Category Archives: Galileo

Toxic legacies: Malcolm Roberts, his CSIROh! report and the anti-Semitic roots of the “international bankers” conspiracy theory


Conspiracy theories for sceptics?

According to parts of the climate sceptic movement, the world is not as it seems.

The CSIRO is a tool of international bankers, who over the past century have also orchestrated every major financial boom and bust since 1913. The United Nations was created at the urging of international bankers, who are using it as a vehicle to usher in a New World Order.

The Rockefeller and Rothschild families have been working behind the scenes for centuries manipulating events. These same banking families instigated both the First and Second World War in order to profit from the chaos. Every Australian Prime Minister of the post-War period – except John Howard – was a Fabian-socialist-Manchurian candidate.

Or so claims Malcolm Roberts, project manager for the Alan Jones sponsored Galileo Movement .

In early February Roberts published a report titled CSIROh! Climate of deception? Or first step to freedom? (CSIROh!). I would point readers to Graham Readfearn’s brilliant post detailing Robert’s activities and his strange exchange with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ben Cubby.

CSIROh! is only 25 pages in length, however it is accompanied by 30 frenzied, barely comprehensible and obsessively detailed appendices.

Roberts has distributed electronic and hard copies of his report to politicians, journalists and scientists across Australia. Those lucky enough to receive the fruits of Robert’s research include David Karoly, Tim Flannery and Ross Garnaut. Many prominent members of the media have also received his report: Andrew Bolt was on the distribution list, as well as many ABC and Fairfax journalists.

The patron of the Galileo Movement Alan Jones also received CSIROh! Indeed, in an email dated 8 February 2013 Jones thanked Roberts for his report, calling him a “magnificent” worker. We know this because Roberts published the email from Jones on his website.

What is going on here?

Background: the perceived antisemitism of Roberts conspiracy theories

For those readers not familiar with Roberts, he is the project manager for the climate sceptic group the Galileo Movement. The mission of the Galileo Movement is to see the “carbon tax” repealed and to cast doubt on the science of climate change.

Last year in an interview with Sydney Morning Journalist Ben Cubby Roberts claimed a cabal of international bankers were behind the climate change “scam”. This revelation ultimately lead to conservative columnist Andrew Bolt repudiating both Roberts and the Galileo Movement due to the implied whiff of antisemitism of his claims.

Since then Roberts has clearly been smarting, and in CSIROh! he attempts to set the record straight and vindicate his claims.

However, CSIROh! is not an ordinary report. In it Roberts creates an alternative history of the world, in which the Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s have been working behind the scenes to wreck and profit from financial chaos, incite major wars and build the foundations of a tyrannical world government.

The international bankers conspiracy to control the world

Most of CSIROh! and its supporting documents contain the usual dross generated by the climate sceptic movement: CO2 is not a pollutant, the globe stopped warming etc. There is little need to review these claims as they are easily debunked.

But it is not his attacks on the science we should be concerned about: it is the motivations he ascribes to the dark satanic forces allegedly behind the entire “scam”.

The most telling document is Appendix No. 14 titled Why? Motives driving the climatefraud (Why?). In it Roberts makes the following claim:

The UN’s forty-year campaign fabricating climate fraud used strategies and tactics proven 100 years ago. They’re similar to those used by international bankers in their thirty-year campaign from the 1880’s to gain control of the USA’s money supply, finances and economy. Their campaign succeeded in forming the USA’s Federal Reserve Bank in 1913.”

In this document Robert sketches out the links between the CSIRO, international bankers, the IPCC and every government, financial and non-government organisation (NGO) in existence today:

Such power is extended through the bankers’ global creations including the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Through these the European-American banking alliance controls global finances. The alliance’s global organisations dictate to other nations outside America and Europe, including Australia. (Why? pg.13)

This is conspiracy theorizing on an epic scale. Indeed, Roberts rewrites the entire history of the world since the late 19th century. Presidents and Prime Ministers have either colluded or been manipulated by the international bankers:

Both Woodrow Wilson and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt benefitted from support from this cabal of narrow financial and political interests. Woodrow Wilson later regretted his reliance on their favours and entrapment into doing their bidding under their control.” (Why? pg.14)

According to Roberts the international bankers have manipulated every financial boom and bust since 1913:

With this tight and complete control over national economies the international bankers have used their power to create every boom and every bust since 1913. They have wreaked havoc and misery on millions and now billions of people. In every boom and every bust they have profited enormously. They do so at the expense of the people.” (Why? pg.15)

Roberts also taps into problematic tropes about Jewish banking families:

“…as a result of deceit over many years involving secret meetings led by prominent German bankers colluding with the influential Texan Colonel Edward Mandel House, congress delegated it to a group who they did not fully understand: a group of European and American bankers. The alliance featured Germany’s Warburgs and London’s Rothschild’s. Passage through congress of The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was achieved when many congressmen were absent prior to their Christmas break. The President at the time was Woodrow Wilson who owed bankers a favour for funding his 1912 electioncampaign.” (Why? pg.16)

Ah yes, the Rothschild’s.

