The death threats scare that was widely publicized in June 2011 turned out to be opportunistic hyperbole based on a five year old letter, one unverified remark at an event a year ago, and recycled old boorish emails. Yet the shameless propaganda machine continues to repeat the baseless claim without admitting that it was a transparent attempt to score sympathy points.
Why can they get away with it? Because media outlets like The Canberra Times won’t apologize for printing such vacuous unsubstantiated claims, and they won’t correct the record. And Catalyst (which soaked in the one-sided hyperbole with Science Under Seige last night) won’t do enough “investigation” to get the story straight.
The facts on the “death-threats”:
- The only “death-threat letter” the ANU could name in June 2011 was five years old. (It was posted in 2006 or 2007.) Even that was not serious enough to officially report to the Australian Federal Police. (Issuing a death threat is a criminal act punishable with a 10 year sentence in the ACT.)
- The other threat the ANU could “confirm” was a year old off-hand remark by an unknown person at a university function.
- Other reports of threats were vague, without details, and are not being investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
- When they had “quotes” they turned out to be just rude emails with lots of “f” words. Regrettable, unnecessary, but not death threats. (See: To a climate scientist, *swearing* equals a Death Threat (no wonder these guys can’t predict the weather.) The weak emails include things like: Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT,” and “If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you,” reads another.
- The “worst” rude emails they could find were shamelessly recycled from a year before. That says a lot about how frequently these type of emails are sent.
- The security cards issued to climate scientists turned out to be a standard issue upgrade. Brice Bosnich reports that every member of the ANU Chemistry department got a new card.
- Most threats of violence come from those pushing the global warming campaign towards skeptics. They don’t do it anonymously in emails, they announce it in a press release.
The evidence confirms that those claiming “death-threats” are serial exaggerators, without evidence, seeking false sympathy to distract from their disintegrating scientific case.
“Respect the Science?”
After all this, Anna Maria Arabia — who heads up a scientific body FASTS (the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies) launched a “Respect the science” program. She strangely tried to set the tone by calling independent scientists insulting names, “deniers”, and repeating the vague, out-of-date and false claim that there were many death threats. Stooping to conspiracy theories without any evidence, she asserted that it was part of a “coordinated campaign”.
She too claimed to have received a death threat. Apparently one Dr Stan Lippman from Seattle (probably fed up with the name-callers who ask for “respect”) admitted he sent her an email saying “When the Grand Jury is done with you, I’ll enjoy watched them string you up.” It was a foolish and nasty message to send, but not a death threat. (Stan, don’t do it, you are not helping, and you ought to apologize.) There was no intent that he was personally going to harm her, and the AFP had again not received a referral at the time. To put this in perspective, politicians and media personalities apparently get these kind of bad form sprays all the time. It’s hardly “hysteria”.
What does “respect” mean anymore?
No, Anna-Marie Arabia, you should not have to put up with getting rude emails, but when you insult people in your professional role (some of the scientists you call “deniers” have Nobel Physics Prizes) you’re a part of the problem. “Respect” starts with good manners.
“Respecting the science” starts with evidence
You’ll earn our respect when you talk about evidence, stop issuing wildly hyped propagandist claims, and apologize for the denigrating name-calling. You’ll earn our respect when you speak out against videos that pretend to blow up skeptical children, or columnists who think skeptics should be tattooed, or gassed, or tried for war-crimes. If government funded scientists want respect they need to release their data and methods voluntarily without FOI’s. They need to denounce scientists who “hide declines”, can’t explain their adjustments, who threaten editors* of scientific journals, who wage a war on science by breaking well known rules of logic and reason, misrepresent local warming at badly-sited thermometers as “global warming”, and loudly proclaim “it’s worse than we thought” when the planet is only warming a fraction as much as they predicted.
Skeptics want to talk about the evidence. Those who want keep on profiting by alarming the world, resort to insults, threats, and attempts at defamation instead.
The bottom line:
‘Death threats are never OK and must be investigated, and the proponents prosecuted.
Baseless hype must be exposed with the facts, answered and mocked relentlessly until the standards of public discourse, and journalistic “research” are lifted.
*See March 23 2003