Naomi Oreskes – the gift that keeps on giving, redux

When historians specialize in researching and reporting about a particular range of history events, they are universally expected, as a basic tenet of their profession, to always be able to place specific events with considerable accuracy on a timeline. If they are praised as heroes from their reporting of otherwise ‘hidden’ situations, they should never put themselves in the awkward position of appearing to embellish their ‘heroic status’ via superficial, self-serving analysis of criticism of their work, and they should certainly never display hypocritical positions about their analysis of criticisms, relative to their own personal actions.

Science historian Naomi “Merchants of Doubt” Oreskes seems to have problems with those basic expectations. What follows below is yet another added to my “Oreskes’ faulty narratives” category. The unscripted, unrehearsed moments in her narratives about her role in the global warming issue are the gift that keeps on giving for those who wonder why she’s involved in the issue in the first place …. and potentially for the defendants in global warming lawsuits who might find her ‘expertise’ aimed at them.

The latest problems for her comes out of Paul Thacker’s ironically named “Disinformation Chronicle” website, where he interviewed her in a three part series back in February. Toward the end of his Feb. 10 Part 1 interview transcript, Oreskes makes the following statement about the late atmospheric physicist Dr S. Fred Singer:

He did try to get me in trouble some years later, while I was still at UCSD. There was a letter that he sent after the movie version of “Merchants of Doubt” came out, to see whether they could sue me for defamation. He accused me of being part of the feminist mafia at UCSD. I got a copy of that because a friend somehow got on this mailing list.

First, notice that she doesn’t even get the label correct for what she’s talking about here. It wasn’t a letter, it was an email chain — the one that got a huge exposé in March 2015 at places like Energy & Environment News’ “‘Merchants of Doubt’ emails spark fiery debate about strategies of climate skeptics” and Inside Climate News, in their “Leaked Email Reveals Who’s Who List of Climate Denialists.” Why would she make that kind of elemental labeling mistake? Give her some credit for at least alluding to it being an email chain when she noted that “a friend somehow got on this mailing list.” This little problem is further corroborated by the clickable link for DiChron’s “a letter that he sent,” in which ‘the friend’ unequivocally says,

I honestly have no idea why I was copied on this particular email — I haven’t heard anything from Singer in about two years — but here is this. I’m sure it is no news to you, but I wanted to let you know. …

It’s a little troublesome how the ‘friend’ part of the email doesn’t match the formatting of any of the rest of the email chain – no paragraph indentation / no date / no To-From headings. The question beyond that is, who is this ‘friend,’ and if this person simply relayed the entire email chain to Oreskes, was it Oreskes who leaked it to E&E News? In light of what was said back in 2015 within E&E News‘ ClimateWire article, “ClimateWire obtained the emails from a source who received them as a forwarded message” along with this new revelation above from DiChron showing the text of the ‘mystery friend’ alerting Oreskes specifically by name to the chain, that gives quite a strong appearance to Oreskes as the one who leaked the email. But, she may have forwarded the chain to one of her other associates who didn’t like Dr Singer very much, such as Dr Michael Mann or Dr Ben Santer.

With regard to the problem Oreskes has for placing this situation correctly on her own personal timeline, notice that she distinctly said this thing was “sent after the movie version of “Merchants of Doubt” came out…”

What are the dates shown for the email chain both at the Dichron article’s screencapture photo and at the different part of the email just under Oreskes’ friend’s relay message?

October 2014.

When did her “Merchants of Doubt” movie premier anywhere? Outside of once- or twice-runnings at film festivals, it was first shown to general audiences in the UK in December 2014 and to some unspecified limited USA audiences in November 2014, and to the widest USA audiences in March 2015. After seeing it myself at a public theater in May 2015, I wrote my own movie review of it.

At no point in the email chain does Dr Singer mention that he’s already seen the movie (I know, because Dr Singer included me in that email chain, as a result of my extensive correspondences with him on my own work of analyzing where the smear of skeptic climate scientists originated. Inside Climate News placed me between the names Matt Briggs and Dr Judith Curry in that email chain list of “Who’s Who List of Climate Denialists”).