Not content with taking over the globe via financial means, Roberts claims the Rothschild family and other international banking families have corrupted the American education system in order to create a subservient class of serfs – or sheeple in conspiracy language:

In The Underground History of American Education (2000), educator John Taylor Gatto traces how Rockefeller, Morgan and other members of the financial elite influenced, guided, funded, and at times forced compulsory schooling into mainstream America. They needed three things for their corporate interests to thrive: (1) compliant employees, (2) a guaranteed and dependent population, and (3) a predictable business environment. It was largely to promote these ends, says Gatto, that modern compulsory schooling was established.” (Why? pg.17)

Roberts also recycles some of the most shameful myths of the last century, that international bankers were behind the world wars and profited from them:

Increasingly investigators and historians are discovering that international bankers played a major and highly destructive role in initiating and benefitting from wars, genocide and devastation in the twentieth century. The century was mankind’s bloodiest with more deaths than in all preceding centuries.International bankers own major armament manufacturers and made fat profits financing both sides in World War 1 and again in World War 2.” (Why? pg.54)

The same bankers are also behind communism:

As Anthony Sutton, Gary Allen, Ellen Brown and others have revealed, international bankers funded, enabled and drove communism.” (Why? pg.58)

Putting aside the absurdity of his claims, Roberts has done us all an enormous favour by citing his references. At the very least it gives us the opportunity to evaluate his claims based upon the evidence he presents.

Indeed, reading through Roberts turgid conspiracy theory is beneficial as he cites the texts, articles and YouTube videos that inform his world view.

And what a read it is. Roberts synthesizes nearly every conspiracy theory and canonical text of conspiracy culture from the last 100 years. No conspiracy stone is left unturned by Roberts in his monomaniacal pursuit of “the truth” – or at least, his version of it.

Most disturbingly he uses one most notorious antisemitic texts of the 20th century to buttress his arguments.

Roberts and The Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins

Roberts has repeatedly claimed he is not antisemitic – we should accept his claim on face value. Thus I do not claim Roberts is anti-Semitic.

However, throughout Why? Motives driving the climate fraud Roberts quotes The Secrets of the Federal Reserve by Eustace Mullins as an important source that underpins his arguments:

The cabal of international bankers wield massive financial power across industries internationally. They control all three American TV networks through direct ownership and/or through cross-directorships. They own the major and most influential American newspapers. They own many of America’s major corporations and control others through cross-directorships. Please refer to references by Gary Allen and Eustace Mullins above and to the book entitled The True Story of the Bilderberg Group by Canadian investigative reporter Daniel Estulin.” (Why? pg.16)

Next to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Secrets of the Federal Reserve is one of the most notorious antisemitic texts of the twentieth century.

More than likely Roberts has weaved together a vast array of conspiracy literature, real world facts and the hackneyed plots of B-grade thrillers and fused them into CSIROh! and its 30 appendices.

This is how conspiracy theorists work – they are completely indiscriminate in their use of materials, often ignorant of their historical context of sources.

Roberts may not be a bigot, but he is clearly a fool when it comes to basic historical research and evaluating source materials. It is why he is unable to correctly read the intent of tone of works such as The Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Indeed, Roberts appears completely tone-deaf to the blatant antisemitism of Mullins work – who by the way was completely open about his prejudices.

This explains why Andrew Bolt ran a mile from the likes of Roberts and the Galileo Movement: Bolt may be a dunce on the science, but he is not an idiot.

However, as stated context is important. Thus, what follows is an examination of the historical context of the claims of Roberts and the sources he draws upon.

Toxic legacy: international bankers and antisemitic roots of the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory

As I noted last year, the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory originated in the early to mid-twentieth century. Indeed, I speculated that the likes of Roberts were drawing upon texts such as Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Roberts confirms my initial hypothesis.

