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Richard Black — the fastest apologist for misbehaving scientists

Posted By Joanne Nova On March 14, 2012 @ 2:21 am In Global Warming,Media-matters | Comments Disabled

Black thinks the BBC reported on ClimateGate, instead they rushed to report a “hacking” that may not even have been a hack…

Richard Black thinks the BBC was the first to “report” Climategate in the mainstream press.

@BBCRBlackvia TwitterTired old meme that BBC was slow to report “ClimateGate” is circulating again – for record we were 1st main news org http://t.co/c4sU6puy

But the BBC didn’t report ClimateGate in that story at all. What they reported was a hypothetical hacking of a university in the UK, one which (two years later) still remains a claim that has no evidence in support of. Was it was illegally hacked or legally leaked? Don’t tune in to the BBC for the answer. They don’t even ask the question.

If the BBC had reported on Climategate, we could tell, because they would have reported what the emails actually said, not just the opinions that said “they don’t matter”.

Let’s compare Black’s reporting of Climategate and FakeGate

On ClimateGate, Black waited until after he had a spokesman from the CRU to comment, and having confirmed the emails were from the CRU, Black quoted exactly none of them. On FakeGate, Black posted so quickly that he had to rewrite it after Heartland replied, which happened in the first 24 hours.

With ClimateGate, Black ignored the emails that were effectively public property in the first place and turned out to be real. With Fakegate, Black either detailed or linked to quotes that turned out to be nonexistent (at least, I presume that’s what he needed to “re-work”, where is the original stored?).

Then there’s the point that ClimateGate is material to the scientific practices of lead authors in an issue of major planetary concern; FakeGate is about small amounts of legal, private funding that are irrelevant to the science. Oh yessity, those influential tiny funds from anonymous citizens must be public knowledge, (and forthwith!) but the original raw data of the worlds temperature stations? I don’t think so and stop harassing those scientists.

Point to note: Black is paid by public funds to report both sides of the story in an unbiased manner. The Heartland Institute  is not.

With ClimateGate, Black was still referring to it o’ so carefully, as theso-called ClimateGate issue more than two weeks after it happened,  even though, by then, there were millions of pages using the term. (Those  unnewsworthy heretics and all.) With FakeGate, he picked up the “DenierGate” term within 24 hours, and a month later, as far as I can tell, he still hasn’t used the term “FakeGate”, even though it’s beating “DenierGate” in the google stakes fully ten to one. (On last search “FakeGate scored 420,000 hits compared to DenierGate at 36,000. Now there’s a case study in a PR disaster.)

Black entirely missed the big story in ClimateGate, which was how trusted scientists were flagrantly breaching standards of honesty, good practice and transparency, and were admitting doing scandalous adjustments including “hiding declines”, dodging FOI’s, and colluding to manipulate the supposedly anonymous peer review process. And Black largely missed the big story in FakeGate too, of how an allegedly top researcher, Peter Gleick, stooped to impersonation, trickery and theft to “win” a debate about science. If stealing-to-save-the-atmosphere is permissible, then isn’t adjusting-the-data, or ignoring-inconvenient-data also “helpful”?

If it’s hidden it must be news?

Black has since posted more on the Heartland documents. When it comes to theft and privacy, his view is that it’s all fair game: ‘As the old saying goes, “news is something that someone somewhere doesn’t want you to know” - and here was information about a significant player in climate politics that it certainly didn’t want you to have.’ (Richard, did you say that about the ClimateGate emails?)

As a tool for “newsworthiness” it’s not too sharp. If it were possible to impersonate Black, and steal his school reports and exam results, and Black “didn’t want you to know those details” then apparently that makes it news, and, according to Black, you the thief, have every right to keep those files publicly posted even after Black asks you to take them down, even though his test scores, like Heartlands’ budget, make zero difference to the science of our climate.

Note to Black, sometimes people ‘hide’ honest boring things for honest boring reasons.

‘O the ethical quagmire

He wonders if it was ethical to write about the Heartland stolen documents, and explains that it’s like MPs wasting tax payer funds: “Perhaps the best recent UK example is the Daily Telegraph’s long-running series of articles revealing serial abuses of the expenses system by MPs.” So Black thinks that private donations from citizens he disagrees with are “like” MP’s wasting tax payer funds? How could that be? One organisation threatens you with jail if you don’t hand over a quarter of your earnings, the other asks for voluntary contributions. How is it “the same” if the forced contributions are squandered on oak toilet-seat covers, and the unforced ones are spent on things Richard Black disagrees with, like 1,000 page science reports, that the voluntary funders were keen to see?

