Sometimes, when an issue starts to unfold, aspects of reality that usually lie hidden come unraveling and insights are obtained (for an explanation of the concept of ‘protection’, see Robert Laughlin). This painful and disruptive public situation however cannot persist for long—the energies of people whose natural rhythms and livelihoods that are thus disturbed, exert powerful counteracting forces trying to restore the ‘status-quo’.
But the brief window when revelation occurs, is always an interesting period particularly because participants experience an extended state of indeterminacy – will the change escalate outward in ever-increasing circles of destruction and reorganization of power structures, or will it implode and collapse leaving just small scars behind? Sometimes it can be very hard to tell!
If you are a chronicler, in such moments you can go with your moral instincts, say ‘damn the consequences’ and speak your mind. Though he left his own words in the lurch later, George Monbiot did that. Or perhaps you can say ‘I don’t know which side is going to come out on top, so I am going to wait and see, and then jump onto that side’.
Journalist Keith Kloor did the latter. On Nov 20 2009,, three days after the CRU emails were released, Kloor experienced his moment of indeterminacy. He thought that it was “too early to jump to any conclusions”, and advised climate scientist Michael Tobis that he ought to “wait to see if the story has legs, as they say in the business”. His instincts told him that the ‘series of devastating revalations would be hard to ignore’. Infact, they took him so far as to say:
…all in all, I’d be shocked if the media didn’t follow up on this and start poking around.
It has been about a year and a half since the original story broke. There has been no ‘following up’, no digging, or no ‘poking around’. There has been no asking even of the ‘who, why’ and the ‘how’ about the email release, from the media, something Kloor thought would happen. There has been no poking around by Kloor himself either, even if he did not see his colleagues bite into the details.
Indeed as a result of not poking around, the understanding Kloor displays of the real nature of the scandal that Climategate is, can be termed close to zero. Examine his prolific output: you will not find a single post where he examines a single question raised by the email revelations. Where is the basic sense of the curious here? Did anything wrong occur in Climategate? No one would know if they were to read Kloor.
On the other hand, via this circuitous process of slow evasion, we’ve reached a stage where Kloor called James Delingpole a buffon for making up his own mind about actions that were revealed by Climategate.
The lack of any digging from some quarters notwithstanding, the fallout from Climategate continues to roll on. Michael Mann’s former employer is said to have spent $500,000 in preventing his emails from the early 2000s from being released to the public. The American Tradition Institute and Chris Horner have overcome such obstacles and obtained the right to view these emails via FOI. Why won’t it going away?
Since Kloor is an environmental journalist, perhaps a certain kind of an allegory would make sense to him.
Biosphere 2 was a self-contained sealed ecologic experiment conducted in the Arizona desert in the early 90s, whose only problem, it is said, was that it failed. What is meant by ‘failure’ is that that a certain ideal of a self-contained world was not realized, and something else happened. Writes Adam Curtis:
At the end of Biosphere 2 the ants destroyed the cockroaches. They then proceeded to eat through the silicone seal that enclosed the world. Through collective action the ants worked together and effectively destroyed the existing system. They then marched off into the Arizona desert. ….