Until 1945 such claims were the staple of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. After the Second World War and the Holocaust such overt antisemitism was impossible due to its association with the barbaric crimes of the Third Reich. Later incarnations of the Federal Reserve conspiracy theory have shed their overtly antisemitic overtones, however to this day it remains popular among the extreme right and conspiracy crowd.

The earliest manifestations of this claim first surfaced in early 1920′s in the writings of Henry Ford. Ford – yes the Ford of Model T fame – was notorious for his antisemitism, publishing his rants and material from Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the weekly newspaper he owned, The Dearborn Independent.

In 1921 Ford published an article titled Jewish Idea Molded Federal Reserve System in which he claimed:

The Federal Reserve System is a system of private banks, the creation of a banking aristocracy within an already existing autocracy, whereby a great proportion of banking independence was lost, and whereby it was made possible for speculative financiers to centralize great sums of money for their own purposes, beneficial or not.” (Henry Ford, The International Jew, pg. 361)

And that:

Certainly enough has transpired to render it desirable that the American people look again into the purposes of those Jews who were instrumental in reorganizing our financial system at a most critical time in the world’s history.” (Henry Ford, The International Jew, pg. 371)

As prominent conspiracy scholars Chip Berlet and Mathew Lyons note in their work Right-wing populism in America: too close for comfort, this theory was prevalent in the 1930s:

The overt British-Jewish conspiracy theory continues to be pursued in many publications, based primarily on tracts “written by British fascists in the 1930s, according to Denis King… The most energetic purveyor of this theme is Eustace Mullins, the antisemitic author of the 1952 book Mullins on the Federal Reserve and the 1954 book The Federal Reserve conspiracy. Mullins writes in two styles, one ostensibly focusing on banking practices, the other expressing open and vicious antisemitism.” (Berlet & Lyons, Right-wing populism in America pg. 195)

Mullins took the conspiracy ball and ran with it: to this day his work remains influential.

Old wine in a new bottle: repackaging old conspiracy theories

Move forward to the early 1950s, and the immediate post-War period.

The Cold War is heating up, while McCarthyism and “Reds-under-the-bed” paranoia is gripping large sections of the American public and political elite.

The genesis of contemporary conspiracy culture took place in the period between 1950-1960. Conspiracy theorists not only feared communists, but the United Nations as a precursor of a coming one world government. Many of the motifs used in conspiracy culture today were germinated in this intense period of Cold-War conflict and paranoia, including ideas about the New World Order, banking conspiracies, secretive Communist plots and that the US Government itself had been infiltrated and held captive by demonic forces.

During this period conspiracy theorists started to examine the works of Ford and other conspiracy theorists of the pre-War period and re-purpose their theories. In order to make them more palatable to a post-War audience they shed the overt references to Jews and replaced them with references to international bankers.

Into this intense political environment comes Library of Congress researcher, one time helper of Senator Joseph McCarthy and anti-Semite Eustace Mullins.

[Note: For further background see this 2012 WtD post on some of the materials being created in the 1950s and 1960s by conspiracy theorists.]

Mullins and the Federal Reserve

Mullins, born in Virginia in 1899, served in the armed forces during the Second World War and obtained a number of college degrees. In 1950 he became a researcher at the Library of Congress and worked with Senator Joseph McCarthy in investigating the sources of funding for the Communist Party.

Prior to this Mullins became intrigued with and befriended the poet Ezra Pound. Pound is one of the great poets of the twentieth century, but he was also an anti-Semite and turned to fascism during the 1920s.

In 1924 Pound decamped to Italy and became infatuated with fascism and Mussolini’s regime. During the war Pound broadcast on Rome Radio in support of the Axis war effort. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the war in 1945 Pound was arrested for treason by the US government.

In 1949 (seriously, are you following this?) Mullins decides to visit Pound in an insane asylum where the latter is being incarcerated and they strike up a friendship. Pound then sets Mullins off to research the Federal Reserve. Mullins details the event himself;

In 1949, while I was visiting Ezra Pound who was a political prisoner at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. (a Federal institution for the insane), Dr. Pound asked me if I had ever heard of the Federal Reserve System. I replied that I had not, as of the age of 25. He then showed me a ten-dollar bill marked “Federal Reserve Note” and asked me if I would do some research at the Library of Congress on the Federal Reserve System which had issued this bill. Pound was unable to go to the Library himself, as he was being held without trial as a political prisoner by the United States government. After he was denied broadcasting time in the U.S., Dr. Pound broadcast from Italy in an effort to persuade people of the United States not to enter World War II. Franklin D. Roosevelt had personally ordered Pound’s indictment.” (Mullins, Secrets of the Federal Reserve)

