…. within a presentation that’s clearly titled “You Can Argue with the Facts,” and get away with it indefinitely, without ever being held accountable for all the harm coming out of such a presentation? When you are Naomi Oreskes, and you’ve built your second career is built on that presentation in such a way that it leads you onto becoming a documentary movie star, a go-to source for the news media (or not) and a star congressional witness for the Democrats while putting you on a first-name basis with luminaries such as Al Gore, you can cross your fingers that this whole situation will never sink.
Myself, I wouldn’t advise her to hold her breath on that or bet the ranch on it, in the face of the looming November U.S. House mid-term elections, where a complete reversal of the controlling majority might lead to a wave of congressional oversight investigations in the next two years that may quite likely include deep examinations of where the real disinformation is apparently found in abundance within the global warming issue.
This will be a long post, mostly because of the transcribed text out of Oreskes 2008 Powerpoint presentation. First, though, a quick review:
- Part 1 — the origins of her’ “You Can Argue with the Facts” presentation. The ‘old material’ she was magically alerted to way back then somehow ends up being days-old current [disinformation] headline news. Question is, is there a straight line from then to today?
- Part 2 — the apparent disinformation in her presentation before she even got into her accusations against skeptic climate scientists and the fossil fuel industry. I didn’t previously dive into the faults in that part of her presentation when I first found it years ago, and hadn’t intended to spend that much time on it in Part 2, but when that many are so easily found, the simple question is – how many more faults are in the rest of it?
Now, on to her central accusation presentation:
1. 14:43 point: “… In the early 1990s, the Western Fuels Association launched a major campaign to challenge the scientific evidence regarding global warming …”
No, they didn’t. She’s referring to their “Information Council for the Environment” (ICE) campaign, a pilot project seen in a smattering of newspaper ads and heard in roughly the same amount of radio ads and TV spots/interviews during the last three weeks of May, 1991 in only three small towns, Fargo, North Dakota, Flagstaff, Arizona, and Bowling Green Kentucky. When the definition of a major media campaign would arguably be hundreds if not thousands of cities across half the country, her assertion here is essentially outright misinformation.
2. 14:51: / (PPT slide 27): “… A major part of their strategy involved arguing whether the facts were in fact facts. So this is a document that- from the Western Fuels Association where they explicitly lay out their strategies, you can see there are nine of them, and number one is to ‘reposition global warming as theory, not fact.'”
That’s the total credibility killer error right there. I personally got it confirmed by the “three” scientists supposedly ‘operating under that #1 strategy within the ICE campaign’ — Drs Singer, Michaels, Balling (and for good measure, Ross Gelbspan’s inexplicably substituted Dr Sherwood Idso, via his son) — that they had no clue of that strategy memo’s existence (I even had to remind Dr Singer on one occasion regarding what the Western Fuels Association ICE campaign was, that’s just how un-associated he was with it). I have that further corroborated by four others who were associated with the ICE campaign that they did not operate under that directive, and beyond that, the late Ron Arnold corroborated via interviews of people associated with the ICE campaign that the “reposition global warming” memo set was rejected and never used.
She continues to paint herself deeper into an indefensible corner from this point.
3. 15:54 / 16:12: / (PPT slide 31): “… So, who were the Western Fuels Association? … An article in Range Magazine in the fall of 2000 profiled the general manager and chief executive officer Fred Palmer, who they described as, quote ‘determined to defend the coal-fired power plants from an assault launched by professional environmentalists, the United Nations, our own government, and the nation’s economic competitors.’ So you see the whole economic anxiety here as well as a kind of anti-internationalism which you also see allows this kind of attacking the UN and attacking anything that smacks of global governance.”
No, that’s arguably disinformation. When you read the complete article, the statement immediately following what she quoted was about Fred Palmer’s concern that basically half of the science was being ignored. The article goes on to describe the side of the science which essentially the majority of the public still has not been told – two decades later – by the mainstream media.
4. 16:59: / (PPT slide 34): “… In the early 1990s, they launched a mass media campaign, and they provided funding for the creation of an organization called the “Information Council for the Environment.”