What he was responding to on October 11, 2014 was a CBS News review about the New York Film Festival’s showing of the movie, asking if there was anything libelous in it. I already detailed the ultimate full context of this email chain situation in my April 17, 2020 blog post on how Dr Singer’s concern about the false label of him as a “liar for hire” was resolved, since that exact accusation was was not actually in the movie.

Think about it for a moment. Naomi Oreskes would look even more heroic if:

  • Dr Singer saw the movie in person at the earliest screening at the NYC Film Festival, closest to his Washington DC residence
  • Was mortified to see her exposé of his ‘evil ways’
  • and then sought to take legal action to prevent the movie from going into wider public release, in order to hide his shame

… as opposed to the basically flat story which wouldn’t boost her status at all if:

  • Dr Singer didn’t see the movie at all
  • Interpreted from at least one major publication report after the October 8, 2014 NYC Festival screening that he was falsely labeled a “liar-for-hire” within the movie
  • Asked if that was a libelous statement he could take legal action against
  • and later found out straight from the movie’s director that no such direct accusation was actually in the movie

Interesting that no mention is made in the DiChron interview about E&E News or anyone else receiving the leaked email chain. Is that something she might not be proud of, if she at least minimally leaked it to one of her friends, or was the only leak to the media?

That’s where the problem of never displaying a hypocritical position may factor in for her, and not in a good way regarding the leakage of email correspondence.

In my prior blog post, I illustrated a few revelations that came out of the deposition Naomi Oreskes was obligated to give in connection with the Mann v National Review libel lawsuit. Here’s one more, seen in the deposition’s PDF file page 162 / print pages 61-62 where within her answer of what her definition of an attack is and whether her label of a particular paper as “pure scientific fraud” fits the definition of an “attack,” she offered her opinion about email privacy:

… the question is had to do with what’s being said in public. I think that most of us recognize what we say in private will be a different question from what we say in public. … this is where things get tricky because I think many of us used to think the e-mail was private. … most of us when we started writing e-mails thought of them as like letters, that they were private correspondence and one of the things that happened after the theft of the crime of scientist emails from – – many people didn’t realize actually how vulnerable e-mails was, and that therefore, one had to be more circumspect about opinions or views or anger or frustration that might be expressed.

Again, for emphasis: “public / private / public / e-mail was private / thought of them as like letters, that they were private correspondence / the theft of the crime of scientist emails

That last bit she references is the ClimateGate Email Scandal. Scientists on the side of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were livid about this giant leak. And from Oreskes own words, it is clear that she fully believes that what’s said in private emails is nobody else’s business. Period.

So what explains the Singer email chain, with its specific additional forwarding message from a ‘mystery friend’ to Oreskes, in the DiChron interview of her, in which she says nothing about a breach of email privacy, and what is the explanation for the line in E&E News‘ ClimateWire about how they “obtained the emails from a source who received them as a forwarded message“?

Holding the position of ‘Privacy for Me but not for Thee” is not exactly something that’s widely approved in any society.

As I also detailed in my prior blog post, Oreskes is on retainer with the law firm handling 15 global warming lawsuits that essentially accuse skeptic climate scientists of being in collusion with industry executives to downplay the harm of catastrophic man-caused global warming. If these cases ever somehow end up in courtrooms, and she’s called in as an expert witness to speak on what she knows of regarding the skeptic scientists, her growing pile of inexplicably inconsistent narratives could backfire in spectacular fashion against the whole idea that the fossil fuel industry employed crooked skeptics.

Energy company defendant attorney: Ms. Oreskes, how do you explain the contradiction between your statements where you ….
Plaintiffs’ attorney: “Objection! Relevance?”
Energy company defendant attorney, to the Judge: “Goes to credibility.”

There’s more. In a future blog post here at some later date, I’ll show how Oreskes made a particular claim about her own personal encounter with Dr Singer that simply sounds out-of-character for the late Dr Singer. So far, that’s only my personal educated guess, but if his SEPP organization has preserved his travel records and any notes he took while on them, that can either serve as corroboration for what Oreskes described, or it can significantly undercut it.