Mullins tootles off to research the Fed and Pound’s claims, and voila, in 1952 produces the book that becomes Secrets of the Federal Reserve. As Wikipedia explains:

Like Pound, he had sympathy for Fascism, because of its apparent anti-Usury and anti-Communist measures, though he later withdrew that sympathy, as he came to believe that without the Nazis, Zionism would never have been a powerful force, and that the Nazis were puppets of Jewish bankers, specifically Max Warburg, who he claimed financed them to build up the Nazi war machine, as well as the leaders of the J. Henry Schroeder Bank, who were facilitated by the Dulles brothers, and that Nazi opposition to these bankers, insofar as it went beyond rhetoric, occurred only well after they had ascended to power. In his book Secrets of the Federal Reserve, he also claimed that World War One was contrived and managed by a triumvirate consisting of Paul Warburg, Bernard Baruch, Eugene Meyer, and to a lesser extent, the leaders of Morgan banks, in the United States, and men like Max Warburg in Germany, so that they might increase their profit and power.” (Wikipedia)

Secrets of the Federal Reserve is riddled with anti-Semitic claims and freely borrows from the work of Henry Ford (the full text of it can be seen here) and other pre-War anti-Semitic literature.

Mullins text is freely floating around the internet, a favorite of conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, neo-Fascists and the like. It is worth noting that Mullins also denied the Holocaust, and stated America owed Hitler a favor for instigating the Nazi “war” on Jews:

America will never forget that the Jewish International bankers, together with Franklin D.Roosevelt, their tool, led us into World War II. Why? Because Hitler drove the economic leeches of the Rothschild and Warburg families out of Germany. The Jewish “refugees”poured into America and enlisted us as cannon fodder and errand boys in Europe. Hitler warned America in 1945, that we would have to face the ultimate battle against the Jewish Frankenstein Monster of Communism alone. America had helped created the monster, now it would destroy her…” (Mullins, Hitler an appreciation)

This brings us back to today – and the conspiracy theories of Roberts in CSIROh! His work is peppered with the same claims about the Warburg and Rothschild families working behind the scenes:

Yet as a result of deceit over many years involving secret meetings led by prominent German bankers colluding with the influential Texan Colonel Edward Mandel House, congress delegated it to a group who they did not fully understand: a group of European and American bankers. The alliance featured Germany’s Warburgs and London’s Rothschilds. Passage through congress of The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was achieved when many congressmen were absent prior to their Christmas break. The President at the time was Woodrow Wilson who owed bankers a favour for funding his 1912 election campaign. (Why? pg.16)”

Roberts absorbs and retells the conspiracy narrative of Mullins.

Roberts other influences: Gary Allen and the New World Order

Simular claims can also be found in the work of conspiracy theorist Gary Allen (None dare call it conspiracy, 1971), another author Roberts approvingly cites.

Allen, an American conspiracy theorist, was a prolific writer producing many books and articles between the late 1960s and 1980s. Allen specialised on writing about the plans of the “global elite” and that hoary old favorite of contemporary conspiracy theorists, the Bilderberg Group.

Unlike Mullins, the writing of Allen is not normally classified as anti-Semitic. J. Byford and Michael Billig in 2001 paper titled The emergence of antisemitic conspiracy theories in Yugoslavia during the war with NATO(Patterns of prejudice, 2006) note:

A distinction can be made between the conspiracy theories of Gary Allen or Avramov, that concentrate on organizations such as the Bilderberg Group, and more mystical, quasi-religious theories, such as those being propounded in Yugoslavia by Đurđević. The former have a more ‘reasonable’ appearance: they cite existing organizations as the hub of the world conspiracy. They do not necessarily see these organizations as ciphers for the hidden esoteric workings of Jews, Freemasons or the Illuminati. Most crucially, Gary Allen and others have not identified an ethnic group as being in control of organizations like the Bilderberg Group. (Byford & Billig pg. 312)

However they do note troubling and problematical nature of Allen’s writings:

However, on closer examination, the differentiation between nonantisemitic,‘reasonable’ conspiracy theories and antisemitic theories is not hard and fast, especially as the ‘reasonable’ writer attempts to understand the present political situation in terms of a longer history of conspiracies. To do this, that writer often draws on earlier theories, including those belonging to the antisemitic tradition….” (Byford & Billig pg. 312-313)

Byford & Billig are writing about the emergence of anti-Semitic theories during the NATO conflict with Serbia, when extreme Serbian nationalists drew upon older conspiracy narratives in their attempts to make sense of the conflict. Some did so unwittingly, while others were more explicit in their anti-Semitism.

