Facts are the enemy of both Left and Right in our America

Summary: Another in a long series of studies illustrating America’s inability to process information, and our collapse into tribes incapable (or unwilling) to communicate with one another. Today we look at reactions to posts on the FM website. These attacks from both Left and Right test its accuracy and fairness. You judge the result.

Here’s a hors d’oeuvre. Yes, they’re both talking about me:

“The North Pole is a frickin’ LAKE, you ass. You are either being paid well for these posts, or you are off your meds. I swear, these Baghdad Bobs are going to be crowing about the earth cooling right up until their proteins start congealing from the heat.”  {by Lidia; link}

“Perhaps a step back on your global warming doom nonsense is in order as well.” {by climate change skeptic Jeff Condon, aka Jeff Id, of The Air Vent; link}

Truth Will Make You Free

Contents

  1. Journalism
  2. Examples of attacks by the alarmists
  3. Examples of attacks by the skeptics
  4. Conclusions
  5. For More Information

(1)  Journalism

Most of what we do at the FM website is journalism, citing data and experts in ways that attempt to illuminate trends in America and the world. In a society become madly tribal, how you tell if the reporting is accurate and fair?  Here are some answers to these questions for the FM website.

Accuracy

Hindsight — applying the test of time to old posts — provides the acid test of accuracy. For the FM website posts you can see the pages on the top menu bar recording past successes and mistakes (Smackdowns) going back to 2003. I believe you’ll find it an impressive record.

Fairness

Subjective evaluation of balance and fairness is more difficult. Fortunately others do this for us. For examples see Politics of the FM site: radical leftist reformer or right-wing iconoclast? I’m the former to the latter, and the latter to the former.

For a more recent example see the post 184 posts about climate change. Straight journalism: excerpts from reports of the IPCC, the major climate agencies, and the peer-reviewed literature (plus analysis of the politics, which is mostly ignored). I thought these would be useful and uncontroversial. As I should have known, these have received attacks from both sides — with few substantive rebuttals. It’s an indicator of fairness and balance, perhaps the best available in mad 21st C America.

We can draw wider inferences from this data, and the similar results on thousands of other websites. In America truth is tribal. Wearing blinders is mandatory. Heterodox thought is condemned. Evidence follows (mostly from other websites; the comments to the posts themselves sizzle with outrage).

(2) Examples of attacks by the alarmists

(a)  Comment by Robert Marston Fanney (fantasy writer; bio here), at his blog RobertScribbler: “Scribbling for economic, social, and environmental justice”, 27 January 2014. In reply to a comment citing my post about the pause and a post contrasting hysterical statements about climate doom with an exchange of views between two climate scientists.

“This is classic poor representation of the science from a blog that appears to have been wrapped up in right-wing misinformation, at least in this case.”

He follow with a series of simple factual errors. Details here.

(b)  From a comment thread at Naked Capitalism, in a post where Yves Smith cites two of my posts.

“The fact that he’s a climate denialist also doesn’t do much for his case.” {By Joe; link}

Joe’s reasons were frivolous (my posts steadfastly defend the IPCC consensus), but steadfastly held. Next, a fun attempt at rebuttal:

“The North Pole is a frickin’ LAKE, you ass. You are either being paid well for these posts, or you are off your meds. I swear, these Baghdad Bobs are going to be crowing about the earth cooling right up until their proteins start congealing from the heat.”  {by Lidia; link}

The story about a lake at the North Pole was denied as bogus by the science group it was attributed to. The bit about global cooling is tribalism. I’m called a denier, therefore I must believe in global cooling. QED!  In fact I’ve written 4 posts debunking the subject. No admission of error from Lidia, of course.

(c)  Roger Pielke Jr (Prof Environmental Studies, U CO-Boulder) published “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change” at 538, provoking a two-minute hate by the Left. I had the temerity to cite the peer-reviewed literature supporting his view (and the lack of offsetting articles in rebuttal). See the responses; feel the hate flow.

  1. Brad Delong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) posted in the comments.
  2. Thursday Idiocy: Fabius Micromus” posted at Loyal to the Group of Seventeen, 27 March 2014 — posts the comment thread with DeLong. He considers it “idiocy”, but doesn’t say why.
  3. Brad DeLong applauds. Again, he doesn’t explain. True believers don’t ask questions during the Two Minute Hate.
  4. The Launch of fivethirtyeight.com and Climate Change Disaster Weblogging: (Trying to Be) The Honest Broker for the Week of March 29, 2014“. By “honest broker” he means misrepresenting what I said, and substituting his judgement for the peer-reviewed literature. Plus smears.

