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Boots on the ground trampling the green weeds

Seeding doubt: how sceptics use new media to delay action on climate change - pdf
Alex Lockwood, University of Sunderland
Paper delivered to the Association for Journalism Education (AJE) annual conference, “New Media, New Democracy?” Sheffield University, 12th September 2008

...
“The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.”
Since publication of the 4th IPCC report in 2007, the mainstream media has, in general, accepted this position. As Andreadis and Smith (2007) note, UK journalists are no longer required to balance each warning voice....

However, the results of a long campaign of disinformation are depressing. In a poll conducted by Ipsos Mori in June this year, 60% of the UK public agreed that “many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change.”....

It is my contention that new media is providing the spatial and temporal freedoms that, when combined with the ability to publish free from peer‐review and from journalistic codes, provides the ‘room for doubt’ for which Pachauri says there is no longer any time.
Do we have time for ill‐informed scepticism and disinformation?....

...a useful way to think about climate change in relation to democratic renewal, as sceptic discourses have been found to sow doubt as a means to protect the economic interests of Western enclaves (McCright and Dunlap, 2003). What is the contribution made to this contest by new media?...

....The most successful, WattsUpWiththat.com, the US‐based blog of sceptic and former weatherman Anthony Watts, in July this year posted 646,024 page views (2.8m since launch). It is in the top four of 3.4m blogs using the free online blog authoring tool, Wordpress. Using the latest Nielsen Net Ratings data, even the most conservative estimate would give it over 300,000 monthly visits and a readership of over 31,000 users. Compare that to the New Statesman’s 12.7% year‐on‐year decline, to headline sales of just over 26,000.

In the UK sceptic sites are fewer, but are well read and bound up with concepts of nationalism. Climate denialist An Englishman’s Castle is in Total Politics magazine’s Top 20 libertarian blogs. Political sites dominate online, and many libertarian sites such as Newsbusters.com (70th most influential blog, according to Technorati.com) regularly support denialist views....

...The rise of the issue enthusiast and lay expert is part of the ‘citizen journalism’ revolution and is providing, to quote online journalism blogger Paul Bradshaw, “more boots on the ground than any commercial news operation... more background, savvy and commitment to the case.” This has been rightly celebrated. But ascribing a “technological idealism” to the democratic potential of the Internet risks holding it apart from history and politics.
Anthony Watts and A Englishman’s Castle are boots on the ground, but ones leaving heavy footprints....

...So what does this mean for new media’s democratic value? There is clearly a need for research into the ways in which climate scepticism online is free to contest scientific fact. But there is enough here already to put forward some of the ideas in circulation.
One of the founders of the Internet Vint Cerf, and lead for Google’s Internet for Everyone project, made a recent suggestion that the Internet should be nationalised as a public utility.
As tech policy blogger Jim Harper argues, “giving power over the Internet to well‐heeled interests and self‐interested politicians” is, and I quote, “a bad idea.”
Or in the UK every new online publication could be required to register with the recently announced Internet watchdog: from which at least the ownership and political economy of the web could be assessed. However, a tale from Belarus, where a law requiring registration with the national government of every new blog has just been signed into force. Rightly, Reporters Without Borders called the law “repressive” and predict that censorship will increase.
Suppressing debate where it legitimately exists risks leaving the mainstream agenda open to dismissal. ‘Green bully’ and ‘religious environmentalist’ personas are invoked as evidence of hysteria at the heart of environmental commitment....

...I would argue that climate disinformation online is a form of cultural and political malware every bit as threatening to our new media freedoms, used not to foster a forum for open politics but to create, in Nancy Fraser’s term, a “multiplicity of fragmented publics” that harms not only our democracy, but our planet.

I am not worthy, but my sincere thanks to Alex for those encouraging words. Some mornings it seems a waste of time tapping away at the keyboard but with such stirring endorsements I am given the strength to carry on.

H/t Budderies

Comments

"In the UK sceptic sites are fewer, but are well read and bound up with concepts of nationalism"

National Denialist Party anyone?

While Tim is doing porridge for contravening the Extension of Free Speech Act 2008 which makes climate scepticism, anti-multiculturism, etc, crimes, he can write "My Sceptical Struggle". When he is released we'll all go down the pub for a punch up (yes, I know), he'll become leader and the NDP will be the only legal party, we'll burn down parliament and blame the greenies, stick long pointy things in the backs of the law and order nutjobs who helped us gain power and pull out of Kyoto. Then we'll start building a glorious carbon rich empire that will last a thousand years.

He is Blogger. Hear him roar!

The Remittance Man can be found repeatedly kowtowing in the direction of Wiltshire while intoning the "I am not worthy ..." mantra.

Hey, RM, don't you sometimes think that it would be nice occasionally to write a report that nobody needs to understand, then you could come up with terms like "multiplicity of fragmented publics"? The best I could do would be to allude to a multiplicity of fragmented rocks, to which the mine manager would respond "I know the chuffing roof has fallen down, what you going to do about it is all I want to know? And you can stick your big words up your arse, along with this large pineapple."

“The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.”
Since publication of the 4th IPCC report in 2007, the mainstream media has, in general, accepted this position. As Andreadis and Smith (2007) note, UK journalists are no longer required to balance each warning voice...."

