As ever, the fatal problem with enviro-activists’ enslavement to the “reposition global warming as theory” phrase as proof that skeptics are paid illicit money to lie about certainty of global warming is that there is no evidence of it being a top-down fossil fuel industry directive of any kind. Nevertheless, it has been in place at one of the top-most viewed web sites in the world, put there in a questionable way begging for harder scrutiny.
Wikipedia can be a handy quick reference for undisputed information, but since it relies on user-supplied material which can change in a heartbeat, it can be trusted for info on dicey issues about as far as anyone can throw it, global warming being among the most controversial. Reasonably informed people know this, but less-informed people…. well, not so much, and that becomes a massive problem when Wikipedia is ranked as the #6 most viewed web site out of millions not only in the US, but around the world (GelbspanFiles ranks down among those around the 15-20 millionth spot, for comparison).
Presume for a moment you are otherwise uninterested in the global warming issue, and you are told skeptic scientists were involved in efforts to hoodwink the public, and the name “Information Council for the Environment” is casually mentioned. What better way could there be to find out more than just dropping the name into an internet search? Well, watch what the top result is in a Google search, a Yahoo search, a Bing search, and one at a search engine which avoids filtered searches. Wikipedia’s page for the ICE and its prominent mention of the “reposition global warming” phrase, is always the top result. Go on to the ICE page, and in just five quick paragraphs, you know pretty much all you’ll ever need to know about skeptic climate scientists. Rotten crooks. But, if you don’t settle so easily for such material, further digging into the accusation only reveals a world of hurt surrounding it and the people associated with it, and the particular situation with Wikipedia is no exception.
The “reposition global warming ” phrase has been at Wikipedia for twelve years, placed there just a year after the entire site itself was created. Fortunately for us, Wikipedia maintains history pages for us, so we can see every change made to a page. So, starting at the top and working our way down:
The ICE page in its current form, with its link to Ross Gelbspan’s online page about the ICE at the bottom, has been mostly unchanged for a decade. Click on the “View history” link at the upper right of the Wikipedia ICE page, and you see the link to Gelbspan’s page was added on August 29th, 2004. Prior versions, going back to the creation of this particular page, show no external link at all, so readers of the page prior to ’04 would have had no clue where the quoted ICE statements came from.
The link to Gelbspan’s web page prompts an immediate problem: Wikipedia says one ICE document statement goal was to “directly attack the proponents of global warming . . . through comparison of global warming to historical or mythical instances of gloom and doom.” Problem is, that specific quote is not seen anywhere on Gelbspan’s page, nor is it seen anywhere in Gelbspan’s collective narratives about corrupt skeptic scientists at his web site, or in any of his narratives anywhere else.
The quote is found in Greenpeace’s scans of the ICE memos, so its appearance at Wikipedia was the result of someone knowing about it.
The answer comes from the bottom-most note at Wikipedia’s history of its ICE page, where it notes the entire page was transferred from its “Global warming skepticism” page on August 12, 2003. Go back to the 2002 history of the “Global warming skepticism” page, and you see it was created by Wikipedia editor Sheldon Rampton. His initial 2/2/2003 version said nothing specific about skeptic climate scientists. His next version three days later has basically the same text about the ICE and the the “reposition global warming” phrase that’s seen in the current Wikipedia ICE page – word-for-word identical in places now and in his first mention of it, including the “mythical instances of gloom and doom” bit.
Sheldon Rampton is not an unfamiliar name to me. I first described his ties to Gelbspan toward the bottom of my 2010 Breitbart.com article (quick glance here, full text here), and most recently where I linked to more detail about those ties in my 10/25/13 post right here in this blog. And I’ve long been aware of the “Trust Us, We’re Experts” book he co-authored in 2000 with John Stauber, where – surprise – the same wording Rampton used at his “Global warming skepticism” Wikipedia page is word-for-word identical to what is seen in his book. But neither Rampton nor any subsequent editors of his Wikipedia page ever place a note there for the citation out of his book.
However, Rampton’s Wikipedia page is not the first appearance for the wording about the ICE, or the “reposition global warming” phrase.
That distinction belongs to the January 14, 2002 Wikipedia “Global warming” page, where the words were placed in its bottom-most section titled “Sources Bias” by editor “Eloquence”, Erik Möller. In this page which predates Rampton’s first mention of ICE, what link appears above Möller’s words about ICE? “‘The PR Plot to Overheat the Earth’, analysis by Bob Burton and Sheldon Rampton”, with a link going to their Earth Island web site online article, which – surprise, has almost the same wording that ultimately ended up at Rampton’s Wikipedia page. When did the Burton/Rampton reference and Earth Island web link first appear on that page? December 8, 2001, and Möller put that there. Among who knows how many tens of thousands of edits Möller has made, this particular action was only the fifth one he ever did at Wikipedia.
Funny thing about Wikipedia editor Möller’s citation link for Rampton’s Earth Island Journal article – Rampton never says in that version where he got those ICE phrases from. In Rampton’s 1997 PRWatch version, he did: as I detailed in my 10/25/13 post here, Rampton’s sources were Ross Gelbspan and two others who cited Ozone Action for it – the Environmental Working Group’s CLEAR report, and Sharon Beder. And I’ve already covered just how questionable Ozone Action’s association with Gelbspan is.
Capping all of that, we have an association problem: Erik Möller is the current Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, “… that operates many wikis. The foundation is mostly known for hosting Wikipedia. … The name “Wikimedia” was coined by American author Sheldon Rampton.” It might not be unfair to speculate that if Möller had bypassed Rampton and had cited Rampton’s own direct source, then perhaps Möller might not have ascended to his current position at the Wikimedia Foundation.
Happens every time. Dissect any prominent post-1995 narrative repetition about skeptic climate scientists being paid industry shills, and all you find are highly questionable associations, and an accusation that is not only never supported with actual evidence or otherwise independently corroborated, it always ultimately spirals down to one person: Ross Gelbspan.