Category Archives: Glenn Beck

Conspiracism and climate scepticism: empirical research confrims what we all know (and some predictions)

[Hat tip Planet 3.0]

In a fascinating paper, researchers led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, surveyed the views of over a 1000 climate bloggers on their political views and acceptance or rejection of a cluster of conspiracy theories.

In what comes as no surprise to me the is a strong correlation between those that reject climate science and accept a variety of conspiracy theories (heck,  I have a page dedicated to the topic that is fast growing):

The study Motivated Rejection of Science, to be published in Psychological Science, was designed to investigate what motivates the rejection of science in visitors to climate blogs who choose to participate in the ongoing public debate about climate change.

More than 1000 visitors to blogs dedicated to discussions of climate science completed a questionnaire that queried people’s belief in a number of scientific questions and conspiracy theories, including: Princess Diana’s death was not an accident; the Apollo moon landings never happened; HIV causes AIDS; and smoking causes lung cancer. The study also considered the interplay of these responses with the acceptance of climate science, free market ideology and the belief that previous environmental problems have been resolved.

The results showed that those who subscribed to one or more conspiracy theories or who strongly supported a free market economy were more likely to reject the findings from climate science as well as other sciences.

The researchers, led by UWA School of Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, found that free-market ideology was an overwhelmingly strong determinant of the rejection of climate science. It also predicted the rejection of the link between tobacco and lung cancer and between HIV and AIDS. Conspiratorial thinking was a lesser but still significant determinant of the rejection of all scientific propositions examined, from climate to lung cancer.

And now WtD predicts (high confidence) the following reactions amongst the denial blog-o-sphere:

  • Predictions 1: expect the usual collection of climate sceptics to claim they’re not conspiracy theorists, and that scientists are involved in an orchestrated campaign to exclude them from the debate and smear their good names – because such reasoning is not conspiracy making. Nooooo… not at all. Everything is connected, nothing is as it seems…
  • Prediction 2: the sceptics and deniers will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments and refute it with their own amateur analysis – just like climate science
  • Prediction 3: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic, calling the research “witchcraft” or some such nonsense and a form of ad hominem attack.

I’m reading the paper and will comment and share my own views on the topic of conspiracies and climate sceptics.

The Word of Murdoch: hacking scandals, climate change denial and Rupert Murdoch’s lasting legacy

[Note: I wrote this piece in May before the News Ltd break up of its divisions, however I saw it as inevitable. I also noted that dust bowl conditions would return to the US Mid-West. Murdoch recently stated in a tweet that climate change was happening, and that the proposed cures – one assumes the “carbon tax” – worse. I believe the events in the US, Japan, Korea, the UK, Russia and around the globe are putting Murdoch’s claim to the test. – Mike @ WtD]

Earlier this week the joint British Parliamentary committee investigating the News International (NI) “phone hacking” scandal released a damning report , accusing both NI and its chairman, Rupert Murdoch of misleading parliament and “willful blindness”

The report is well worth reading, as its conclusions seriously question the ethics of both NI (the UK subsidiary of News Corporation) and Rupert Murdoch:

“Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the Committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth. Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions. In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies’ directors—including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch—should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility…”

Both James and Rupert Murdoch – in the eyes of the UK parliament – are not fit to lead the company:

“On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company…”

I’ve worked most of my career in the private sector, and can say with some authority that the culture of an organisation is determined by its management. If a blind eye is turned to bullying, intimidation and unethical behaviour over a prolonged period then these behaviours will not only flourish, but will become “standard operating procedure”.

Enron, AiG and now News Corporation: a failure of leadership

There is truth to the old saying, “The buck stops here”.

Ultimate responsibility for the misdeeds of an organisation rest with its most senior management. Especially when those misdeeds are so pervasive and widespread. They can be excuse for ignorance. This is the media industries equivalent to the Enron scandal.

And yet like so the executives of other failed organisations, Murdoch grapples with the idea of personal responsibility. In a memo to staff of his Dow Jones employees just released, we clearly see the aging octogenarian struggling with personal responsibility:

“I recognize that for all of us – myself in particular – it is difficult to read many of the report’s findings. But we have done the most difficult part, which has been to take a long, hard and honest look at our past mistakes…”

What is fascinating is the lack personal responsibility in this blandly written PR puff-piece.

And yet the news (no pun intended) is sweeping the globe, making it impossible for Murdoch and his empire down play what is a devastating judgement.

Rupert Murdoch is unfit to lead a company.

The implications for Murdoch and News International are profound, as his interests in the UK and US are coming under further scrutiny. Indeed, Murdoch may be forced to sell off its British papers and remaining share of BSkyB. Recall Murdoch had to withdraw his bid to fully take over BSkyB in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Bad news: the evidence is piling up fast

News Corporation and Murdoch have come under increasing scrutiny over the last year. The phone hacking revelations sent a shiver of disgust across the world (righty so).