It was a minor media campaign, so small and so short in just three towns that essentially very few people saw it. Far worse, however, she implies here – and her slide implies – (falsely) that the “reposition global warming” memo set was part of the “Information Council for the Environment.” Her subsequent 2010 chapter contribution to the Howlett / Morgan “How Well do Facts Travel?” book says basically the same thing in a line about that specific name being ultimately chosen for the campaign. If she had stuck to that specific name, she wouldn’t have later dug a hole for herself in both a 2019 U.S. House hearing written submission and in a 2021 UK Guardian article where she unequivocally states the name of the ICE campaign was “Informed Citizens for the Environment.”
Under oath at either future congressional hearings or at courtroom proceedings, she could be asked a simple question: “Well, which is it …. or do you even know?”
5. 17:09, referring collectively to the WFA and the “reposition global warming” memo: “… when I saw this I really woke up because any of you who know about the history of tobacco know one of the things the industry did was to create the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, so same kind of idea here, right? A sort of front organization to supply – quote – ‘information.’”
No. That is an irrelevant apples ‘n oranges comparison, with the unspoken false premise that skeptic climate scientists operated just like tobacco industry shill ‘experts’ who knew full well that cigarette smoking was harmful if not deadly to human health, where the objective was to save the industry from inevitable ruin by somehow convincing the public that cigarettes, a.k.a. “coffin nails” that put out particulates which make most people cough in recoil to it while turning them into addicts, were harmless. There are no upside benefits to smoking beyond some kind of relaxation feeling (I’m not a smoker). It would be hard to stop counting all the benefits fossil fuels provide. Fred Palmer’s goal was to provide the information, based on science facts, that the mainstream media, Al Gore, and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was not telling the public.
Regarding her first bit about “when I first saw this” – again under oath at either future congressional hearings or at courtroom proceedings – she could be asked a simple question: “You first saw this …. when and how, via who?” since neither of her essentially mutually exclusive tales involving her “Merchants of Doubt” co-author or the one about Dr Ben Santer line up right, concerning what steered her into the character assassination angle of this issue.
6. 17:24: / (PPT slide 34’s 2nd paragraph) “… The mission of this group, and this is in the private documents, was “to develop an effective national strategy to help ensure that action by the Administration and/or Congress on the issue of global warming is based on scientific evidence.”
No, that particular “mission statement” was not in “the private documents.” Quite likely she does not show the “private document” with that statement because it would totally undercut her immediate prior claim about the name of group being “Information Council for the Environment.” The document page in question (no longer available in Greenpeace’s archive scans, but seen in the copy I saved, PDF page 9) shows what the contradiction is. It may have dawned on Oreskes later that she needed to abandon the authoritative assertion about the “Information Council” name.
You can’t have it both ways. Worse, this page was in the unsolicited, rejected “reposition global warming” memo set. How is that proven? Back in 1991, one of the ICE officials told the New York Times that various name suggestions among other suggestions was unsolicited and never followed. The ICE name was never anything else but Information Council for the Environment.”
7. 18:06: “… So, in documents preserved in American Meteorological Society, and were leaked to them by someone good, …”
As the late Ron Arnold found out and described in his 2016 piece about Oreskes, they are not preserved at AMS. They never were.
On several occasions, I’ve said Naomi Oreskes has an inability to remain silent about details that are critically damaging to the ‘crooked skeptic scientists’ accusation. This double hit is another one of those instances. Who, in their right mind, would leak utterly non-meteorological information to an organization solely focused on meteorological analysis? Would such a person actually be considered bad, or minimally irresponsible, if he or she did not instead leak the documents to, say, the New York Times?? (what if a leaker did exactly that, but never, ever said another word about it? (Oh, wait, that’s a whole other mystery story)
Regarding her inexplicably gleeful antics about the “leaked by somebody good,” that’s yet another invitation gift on a silver platter for congressional investigators / energy company defendant lawyers to deeply probe.
Leaked by who, specifically? When, exactly? And why on Earth leak it to the AMS?
