Update added below.
Is Heartland’s Global Warming advert “experiment” an own goal or have they simply achieved their aim?
“This billboard was deliberately provocative, an attempt to turn the tables on the climate alarmists by using their own tactics but with the opposite message. We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence. We leave it to others to determine why that is so.
While I do think the advert was in very poor taste and can’t condone it, I have a sneaking admiration for the Heartland’s audacity in doing this. It is actually quite clever, after all some would say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.
Condemnation from skeptics was swift: Anthony Watts’ comments labelling it “a huge misstep”; Ross McKittrick’s letter; Donna Laframboise’s withdrawal from the conference. Only Luboš Motl seems to have any positive words about the adverts: they were telling the truth about the AGW beliefs of those featured; they might be a good way to increase visibility as Heartland is still on the fringe; they should repay aggression with aggression; he’s rather critical of Ross McKitrick’s stance, saying that he’s helping to maintain selective double standards by saying skeptics should not fight back.
In the MSM, Brendan O’Neill in The Telegraph says Environmentalists compared their opponents to mass murderers long before the Heartland Institute and has a good rundown of many occasions when “non-belief in global warming was likened to being a terrorist, a Nazi, or Beelzebub.”
Heartland doesn’t have a monopoly on evoking mass murder and terror as a way of rubbishing its opponents. That art was perfected by greens first. Yet judging by today’s fracas, where it is okay to compare climate-change sceptics to mass murderers, it is not okay to compare greens to mass murderers. Is that right?
On the pro-AGW side, Andrew Revkin calls it “an ultra-offensive message”. At least he uses the term “climate contrarians” and avoids ‘the D-word’ as he mentions defensively that he too condemned the “equally loathsome” 10:10 video. He quotes a conversation between Tom Yulsman and Keith Kloor in which the former says:
“Climate change skeptics and people on the right are now expressing disapproval of the Heartland billboards, which is appropriate. But they are also undermining their moral stance as they claim that climate activists do the same thing. Did their mothers not tell them that claims of “Johnny did it too!!” just don’t wash?”
Did your fathers not explain to you what we call those who push others around but squeal when they are pushed? Individuals on the warming side might themselves be claiming the moral high ground, but global warming activism has used every trick in the book. Put it this way – let those among you who have condemned their fellow climate change believers for using the term “denier” cast the first stone.
I think the only point on which I can sort of agree with Luboš Motl is that Heartland and the sceptic message needs to become more high-profile. That’s not to say they should do it with such ill-conceived ideas – experimental or not. We’re far more likely to win hearts and minds with moderate and intelligent comment, after all what can be more disarming or assertive than repeating the truth? – although we might add – when it is allowed.
Update 6th May – Bishop Hill has a good post On Abusive Analogy in which he refers back to anti-skeptic sites discussing “climategate conspiracies” influencing Anders Brevik, asking:
“Is there one rule for upholders of the climate orthodoxy and another for dissenters?”
It is extraordinary that Think Progress and DeSmog seem to be allowed to do this kind of thing without attracting any significant criticism. I can’t help feeling that the people who are now writing letters to Heartland’s funders calling for them to cut off support ought to be writing to the backers of Romm et al and DeSmog too.
I think we can all agree that comparisons to individual mass murderers is beyond the pale, but there are of course milder examples of the abusive analogy too. I have spent many a dull minute snipping references to “eco-fascists” and “green Nazis” from the comments threads here. The use of these terms is widely seen as reprehensible.
On the other hand, use of “denier” and “denialist” is extremely widespread among upholders of the IPCC position…”