This point is worth emphasising: in times of crisis, conspiracy theories flourish. Again and again, we see the same pattern.

Roberts has committed the former sin: driven by a conspiracy world view and ignorant of historical methodologies when it comes to using sources, Roberts unwittingly draws upon the most toxic legacies of conspiracy culture.

This is par for the course for all conspiracy theorists: no matter how toxic or stigmatized their original sources are, they will find a way to weave them into the alternative reality they create.

Fusion paranoia: pseudo-history, climate scepticism and the failure to evaluate sources

Roberts has stepped outside climate scepticism and into the realm of pseudo-history in constructing an alternative narrative of world events since the late 1800s. He unwittingly draws upon narratives and materials associated with the world view found within anti-Semitic literature.

In the world constructed by Roberts, historical events are tied together to prove the carbon tax is not a tool designed to reduce the amount of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, but one of the cudgels wielded by a global cabal wishing to usher in a world government.

Roberts failure is common to all pseudo-historians and conspiracy theorists: he fails to understand source materials and their context. Even to the most casual reader, the Mullins text is a deeply paranoid piece of crack-pottery.

Like its source materials, CSIROh! is a muddled and paranoid re-imagining of world history. However Roberts takes old myths and filters them through climate scepticism.

Today’s conspiracy theorists fuse contemporary paranoia with myths and older conspiracy theories in an attempt to explain the world. Sometimes they know what they are doing, dropping in coded references to “international bankers” as dog-whistle racism for the knowing.

More often than not, conspiracy theorists look back to the previous ideas within conspiracy culture and fuse them with their own interpretation of world events.

Roberts takes preexisting conspiracies and weaves them together with climate scepticism. It is a textbook example of what scholars of conspiracy culture call fusion paranoia.

Times of crisis, toxic legacies and pathways to hate: why I’m not laughing

Sceptics will see this as merely another attempt to besmirch their good name. Thus I stress I do not equate climate scepticism with antisemitism or holocaust denial. However, I would argue that much of the climate sceptic narrative is framed in terms of conspiracy.

Many will see this as an opportunity to laugh at Roberts expense. But honestly, I’m not laughing.

What terrifies me is the new life given to some of the worst ideological excesses of the last century. Roberts and his patron Alan Jones are helping – inadvertently or not – to inject the ugly intellectual baggage of the twentieth century into contemporary politics.

Conspiracy theories are toxic to democracy: they are not merely the product of the fringe. They distort public debate, and even worse lead to the scapegoating of individuals and groups.

They can also act as pathways to hate: by demonizing one group within society (scientists, environmentalists and international bankers) it makes it permissible and acceptable to hate others.

In times of crisis – war, economic downturns and massive societal changes – conspiracy theories flourish. That we are seeing an upsurge in conspiracy theories in relation to climate change and mitigation policies is to be expected: climate change is a time of crisis.

Hence, we should expect the flourishing of conspiracy theories as equal, if not more, lurid as those propagated by Roberts.

What I fear in coming years is the rise of a vicious form of right-wing populism, with demagogues riding a tide of conspiracies and hatred to positions of power. Our public debates are toxic enough when it comes to refugees and marriage equality. The climate debate is equally toxic, if not more so.

The work of Roberts falls squarely in the tradition of both conspiracy culture and right-wing populism: for this reason I’m neither laughing nor dismissive.

CSIROh! is gaining an audience and is bound to become the accepted truth by numerous individuals. It will be picked up and promoted in areas of our culture most politicians, journalists and academics never see. The criticism Roberts receives will only drive him to greater efforts to promote his theory and reinforce his belief about a grand conspiracy: this is the pattern of all conspiracy theorists.

Without doubt, his words will flourish in the dark corners of the internet. Don’t believe me? Then look at how CSIROh! is already being embraced by the conspiracy community of Australia here, here and here. Or perhaps this glowing review of CSIROh! by the Climate Sceptics Party?

How did the climate debate come to this?

We like to imagine that our society is the product of the Enlightenment. Because our society is so dependent upon science, we hold fast to a naive faith that reason will prevail over ignorance and the old primitive hatreds.

