Fakegate: Who's the Fake?

In recent weeks, the climate community has been in a bit of an uproar over leaked documents from the Heartland Institute (H.I.). One of which was a memo outlining specific strategies that H.I. claims is “a forgery apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute,” not written byanyone associated with The Heartland Institute, “ nor does it “express Heartland's goals, plans, or tactics.”

4 out of 5 climate deniers prefer Heartland

While the jury is still out as to whether or notthe H.I. memo leaked by Gleick is a forgery, many are concerned that this incident may tarnish the credibility of climate science and its consensus. Peter Gleick, president and founder of the Pacific Institute climate research group who fraudulently obtained the documents has admitted to a “serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics,” and resigned from his posts on the board of the National Center for Science Education and the chairmanship of the American Geophysical Union task force on scientific ethics.

Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute, the self-proclaimed victims of a dastardly “criminal offense subject to imprisonment,” are now using it for their advantage – fundraising. Prominently displayed on their website: “Left wing groups commit fraud but we’re fighting back. Join our legal defense fund to remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals…

Heartland Institutes’s President and co-founder Joseph Bast recently emailed his donors asking for their support:

“I need your help!...Can you make a charitable contribution to our legal defense fund? You would be helping us defend ourselves against a cowardly and criminal attack. You would also help us take down a notch some of the left-wing activists and their friends who so plainly crossed the line this time.”

Now a few things come to mind. For starters, regardless if this memo was a fake or not, the climate denial machine already has a long history of strategic memos that were leaked.

In 1991, the Information Council for the Environment (ICE) was created by coal and mining associations with the objective to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact) if not a myth" and “attack the proponents [by comparing] global warming to historical or mythical instances of gloom and doom.” ICE disbanded soon after internal memos were leaked to the press.

In 1998, there was the memo drafted by the American Petroleum Institute’s Global Climate Action team that highlighted specific strategies to “inform the American public that science does not support the precipitous actions Kyoto would dictate...” Explicitly, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens, industry leaders and media ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; [and it] becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.” These strategies included a direct outreach program with information kits and educational materials, recruiting scientists who would publicly debate the science, a national media relations program to generate coverage, the establishment of a foundation to serve as a “one-stop resource on climate science” and grassroots efforts with literature such as peer-reviewed papers, fact sheets and op-eds that would “undercut the ‘conventional wisdom’ of climate science.”

(Any of this sound familiar?)

Then there was Frank Luntz’s memo in 2002 advising Republican leaders on how to win the “environmental communications battle,” particularly to “the global warming debate.” Suggesting a variety of tactics, his foremost advice was to challenge the science and emphasize scientific uncertainty: “The scientific debate remains open...should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue.”

While Luntz has finally come around to believe in the reality of global warming and agrees with the consensus, the damage was done and the denial machine continues to challenge the science and emphasize uncertainty.

In December 2010, during the height of Climategate and immediately after correspondent Wendell Goler reported on-air that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record," Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon emailed a memo to Fox journalists:

“...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”

(Yet again proof, as if we didn’t know, that Fox News is in the business of unfair and unbalanced and industry biased infotainment – not news. And the climate denial wheels keep spinning round…)

My second thought and again irregardless if the memo leaked by Gleick was a fake, why ever is the Heartland Institute in such a frenzy, so outraged, so indignant? As in the words of Bast,Left-wing bloggers are filling the blogosphere with quotes from the fake memo, claiming it reveals our "hidden agenda" and "secret plans." Oh no, sound the alarm!

Look, we all know that H.I. is a key player in sowing doubt and denial, nearly a poster child for the strategies outlined in the API memo. Their publication Environment and Climate News, “the monthly newspaper for common-sense environmentalism,” currently runs with the headline, “Climategate 2 Reveals Further Scientific Misconduct, Doubts.” Their list of contributors, speakers, fellows, so-called experts is a shining constellation of prominent deniers: Sallie Baliunas, Lord Christopher Monckton, Ross McKitrick, Christopher C. Horner, William H. Gray, Myron Ebell, Willie Soon, Tim Ball, PhD, Richard Lindzen, Bjorn Lomberg, Pat Michaels, S. Fred Singer, et al.

