popularity, due to the internet and the media embracing it as a genre:

Climate change denial is both an anti-science movement and a form of popular entertainment. Through its various blogs, YouTube videos, Op-Ed pieces and think tank studies it delivers a steady diet of counter knowledge in perfectly packaged sound bites and memes…

…In this it mimics other pop-cultural phenomena as “The Secret” and “The Da Vinci” code. It’s slickly produced, packaged and marketed counter knowledge.

And our mainstream media is complicit in its dissemination; either actively through the work of journalists as the HUN’s Andrew Bolt, or by attempting to be balanced and giving credibility to the movement in interviews and guest spots in the opinion pages of major dailies.

Over the next two weeks I’m going to focus on highlighting the culture of conspiracy that infects the Australian climate sceptics movement.

For too long there views have recieved scant critical attention. So get ready to learn about post-normal science, the coming general economic collapse, international bankers, socialist plots to take over the world…

Get ready for some fun.

33 thoughts on “Conspiracy culture: how the Australian media overlooked the paranoid politics of the deniers

  1. uknowispeaksense says:

    I’ll go and fashion a foil hat so I can play along.

  2. Nick says:

    Let’s fix it : “Mr Roberts said he understood that the groups views might be wrong and barking mad,but he claimed they were increasingly popular”

    Mr Roberts is simply seeing a market opportunity…

  3. snafu says:

    Empty Heads.

    BTW…….Muller’s BEST paper has been rejected by the JGR.

    Just thought I’d let you know.

    • Nick says:

      “Muller’s BEST paper has been rejected…” Which one,sunshine? And so what? BEST is hardly essential reconstruction work,except in the eyes of Muller and the hapless Watts. One paper has been rejected and resubmission as a new paper recommended…rejection,revision,reworking and resubmission of papers is actually very common.

      So, are you with nutso Malcolm Roberts or not?

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      A manuscript that reports on what climate scientists already knew and were reporting in the 90’s? It probably got rejected on the grounds that it is outdated information. If you think the AGW proponents have somehow adopted Muller as some sort of posterboy or “the one that faced reality”, you are sadly mistaken. He has never shown any remorse for the relentless attacks on the good character of other scientists, the same scientists who he has shown were right all along. He still also holds on to some aspects of wilful denial and ignorance. Nope, he’s a nowhere man, sitting in his nowhereland, and he belongs to nobody. Thanks John, Paul, George and Ringo.

    • snafu says:

      Do you mean this paper?

      http://www.rossmckitrick.com/

      [Update July 30: JGR told me “This paper was rejected and the editor recommended that the author resubmit it as a new paper.”]

      • john byatt says:

        Seems to have a few rebutted himself snafu

        McIntyre & McKitrick (2003) [Abs] – Juckes et al. (2007) [Abs, Full], Wahl & Ammann (2007) [Abs, Full].

        McIntyre & McKitrick (2005) [Abs, Full] – von Storch & Zorita (2005) [Abs, Full – M&M reply], Mann et al. (2007) [Abs, Full], Wahl & Ammann (2007) [Abs, Full].

        McIntyre & McKitrick (2005) [Abs, Full] – Juckes et al. (2007) [Abs, Full], Wahl & Ammann (2007) [Abs, Full].

        What is funny is that if the papers had gone straight thu you would all be claiming a conspiracy, this is science working, rigorous appraisal. resubmission is nothing new nor speculative about what final outcome will be.

        @ Berkeley

        The most recent (July 2012) paper written by the Berkeley Earth team is:
        A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011 (The Berkeley Earth team commonly refers to this as the “Results” paper)
        This paper, in addition to three of the papers posted online in October 2011, have been revised based on input received through the peer review process. The three other papers are:
        Berkeley Earth Temperature Averaging Process (commonly referred to as the “Methods” paper) and its appendix
        Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average
        Earth Atmospheric Land Surface Temperature and Station Quality in the United States
        The final paper has been provisionally accepted (pending the acceptance of the paper on the Averaging process) by JGR Atmospheres, and has not changed significantly since October 2011. It is posted again here for convenience:
        Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures

  4. john byatt says:

    I think that snafu is ross, posted at RC

    snafu says:
    30 Jul 2012 at 9:51 PM
    Ahem, please read:

    http://www.rossmckitrick.com/

    Including his update; [Update July 30: JGR told me “This paper was rejected and the editor recommended that the author resubmit it as a new paper.”]