Earth Burning

(d)  In my post about Pielke Jr I cited “In the Eye of the Storm“ by James Hanley (Assoc Prof of Political Science, Adrian College). His reply is pure tribalism:

“Oh, lord, why did you have to reference me. I’m not on your side.”

This is especially odd as my post fully agreed with his. Does he know “what side” I’m on? Does he disagree with the conclusions of the IPCC and major climate agencies?

(3)  Examples of attacks by the climate skeptics

(a)  Daft, but amusing: Steve Goodard’s response to my comment describing the mechanics of Google News.

(b)  This is my favorite of all those listed here, nicely illustrating several of the mad aspects of today’s America. It’s from Jeff Condon (nom de plume “Jeff Id”) at his website, The Air Vent (mentioned favorably in 3 previous posts). He’s said to be an aeronautical engineer. He posted this graph, citing Anthony Watts as the source (you have love the opening text):

Anthony Watts made a rather extraordinary announcement on his blog WUWT (AKA the center of the internet). It has the potential to initiate a necessary change to climate science at its foundation, because if he is correct in his assertion, measured warming trends in the US and ostensibly globally have been overstated.  I see his claims as revolutionary, which is a pretty strong word, because they have the potential to change much of our understanding about global warming science.  To make my case, lets start first with what climate science doesn’t disagree with:

Adjustments to trends:

USHCN Final vs Raw temperature
From The Air Vent, 7 May 2014

An odd start to his post, with this obviously wrong graph (ditto for the text as well, but that’s another subject). Nick Stokes posted this comment:

That’s an official looking USHCN graph that you have posted. But it’s not from the link that you cite. It’s actually prepared by Steven Goddard. At the risk of being a sceptic abuser, I’ll remark that he is not a reliable authority. He just took a total average of all stations. And it seems the glitch in 2014 resulted from the fact that some stations did not have adjusted values posted. It’s the difference of two different station sets. Goodness knows what he did with the rest. …

This thread eventually ran to a more accurate graph. I posted a comment on a smaller point:

I second Nick’s comment. This is a common problem on skeptics’ websites, and bad for their credibility: unsourced tables and (especially) graphics. Somebody, often of dubious reliability (e.g., Goddard) prepares a powerful graphic — and it goes viral, often without citing the source (which would ruin the play).

It’s somewhat similar to the incidence of fake quotes so often found on conservative’s websites. This is not often found in the work of climate scientists, who tend to be careful about selecting and citing sources.

You can follow the thread, uninteresting except as a demonstration of raw tribalism. I posted a brief mention of this yesterday.  Jeff Condon posted in reply, with two notes of special interest. First my comment — asking for skeptics’ websites to more carefully cite sources for tables and graphics — was a “nonsense critique“. Second, and more significant:

“Perhaps a step back on your global warming doom nonsense is in order as well.”

In form this is the same as Lidia’s statement (above)., a nice demonstration that after 2 decades of bickering warmists and skeptics have come to resemble each other in their tribalism and thinking.

  1. I second Nick’s mention of lack of proper citation in a post by Anthony Watts.
  2. Therefore I must believe in “global warming doom.”
  3. QED.

This is also false (i.e., tribalism makes people stupid). I’ve written 14 posts condemning doomsterism, and dozens critiquing climate doomsterism.

Pluck Out an Eye
Why would you need two?

(4)  Conclusions

There is no reality-based community in America today. So long as this remains so, reform is just a dream.

Do you have a Left eye and a Right eye? If so, beware. Both sides seek to pluck out your offending eye. Our ruling elites prefer us divided, and blind.