And yet as ugly as that incident was, much good came from it. Politicians and commentators started taking very a hard look at Murdoch and his empire:

  •  Robert Manns’ “Bad news” digs into News Ltd’s Australian operations, examining the world view of the executives and senior journalists and finds a culture of bullying, intimidation and a “what ever it takes” approach to destroying it’s “enemies” (Greens, climate scientists, competitors)
  • Dial M for Murdoch by British MP Tony Watson details how News International engaged in a systematic campaign of deleting incriminating emails and destroying computers to hide evidence related to its illegal activities.

Nor should we forget, that earlier this year it was revealed a News Corporation subsidiary – New Datacom Systems – was involved in undermining pay TV competitors by suppling “hacked” keys to the set top boxes of rival operators (and thus hurting their revenue by facilitating piracy).

In Australia, the Independent Media Inquiry has been examining the role of the media, its ability to police itself and the need for a “fit and proper persons test” for media proprietors (note, such provision did exist in Australia but was removed during the 1980s during the privatisation and deregulation mania).

The Murdoch discount and the break up of empire

Questions are being asked Murdoch’s ability to lead News Corporation, while the heir apparent – James Murdoch – has lost all credibility.

Following the release of the report, New Corp shares actually went up, no doubt confusing some people. Surely the share price should “tank” following the news that its chairman is not a fit to lead the company?

The share price increase isn’t a vote of confidence in favour of James and Rupert – it’s actually the opposite. Investors are anticipating Murdoch will soon be forced step down or relinquish personal control of News Corporation.

It won’t be the end of the News Corp – quite a number of its assets are highly profitable. But as many analysts have noted, significant parts of the “empire” underperform (the newspaper titles). Share holders and analysts have been eager for the company to dispose of them for years.

Should Murdoch retire – or is pushed to retire – it is highly likely shareholders will insist the company divest itself of such underperforming units. A great deal of the company’s newspapers and print titles are subsidized by its more profitable pay television and media units (case in point, The Australian). News Corp retains them simply because Rupert has as sentimental attachment to them.

Analysts often refer to the “Murdoch discount”. In essence, they subtract 30% from the value of shares due to Murdoch’s heavy handed control of the company, sometimes erratic judgement and sentimental attachment to the ailing newspaper arm of the company.

The “market” wants News Corp to be broken up, so as to unleash the full potential of its better performing assets. Rupert Murdoch, due to his need to control and hang onto every last part of his sprawling empire is seen as the blocker.

There is an upside to “break up” for those concerned about how Murdoch uses his media empire to further his political and ideological agenda. Such a break up would see Murdoch lose the global platform that gives voice to his prejudices, ideology and ability to wield power.

I have no issue News Corporation being a highly profitable and well managed company. But I do have take issue with how Murdoch has used News to further his political power and ideological agenda.

Should News Corp divest itself of some of its newspaper assets we will see a change in editors, the type of news reported and tone. Rather than a monolithic entity singing Rupert’s song, we will see a greater diversity. Sure, many titles will remain rabidly right wing, tabloid cess pools of denial and populist rage. But others will do doubt begin to report news in a manner different to what they do currently.

This is the creative destruction of the market, and News Corporation is overdue for a much needed dose of this medicine.

And yet Murdoch’s legacy won’t simply be that of the man who wanted it all; the kind of individual who believes the ends justified the means when it comes to amassing power.

Indeed, Murdoch will leave a legacy will touch all of us.

It will be the very air we breathe, and the atmosphere we live in.

The banality of denial: free market fundamentalism and the denial of climate change

While the finding that Murdoch is unfit to lead a company may seem unrelated to the climate change debate, many understand the central role News Corporation has played in misleading the public across the globe on climate change.

The same selective blindness, ideological zeal and bullying tactics that created a culture fostered illegal activities also created a culture hostile to the idea of climate change.

Murdoch is a free market ideologue, and his “faith” in markets and limited government is the idée-fixe permeating every corner of News Corporation. It shapes the opinion pages of The Australian and Wall Street Journal and infects how the news is reported across his vast media holdings.

Like the propaganda adjunct of a one-party state, every outlet of News Corporation endlessly repeats the same Orwellian doublespeak: the climate is always changing, climate change is not real.

But why such hostility to what is settled science?

The idea that we should act cooperatively to address climate change runs counter to the neo-conservative faith in markets. Climate change is a classic example of – in the words of Nicholas Stern – the “worst market failure” in history. Our economic activities are driving environmental instability.

To accept the scientific evidence for climate change is to accept that the market is imperfect. Thus, Murdoch – the free-market ideologue – has waged war on the idea that markets can fail.

There is the “Australian’s war on science” and my much more humble “Herald Sun war on science”. In the US, the News owned “Fox News” is a cesspool of climate change denial, while the Wall Street Journal deliberately clouds the debate by publishing the claims of climate sceptics.

