The Big Megaphone Wipeout (but then there’s this weirder problem)

From a July 15, 2013 Huffington Post article, Desmogblog’s Brendan DeMelle (yes, that Desmog) said in response to the news confirming the existence of a 97% scientific consensus on man-caused global warming:

It does not get any clearer than this. It should finally put to rest the claims of climate deniers that there is a scientific debate about global warming. Of course, this bunch isn’t known for being reasonable or susceptible to facts. But maybe the mainstream media outlets that have given deniers a megaphone will finally stop.

Similar to other talking points from the Al Gore side of the issue (e.g. the “tobacco industry parallel,” and the “inconsistent statements” notion), the bit about influential climate deniers having ‘a big megaphone’ is a single-serving talking point, meant to be swallowed without question by the general public and regurgitated instantly by global warming believers when the need arises. Unrest is born the moment anyone starts to question it – as in how the “97% scientific consensus” falls apart. Ad infinitum. Then there’s another obvious question:

What megaphone?

That elemental question is what mostly drew me into this issue in the first place. Skeptic climate scientists existed, but were given zero air time on a prominent news outlet which was otherwise famous for offering fair and balanced reporting. Elsewhere, what little ‘megaphone’ they had was thwarted by hostile interviewers, who permitted no rebuttal against zinger statements aimed at them. Plus, if people who know skeptic climate scientists / skeptic speakers quite well are asked to count up the number of times over the last 10 to 15 years when mainstream media outlets featured skeptics’ viewpoints in an unbiased way, they’d have difficulty using up all the fingers on both hands.

But as usual in my work, there’s more to the story, with regard to that “megaphone” word.

[ 10/18/22 Author’s addition: From the ecoRI’s January 3, 2019 “Local and National Efforts Underway to Expose Climate Deniers” report, there is this:

… the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) … one of the first multi-media efforts to cast doubt on climate change. … Although ICE had a brief existence, it created a model that is used by many anti-climate networks today. ..
“When you have multiple voices and multiple media outlets, if you can come in there with a big swath of money and push it across all of these outlets all the time that gives you an enormous advantage,” Brulle said. “If you’ve got a megaphone that can just drown people out, what does that say about democracy?” ]

From the UK Guardian‘s June 9, 2015 “Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years,” we have this:

… “The conservative thinktanks are really the spearhead of the conservative assault on climate change,” said Riley Dunlap,* a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who studies environmental politics. “They write books, put out briefings and open editorials, bring in contrarian scientists … They are an immense megaphone that amplifies very, very minority voices.”

Think that’s an spur-of-the-moment assertion? Think again. ( * yes, that Dunlap, whose “Climate Change Skepticism and Denial” paper didn’t go farther than a page and a half without praising Ross Gelbspan )

From the late Dr Stephen Schneider’s 2009 “Science As a Contact Sport” book’s page 120:

Scientists like climatologist Patrick J. Michaels and environmental science professor S. Fred Singer,… and Dick Lindzen… jumped in with their contrarian views. They were counting on “media balance” to give them equal status in the debate, no matter how small their numbers relative to mainstream climate scientists. They were essentially handed a huge megaphone by the fossil fuel industry and its allies…

( That Dr Schneider, the person who featured Ross Gelbspan two pages later as someone who indicted skeptic climate scientists of industry corruption via leaked documents – notwithstanding that Dr Schneider got the leaked documents bit wrong. As long as the accusation gets out there, though, who cares about errors? )

Ummm… Gelbspan. Did he ever have anything to say about this ‘tiny minority/big megaphone’ situation? Why, yes. Back in an April 2005 Mother Jones magazine interview, he offered this:

RG: … I found out that the fossil-fuel lobby was flying in four experts to testify. [At the hearing]* the assistant attorney general compelled all these witnesses to disclose all their funding sources under oath. … It’s interesting that the names of the skeptics you encountered continue to pop up. Do they keep appearing because they’re the only ones out there or because they’re especially good at what they do?

RG: It’s not that their message is getting out there due to its merit. It’s part of a deliberate and concerted public relations campaign by the fossil-fuel lobby. The strategy papers for this campaign said specifically that the purpose of this publicity campaign using greenhouse skeptics was to reposition global warming as theory rather than fact. The piece that’s being missed is how much money is being spent by their sponsors to amplify their voices and to buy them media time.

( *That set of 1995 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearings, where Gelbspan’s narratives are besieged with problems surrounding his involvement with the situation. )

But does anyone talk about this ‘big megaphone’ situation prior to Gelbspan? Yes, and that’s where this thing ends up with a weirder problem courtesy of the same Ozone Action place where Gelbspan and their people simultaneously somehow ‘obtained’ the documents which have long been used to accuse skeptic climate scientists of accepting fossil fuel industry bribes in exchange for lying to the public about the certainty of catastrophic man-caused global warming.

From an archive page of Ozone Action’s November 1996 “Ties That Blind II Parading Opinion as Scientific Truth” report:

Several months ago we published the first in a series of reports on the influence industry plays on various environmental debates. Ties That Blind documented the funding sources of two prominent climate change skeptics (Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling) which included U.S. coal, British coal, German coal and the Government of Kuwait. The report also included highlights of a leaked  document showing a public relations campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry which was designed to use these scientists and others to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” The point was not that money from the fossil fuel industry had corrupted the findings of the scientists, but rather, the scientists, thanks to the fossil fuel industry’s largesse, had a megaphone with global reach to carry their scepticism* about climate change to the public. Their level of exposure and influence on the debate has been completely out of proportion to their contributions to the science.

[*Does the word “scepticism” spelled the British way with a “c” among the others in that page with the American “k” mean anything? I have no idea.]

See the pattern here? A lineage of talking points leading up to right now about a very, very small minority of corrupt skeptic voices amplified by an immense megaphone created, orchestrated and funded with evil intent by the fossil fuel industry.

But this lineage leads back to a solitary 1996 situation seemingly at odds with all subsequent narratives about the leaked memos being ironclad proof of industry corruption. Sinister corruption. Read the Ozone Action line again:

“… The point was not that money from the fossil fuel industry had corrupted the findings of the scientists …

So …. the point was that truth-tellers – all two of them – were loudly effective because they were handed a giant corporate-funded megaphone?

This is beyond ironic. Enviro-activists using the mainstream media’s monster-megaphone to push claims of catastrophic man-caused global warming as a settled science needing immediate fixing have almost completely drowned out the opposition, and an unmistakable part of the blaring 20 year+ message was the demand to ignore industry-bribed skeptics.

Swallow these single-serving talking points from enviro-activists at your own peril? Perhaps so, at the risk of being asked exactly when, how, and where the science was settled, and what evidence exists proving the bribery occurred. Along with questions of why the same names always pop up around these central talking points.

The folks in greatest peril here, of course, are those in that clique, if these same questions are posed to them during serious top-level investigations….. along with a tougher question on whether the core people of this clique actually believed that skeptic climate scientists had been corrupted by industry payments.