Another way of putting today’s blog post topic is to say that if global warming believers demonstrate how they only have one or two sets of leaked industry memos from the 1990s to support their assertions about the ‘inherent racism of the fossil fuel industry‘ or that ‘the industry’s publicity is a complete lie’ …. well, then that’s all they got. One of these days their enslavement to those memo sets — the “reposition global warming” set and the “victory will be achieved” set — will experience a ‘jumped the shark’ event that will be reported by more prominent people than me, but in the meantime, this blog will have to suffice for reporting on such things.
No joke, two separate spin efforts just within the last 35 days: the underlying racism of the fossil fuel industry, and the effort to smear that industry as complete liars.
As loyal readers of this blog know, I’ve detailed at length how both the “reposition global warming” memo set and the “victory will be achieved” memo set were never implemented by the respective fossil fuel industry group they were attributed to. The “reposition” set, with its alternative group name / audience targeting suggestions was not even solicited by the group it was sent to, nor did the person heading the group ever even see it. The “victory” set was never implemented as a means to counter the United State’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol because it became obvious at a particular time that the U.S. Senate was never going to sign the treaty, as was fully explained by the person who is often blamed for the existence of that memo set.
By default, along with the fact that neither set were seen by more than a small handful at each group at best, neither of those constitutes evidence that heinous fossil fuel industry disinformation campaigns were actively operated by the fossil fuel industry as a whole. Nevertheless, in a barely month old May 15, 2021 Salon magazine online article, “How oil capitalists conspired to spread climate change denialism – in 1988” (which notes in his attribution heading, “Adapted from “White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism ” by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective), the authors offer readers the following in order support the idea of nefarious industry activity:
Exxon was the exemplary driving force of denial. The coal industry, however, was nearly as quick on the draw; in 1991, American coal interests set up the Information Council on [sic; incorrect word] the Environment to “reposition global warming as a theory (not fact)” …….
… in 1997, Lee Raymond, the CEO of Exxon, declared that “the earth is cooler today than it was 20 years ago,” due to “natural fluctuations” that had nothing to do with fossil fuels. The next year, a team at the API outlined a “road map” for how to turn climate change into “a non-issue,” Victory in this pursuit was defined as the moment when “average citizens “understand” (recognize) uncertainties in climate science” …
In case the title of the book this piece was adapted from isn’t enough, it was hammered on further in a The Nation interview of the author titled “What’s Worse Than Climate Catastrophe? Climate Catastrophe Plus Fascism,” where the interviewer injected a line about “crimes against humanity,” which prompted the author responded with a bit about “a climate apartheid scenario” before going into his tangent about racism.
Meanwhile, what is the author’s source for the two leaked memo sets? It doesn’t say in his own Salon article, but his book does. In it, he commits the error of a citation cascade, citing the Union of Concerned Scientists “Deception Dossiers” for both the “reposition” memo set and the “victory” set. I covered that problem back in 2015 when the UCS ‘Dossiers’ first came out; they cited Greenpeace for 2007-era scans, which in turn were citations of 1990s Ozone Action scans.
What’s old enviro-activist material is still worthless old regurgitated ‘news.’
Same applies to a barely week-old June 7th article at the “The Apeiron” philosophy website titled “3 Hugely Popular Harmful Movements That Are Based on Complete Lies” which has the subhead, “#3: The oil industry knew climate change was real — for 40 years.” The philosopher author’s first two illustrations of popularly seen ‘complete lies’ are the notion that vaccinations led to autism in children, and that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization is not especially ethical. Regarding the ‘oil industry’s complete lie,’ he makes a brief mention of the mere existence of the Global Climate Coalition, but his main proof is the:
… ironically named organization called the Information Council on [sic; incorrect word] the Environment. This beauty of a non-profit had the stated goal to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).” ….
… A professor of history science at Harvard, Naomi Oreskes, performed extensive research into these organizations’ misleading past. .. she pointed out they wanted to target “older, lesser educated males from larger households who are not typically information seekers” as well as “younger, low-income women.”
Does that group sound familiar? It’s the modern GOP’s most fervent supporters.
Does this philosopher author tell the complete truth about the situation? Not exactly.
He predictably gets the name of the public relations campaign partly wrong, while attributing the strategy and audience targeting goals to it which it – again – never operated under, and he notes that Naomi “Merchants of Doubt” Oreskes “extensively researched these misleading organizations’ ….. but his link for the group name goes to an incorrect Wikipedia page about it which actually dates from almost a year before Oreskes ever wrote anything about the global warming issue. His other link about the targeted audience goes to the September 2020 BBC online article that was a sort of supplemental piece to the BBC Radio 4 broadcast that I detailed in my 3-part July/August/October 2020 blog posts, where the source for “reposition” memo set is an enviro-activist who ironically inserted a racially charged word into the – again, unsolicited, never implemented – memo set which was never in the proposal in the first place.
Is this philosopher author’s assertion that “older, lesser educated males” / “younger, low-income women” are the modern GOP’s most fervent supporters correct, or is it a …. well, complete lie? At a minimum, it’s likely an unsupportable opinion on his part.
Speaking of the rejected idea in that “reposition” memo set of who the PR campaign was suggested to target, which Oreskes supposedly ‘ extensively researched’ for her 2010 book chapter contribution about that campaign: she said the memos themselves were archived at the American Meteorological Society in Washington DC. They never were, though.
Can’t emphasize that specific problem enough – was that a complete lie on Oreskes’ part? Then there’s her tale of her meet up with what turned to be her future “Merchants of Doubt” book co-author Erik Conway, which as I described in a multi-part series of blog posts, would have required Conway to have the ability to travel backward in time. Why would she offer assertions to the public which are demonstratively not true?
Can’t emphasize the larger problem enough, either: what’s old is still old and worthless in this ‘leaked memos’ accusation business, here’s an example of a December 2009 blog post review of James “co-founder of Desmogblog” Hoggan’s book “Climate Cover-Up” where the PhD-level ocean modeler blogger dutifully regurgitated the memos without questioning anything about them, and added a line about a memo strategy “to supply alternative facts” which was literally never in that rejected memo set proposal. Was that last bit a complete lie on the part of that blogger? No, she lifted that passage straight out of Hoggan’s book. Who’s his endnote citation for that? Naomi Oreskes, via her oft-cited 2008 Powerpoint presentation …. which includes a slide that could be mistakenly interpreted that the line about “supply alternative facts” was in the memo set. I covered Hoggan’s monster error of assumption about that in my August 13, 2014 blog post.
See how this pattern works out? No matter where you go in the ‘evil fossil fuel industry colludes with crooked skeptic climate scientists’ accusation, and no matter when you arrive, the same one or two sets or worthless ‘leaked memos’ are offered as proof of that accusation. The only thing new this month, or in any recent times, is the various spin efforts applied to them, and the only thing all of this ultimately prompts is a sharpened focus on where the misinformation is actually found in the global warming issue, and on the core clique of people who’ve long promulgated those memo sets.