    • john byatt says:

      Should have read the comments above you before the Ahem snafu, looks like you were not paying attention.

  5. john byatt says:

    RC pretty much agreed with uknowispeaksense regarding BEST.

    rediscovered the moon

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/10/berkeley-earthquake-called-off/

    • Indeed.

      As I’ve already stated on this blog, Muller’s work is of minor interest. Again, my response to the BEST research is “meh”.

      If Snafu thinks we’re hanging our collective hats on Muller and the BEST research as the holy-grail of climate science then they are greatly mistaken.

      However for the media the “Muller narrative” of climate-sceptic-turned-believer is novel.

      It is this that has the denial machine in a tizz and rage: the Muller conversion story makes a compelling meme or narrative. Muller, for all his tardiness in accepting the science has reviewed the data with a sceptical eye and found it compelling.

      This can be reduced to a glib, but compelling sound bite: “Sceptic changes mind based on evidence”.

      This is after people like Watts sung the praises of Muller/BEST as the much anticipated “independent” review of temperature records (and thus falsification or not of climate science).

      Muller’s conversion creates problems for the denial movement as it makes the average denier, Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova and Lord Monckton look like closed minded dolts (natch).

      They are no longer “sceptics”, but idealogues with an ax-to-grind.

      • Nick says:

        It’s only the science illiteracy of the media that allows Muller to assume the position of “the guy who led the team that cleared things up”,or that repeatedly references Watts or the Galileo Movement,in some misapprehension of their relevance or competence, as ‘skeptics’.

        Sadly,the media is extremely defensive about criticism of their own shortcomings…

  6. john byatt says:

    And as always Grant gives his valued appraisal on one paper

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/decadal-variations-and-amo-part-i/

  7. Glen Michel says:

    All within natural parameters.

  8. All this banking family cabal talk is DOG WHISTLE for Zion Protocols believers – best lots of the older deniers used to be in SOCIAL CREDIT party and the like.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      “International bankers” is sometimes used as a coded reference for Jews by antisemitic groups.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Order_(conspiracy_theory)

      Right-wing populist advocacy groups with a producerist worldview, such as the John Birch Society, disseminated a multitude of conspiracy theories in the 1960s claiming that the governments of both the United States and the Soviet Union were controlled by a cabal of corporate internationalists, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians intent on using the United Nations as the vehicle to create the “One World Government”. This right-wing anti-globalist conspiracism would fuel the Bircher campaign for U.S. withdrawal from the U.N.. American writer Mary M. Davison, in her 1966 booklet The Profound Revolution, traced the alleged New World Order conspiracy to the creation of the U.S. Federal Reserve System in 1913 by international bankers, who she claimed later formed the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921 as the shadow government. At the time the booklet was published, “international bankers” would have been interpreted by many readers as a reference to a postulated “international Jewish banking conspiracy” masterminded by the Rothschilds.[12]

  9. Sou says:

    This is good and I’m looking forward to more.

    I’d love to see Ben write an article about ‘skeptics’ with a headline like ‘the other paranoid conspiracy theories of global warming deniers’. He could fill it with their references to Lysenko, Bilderberg, the One World Government, gold bugs, HAARP and other delusions.

    Contrary to the claims of the Australian Inquisition (Carter, Plimer, Bolt and Jones fashioning themselves on the Roman Inquisition) – all the empirical evidence points to them denying empirical evidence.

    Human beings are a weird mob!

  10. mark says:

    I just discovered this blog after yesterday’s Age report sparked my concern about anti-Semitic nonsense infecting public discussion of climate science – and that got me googling. Fantastic blog, and I’m stoked that you’re going to highlight the conspiracy theories around the issue.

