When ‘Reporting’ looks more like Propagandizing

“Ok, student reporters — here’s everything you need to know about the fossil fuel industry’s sinister disinformation campaign to spread lies undercutting the certainty of man-caused global warming which employed shill skeptic scientists, and here’s the professional researcher who can assist you with writing a report about that very conspiracy.”

Anybody spot the main problem there? Yes, we might wonder about the fate of the student reporters/researchers or the postdoctoral researchers/faculty members if they dared to question anything presented to them, but a bigger question remains at the end of this excise concerning the ‘professional researcher,’ and the nature of his involvement in the work these reporters/researchers undertook.

This post is the followup for the very brief red-asterisk mention I made in my April 11, 2020 blog post regarding Brown University’s Professor Timmons Roberts and his linkage with a March 5, 2019 DailyKos piece, “College Students Calling Out Climate Denial Machine That’s Older Than They Are,” repeated below from my March 30, 2020 post. As usual in the smear of skeptic climate scientists, there’s always more to find with these problems.

What I didn’t show in the DailyKos piece was the sentences between its introductory sentence and the ones containing ye olde worthless “reposition global warming” strategy memo phrase, which is as follows:

The article describes a conference last month at Brown University that featured a 90-minute panel built around a recent study in Nature Climate Change showing how decades of concerted misinformation played a key role in the current climate of climate denial. The event was convened by Brown’s Climate Development Lab. Brown students at the lab recently compiled and published a report giving the backstory on a dozen climate denial coalitions.

Conference (with key attendees) / recent study  / big report. Hold that thought until the end of this post.

The Desmog article that DailyKos mentions is no more than a near-duplicate of what appeared at the Climate Investigations Center site (each piece links to the wrong 2015 Nature study, DailyKos has the correct 2019 one): Both note the following:

In February, the Climate Investigations Center’s  Kert Davies was an invited speaker at a collaborative conference held at Brown University on the economic impacts of climate change and the opposition to policy advances. …

Alongside keynote speaker Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Brown professor Timmons Roberts, Davies participated in a discussion …

Using documents and analysis found on Climate Files, Davies recounted how … documents show that the fossil fuel industry engaged and funded a climate change countermovement …

That’s Roberts on the left side of the photo, Davies on the right, with that Senator Sheldon “dutifully regurgitating reposition global warming a month later” Whitehouse in the middle. Not seen there, but appearing in the conference’s video DailyKos linked to is the January 2019 study author Justin Farrell, who corroborated the study’s weeks-old publication date. The article wrapped up with this:

Brown University’s Climate Development Lab recently released a supplemental report titled Countermovement Coalitions: Climate Denialist Organizational Profiles tracking the affiliations and output of twelve organizations that “engaged in public misinformation campaigns about climate change” from 1989 to present day. Collaborating with CIC and drawing from Climate Files, ExxonSecrets, and other resources, the report highlights …..

2. Information Council on the Environment

Right. While I invite inquisitive readers to explore the other eleven organizations to see if damaging evidence exists within documents pertaining to them proving fossil fuel executives paid and orchestrated skeptic climate scientists to operate disinformation campaigns, I submit there is none in those, and the only one seeming to have any viable-looking damaging ‘leaked documents’ supposedly coming from it (which they actually did not) is the Information Council for the Environment. And what did Prof Roberts report say on this matter overall?

12/28/2018, ​by Professor Timmons Roberts, “Brown’s Climate and Development Lab begins new chapter to uncover networks of denial.”

The piece goes on to say, in a section with graph containing a can’t-miss reference to the “Information Council on [sic] the Environment,”

… During the summer and fall of 2018, we developed a whole new batch of projects, which are being conducted by different small teams of undergraduate and doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and two faculty members. …

… Project 1: Briefing paper on Climate Countermovement Coalitions ..

A team of five CDL researchers … culminated a months-long research project with a report detailing the strategies of twelve main climate coalitions within the climate change countermovement. .. We compiled a 37-page report profiling these coalitions …

What does the Brown University report, “Countermovement Coalitions: Climate Denialist Organizational Profiles” say about the alleged leaked ICE docs?

