The Enemies List

Former President Richard Nixon had an Enemies List of people who opposed him, some of his policies, or people he just didn’t like. They were subject to surveillance, tax investigations and occasionally harassment. Some were horrified to learn they were on such a list. Others were proud.

Anderegg, Prall et al PNAS 2010 creates an enemies list. The supplementary information refers to co-author Jim Prall’s website where all are named–and most are pictured, although crosshairs are not provided.

The hypocrisy (as well as one of the many methodological flaws) is seen by the cherry-picking of signatories to the documents. Anderegg, Prall et al are happy to note the signature of Richard Lindzen to documents and use that as a means of labeling him a ‘denier’. But Norman Borlaug signed one of the same documents–why isn’t he a ‘denier’, too?

Anyone who examines the list of documents signed by these victims of Anderegg, Prall et al will quickly notice that, although some are skeptical documents, others are so innocuous that probably James Hansen and Michael Mann would have signed if offered the opportunity. The idea that signatories of all these documents are morally or ethically equal, that putting your name alongside Linus Pauling or Jonas Salk should subject you to being called less expert or less prominent than Peter Gleick is absurd.

But Anderegg, Prall et al lump them all together. If you signed any one of the 12 documents you are a ‘denier’, as their paper is tagged. Joe Romm called for signatories to be… denied… funding, promotion and attention in the media. While Romm has always acted like a thug (at least publicly), this reached a new low.

The documents cited by Anderegg Prall are very different in their purpose, language and destinations. While signing the letters to Canadian Prime Ministers past and future might be imputed to skeptic beliefs, signing others cannot. The documents have different date stamps–science was at a different stage when some of them were written and what looks like skepticism today in fact was a reasonable assessment in the past.

When added to the often-cited flaws in methodology, analysis and simple arithmetic noted by myself and many, many others, is is clear that this paper should in fact live in infamy, as an example of motivated reasoning and ill will producing a blacklist.

Anderegg, Prall et al cited Oreskes for their failed paper. Later we will look at who cited Anderegg, Prall.


12 responses to “The Enemies List

  1. Name and shame is a tried and true propaganda technique. It obviously is political since it adds nothing to the science, basically a reverse appeal to authority. It builds a list of people who the tribe can simply dismiss without reading the content, as they are now the designated out group. It increases polarization. Not clear to me what good increasing polarization accomplishes given the status quo is what needs to be changed according to activists.

    Sometimes it seems desperate, others times it seems like simple tribe building. Peer pressure is real and can be effective, but being seen as artificially manipulating it can be counter productive.

    • “It increases polarization.” You hit the nail on the head. Now if we could answer the why someone would want that, we could make sense of the motivation behind this. I believe the expression is qui bono.

      • Marty, we saw intentional polarisation with Lewandowsky’s second paper. Tell me in words of one syllable why you think the broader picture of polarisation makes sense…

      • Tom, Think about it. Would this country be as polarized as it is if it was just left alone? How much effort goes into creating these wedge issues? The power isn’t with the left or right, it’s with the people who come up with these illogical packages that they label left and right.
        I’ll respond at greater length later.

      • I don’t have a very good answer here. If you look at the change in politics over the last 6 years with the right dominating the legislature, this political move hasn’t been effective in moving the needle, in fact the reverse has occurred. To the extent that Obama has implemented carbon policies and is still dithering on Keystone, it has been effective.

        From the five year old perspective, calling someone a stupid head and telling them to shut up is emotionally satisfying. These emotions are present even in elitist academia, they are just more sophisticated in presentation. Raising your personal profile as a climate warrior is always a rat race with the greens. Being the attack dog of the tribe brings respect from many.

        Group think is present everywhere. What length are skirts this year? It is ironic that academia claims to teach critical thinking, but seems to be the most pervasive center of thought control in the sense that distinct lines are drawn for proper conduct. (aka politically correct)

  2. “Anderegg, Prall et al cited Oreskes for their failed paper. ” I wish somebody would take a hard look at Oreskes. That alone would dismiss many interpretations of the motivation behind CAGW hysteria.

  3. Tom gets the part about the failure of the academy to foster, much less permit, critical thinking just right.

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