And yet we stare in transfixed horror and disbelief at the coming storm. We watch aghast, or avert our eyes, in a state of disbelief as this familiar beast, its hour come again, slouches once more towards Bethlehem.

The sleep of reason produces monsters; it opens the gates for old hatreds. 

Here – here is the genesis of future monsters.

Tagged , ,

ToD: If Galileo was alive today, would he blog his results on WUWT?

… or publish them in the peer review literature? Just saying.

(Thought of the day: ToD)

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.

The blog post where I dismiss climate science

I’ll admit I was very inspired by this very amusing post over at Genomicron and this brilliant piece over at the Guardian. In short, here is my guide to writing a blog post denying climate change.

In this paragraph I’ll attempt to appear a sincere seeker of truth

In this paragraph I’ll explain some of the basics of climate science, but with extensive use of “scare quotes”. It will be a highly distorted version of the science: the “big picture” may be correct, but wrong on more detailed aspects.

I’ll note that for years I’d accepted the mainstream consensus on climate change, however out of sheer intellectual curiosity I decided to look into the issue myself.

Fortunately, my background in engineering/economics/physics or some other non-climate science related profession that requires maths has given me an understanding of the scientific method.

This how I establish myself as an authority.

At this point I will make reference to my intellectual journey, which in most instances involves extensive Google searching. I’ll note that after several days of trawling the Internet I was amazed to find blogs and web sites offering alternative views on climate change.

My use of search terms such as “climate change and fraud” will prompt Google to produce only the most authoritative materials. I will then muse why such information is not more accessible to the general public.

Here I will take down the IPCC in a paragraph

At this point I’ll take cherry pick quotes from the IPCC report and/or actual scientific research:

[Cut and paste text here…]

In this paragraph I’ll feign mock surprise that the claims in the quote appear to be exaggerated, as my own careful reading of blogs offering alternative explanations cast doubt on the claims of “experts” (natch, more scare quotes of course).

This is probably the appropriate time to make reference to the work of Steve McIntyre, a retired physicist or professor of geology. I might choose to include an image showing the famous “Hockey stick” and question it’s reliability. I’ll describe it as “broken”, without understanding what that means. However, it is an effective meme, and it’s stuck in my brain.

I’ll then post a link to Watts up with That? post that tears down climatologist (boo hiss!) Michael Mann and his stick (Ha ha! Did you see my pun!), pointing readers to bloggers more qualified to dismiss the science.

This is how I help repeat the same discredited claims.

This title indicates my distrust of “science”

Here it is appropriate to mention the “liberated” Climategate emails as proof that the workings of science have been corrupted. I’ll quote some very selective parts of said emails:

[Oh look scientists said nasty thing…]

I’ll feign surprise that scientists could act so un-professionally.

I’ll then move on to discuss how the “peer review process” is now “totally corrupt”. I’ll talk about the government funding of science, and allude to the fact that research funded by governments must be tainted.

Sometimes I’ll resort to Latin phrases. Ipso Facto sounds good. As does Caveat Emptor. I heard a very prominent sceptic uses Latin, therefore my post will sound much more authoritative.

I’ll dismiss the notion of scientific consensus as a kind of popularity contest.

I will make exaggerated claims about the stifling of alternative views: that scientists questioning this new “orthodoxy” have been shunned, picked on and called nasty names. Over 1 BILLION [cough] scientists [cough] have signed the Oregon Petition, stating they do not believe the planet is warming! What further proof do you need!?!?

I’ll throw in the line “They laughed at Galileo!” – but never “They laughed at Darwin!”, because that would betray my genuine doubts about evolutionary theory.

Here I will talk about Nazis, because it always about Nazis!

It is now at this point I usually descend into complete and utter paranoia, claiming the IPCC is the tool of socialists, lizard people and shadowy cabals. I’ll resort to Godwin’s Law and compare scientists with Nazis.

Or communists.

Or Nazis.

Or maybe both.

Clearly both were bad, so scientists must be equally bad.

Or I could term scientists eco-fascists, eco-terrorists or warmists.

By now I’ve worked myself into a rage, demanding that scientists be charged with FRAUD!

I will resort to even more UPPER CASE!

People such as myself – angry, white males feeling threatened by a loss of status – ARE ANGRY AND NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS LYING DOWN!

Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun understands my rage, he writes articles carefully constructed to provoke my sense of grievance and entitlement.


Here I just MAKE STUFF UP because I’M SO ANGRY!

