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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Heartland's Unabomber Fiasco Is Par For The Course

Heartland's Unabomber Fiasco Is Par For The Course

by Steve Zwick, contributor, Green Tech, Forbes Magazine, May 6, 2012
So,  the Heartland Institute has battle fatigue, and that’s what drove it to erect a billboard along a suburban Chicago expressway with the Unabomber’s mugshot and the caption, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
That’s what serial Heartland apologist Anthony Watts says: the make-believe “think tank” is shell-shocked, and that’s why they’re behaving strangely.
Hmmm…  I’d have thought that if anyone should be suffering battle fatigue, it’s the scientists and reporters who receive the hate-mail and death threats fueled by Heartland’s campaign of distortion and innuendo.

But maybe I’m wrong.  Let’s take a look at their strange behavior and see what it tells us.

We know that on Friday they unveiled their zany billboard and bragged that it was just the first in a whole series of similar ones designed to associate climate scientists with Charles Manson, Fidel Castro, and Osama bin Laden.
Seriously.  Check out their announcement:
These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it… (W)hat these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the ‘mainstream’ media, and liberal politicians say about global warming.
But then, after the hoots and howls became too loud even for these practiced deniers to deny, they pulled the billboard and posted this:
This provocative billboard was always intended to be an experiment. And after just 24 hours the results are in: It got people’s attention.
An “experiment”?  To determine whether it will get people’s attention?  And what about Osama, Fidel, and the others?  Shouldn’t Heartland try to replicate the Unabomber results to see if their findings are valid?
A few sentences later, they provide this howler:
The Heartland Institute doesn’t often do ‘provocative’ communication.
Sorry, but what other kind of communication do they do?  And what, for example, is this childish and silly web site they erected to make fun of Peter Gleick
Gleick, you may recall, is a noted hydroclimatologist who acquired and disseminated documents showing how Heartland gets and spends its money. Among other things, the documents showed that Heartland was making payments to high-profile climate deniers.  But then Gleick admitted that he got the documents by using an assumed name, and Heartland pounced on that ruse to deflect attention away from themselves and to Gleick. I covered the episode here, and their “fakegate” website offers a glimpse into the ruthlessness with which they are trying to destroy him.
Heartland also went apoplectic in the wake of that event in an effort to squelch any coverage of the content of the documents and focus attention on the one document that couldn’t be validated:
Not only are they (Heartland) threatening to get medieval on anyone who reposts said documents, but they’ve threatened anyone who even comments on them. The less charitable may interpret such a threat as the heavy-handed response of right-wing authoritarian ideologues (sotto voce: a perfectly understandable interpretation).
And how about all the lies they keep propagating about the nature of science in general?  I went into detail on just a few recent examples last week. Check out the piece, then check out the “fakegate” site, then look at the stuff they’ve written.
What you’ll find is a pattern — a pattern into which this billboard episode fits quite nicely.
Far from being an aberration, this is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing acts that Heartland has carried out in public — and they’ve been at this for more than 25 years.  Before they got into the anti-climate-science racket, they were in the anti-lung-science racket, where they helped the tobacco industry assuage our concerns over second-hand smoke.  (Don’t you love someone who makes you feel good about doing something bad?)
They’ve also been working arduously for years to destroy the reputation of people like Michael Mann.  He’s the climate scientist that Heartland loves to vilify because he had the audacity to publish scientific findings that challenge their fragile ideology.  (I covered this a bit last week as well, and here is another piece from The Guardian.)
If this billboard fiasco is a symptom of battle fatigue, then Heartland has been suffering for years.
Which makes me wonder if that isn’t what Watts is trying to say.  Maybe this battle fatigue of theirs is an ongoing thing.  Maybe they have been suffering from it for years!
After all, it can’t be easy regurgitating all that pseudo-science when people like Mann are out there generating solid research.  Then there’s all the psychological dissonance they must be dealing with.  That’s got to take a toll on their fake “think tank” soul.
Think about it.  If you were guilty of doing what they’ve been doing, wouldn’t you feel kind of bad?
Yes, maybe Heartland is suffering from something akin to battle fatigue, but the name just doesn’t feel right.
Maybe Watts meant to say “bullying fatigue.”
Yes, that must be what he meant to say.

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