Heartland is serving its supporters well, but UK parliamentarians were cheating theirs so badly they went to jail. There is no moral equivalence except in the minds of the immoral totalitarians who don’t like it when people disagree with them.

When did Black report on those ClimateGate emails?

…If we did a double blind test, could we tell what was written by “Black” and what was written by the UEA marketing team?

Now perhaps I missed it, but I’ve searched and I can’t see any emails quoted in any of Richard Blacks articles. Things he published in the following week notably lack anything other than the excuses that the UEA PR team would have been happy to provide, see Fri 27th Nov. On the second Sat 5th Dec, the excuses run thick: climategate is described as a “smear campaign” by skeptics — except that when we say “hide the decline” or “delete those emails” we’re just quoting the scientists. If this is a smear campaign, it’s the UEA scientists who are smearing themselves.

Black makes sure he also mentions (as any PR agent of UEA surely would too) that the “University of East Anglia, (is) repository of one of the important records of global temperatures.” Anyone who read the climategate emails (ie, not those who rely on the BBC) would have known that Phil Jones had lost those very same records, and that what was left was in a state of abysmal disorder. In other words, it’s not just that Black is biased, it’s that he is so biased, he could have been the PR writer for the UEA.

If we did a double blind test, could we tell what was written by “Black” and what was written by the UEA marketing team?

Black is fast, he’s the first and the fastest apologist for poor science in the mainstream press, but he isn’t fast to report the news.

What about the BBC? When did they finally cover the emails and report the news?

The first BBC story was not about Climategate, but about a possibly mythical “hacking”. So when did the BBC report the emails? Short answer: I don’t know. Did they? (Can anyone find a story where they did? I can’t, but it’s a big site).

The big concession from the BBC was that one early news item (Mon Nov 23rd 2009, by nameless at the BBC) actually does quote one single Climategate email — though prepacked with the response from Phil Jones both before the email, and after it, lest anyone read it “uninoculated” and think for one second that scientists really ought not be using tricks to hide declines. The subheader above this devastating email  is, wait for it, “Globally Respected”. That’s something science journalists at the BBC most surely will not be when the public realizes they’ve been carefully spoonfed only half the story.

The original BBC “News” item  still headlines it as a “hack”, calls the person who released the emails an “offender”. It did not mention that it might have been a legal leak by a whistleblower, or that some of the emails were subject to FOI anyway, and all of the emails were work related emails funded by taxpayers. So the BBC didn’t report on ClimateGate, and they didn’t get much about that other “hacking” story right either.

When the BBC talks about the damage to science, they discuss how science is ‘damaged’ by leaked emails  but not how science is damaged by scientists who hide declines…

It’s what they don’t say that advertises their bias.

At the same time as ClimateGate was running hot, Richard Black wrote a story about the mysterious lack of female skeptics, and he referred to me vaguely, but wouldn’t name me, link to me, or write and ask my opinion.  Not too hot on the research eh Richard? I had the answer he wasn’t looking for: Why don’t women want to face global bullies? I can’t imagine…

When ClimateGate II broke, Black was fast — fast to do damage control for his favorite pet theory. See  ClimateGate II: Handy Guide to spot whitewash journalism – The top 10 excuses for scientists behaving badly.

Always remember, in the handy-guide to journalist-spotting: Real journalists report what happened and PR agents cover up what happened.

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Is there a page I missed?

Proving a negative is difficult — the BBC site is large, and I haven’t read every article. I searched  BBC coverage from the beginning. I found these below, as well as the ones above. I’ll be happy to update this story if anyone can find BBC articles which do discuss the emails with actual quotes of the emails themselves, not just apologist quotes of why the-emails-they-won’t-mention don’t matter.

‘Squeaky clean’ climategate report | Climategate scientists cleared |

‘No malpractice’ by climate unit | Climate email review to be published |

‘ClimateGate’ professor cleared | Expert slams ‘tabloid’ e-mail row |

1 Dec 2009 ‘Show Your Working’: What ‘ClimateGate’ means |
2 Dec 2009  Hacked climate data: Responses |
10 December 2009  Soros unveils $150bn climate plan
Further Reading: Other stories about the BBC on this site.
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