Oreskes’ two years-later “How Well do Facts Travel?” book chapter contribution only muddies the situation by noting it was AMS’ own Communications official Anthony Socci who alerted her about the Western Fuels Association documents while also speaking of his own access to them.
A simple question arises out of that: Did Socci not leak the WFA docs to the AMS, but simply brought them with him from his former job in association with Al Gore, via the situation were Gore was grilling Dr Sherwood Idso about the Western Fuels Association? One more naturally follows: What possible reason would Socci have for alerting Oreskes about the ICE and other WFA material instead of, say, the New York Times??
8. Meanwhile, 18:23: / (PPT slide 35): “… The idea was that they would test the message they would then spread in selected radio and print media environments … they were tested in four American cities, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Champaign Illinois, Flagstaff, Arizona, and Fargo, North Dakota … and they also added one more, actually, Bowling Green as well, which will come up a little bit later.”
No message was test marketed via print media in either Chattanooga or Champaign, I covered that in my “Real ICE Ads Part 5” blog post, where she was very likely reading straight off Greenpeace’s scans of the ‘alleged’ ICE docs.
But speaking of Greenpeace’s scan copies, let’s skip ahead to where she brings up “Bowling Green” again in an instance where instead of keeping her mouth shut, she should have kept what she showed to herself.
9. 21:51 / 22:11: / (PPT slide 47): “… This is from the Bowling Green tour, meeting with editors and writers, again the strategy the tobacco industry used … and here’s an example of how the strategy worked, so in Bowling Green after meeting with the writers and editors, the Bowling Green local newspaper published this article “Bowling Green Now Battleground in Heated Global Warming Dispute,” so there you have it, this is not an argument that this is not a scientific question in which scientists are essentially in agreement, this is hot debate.”
Good luck with being able to easily read that whole article either within the 25 or so seconds it’s on her screen, or directly at the Powerpoint file. Naomi Oreskes, even back in 2008, was a professor in the Department of History and an adjunct professor of Geosciences at the University of California, San Diego, where she very likely had the ability to dispatch student interns to search Kentucky library newspaper archives to find a much clearer copy of the article than that. There’s no rocket science involved in that.
But what is she showing here? It’s one of the scans out of what I term the “Greenpeace USA neé Ozone Action” scan collection – I recognize it from after the time when I first saw her 2010 book chapter reference to the article, where I never could find any online “Bowling Green Daily News” archive of it, but what I did find was Greenpeace’s scan.* The tell-tale features of such scans are their scratchy appearance, sloppy alignment, and random handwritten notes. *(Unfortunately I didn’t save their link to it, and their whole scans collection went offline sometime within the last year. But if I do find one of their files for the article resulting from their apparent shift of loads of those scans – e.g. this one – to the “documentcloud” system, rest assured, I’ll post it here.)
Oreskes portrays the article as though it follows the tobacco industry tactic; paid shills declaring there’s no harm from man-caused global warming who prompted the reporter to regurgitate that without question. It might be plausible to say that from actual reading of the main body and its continuation, a more accurate headline might be “Industry Dismissal of Global Warming Peril Hotly Debated.” Compare the two quite strident pro-global warming critics of the ICE ads to the campaign representative clearly and calmly states how the industry doesn’t deny the warming is happening, saying the concern about it may instead be overblown. Ironically, the strident political staffer quoted in the article stated that there was a 100% scientific certainty on the issue, which predated Oreskes’ own 100% consensus declaration by over 13½ years.
Maintaining a professional presentation is not Oreskes’ strong suit. Back at the point between erroneously mentioning Chattanooga / Champaign and Bowling Green, she glibly quips, “This is before the Coen brothers made their movie,” referencing the 2008 “Burn After Reading” comedy movie about bumbling fools who unwittingly mistake memoirs for damaging secret government files while trying to extort a profit from the material. Again, it would have been wiser to keep her mouth shut about that — I was told there was absolutely nothing secret about the efforts behind the Western Fuels “Information Council for the Environment” public relations campaign, and that none of the rejected “reposition global warming” subset was part of the campaign.
Question is, how foolish were the folks who ‘discovered’ the “reposition global warming” memos, and how much profit have they made from them?
