Taking Back The Language One Word At A Time

As Eric Blair noted, to control the language is to control thought. So it’s good news that the Associated Press Style Guide will no longer label climate skeptics ‘deniers.’

The term ‘climate change denier’ was hijacked from more normal usage in 2005 by DeSmogBlog and perverted to mean that the subject of the insult was equivalent to those who denied the Holocaust. I’m pleased the AP Style Guide will stop legitimizing hate speech.

As Huffington Post reports, “The Associated Press, which sets editorial guidelines followed by media outlets around the world, ruffled a few feathers on Tuesday when it announced it would no longer call those who reject climate change “deniers” or “skeptics.””

Gee, I wonder whose feathers were ruffled? ”

Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesman for the environmental group 350.org, told HuffPost that the word “doubt” gives climate change deniers too much credit. “Defying 90+% of scientific consensus on something isn’t a well-reasoned act of ‘doubt’ — it’s an irrational act of ‘denial,'” Ganapathy wrote in an email.”

This is why I keep pointing out in post after post that the measured consensus is not 90+%. It is a very respectable 66%. But the 34% of published climate scientists who are not part of the consensus are not ‘deniers.’  Which is why Ganapathy is very mistaken.

“Greenpeace spokesman Joe Smyth had a similar view. “The explanation for why the phrase ‘climate deniers doesn’t fit is unconvincing,” he told HuffPost. “It basically seems to boil down to that it hurts some climate science deniers’ feelings.””

Hate speech will do that, Mr. Smyth. And you who use hate speech are perhaps not the best judges of its effects. An objective third party such as Associated Press might be better qualified.

I have heard defenses of each of the following words by people who were mortally offended when I called them bigots. (‘The word has existed for centuries!’ ‘It is an accurate description!’ ‘Some of them use it proudly!’ ‘It’s harmless–it’s just a word!’ ‘They deserve it.’)

hate speech


9 responses to “Taking Back The Language One Word At A Time

  1. I propose we send Mr Smyth the coupons for a Miss Manners course. Who knows, it may work.

  2. M Tobis, ATTP, Sou, Mann, Mr. Obama, and so many more will be so disappointed.

  3. Any word from public broadcasting? Both NPR and PBS still use the word.

    By the way, does anyone else find NEWSHOUR is becoming more and more like root canal? I listened to All Things Considered and watched NEWSHOUR for decades, now I rarely turn them on and usually regret it after a few minutes when I do.

    Just to check my sanity, after being chased off by PBS or NPR by yet another eco-feminists for social justice story, I flip to FOXNEWS and 20 seconds later, I find myself doing the laundry for entertainment.

  4. The AP is simply ignoring the established definition of “skeptic” and using the “doubter” as a kinder gentler way to marginalize and dismiss skeptics.

  5. Bishop Hill remarks,

    This will no doubt be a struggle for AP’s science guy, Seth Borenstein, who has been at the forefronts of efforts to drag the debate down into the gutter, with contributions like this one:

    @PCKnappenberger Deniers picked start date of Oct. 1, 1996; so first annual is 1997; Their cherry pick not mine. I just look at the data

    — seth borenstein (@borenbears) October 1, 2014


  6. ““Defying 90+% of scientific consensus on something isn’t a well-reasoned act of ‘doubt’ — it’s an irrational act of ‘denial,’”

    So was Einstein an irrational “quantum mechanics denier”?

  7. What is interesting is the reaction of the climate extremists as they cling to their bigotry. All that talk about how “denier” was not about denigrating skeptics but is rather a way to describe them was just eyewash. “Denier” was always their pc way to call skeptics “ni%%er” and get away with it: to brand, dehumanize and delegitimize skeptics and cling to the bizarre sense of superiority the extremists cling to over their opinion on climate.
    AP is just come up with a civil way to keep cliamte ni%%ers in their place by claiming we doubt the science.
    We are skeptics.
    We are skeptics of the idea that there is a climate crisis.

  8. I left a longer comment at Bishop Hill. In sum, I’m happy to see the sunset of “denier”, but I’m not pleased to see a dichotomy presented: one either “accepts” or “rejects” “mainstream climate science”. The core principle — there exist greenhouse gases such as CO2 which warm the planet — is fine by me. Almost everything else which one sees in published papers, involves a greater or lesser degree of speculation. Does the estimate of umpty-ump trillion dollars cost of melting permafrost count as “mainstream climate science”? “Skeptic” seems a much more appropriate word than “doubter” in that context.

    The AP is trying, as the press often does, to simplify the issue as a binary matter. It’s not even a question of nuance — often difficult to express — it’s that there is a spectrum of opinion, in at least three dimensions: sensitivity to GHG (temp/precipitation/etc.); the effect of changes (extinctions/climate refugees/etc.); and policy options (nuclear/solar/wind/cap-and-trade/adapt/etc.). Heck, I’ve already over-simplified by reducing to 3 dimensions.

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