(5)  For More Information

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change, My posts about climate change, and especially these…

  1. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  2. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  3. Who lies to us the most? Left or Right?, 25 February 2013

(b)  Posts about the public debate on climate change:

  1. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  2. Climate science: the debate, the eventual solution, and the best cheap seats from which to watch the action., 19 August 2010
  3. What does the American public want done to fight climate change?, 2 February 2014
  4. A key to understanding the climate wars (about one of our big weaknesses), 15 March 2014

(c)  Posts about climate change as seen by the Right:

  1. About those headlines of the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009
  2. The facts about the 1970′s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009
  3. Start of another swing of the media narrative – to global cooling?, 11 September 2013
  4. Global Cooling returns to the news, another instructive lesson about America, 25 January 2014
  5. A look into the GOP mind: untethered from reality and drifting in the wind, 3 March 2014

(d)  Posts about climate change as seen by the Left:

  1. A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America, 17 March 2009
  2. More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
  3. Quote of the day – hidden history for people who rely on the mainstream media for information, 12 February 2010
  4. The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
  5. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010
  6. Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world, 30 July 2010
  7. Puncturing the false picture of a scientific consensus about the causes and effects of global warming, 20 September 2010
  8. A new video about global warming, a Leftists’ wet dream pretending to be humor, 1 October 2010
  9. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century, 16 October 2010
  10. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010
  11. Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change, 12 December 2012 — Propagandist Phil Plait
  12. Fierce words about those “wacky professional climate change deniers”, 20 January 2013 — More by propagandist Phil Plait
  13. We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us, 14 May 2013 — Skillful inaccurate article in The Guardian
  14. A powerful story about global warming in Alaska that’s set Twitter aflame, 23 June 2013
  15. Climate lies are the tool of choice by both sides to influence your opinion. Why is that?, 11 July 2013
  16. The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?, 3 August 2013
  17. Climate science deniers on the Left, captured for viewing, 29 September 2013
  18. Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility, 4 February 2014
  19. Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve, 24 January 2014
  20. The Left sees “Climate buffoons” and “deniers”. What do they see in the mirror?, 7 March 2014
  21. This is what defeat looks like for the Left, and perhaps also for environmentalists, 17 March 2014
  22. The Left stages a two minute hate on Nate Silver, Roger Pielke Jr (& me), 29 March 2014

27 thoughts on “Facts are the enemy of both Left and Right in our America

  1. I believe the rise of blogging is also a factor in the rise in tendentious commentary. I suspect most readers chose blogs to confirm the rightness of their views , not for information or to challenge themselves. And the blogs themselves get more views by satisfying these needs , so there is a feedback loop of more and more self satisfied viewers reading more and more tendentious commentary. I myself do this, and I am uncertain in my own case on how to break out of this self administered isolation. it would be ironic if such a great communications media as the internet ends up isolating as opposed to freeing minds.

    1. John,

      I agree.

      This easily tracked using Twitter. Surges of followers to @fabiusmaximus01 from the Left or Right, depending on the latest hot Tweet, followed by surges of Unfollows at the very first tweet indicating any trace of heterdox thought.

      As for cures, I have long advised people to read mostly quality sources whose politics disagree with, or heterodox ones like the FM website. Spending scarce hours indulging in confirmation bias is entertainment, of a low-grade kind.

      You’d be better off watching class TV: the original Star Trek for ideas, Miami Vice for fashion tips, and Castle for advice about relationships.


  2. I second Nick’s mention of lack of proper citation in a post by Anthony Watts.
    Therefore I must believe in “global warming doom.”
    QED.

    No sir, no, nope, this CONCLUSION from the article I wrote on is what I was referring to.

    “What a mess. I see no signs that the debate about the public policy response will improve, or come to meaningful conclusions. If so, then the climate will force a resolution. Either some extreme weather — perhaps unrelated to global warming — will spark a change in public opinion. Eventually the climate will resolve the debate. The pause will end, soon or in a few decades, with slow or rapid warming. Extreme weather will increase in magnitude, in forms other than current temperature and precipitation.

    What will not happen is accelerated scale and quality of climate research, accelerated preparation for extreme weather (even as seen in the past), or accelerated development of new energy sources.”

    All of the commentary after “the pause” is unsupportable in climate science. In addition, everything after “what will not happen” has already happened so I don’t know what world you are living in.

    Tribalism?

    Why on Earth would you assume such a ridiculous position and then attack me for it? I couldn’t even figure out what you meant on the other post.

    1. It’s not a kerfuffle as much as a bunch of fabrications by the editor of this blog. As these ‘errors’ have been pointed out, we have learned that he is way too smart to make mistakes.

      I’ll leave you alone now Fab, you don’t have the ability to reflect objectively on your own actions and eventually it feels a bit like kicking puppies. Perhaps next time you will take more care with your writing.

    2. Jeff,

      I was going to be merciful and ignore your comment, but it’s too interesting.

      “, nope, this CONCLUSION from the article I wrote on is what I was referring to.”