My conclusion will be an appeal to personal liberty, god and small government

I’ll note the age of the Earth – except of course if I’m a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) – and that the climate has always changed.

However if I am a YEC, I’ll note it is presumptuous to claim humanity has any control over the climate. After all it is THE LORD who RULES THE HEAVENS:

[Appropriate Bible quote here…]

But then I might tone down the crazy creationist talk, as drawing attention to my support for other forms of denial might undermine my credibility.

My post will then end with an impassioned defense of liberty and how global warming is really a scam designed to raise taxes and limit your/our freedom.

I’ll end my post with a question.

Shouldn’t we just hope for the best and do nothing?

Dear “Google” Galileo: five reasons we know why you are not a scientific genius

“I’m feeling lucky” Google results are often the best

Google Galileo: an individual whose knowledge of a scientific discipline is restricted to information sourced from Google, Wikipedia or other online sources (i.e. blogs). Within a period of a few weeks/months they feel confident to not only dismiss an entire discipline of science, but have gained the ability to “practice science” by commenting on online forums and constructing alternative theories using raw data obtained freely from public sources.

When confronted with evidence or arguments that contradict their position, they retreated into the “Galileo was persecuted for his beliefs!” defence, imagining the gales of laughter emanating from the scientific community is a form of persecution.

The online world is awash with hundreds of thousands of individuals, who despite lacking training or experience in a highly technical areas, feel they can confidently dismiss entire disciplines of science after a few weeks of searching Google and consulting a few blogs.

Yes, blame Google. And the Internet.

This is the “dark side” of the information revolution.

Before anyone rushes to accuse of me of attacking the very medium this blog is a product of, I’d like to stress that the Internet has been a wonderful tool for disseminating knowledge. However I think we can all agree it is also conduit for all kinds of misinformation.

Climate change denial is the example par excellence, as it is a movement built on half-truths and fabrications. However the denial movement would not be quite as effective and powerful without blogs such as “What’s up with that”, “Climate Depot” and the websites of think tanks behind climate change denial.

The same is true of creationism, HIV-AIDs denial, 9/11 Truthers and the anti-vaccination movement. They thrive and grow thanks to their online presence, trapping individuals with their “counter knowledge“, sucking them into the vortex of denial and pseudo-science.

Entering and graduating from Google University

“Google U” has many esteemed graduates.

Perhaps one of the more most famous example is Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy Bunny, actress and self-proclaimed autism expert.

She has been one of the main proponents of the anti-vaccine movement, giving it a higher profile due to her celebrity status (C-List as it is). Her son has autism, and she blames MMR/vaccines. How did she arrive at this conclusion?

When her son started to display signs of autism, she Googled it:

…that night [she]went on Google and typed in “autism.” And on the corner of the screen, in the sponsored links, it said, “Generation Rescue.” And I decided to click on it, because right underneath it, it said, “Autism is reversible.” And I thought to myself, well, this must be a load of crap, because if it was true, why didn’t the best neurologist in the world tell me there’s something I could do to reverse autism?

The tragedy is the McCarthy was lead down the “rabbit hole” of denial because she lacked the critical thinking skills and knowledge to dismiss the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. But just as importantly she wanted to believe it.

This form of denial is easy to understand. Her son has a condition that can be challenging for a parent to come to grips with.

Something was “wrong” with her son. “Someone” must be to “blame”. Age of Autism promised it was “reversible”. Probability and genetics be damned, it’s the fault manufacturers of vaccines. And she could “fix it”.

However in order to support her beliefs, McCarthy must wave away evidence based medicine and maintain there is a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth in order to protect the interests of drug manufacturers.

Sound familiar?

Fragile thinking leads to denial

Of course it does: it is how denial is manufactured and maintained by the individual. But challenging the beliefs of someone like McCarthy only hardens their resolve. The same is true of climate change deniers.

They can’t belive AGW is real, because it clashes with their values and beliefs (i.e. unlimited economic growth, government is corrupt). As a consequence they have to disprove the science via a fantasy of a global conspiracy amongst scientists in collusion with governments and green groups.

The recent New Scientist special on the “Age of Denial” has a series of very good essays, including one the psychology of denial. It explains how the “fragility” of some people’s thinking lead them to go down this intellectual path:

[Seth] Kalichman, [social psychologist] however, feels that everyday reasoning alone is not enough to make someone a denialist. “There is some fragility in their thinking that draws them to believe people who are easily exposed as frauds,” he says. “Most of us don’t believe what they say, even if we want to. Understanding why some do may help us find solutions.”