  11. Rick White says:

    Here is Rothschild´s approach to grabbing 30% of the Earth with the consent of our governments/central banks
    Andrew Hitchcock: “The History of the Money Changers”, 2006: In 1987, Edmund de Rothschild creates the World Conservation Bank which is designed to transfer debts from third world countries to this bank, and in return those countries would give land to this bank. The idea is for the IMF to create more and more SDR’s backed by nothing, in order for struggling nations to borrow them. These nations will then gradually come under the control of the IMF as they struggle to pay the interest, and have to borrow more and more. The IMF will then decide which nations can borrow more and which will starve. They can also use this as leverage to take state owned assets like utilities as payment against the debt until they eventually own the nation states.
    1988: The World Central Bank has three arms, the World Bank, the BIS and the IMF. 2000: How the World bank and the IMF took over Argentina, Tanzania and Bolivia. Terrible reading. The IMF is closely interwoven and here with Rothschild´s BIS Bank, and the BIS, IMF and the World Bank have a common external website.

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      I think I need a douple tinfoil hat.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        I’m tripling the lining on mine…

      • Rick White says:

        Maybe a lead after you have read this! “The ‘Black’ Pope: The Most Powerful Man In The World? Count Hans Kolvenbach-The Jesuit’s General”
        So, you thought you were pretty well informed by now about all of the main players on the ‘conspiracy’ playing field? You’ve maybe been hearing for years about (or bumped into on your own) the various elements of society who control our world from behind the scenes.You’ve gotten familiar with the role played by, for instance, the Khazarian Zionists (who invented the word ‘Jew’ to disguise their adopted heritage, as distinguished from the biblical Judeans), or the role played by the Banksters (banking gangsters) controlling the economies of the world, by the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, the Committee of 300 (the 17 wealthiest so-called ‘elite’ families)–the Rothschild’s in England and Rockefellers in America and Bronfman’s in Canada, and on and on, comprising the physical power structure of the New World Order puppets under the direction of darkly motivated, other-dimensional ‘master deceivers’ commonly known as Lucifer or Satan and their ‘fallen angel’ cohorts.
        http://www.whale.to/b/pope.html

        • uknowispeaksense says:

          It’s time for you to step away from the computer and get some fresh air….really.

  12. bexcobham says:

    I’ll probably get flamed for this, but surely we need to find out why a growing number of people are believing these conspiracy theories. Given the fact that climate change science is true, the science is clearly not at fault here, so there must be other factors at play. Perhaps it is fear of change? I don’t know, but I’d like to discuss idea this and see what other people think.

    I’m pretty turned off by science and statistics, as I have always been more of an artistic type, but I care a great deal about living a low impact life and I would like other people to care too. I want to find out how I can relate to people who deny cliamte change and try to change their minds. I have also wondered if people who aren’t of a scientific persuasion might just get defensive when bombarded with data. If so, how can we address this? Then there are people who just don’t care, but they are not exactly the same as flat out deniers (but are a very real problem).

    Hopefully this blog can give me some insight. Thanks.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Not at all, personally I think this is an important question and I’m hoping that this blog will make some small contribution to this understanding. Yes – we can look to the carbon lobby

      But we need to understand why the arguments of the sceptics/deniers have proven to be so seductive.

      Thanks for your comments – and please, this is a place for conversation. Post away on your thoughts!

      • bexcobham says:

        Thanks for your reply and sorry about the typos!

        I would like to run something by you that caused me to be branded a ‘denier’ although I don’t think I got my point across very well! I certainly didn’t intend to convey that.

        This is an Australian blog and I’m from the UK (so this is from the point of view of a UK citizen). I think that the class system is partially responsible for climate change denial with many people over here. There is a deep seated mistrust of politicians, leaders, scientists and so called experts. I think this leads to people seeking out alternative view points (conspiracies), although their mistrust is partially justified. The MP expenses scandal is just one example of corruption. Obviously that isn’t a conspiracy, but it can be wheeled out to ‘prove’ just how corrupt our government is.