Climate change denial is so entrenched and vehement within News Corporation it prompted Rolling Stone to state that “no one has done more” than Murdoch’s to spread “dangerous misinformation”.

One academic has gone so far as to claim Murdoch and his empire of disinformation has cost humanity “at least one or two decades” of mitigation efforts:

The Murdoch media empire has cost humanity perhaps one or two decades of time in the battle against climate change. Each lost decade greatly increases the eventual economic costs, the devastation to our ecosystems, and the suffering of future generations.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Read the real science, ask the real experts

Murdoch and his minions have cost humanity the crucial decades that would have allowed us to avoid the more serious effects of climate change. The level of suffering for future generations will be unnecessarily greater

Put in brutal terms, more people are going to die than should.

Murdoch’s place amongst that pantheon of individuals who have caused suffering on a mass scale is assured.

Such is the banality of evil.

All it takes is a cadre of loyal journalists to repeat the same lies and disinformation to mislead the public and intimidate politicians into inaction.

No one directly suffers, and yet the price is paid by future generations.

Murdoch’s lasting legacy: a broken climate

Murdoch the man has been found unfit to lead a company in the free market, while at the same time helping usher in the worst market failure in history.

History, if nothing else, has a refined sense of irony.

Murdoch’s legacy will not simply be the broken and dysfunctional culture of News Corporation.

His most lasting legacy will be the damaged climate and a world of 2 degrees plus. For decades, News Corporation has waged a pitiless and deceitful campaign against scientists and the public’s understanding of the climate change.

Murdoch charged News Corporation with a missionary zeal to spread his free-market ideology. The doctrine was preached by his army of journalists and television presenters. Across the globe the likes of Andrew Bolt, Terry McCrann, Chris Mitchell and Glenn Beck spread the Word of Murdoch.

And the Word was: the market cannot fail.

We should remember that when super-charged bush fires burn our forests to ash and devastate small communities across Australia.

We should remember Murdoch when fragile states in Africa “fail” and succumb to violence.

We should stand outside the towers of News Corporation and shame them when crop harvests fail in heartland USA as “dust bowl” conditions become the norm.

We should record the names of News Corporation journalists who mocked predictions of sea level rises when small island nations are wiped from the face of the Earth due to rising sea levels.

We should remember the names of every News Corp journalist, television personality and executive who feed us lies and disinformation.

We should not forget those who helped usher in this brave new world

And we should not forgive.

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?

The paranoid style of American politics: Beck, Limbaugh claim oil spill deliberate sabotage


An inside job?

I’ve already noted how much the denial movement not only tolerates, but positively embraces a conspiratorial world view. The best local example we have is Jo Nova’s blog.  

Recent comments by some of the leading “climate change sceptics” in the United States media provide further evidence of the distorted world view that characterises climate change denial.  

Prominent media personalities on the Right wing of American politics – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck – have advanced the theory that the recent oil leak and fire that cost the lives of 11 people and seen millions of barrels worth of oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico  may have been an “inside job”.  

To quote Limbaugh:  

But this bill, the cap-and-trade bill, was strongly criticized by hardcore environmentalist wackos because it supposedly allowed more offshore drilling and nuclear plants, nuclear plant investment. So, since they’re sending SWAT teams down there, folks, since they’re sending SWAT teams to inspect the other rigs, what better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here.”  

In short, the Obama administration deliberately sabotaged the Deep Horizon oil rig to create a disaster that would allow them to… I’m not sure. Provide an excuse for the cap-and-trade legislation? Blunt efforts for more offshore drilling of the coasts of the US?  

I call this the “I’m just saying…” approach to conspiracy theory making. In short, you don’t need to present evidence.  You simply connect two (or more) unrelated events and hint at a connection.  

Such conspiracy making is almost impossible to refute, as the accuser retreats to the fall back “Yeah, but I’m just saying…”  

The paranoid style of American politics  

In 1964 Richard Hofstadter published one of the seminal essays on American politics in Harper’s titled “The paranoid style of American politics”. It was an examination of how in American politics is it not uncommon for a tiny, but vocal fringe, to derail the public debate. It is worth quoting:  

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind  


“The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction…”  

One hundred years ago the targets of the “angry mind” were the Freemasons, Jews and Socialists. Today they are the Liberals, greens and scientists.  

How much different are the claims of the denial movement from this historical brand of conspiracy driven politics?

Not very I’d suggest. Indeed, the paranoid style is consistent: it is only the “other” who changes shapes. Jews morph into international banks, and socialists into greens. However, all of these groups seem to exert a malign influence who the conspiracy theorist works hard to “unmask”.

Given that the US is the leading political and economic power – and the largest emitter of C02 – what happens in the US is of critical importance. By halting any response to climate change in the US, the denial movement effectively holds the rest of the world to ransom.  

The tragedy is that this long running feature of American political discourse paralysis the debate on climate change globally.

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