He believes the instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. “They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder”, he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. “Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory.”

Neither the ringleaders nor rank-and-file denialists are lying in the conventional sense, Kalichman says: they are trapped in what classic studies of neurosis call “suspicious thinking”. “The cognitive style of the denialist represents a warped sense of reality, which is why arguing with them gets you nowhere,” he says. “All people fit the world into their own sense of reality, but the suspicious person distorts reality with uncommon rigidity.”

In addition to this is the belief that they are “the modern Galileo”, someone whose beliefs challenge the mainstream and will be ultimately vindicated. The sad truth, it’s just fallacious thinking. As noted sceptic Michael Shermer notes:

For every Galileo shown the instruments of torture for advocating scientific truth, there are a thousand (or ten thousand) unknowns whose ‘truths’ never pass scientific muster with other scientists. The scientific community cannot be expected to test every fantastic claim that comes along, especially when so many are logically inconsistent.

It’s often referred to as the “Galileo gambit”, or “Galileo Fallacy“:

The Galileo gambit, or Galileo fallacy, is the idea that if you are widely vilified for your ideas, you must therefore be right. It refers to Galileo Galilei’s famous persecution at the hands of the Catholic church for his defence of heliocentrism in the face of the orthodox Biblical literalism of the day that insisted otherwise. Users will bring it up repeatedly in response to serious criticisms that – more often than not – they just don’t understand.

Again and again from climate change deniers, creationists and other denial movements the chant “Galileo was laughed at and he was right!”

There have been tens of thousands of would be Galileo’s. The reason their names are forgotten is that their theories could never past muster.

Five reasons why “you” are not the modern Galileo

These would be Galileo’s seem to amass a wealth of “facts” about climate science, geology and physics. With their impressive array of factoids, they bludgeon public discussion in online forums and dinner party conversations with seemingly inexhaustible (and exhausting) depth of knowledge of obscure talking points and tidbits.

“They grew grapes in Britain during the Roman occupation, so it was actually hotter than it is today. The climate has always changed…”

But these are meaningless facts.

They have nothing to do climate science. They are facts strung together into a complex, almost impenetrable web of denial. This is a generation of “Google Galileo’s”. Men and woman who’ve “looked into” climate change and found the science “wanting” in their estimation. Their sources of information? Bloggers, conspiracy theorists and “sceptical” journalists. This is as far removed from actual science as you can actually get.

There are five common traits of these “wannabe” Galileo’s (and the signs you should look for when you encounter one) :

  1. You lack relevant qualifications or expertise in a highly technical discipline – most would be “Google Galileo’s” (99.99%) lack qualifications in climate science. They may have impressive qualifications in other fields (engineering, finance, economics) but the truth is they lack the decades of training in the field. Just as nobody can become an overcome expert in neurosurgery from reading Wikipedia, so you can’t “Google” the web and become an overnight expert on a highly complex area of science.
  2. Your references are restricted to blogs and Wikipedia (and cherry picked from freely available scientific papers) – most Google Galileo’s can’t make a distinction between genuine scientific research and a post from the well-known denial blog “Watt’s up with that?”. As far as they are concerned, information that supports their argument is valid. Information that contradicts is – by definition – suspect and tainted by its association with actual scientists.
  3. You think downloading raw data sets and running them through Excel constitutes “science” – this is perhaps the most tragic, and fruitless, exercise committed by the more committed Google Galileo’s. There are literally hundreds of blogs out there in which their authors have downloaded data from NASA’s Goddard Centre or Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and run it through Excel. Of course they find “stunning errors” and evidence of “tricks”. They are hunting for anomalies (another logical fallacy). Having enormous gaps in your understanding of the science ensures your results are flawed.
  4. You repeatedly state “They laughed at Galileo didn’t they! – the fallacy of association is the most common one made by these would be geniuses. The gales of laughter and derision of society have less to with their failure to appreciate their special insights than just how poorly conceived the sceptics version of “science” is.
  5. You gravitate towards online communities who welcome your wild (and incorrect) speculations – the Internet is wonderful for finding like-minded individuals. However it means individuals often close themselves off in a world where no facts or contradictory information can reach them. Thus, a person whose only understanding of climate science comes from reading Andrew Bolt and a few other blogs will receive a highly distorted view of the science. Just as likely, their interactions will be mostly confined to individuals with a similar world view. This is epistemic closure: the quarantine of communities in hermetically sealed “information bubbles’.

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