Last week Newsweek ran a long piece, The Truth about Denial, about the supposedly concerted effort of climate change deniers to pull the wool over the eyes of the believers. There is a tremendous amount of silliness throughout the article, and I tortured my lady friend all day today picking the article apart... but two portions stand out so starkly that they deserve more discussion:
In what would become a key tactic of the denial machine—think tanks linking up with like-minded, contrarian researchers—the report was endorsed in a letter to President George H.W. Bush by MIT meteorologist Richard Lindzen. Lindzen, whose parents had fled Hitler's Germany, is described by old friends as the kind of man who, if you're in the minority, opts to be with you. "I thought it was important to make it clear that the science was at an early and primitive stage and that there was little basis for consensus and much reason for skepticism," he told Scientific American magazine. "I did feel a moral obligation."The words I highlighted above do not enhance this man's credentials as a meteorologist. His status as a refugee from the horrors of Europe in the WWII era do not add academic or emotional power to his discussions of the environment. It certainly says amazing things about his character... but it holds no relevance on the topic of climate change. So why is it included in the article?
Take a look at what follows the Hitler reference: "...is described by old friends as the kind of man who, if you're in the minority, opts to be with you." This is a statement to the unthinking masses that they can now discount anything read or hear from Dr. Lindzen. He takes the contrarian point of view for the simple joy of it.
Connect the two thoughts though and you have something much more invidious. "Hmmm..." says the thoughtful reader. "This denier escaped from Hitler... and he sides with the minority... and he is a global warming denier... he must be a Jew!" I'll leave off there and avoid continuing into the grand conspiracies about who has money and power in the world. I find this small connection by Newsweek's authors disgusting enough.
This example gets worse. He flees from Hitler... and he sides with the minority... so Hitler must be the majority in the case of this decision to flee... so in order to be speaking from a position of moral authority... Dr. Lindzen should have sided with Hitler in regards to WWII. Worse, if you accept Newsweek's inference that he is a Jew, Dr. Lindzen should have teamed up with Hitler and helped to eliminate the Jewish people.
I do not have any proof that Dr. Lindzen, or the subject of the second point below, are Jewish. I frankly don't care. These two persons' religion simply isn't relevant to their ability to speak or write on climate change.
Let's go to the second example, another introduction later in the article:
Just before Kyoto, S. Fred Singer released the "Leipzig Declaration on Global Climate Change." Singer, who fled Nazi-occupied Austria as a boy, had run the U.S. weather-satellite program in the early 1960s. In the Leipzig petition, just over 100 scientists and others, including TV weathermen, said they "cannot subscribe to the politically inspired world view that envisages climate catastrophes." Unfortunately, few of the Leipzig signers actually did climate research; they just kibitzed about other people's.Apparently, Fred Singer's intense training in the environmental sciences started at a young age as he climbed across the alps to Switzerland... perhaps it was the grand view atop the mountains... perhaps it was a chance encounter with Captain von Trapp, family in tow. This particular childhood adventure of Singer's does not add anything of interest to his credentials as an expert on the environment. As with the plight of Dr. Lindzen above, this flight to freedom must have been a stunning adventure, and I respect Fred Singer for having built an impressive life following such upheaval at a young age. However it is simply a nice aside to have this information about his personal history included by Newsweek.
So if this factoid does not enhance the environmental arguments of the authors... why is it included at all?
Remember that it was the next sentence in Dr. Lindzen's intro where the hackles were really raised. Take a look at the final phrase about Dr. Singer: "Unfortunately, few of the Leipzig signers actually did climate research; they just kibitzed about other people's." There you go. Not only are we reading a gratuitous Yiddish word, it is directly connected with a widely held stereotype of the Jewish people. Singer and his pals live off of the hard work of other people. They don't exert any effort themselves. Bloodsuckers. To me the use of this language by Newsweek is damning... a bald-faced attempt by the authors to tell the reader they must discount this man's work because he is a Jew.
That the authors and editors of Newsweek would stoop so low as to infer that these highly trained and respected men should have their reputations and work disposed of out of hand due to their heritage or religion is appalling. It's abhorrent. Newsweek should be shamed into retracting these portions of the article.
As a disclaimer: I am not a fan of the theories of human-induced global warming. But that is not what I am addressing here. Lindzen's and Singer's comments and scholarship should stand on their own, without any need to reference their personal faith. My purpose here is not to prove or disprove global warming. It is to do my part to demand a higher and more responsible level of journalism from the mainstream media.
I'll likely write more about the article in the next few days. This point was too important to delay.