media to climate researchers: oops, our bad
Since all of us have been exposed to political news coverage, we’re quite familiar with the un-apology, the act of saying you’re sorry but in ways that instantly let everyone know that you’re really not. Be it blaming everyone around you for misunderstanding what you said, or clumsily taking back your words to make a comment just as offensive as the one you already made if not more, or just claiming you were misquoted, the un-apology is an art you could spend years mastering. And once you’ve learned the techniques mentioned above, you could graduate to one of the un-apology’s ultimate forms: the meaningless apology. While un-apologies are usually about deflecting responsibility, the meaningless retraction is all about seeming fair and looking as if you have your act together while whatever damage you wanted to do is already done and you accomplished your goal.
This is exactly what’s going on with newspapers which are retracting their Climategate claims, citing that a few months ago, the researchers at the University of East Anglia’s were cleared of any and all wrongdoing by an independent panel which wasn’t swayed by denialist hype and the conspiracy theories swirling around a stack of carefully cherry-picked, out of context quotes and e-mails.
So it took them about seven months to get to the bottom of a story, catch up on what’s going on from a legal standpoint, and actually note that the e-mails were much ado about nothing and were more than likely intended to cause of a scandal through very selective editorial process on the part of the hackers who released them to the howls of ecstatic delight in the denialist community, which used them to spread quasi-New World Order conspiracy theories and argue that winters should be warm and toasty in a warming world, otherwise, there’s no such thing as climate change. I mean what do you expect from newspapers? Accuracy? Research? Taking their time before reporting something? No time for that! There’s a hot breaking story that could reel in millions of page views!
Now, after having gotten their views and collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars per Climategate article, it seems rather pointless to apologize and retract their stories. The damage is already done and it would take a very naive person to assume that the same people who do everything in their power to deny climate change or insist that nothing bad could possibly happen if it’s actually in progress, will suddenly drop their beloved conspiracy theory because an independent panel said there was nothing behind it. To climate denialists, the notion of an independent panel in this case is an impossibility because in their minds, everything is simply a part of a conspiracy to control the world through climate change legislation for the benefit of alternative energy companies.
Though the long story of coal and petroleum companies funding anti-environmental astroturfing because they stand to lose billions if they don’t try to license green tech somehow doesn’t seem to bug these denialists in the slightest as they smugly deliver their pseudo-expertise across the web. Sure, far from all environmentalists are saints and cap-and-trade is not the answer, but we’re not going to deal with problems by denying they exist on the basis of our personal feelings towards those to whom environmentalism is now being marketed as a luxury product rather than as viable ideas for future standards…