I assume that refers to the BBC. No other journalistic body is bound by law to be impartial, merely truthful. When it comes to environmental reporting the truthiness of the media comes from accurately reporting the exaggerated exclamations of Government funded scientists.

Bloody hell, a university in Sunderland, there'll be one in Lesser Wittering next. As far as I know no one denies climate change, that is what it does. You do not need a Degree to know that.

Derek

Where to Start! If the science has been settled then all funding for climate change research needs to stop- and anyone who submitted an application for funds towards research in that time should be prosecuted for fraud and made to repay the money. of course if the science isn''t settled then research and debate are both justified and any media outlet saying otherwise should be pursued for malfeasance.
60% of the British public (say 40million people) are skeptical it is alleged because of websites (with readerships in the tens of thousands and unheard of by 90% of the population) and despite the constant promulgation of certainty by the BBC (with a viewership in tens of millions and universally known)among others for ten years plus. God knows what the figure would be if the BBC complied with its charter and reported impartially. Clearly these people are far too stupid to be allowed the vote, we need an infallible God, immune to considerations of personal interest, and capable of putting down all those nasty selfish factions that lie to us and cheat us. I'm not sure that Sunderland University will produce such- but at great personal sacrifice I'm willing to take on the role.
I'm sure nationalisation will remove control of the web from politicians.
etc.
I find it hard to believe that such an assemblage of untruths, non-sequitors, and arrogance could have occurred through mere incompetence, but believe it I must.

From Uni of Sunderland website:

Alex Lockwood
Lecturer in Magazine Journalism
Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism
MA at Sussex
Lecturing since 2005
Current Research Work: Preparing a doctoral thesis, examining the representation of the texts and effects of climate change across media, from the press to literature.

No indication that he has any significant science background so his comments are hardly surprising ...

Alan

Apologies - it says Masters from Sussex - I don't know if it was an MA or MSc.

Alan B: Sounds like glorified Media Studies to me! What else would you expect. Highly unlikely someone with a BA in Magazine Journalism would suddenly go & do a MSc in a scientific subject!

We appear to be on the very brink of a totalarian revolution, & it's a bit like being parallised & not being able to stop it. CCTV every where, function creep increasing, anti-terror laws being used in ways we were emphatically told would not happen. Now we have academics getting their knickers all twisted because some people have the gall to raise questions about science claims made by government bodies/organisations. It is stepping ever closer to an Eco-police state where everyone must adhere to the official line lest punishment is issued!

Albert Einstein once said, "a scientific consensus can be undone by a singel fact"! The world is no longer warming but cooling, has been doing so for 8 years, & predicted to continue for at least another 6 years,yet we have been told repeatedly that we're warming. Now the cost of the Carbon clap-trap is being discovered the more it is enforced, but Poland et al are baulking at the thought of their economy crashing as a result of compliance, &we with less than 1.87% production of world CHG's. Madness!

Good day Sir,

Please do not stop blogging, you are doing a marvellous job.

Karl Popper is his book 'The Open Society and it's enemies' said that the definition of an open society is one in which people are free to criticize.

Regards,

Neil,
Co.Wicklow


Re comment from Alan the Brit, 6 PM:

Yes, I agree it does not seem likely that the Masters was in a science discipline but I try to quote accurately and on this point I realised I had failed so I came back quickly and corrected it.

What's this "recently announced Internet watchdog" then?

If the skeptic arguments are valid then readers will question the merits of the official accepted position, and they have a right to do this.(never have blind faith in your leaders). A word of warning, GOOGLE has become too dominant, it is already censoring information in many countries and it supports AGW. Just type GLOBAL WARMING SKEPTIC and see if google finds (climateaudit) or (wattupwiththat) the two main skeptic blogs.
Google HOCKEY STICK and Steve Mcintyre the main player who has totally discredited this flawed study by Mann appears 39th on the list. I think we have censorship by Google. We need another good search engine now.

To Doc,

?

RM

"The science is not in doubt"? There are those who disagree.

Well, what would you expect from a lecturer in Journalism? Which is nothing to brag about, given the current UK standard.

Only a Journalist/ignoramus/Media Hack or other non-Scientist could possibly say, "The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point."
Keep up the good work!

I am an engineer. I doubt my eyes, my ears, my nose, my calculations, and my instruments. I doubt and rethink the conclusions of my coworkers and superiors, and many times have corrected people that I hold in high esteem because they made an error in their thinking.

This is what a scientist does. If you accept anything unconditionally, you are will eventually accept something that is incorrect and that will get you burned. Thus, you MUST get to the original data and get evidence and backup evidence for everything.

Now, for climate change. There is significant evidence that the climate has changed. However, the case for humans being the cause is circumstantial at best. There is no evidence to lay the blame at our feet save for climate models. These models are merely differential equations about what might have happened if we assume that we know exactly what happens in the upper atmosphere. At the accuracy needed to count as proof, they are about as accurate as your average astrologer.

If you disagree with the above paragraph, please present evidence for the fact that humans have caused warming that does not rely on a computer model.

In other words, if you continue to say things that we don't like, we're going to censor you and your ilk - and it's all your fault.

Thank God we live in a free country...not!

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