      I’m uncertain if your comment should be classified as a reading FAIL or error. To say that the climate will change so that the incidence and magnitude of extreme weather increases does not imply “doom”.

      Civilization in both West and East have survived periods of climatic stress without “doom”. Such as the long Little Ice Age. There is as yet little evidence that the 21st century will be any different in outcome (I.e., prosperity).

      Reading FAIL or error, either way you were wrong again. Something new for your SmackDowns page!

  3. There is a tool called a mirror.

    And just what is your definition of tribalism? Would it be five guys who agree with each other, speak as one, write as one, and even call themselves the same name? Or maybe it’s the mathematicians, who cannot agree on anything, who work together to deliver a better product? Put five of us in the same room and see if we speak as one. Your misunderstanding of an innocuous ‘turn of phrase’ was self inflicted. And before you attempt to portray me as coming to Jeff’s defence (tribal), I am only here to defend myself and speak for myself. Your broad-brush covered me too.

    1. Sera,

      I cannot make heads or tales of your comment. Can you explain in a bit more detail?

      As for the meaning of tribalism, I use the relevant one from the dictionary: “the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.”

  4. So much emotion wasted trying to pull information out of a noise.

    From Columbia university, using NOAA data:
    http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Temperature/T_moreFigs/

    the baseline time period for the “temperature anomaly” figures is 1951-1980. 1980-2010 was undoubtedly hotter. So the trend was clearly increasing, ~20 years ago. I want to know what the trend is NOW.

    But to filter out the noise, you have to filter out the noise over AT LEAST a 5-10 year timescale (you can sortof see this from the “running means” graph.

    If the trend changed, you won’t really know for several years afterwards. The 2000-2010 time period appears flat. Whether the longer-term (lets say 30-year timescale) trend is still rising NOW, will not be known for another 20-30 years. Thus there is a debate, but it seems to me, the debate is basically about what you think the future values of the data series will be — since the present 30-year timescale temperature rate-of-change, is not yet observable.

    I think that debate is a waste of time. If you and everyone else in this debate wants to make the world a better place, you/they can easily focus one the many other good reasons to reduce human impact over the environment so that the natural resources available to us will also be available to future generations.

    Provocative name-calling against those who disagree about the future behavior a noisy data series, or even against those who disagree about how much information is presently available, doesn’t strike me as a good use of time.

    The tribalism thing? People are passionate about politics, not numbers.

    1. “I think that debate is a waste of time. If you and everyone else in this debate wants to make the world a better place, you/they can easily focus one the many other good reasons to reduce human impact over the environment so that the natural resources available to us will also be available to future generations.”

      petey,
      I believe that this is precisely where Fabius stands in my interpretation of the material he has written (an extensive series of posts on climate change dating back several years). I’d say you two are in agreement. The air must be cleared of the tribal war cries before clarity can be had and realistic issues/solutions discussed. The unfortunate fact is that reasonable, easy to understand, arguments for taking action on environmental issues have a long history of being ignored….if anyone listened to those arguments then we wouldn’t be talking about climate change in the context that we find ourselves now. In my opinion Fabius does an admirable job of trying to introduce clarity but I believe it is likely a lost cause.

    2. John,

      Nicely said, better than I have.

      The politicized chaos that has affected so many aspects of public policy has serious consequences — beyond climate change. Our public infrastructure rots, our education system decays, our public finances are in disarray, etc.

      Until we can see the world in something other than in tribal terms, we are headed for hard times.

      “I believe it is likely a lost cause”

      I have faith you are wrong. On the other hand as a betting man I’d give odds you are correct.

    3. Peter,

      Everyone has their own preferences. I’ll stick with the analysis of climate scientists rather than yours.

      It is a mystery to me why people think amateur analysis of such a vital subject contributes anything useful. It is odd with respect to climate science, but quite mad when people don’t vaccinate their children.

      This lack of confidence in experts is, IMO, a serious and growing problem in America. The consequences might be horrific.

      For about this see:
      http://fabiusmaximus.com/tag/experts/

    4. FM,

      Regarding amateur analysis:

      If, as you say, most on the left/right have succumbed to tribalism, and the experts do not have the trust of their audience, then their work and their credentials are largely wasted for falling on deaf ears.