        I brought up the fact that Prince Charles is an avid supporter of green issues such as climate change. However, he is also someone who is in a position of power without having actually done anything to achieve this. Many British people consider the Royal family to be outmoded and a bit of an embarrassment. Prince Charles will come out and tell people to do things like shower less often from time to time. In the UK we have elderly people dying of hypothermia in the winter because they genuinely can’t afford heating bills. This is quite socially unjust, so I think people react to this sort of thing, and it can trigger a mistrust in the establishment. It’s a bit like Marie Antoinette saying ‘Let them eat cake’. It’s bound to alienate some people and turn them off to green issues, or I would have thought so. In fact, I know so, because I have spoken to climate change sceptics/deniers that I’ve met and they cite reasons such as these.

        Apparently these observations make me a climate change denier, but I think we need to address these sort of issues before we can persuade people that climate change isn’t some sort of conspiracy. Sorry, but I do not have any solutions other than making society fairer and redistributing some of the wealth to vulnerable people. Perhaps then people would have more faith in the system in general.

        We all want clean water, a roof over our heads, good quality food, jobs, access to medicine, education and this gives me hope, because there is a common ground.

        I have never been to Oz, so I don’t know whether you have similar issues with class and people not trusting their leaders. Also, this wasn’t meant to turn into an essay. Sorry!

    • uknowispeaksense says:

      Hi Bex

      First a disclaimer that I am not a psychologist and am not pretending to be one and that what follows is just my personal opinion based on a number of textbooks I have read plus the words of a large number of former deniers I have spoken to.

      The reasons for denial are likely very numerous and different depending on loads of factors. The reason for denial can be determined by factors such as intellect, science literacy (or lack thereof), ideology, and personality. The first three are fairly straight forward.

      Science is complex thing. Understanding complex statistics, models and concepts requires a certain level of intelligence. If a person is lacking in this area, it is easier to latch onto concepts that they can understand. The denial mentality and its arguments are often overly simplistic (e.g It’s the sun, CO2 is plant food), lacking important details and so make an attractive allbeit subconscious option for some.

      Scientific illiteracy isn’t confined to unintelligent people. Many people with average or above average IQ’s are science illiterates. These people comfortable in their intellligence feel they are smart enough or even qualified enough to be able to make up their own minds about science. These are the ones where you are most likely to find the Dunning Kruger effect.

      Idealogues are…. well……they’re idealogues. As long as their political bent is what it is they will deny for the sake of denying. These people are the true idiots. They require a special level of wilful ignorance to maintain their position, no matter how untenable it is.

      Personality is by far the most interesting area when it comes to denial. It interweaves amongst the previous three. Deep down though I think there is a primal fear in all deniers and the base instinct of fight or flight in the presence of a threat. The sad thing is, they think they are fighting and will convince themselves that they are fighting, but in fact they are fighting the wrong enemy and fleeing from the truth deep down they know to be true but refuse to accept. Mix that wilful ignorance in with some of the worst of human traits like greed and false pride and you get climate change denial.

      • bexcobham says:

        Thanks for your interesting reply, being into conspiracy theories is certainly indicative of a paranoid personality. The thing that also concerns me about conspiracy theories is that there are so many serious things going on in the world. A friend of mine is from Cameroon, and women there were given drugs that were rejected in the developed world because they caused birth defects, but they were given to pregnant women in Cameroon. Now, that’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s just a sad fact. But conspiracy theories actually make a mockery of issues such as this, because they all gets tarred with the same brush.

        There are plenty of things that are worthy of people’s attention, but Nasa faking the Moon landings, shape shifting lizards and the Illuminati are more exciting it would seem.

        I think most conspiracy theorists are anti-establishment and it’s a pity that they can’t channel that disdain of ‘the powers that be’ into causes that are more worthwhile, such as boycotting international companies that are unethical, campaigning to end the bombing of Afghanistan, or even petitioning the government to actually meet their carbon emission targets!

  13. senseaudio says:

    The only conspiracy in 2012 , is to blindly deny what is happening.

  14. Trivial headline typo alert, “deneirs” – unless I’ve just missed teh in joke.🙂

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