To date, H.I. has presented 6 “International Conferences on Climate Change,” sponsored by such unbiased, truth-seeking and yes fossil-fuel-funded organizations such as the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Topics include “global warming is not a crisis;” the “widespread dissent to the asserted 'consensus' on various aspects of climate change and global warming;" and “new scientific discoveries have cast doubt on how much of the warming of the twentieth century was natural and how much was man-made.” This past summer’s 6th conference, “Restoring the Scientific Method” acknowledged that the “science of climate change is based on ‘post-normal science’ which substitutes claims of consensus for the scientific method” with “terrible consequences for science and society.”

So, is it defamatory to assert or even reveal that H.I. has a "hidden agenda" and "secret plans” to dispute the reality of global warming? Actually, maybe it is since they’re not being all that secretive about it – nor is their intent to debate and dispute climate science (or any science that threatens the free market) very hidden.

This brings me to my final point. In his book, Propaganda, social theorist Jacques Ellul writes, “Facts come to be discussed in the language of indignation, a tone which is almost always the mark of propaganda.” More so, “The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed, he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has and of trying to commit the very crime he himself is about to commit…”

With that in mind, let’s take one more look at Bast’s email:

“When the left runs out of arguments and facts which is usually pretty quickly they turn to attacking our donors. They do this to discourage people from supporting us, as well as other conservative and libertarian groups. We understand their game.”

You bet they do… Cripes, they nearly invented it… in this decades long, fully-funded, industry agenda-driven propaganda campaign to distort, debate and defame the science and reality of anthropomorphic global warming and climate change. All to ensure that we remain content with business, or rather fossil fuel profits, as usual.

And despite Gleick’s actions, which were dishonest, dishonorable, bad and wrong, we are still amateurs at the game – that is if we really wanted to play it and resort to their deceptions or even their obvious tactics like the editing and censoring of news items or federal documents.

Just take look at what they do: All this hubbub about leaked documents and no mention of what went down during Climategate, (and now Climategate2.0) As Kate Sheppard writing in Mother Jones eloquently put it, “Heartland didn't seem to mind when emails between climate scientists that were stolen from a server, made public, and lied about on the internet—either the first or second time it happened. It's only now that such behavior is "just despicable," a "violation of journalistic ethics," and a criminal offense.”

Or when in 2009 climate journalist Andrew Revkin misstated information in an article and caught the heat. Lord Christopher Monckton accused Revkin and the New York Times of “deliberate misrepresentation” and of writing a “mendacious article.”

Or consider what H.I. contributor Christopher C. Horner wrote in his Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming:

“The dishonesty and bully tactics employed to preserve the appearance of consensus are startling:” The consensus claim depends on discredited reports, character assassinations and fake experts.” “It’s the greens who seek to censor science and intimidate dissent and debate prompting a stream of intimidation and ad hominem attacks.”Alarmists “have decided that the best way to win the global warming debate is by shouting down the opposition and demonizing them in the eyes of the public.”“When one side is short of persuasive arguments, it resorts to personal denigration of the other side; ignoring its arguments; attempting to silence it; and exaggerating its own claims. All these telltale signs are manifest from the climate change side today.”

Really… yes, they do understand the game alright but just whom are they talking about? Surely not the left who is now in a tizzy about Gleick's unfortunately questionable means to reveal the conscious efforts to deny climate change. But hear this, those of you who fear that scientific credibility has been tarnished, we can worry about this so-called Gleickgate, this Fakegate, Climategate(s) - all of the "gates" we want to - because that is exactly their game – to debate, dispute, distort, deny the science and precisely to tarnish credibility to keep the American public confused and distracted so that we continue to use fossil fuels, build pipelines, bemoan the price of gas without ever demanding green energy, a green infrastructure and a sustainable economy.

Seriously, don’t we have enough to worry about?

The good news is that more Americans believe climate change is happening – because they now have direct experience. Mother Nature has taken care of that. We must now, in good faith, move on and continue to expose the denial machine and all of its tactics, while also moving towards the means of curbing any more effects, and ensure we do the right thing as a nation for ourselves and the planet.

Image credit: ClimateCrocks.com

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Internal Heartland Institute Email Blasts "Lamestream Media" for Climate Leak, Mother Jones, By Kate Sheppard Feb. 16, 2012

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