      One solution might be to restore that faith, through some kind of outreach, or some other way I haven’t thought of. Another solution is to bring the level of debate down to something that can be understood by the semi-educated, who presumably make up 99% of the policy-making audience of this debate. Yes, that means taking a big step back in how good the analysis is. Doesn’t bother me in this case. The temperature data has been collected. Is it going up? Is it not? It’s a standard question for any kind of signal processing, and one the human mind can handle naturally (unlike, say, probability, which is un-intuitive to our animal brains).

      Regarding tribalism,

      First of all I think the accusation is pretty darn accurate, no argument there.

      I do think the very word can be an insult. My first instinct at such an accusation would be that I am being called uneducated or unable/unwilling to reason properly. Maybe that’s a good thing, it strikes a nerve and gets attention.

      I don’t think you have to apologize for being provocative or blunt about it, that’s your style. You also shouldn’t expect someone you’re calling out for tribalism to make any effort whatsoever at polite dispassionate discussion. Once you got their attention, you’re going to have to bring them down from that emotional state somehow.

    5. Peteybee,

      I agree on all points. In fact, you’re ahead of me in consideration of how to fix the problem.

      I am stuck on problem recognition. After hundreds if posts discussing this during the past decade (starting in 2003), I have tried dozens of approaches. All uniformly unsuccessful. In the past year or so I have evolved to plain speaking — what might be called (with undeserved grandiosity) shock treatment. With equal lack of success.

      Let’s look at this from a marketing perspective. The audience is in problem description, and even more so in blaming folks unlike us. Them. Those people. Brad DeLong, Naked Capitalism, Rush, the Instapundit — reputations and even businesses have been built on explaining how “we’re” wonderful but American is in peril from “them”.

      Any successful political campaign rests on am attractive selling proposition. Great ones on a unique selling proposition (a USP). Thru the dumbest of trial and error I have run thru dozens.

      My initial one, running for years, was hope. We are great, and will recover what we were. While popular — great traffic — it had the motivational power of zero.

      No luck since.

    6. I wish I could suggest something about motivational power… but the power to inform is already worth a tremendous amount, and I’m thankful for everyone, including the FM site, who makes an honest effort at that.

      And come to think of it, climate change advocates have a lot of motivation already, just focused on a theory that could discredit them very badly if it turns out that they’re wrong about it, as you’ve said before.

      I think enough people are prepared to think about the overall theme of “environmental/industrial responsibility”, now that we can see the difference between US and Chinese pollution levels, for example. So it’s not like you’re asking anyone to make a 180 degree turn in their beliefs, just a slight turn. Unless you think tribalism is more of a root-cause than a roadblock, and is more damaging than apathy or misinformation or whatever else??

  5. There is no real ‘Left’ in the US, it was destroyed decades ago.

    Instead you have groups of people that ‘talk left, do right’. Clinton was the master of this, under his Govt the war against Serbia, the march of NATO eastwards, the deregulation of the finance industry, the gutting of your (by world standards) already inadequate social security systems.

    The Obama Govt carries on that torch.

    So you are totally right in that the ‘Right’ and the ‘Fake Left’ hate facts. The “Right’ wants to con Americans into ‘fake patriotism’ and ‘social division’; (anti gays, etc) so they ignore that the elites plunder them and destroy the US.

    The ‘Fake Left’ also hate facts, they want to con Americans into ‘fake inclusionism’ (pro gays, etc) so they ignore that the elites plunder them and destroy the US.

    In both cases they don’t want to have the facts known, the destruction of jobs, impoverishment of the majority of people, the elimination of any legal rights whatsoever, destruction of peoples’ environment (do you want a fracking plant near you?), the steady creation of the most horrible and total police state since East Germany.

    The absurdity of the so called ‘US health system’, the elimination of any social security, the looting of pensions… and so on.

    But you get endless nonsense in your so called ‘media’ about ‘celebs’ and the ‘rights’ of elite women (etc), but nothing about the crushing of ordinary men and women. And, as usual, poor women (and poor Gays, Blacks, Hispanic, Transexuals,etc, etc) get the think end of the stick, they are going backwards so fast it is not funny. Poor white men are going backwards at nearly the same rate, but sadly they tend to be stupid and blame others for their ‘leaders’ mistakes (men have always been good cannon fodder and great believers of propaganda).

    Note ‘poor’ is median and below in the US these days, from the 50th percentile (median) and downwards, in every way they are going backwards so fast.

    Since the ‘Right’ and the ‘Fake Left’ both want and work very hard towards this outcome… oh boy do they hate facts.

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