Just askin’, before the Big Tech effort to censor inconvenient questions spreads as far as into blogs like this. While the largest companies on the defendant side of all the “ExxonKnew”-style lawsuits are still exploring legal technicalities paths concerning changes of venue, what happens if the smaller energy companies’ law firms start pulling all the loose threads in the accusation where it’s implied that a certain set of ‘leaked memos’ with the awkwardly worded strategy goal to “reposition global warming” is proof that Big Coal & Oil had a corrupt pay-for-performance arrangement with skeptic scientist ‘liars-for-hire’? That memo set is presented as ‘evidence’ in the majority of the current “Exxon Knew”-style lawsuits, e.g. the most recent among them, Annapolis v BP’s paragraph 116. What will it indicate if efforts are made to quash those lawyers’ statements about the faults they find with that accusation? If legal analyst voices far bigger than mine start exploring whether that accusation is indeed a form of criminal libel/slander, what could the public interpret from an even more concerted censorship effort to silence those bigger voices?
At the end of my June 7, 2016 “An Accusation Built on a Foundation of Sand” blog post, written more than a year before the current onslaught of “Exxon Knew”-style lawsuits started, my basic closing question was whether Naomi Oreskes, Ross Gelbspan and Al Gore, three of the core clique of people promulgating the ‘crooked skeptic scientists’ accusation, had committed an epic act of libel/slander. They certainly aren’t dispassionate with that accusation, perhaps partly to gain public approval, but did they nevertheless honestly believe with all their heart that their their central ‘evidence’ is irrefutable — justifiable malice toward those skeptic scientists and energy company executives, in other words? Or do their actions fit the definition of civil libel/slander, where that clique instead either knew outright how their beloved memo set was not actually at all like the sinister thing they portrayed it to be, or recklessly didn’t bother to find out if it had fatal faults.
At the end of my August 24, 2018 Backgrounder about the “reposition global warming” memo set, I implied that this basic question of libel/slander may have strayed farther into criminal territory — instead of merely damaging individuals, the character assassination of skeptic climate scientists may have harmed the larger public.
I briefly offer two new examples of how the suppression of skeptic climate scientists and the vilifying of the fossil fuel industry via apparently false accusations about that industry’s alleged “disinformation campaigns” reinforces the idea that the greater public has been damaged from this accusation situation.
First, the woman who submitted this July 2020 “Tracing Climate Change Denial in the United States and Looking for Impacts on the United States’ Science Diplomacy” Masters Thesis was apparently blissfully unaware of my January 24, 2020 blog post “Reposition Graduate Degrees as Theory rather than Fact” in which I detailed the folly of relying on the worthless “reposition global warming” memo set as evidence in treatises decrying fossil fuel industry disinformation campaigns. Not only did the woman offer the memos as evidence of disinformation efforts when they were in fact a collective rejected proposal that was never part of any information campaign of any description, she also:
- didn’t even get the name fully right (twice) for the public relations campaign it was supposedly part of — “Information Council for the Environment,” not “on.”
- made the mistake of citing book author Eric Pooley for details about the “reposition global warming” memo set. Who does Pooley cite? Ross Gelbspan and George Monbiot. Who does Monbiot cite? Naomi Oreskes. Who does Oreskes cite? Ross Gelbspan. Who does Gelbspan cite for his 1997 book’s page 34 quote of them? Nobody … and he never shares who he got the memo set from, either.
- succumbed even further to the problem of “citation cascade” that I described in my January 10, 2020 blog post. Her cited figure from “Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron M. McCright” (they actually get the “Information Council for the Environment” name correct in their “Front Names” box) is not wise because, as I showed in my blog post, Riley & Dunlap’s chapter first cites Gelbspan about the existence of fossil fuel industry disinformation campaigns, and then later bizarrely lurches into citing Eric Pooley for details about the “reposition global warming” memo set.
- and she makes the mistake of offering the “victory will be achieved” memo set as additional evidence for the existence of disinformation campaigns, when it was also
unsolicited* and was never implemented — I say again, never implemented. [*Author’s 5/13/21 note: this is corrected/clarified here]
How is all of that a problem for the public? Hold that thought for a moment.
The second example of harming the public isn’t merely months old. It’s seen in a 2015 Nevada County, California newspaper letter-to-the-editor, titled “Global warming ‘hoax’ is being perpetrated deniers.” In that piece, the op-ed writer doesn’t simply offer the “victory will be achieved” memo set as additional ‘evidence’ for the existence of ‘disinformation campaigns,’ he phrases it in such a way that it sounds like the ‘victory campaign’ was a direct outgrowth of the ‘reposition campaign.’
The advertising campaign by the front group Information Council on [sic – for] the Environment (ICE) was short-lived but nonetheless set the model for disinformation to follow. A leaked 1991 memo stated this fundamental strategy: “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” …
ICE knew their credibility would suffer if the public knew who paid them to deliver their disinformation. To solve that problem in the case of Dr. Wei-Hock Soon, ExxonMobil laundered $300,000 through the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics …
By 1998 that approach had flowered into the American Petroleum Institute (API) campaign ….
How could anyone not feel malice toward Big Industry and corrupt scientists hiding behind disingenuous front groups employing to spew disinformation? Give the letter writer tremendous imaginative writing credit for creating a fabrication including an angle about ICE’s ‘approach’ being exponentially larger than it ever was, so large that it somehow “flowered into” the money laundering business. His “ICE campaign led straight to the API victory campaign” idea from five years back isn’t unique, though. As seen in this more recent article example, another creative writer had the same idea.
Do those creative writers or the hapless Masters Thesis writer have malice toward people they think engage in disinformation campaigns which harm the planet? There’s little doubt about that. Do they know the ‘evidence’ they mention is false or is spewed out with reckless abandon where they don’t care if it is true or false? Quite the contrary, they probably believe with all their heart that the memo evidence is above all reproach.
That isn’t the question here.
The question is whether we’d be discussing the global warming issue at all if the people had been held accountable as many as two decades ago for the baseless accusation about skeptic climate scientists spreading lies as employees of ‘Big Coal & Oil’.
From just the two pieces from the two ‘creative writers’ I showed above, how big was the domino effect of more people repeating the ‘crooked skeptic climate scientists’ accusation? The hapless Masters Thesis arguably got her current job as the direct result of her thesis – how many people in her organization have spread that false accusation about the leaked memos more widely? It doesn’t stop there by any means; at minimum, two in the trio of people who are now tasked by Facebook’s incredible power to assist in calling out ‘misinformation’ have already been misinforming the public themselves about how ye olde “reposition global warming” leaked memos are ‘smoking gun’ evidence proving the existence of industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns.
The question here is not whether each of these above-noted people have personally defamed specific skeptic climate scientists, it’s whether their type of massively widespread regurgitations of the accusation about the leaked memos — stemming originally from a core small clique of enviro-activists who either full well knew their accusation was false or who simply never bothered to check the veracity of their accusation — have harmed the greater good of the entire country from their defamation of those scientists, if it turns out that those scientists could have demonstrated that man-caused global warming isn’t anywhere close to deserving the label of ‘life-imperiling crisis in need of immediate huge mitigation action.’
Lives were lost in Texas recently when wind energy arguably couldn’t provide the electricity needed to keep the rest of the grid operating. If Texas had never put so much stock as it did in wind energy to ‘fight global warming,’ would plentiful fossil fuel-generated electricity have been in place if skeptic climate scientists had been taken seriously, instead of being widely marginalized as ‘spreaders of corporate disinformation’?