The report can’t even begin addressing the alleged ICE docs without plowing into a citation problem. Its introduction features a Desmogblog-cited blurb from Naomi Oreskes about the importance of the ICE public relations campaign. At Desmog, she, “an expert on the history of organized climate science denial,” further said the full name of the ICE campaign was the “Informed Citizens for the Environment,” but if the Brown University researchers had undertaken actual research on this, they would have discovered Oreskes’ lack of expertise on this particular point, because suggestions about different names, including that one, were unsolicited and never used, rejected along with a particular ‘strategy’ goal.

No farther than its first paragraph on the alleged ICE memos section, the Brown report makes its own error claiming the memos were leaked to the media in late 1991. For all the world to see, the New York Times claimed it had received the memos by the first week of July, curiously from the Sierra Club, a situation in itself that the Brown University researchers might have seriously wondered about if they had discovered that bizarre problem, considering how the Sierra Club has been mute about that event ever since the summer of 1991.

Who does the Brown report first cite for the alleged ICE memos, in their just-above-noted bit about when the memos were leaked? The Climate Files website ……. a.k.a Kert Davies’ Climate Investigations Center’s platform for presenting such documents.

But that particular Climate Files page link only shows 19 pages of the old 50 pages of scans Greenpeace put online with zero fanfare in 2007, and not included in Climate Files’ 19 page collection is the infamous “reposition global warming” page.

The Brown report does, however, specifically mention the “reposition global warming” strategy memo two pages later. Its link does not go to Climate Files. Where does it go to?

It goes to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Climate Deceptions Dossier #5 49 page scans collection, which omits Greenpeace’s scan page #1 featuring the old Ozone Action group’s summary page. Ozone Action being the place that magically ‘obtained’ the memos and which was headed by John Passacantando and Kert Davies. Passacantando being the man who merged not only Ozone Action itself and him with it into Greenpeace USA, but also Kert Davies, while also merging in a ton of Ozone Action’s old documents scans. Where does the UCS ultimately say they accessed the alleged ICE memos from? That old Greenpeace scan pile.

The brave Prof Roberts and his Brown University researchers’ ‘gallant’ reporting did not actually uncover anything. Nor did the UCS, or Greenpeace, or Ozone Action. The actual ICE campaign could never have set a critical precedent or be a template for future disinformation efforts because it was a pilot project effort so small and short-lived that practically nobody saw it.

It might be worthwhile to conduct confidential, privacy-assured investigative meetings with the particular students and graduate researchers to ask if they felt their grades or tenure could be in jeopardy if they dared to question anything that went into this ‘preconceived-conclusion-in-search-of-evidence-to-prove-it.’

However, a much larger question should be seriously explored, considering how Passacantando has been exposed as being a perhaps very substantial financial conduit in very recent years into Kert Davies’ Climate Investigations Center:

Is this what nearly 5 million dollars or more buys — securing a sympathetic professor who will repeat accusations without question about industry executive / skeptic climate scientist disinformation conspiracies? Apparent infiltration into Brown University under his influence? Prompting a timely, supportive sociology paper from Justin Farrell / Robert Brulle (that Farrell and that Brulle), which cites the standard kind of ‘skeptic-trashing environmental sociologists’ and related individuals who repeat accusations without question about fossil fuel industry / skeptic climate scientist disinformation conspiracies? Paving the way for widespread publicityreally widespread – for the Farrell / Brulle paper? Prompting a symposium discussion on the combined topic of that paper and the Brown University report “uncovering sinister fossil fuel industry deeds”? That’s attended by a sympathetic Senator who later gets a big “reposition global warming” placard to display on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and leads his own one sided Senate ‘hearing’ months after that featuring Farrell and Oreskes to re-discuss this topic?

Does that much money going to a single individual with a mystery LLC business purchase what appears to be industrial-scale smear efforts that work through influence with academia, media, and politicians to keep the literally unsupportable ‘fossil fuel industry disinformation’ accusation alive?