Showing the intellectual depth we’ve come to expect from progressives, Monbiot argues that the public debate on atmospheric dynamics would be improved by knowing who-funds-those-who dare speak against the government experts.
It’s as if the truth of future tropospheric warming comes not from weather balloons, but from bank accounts and budget papers.
What words do Heartland print that are so dangerous, forthwith, such a public hazard, that we must know who funds the paper they are printed on?
(Dear George, when private citizens choose to speak, it’s none of your business whether they got funding or not, and who paid them if they did. It’s about science, not motivations. Data trumps funding. Debate the message, not the man. If you think Heartland promote lies, just explain what they are. Your megaphone is bigger than theirs, and if you asked to speak at a Heartland Conference to correct their views, I’m sure they would welcome it. It’s called free speech and may the best argument win.)
According to Monbiot, stealing is not just alright, it’s heroic. Your goods are mine, comrade. Too bad if you object.
I see Peter Gleick, the man who obtained and leaked the devastating documents from the Heartland Institute, as a democratic hero. I do not think he should have apologised, nor do I believe that his job should be threatened. He has done something of benefit to society.
I believe we have a right to know who is paying for public advocacy. The groups which call themselves thinktanks but look to me more like lobbying organisations working on behalf of corporations and multi-millionaires, exist to try to change public policy. Yet, with a few exceptions, they operate in a vacuum of accountability.
There are three problems with this (for starters):
1. It works against free speech
In the world of Monbiot, before you are allowed to say what you think you not only need to give us your whole full name you need to declare all your income, and the names and addresses of any sources of income (including donors). Now, that’ll really encourage people to speak up, and donate to causes they believe in, won’t it? I guess if you’ve captured government funding and have all the experts on your side, suppressing free speech seems like a natural fit.
2. It buries the real debate
Life is short, time is precious, and there is only so much room on the public soap-box to solve major public issues. How does it help humanity to fill it with clutter? What public service is gained from loading pages and airwaves with discussions of exactly which person funded another person who is pointing at inconvenient data from NASA satellites? The data is what matters; the emails, addresses, and names do not. Sure, if that person is speaking as an elected representative, or is spending public funds, then yes we need transparency. But if they are private citizens, and take no money from the public purse, any attempt to demand private information is just another way to shut down or distract us from the debate on the points that matter.
3. Who decides what qualifies as a “public benefit”?
Is it just God-Monbiot who can arbitrate on what is or isn’t in a public benefit? There was a man called Breivik who thought his work on Utoya was “for the public benefit” too. That’s why we have laws, and why no one is supposed to be above them.
It’s not “democratic” at all, it’s pro-establishment and anti-citizen
Demanding that private citizens must declare donations for groups and associations they support, hands more power to the bureaucratic rulers and takes it from the people.
Just imagine, purely hypothetically of course, that big-government was funding a class of researchers in an egregious one-sided style that fed confirmation bias and encouraged a whole class of sycophants to bully and namecall any dissenters. Imagine if the government was feeding off the cycle of alarm: using the scare to increase its’ power and tax revenue. Further suppose the government didn’t fund any heretics, auditors or assessors. The volunteers who feel compelled to speak against the falsities and lies generated with public funds have no choice but to ask for some help. They speak at great personal cost, or at best they get organized into small groups, asking larger corporate entities to help them gain any kind of voice — to compete against the journalistic bullies who have tens of thousands of readers, and the government funded programs that have whole PR departments to push their propaganda.
Maybe I missed it, but has Monbiot suggested that hackers would be heroes if they broke into Michael Mann’s office, and did not just release the emails, data and crucial methods (which are all public property anyway) but they took his tax return, superannuation and investments and posted them on the web too? Surely not? Some would consider that a public service. Would Judge Monbiot say that’s heroic, too?
Those who don’t like free speech and debate (because they lose) will do anything to justify techniques to silence or distract opponents. Monbiot is no different.
No George, trickery, deceit, and stealing private documents so bullies can harass private citizens who disagree with you is not OK. Heartland are not journalists and even if they were, you have no right to anyone’s private details.
Presumably Monbiot would be appalled if someone stole all the donor information from Greenpeace and started a concerted campaign to reduce green donations through persecution and intimidation of donors? If Greenpeace donors turned out to be vested interests like owners of wind-farms and traders in carbon credits, would that weaken their case for man-made global warming?
What about the public benefit of privacy?
It’s a simplistic world, reduced to black and white: “Transparency is good, privacy is bad”. But obviously, the real world is shades of grey and a balancing act, sometimes the need for privacy outweighs the need for transparency. The world would not be a better place if Monbiot was forced to publish all his medical and psychological records before he could speak. (Say, what if he had a personality type that meant he could take wild physical risks, but socially, he compulsively followed authority? Perchance, his genetic disposition may leave him prone to groupthink? He might be unable to assess the evidence himself, and instead be forced to ask, most unscientifically, “who can I trust”? If this was the case, should we interpret his views through this prism and can we ask for his DNA too?) That is not a world we want to live in.
In a science debate, the public gain nothing of any scientific value from ad hominem attacks. What matters is the credibility of the data and the strength of the reasoning.
Far from having vested interests, it costs me more than I earn to express my views, and I do it out of a sense of righting wrongs, and professional pride. But that angelic status doesn’t make me right any more than it makes a spokesman of Koch or Soros automatically wrong.
The richest of ironies is that Monbiot relies on models and opinions, while the skeptics that he looks down upon want observations and data, true to the original tenets of the scientific method. Despite not apparently knowing what makes science different from a religion, he calls skeptics “anti-science deniers”.
Monbiot has been known to lament that conservatives have abandoned “any pretense of high-minded conservatism.” This from a man who breaks tenets of science; breaks laws of reason; and lauds those who break laws of the land.
Does the man have any principles he won’t break?