Having staked all her credibility on these memos and other bits falsely attributed to them, Oreskes only digs a deeper hole for herself from this point onward.
10. 19:42 / 20:08: / (PPT slide 39): “… Now, I love this part, so they actually settled on the acronym first, the acronym was ICE, so [dances around, gesturing/giggling] so it’s like don’t worry, everything’s cool, everything’s great, and they tried four different things that it could stand for, Information Council for the Environment, Informed Citizens for the Environment, Intelligent Concern for the Environment, and Informed Choices for the Environment … the tobacco industry always said, ‘well, there’s a matter of choice .. grownups can choose for themselves whether or not they want to smoke …”
Again, with the unprofessional teenage girl-style glib delivery? It was always “Information Council for the Environment,” all the others were part of the not-followed, unsolicited memo advice.
11. 20:33: (PPT slide 40): “… The radio creative will directly attack the proponents of global warming … The print creative will attack proponents …”
Again, from the unsolicited advice. There were no attacks, the ICE ads asked straight up questions in pursuit to trying to inform the public about something Al Gore and the news media was not telling them.
12. 20:57: / (PPT slides 41-45): “…Here are some examples of the print media campaign – ‘If the Earth is getting warmer, why is Kentucky getting colder?’ / ‘If the Earth is getting warmer, why is the frost line moving south?’ / ‘Who told you the Earth was getting warmer, Chicken Little?’ / ‘Some say the Earth is warming, some also said the Earth was flat.’ / and ‘How much are you willing to pay for a problem that may not even exist?.’
As I detailed at some length in my “Real ICE ads Part 2,” she just showed four out of five ads that were never seen in print anywhere in the form she showed.
13. 23:18 / 23:58: / (PPT slides 50-52): “… they also identified two different target audiences with different messages for the two audiences. So, one were the ‘older, less educated males – these are guys who take refuge in religion and guns … a second target were younger, lower income women …”
Again, with the unprofessional teenage girl-style flip remark about candidate Obama’s slur against conservatives who “cling to their religion and guns”? The ICE campaign’s goal was a single unified message to inform everyone possible about a side of the issue the public wasn’t seeing or hearing.
At this spot, we’re still not even halfway through her 58 minute Powerpoint presentation. What’s the tally so far here within her accusation section on assertions that have every appearance of being outright disinformation? Minimally around 13 instances within a span of ten minutes. Add to that my tally of at least 10 in Part 2 of her setup prior to accusing Western Fuels of treachery. Who knows how many more bits of basic misinformation are in her presentation from the 25 minute point on to the end, in which she veers into analysis of the Western Fuels Association-funded “The Greening of Planet Earth” video (it could have just as easily funded by the U.S. government), the biology of which she has exactly zero science expertise to dispute. But that’s a whole other topic altogether.
That all was a long slog, her voice is irritating to listen to and her unprofessional mannerisms are annoying to watch. But I did this so others don’t have to. And I did this so that congressional committee members at hearings where she might be called in by Democrats to be an “expert” on ‘fossil fuel industry disinformation’ won’t be caught flat-footed with nothing available to challenge her hugely suspect assertions. This also applies to energy company defendant law firms, if the “Exxon Knew”-style lawsuits (which cite her beloved 2010 book chapter) ever end up in evidentiary hearings, or if she somehow gets directly involved in a particular lawsuit.
The massive irony to all of this is how truer words have not been spoken when Naomi Oreskes stated in her otherwise missing appearance within the recent Frontline “The Power of Big Oil” series,
It’s important to understand the past. You can’t understand where you are, if you don’t know how you got there.
That critical advice needs to be turned 180° and aimed directly at her, because it ultimately reveals how the ‘crooked skeptics’ accusation implodes around her as pure disinformation. The more who know with precise detail how her assertions fall apart in the ‘crooked skeptics’ accusation, the more likely it is that key influential people will be able to expose this in the most public way possible, which could set up a domino effect concerning the rest of the little group of accusers who promulgate the worthless “reposition global warming” memos set as ‘evidence of ‘industry-paid skeptic liars-for-hire.’