Heartland: The billboard conversation

There are several levels to this. What did Heartland do? Was it a nice thing, or the right thing to do?

The second level is: Should Heartland judge and weigh their own actions by the moral standards of members of a limited circle who participate in online debate about climate change?

The first question, I feel, is meaningless.

Let me explain. When the 10:10 No Pressure video was made, were you shocked? When I watched it, I felt the momentary twinge but it passed away. I was then left with no particular outrage towards those who made the video, because, I didn’t care for the people who made it, and a certain immunity to being shocked by gratuitous violence has been acquired. The greens can make the most outrageous video possible – they are not going to reach me. I know their game.

Moral conundrums are more subtle in the modern world. Everyone attempts to find simplicity but knows it doesn’t exist. Simplistic stuff, consequently, doesn’t move us. If an act of violence triggers a mass eruption of emotion, it is only when unresolved contradictions have built up under the surface for a long period.

The second question is easier.

Look at the list of people, by no means complete, who criticized the Heartland Institute for its behaviour:

  1. Andy Revkin
  2. Keith Kloor
  3. Leo Hickman
  4. Andrew Sullivan
  5. Jim Newell
  6. Trey Pollard (Sierra Club)
  7. Joe Romm
  8. Charles Pierce
  9. Michael Mann
  10. Ken Caldeira
  11. Lucia Graves (Huffington Post)
  12. Kate Sheppard (Mother Jones)
  13. Brendan DeMelle
  14. Richard Littlemore

Have any one of these ever engaged with the Heartland Institute ever in the past? For them, the Heartland Institute did not exist – just in the vein that organizations who have a contrary opinion on global warming do not exist.

Why should their standards become the scale against which Heartland is held?

This is not to encourage the balkanization of public propriety. Heartland should weigh itself against standards of its own. Behaving properly so as to not give others a ‘stick to beat you with‘, especially when the ‘others’, consist of unprincipled opportunists however, ought not to be reason good enough.

It pays to remember, that, Heartland is a small organization with a big burden. When Peter Gleick perpetrated his fraud on its members and hired some very powerful lawyers money can buy, it must have been an enervating moment. When the force of being right, in full public glare, cannot fetch you a modicum of justice what else can? Heartland did everything they can, but they cannot do the one thing that needs to be done: hire some lawyers of their own and go after Gleick. They cannot obtain personal justice. There is no closure. They are not big enough.

The climate story seems to run the same way for McIntyre. For years a big player “by the rules” McIntyre found one day that at the end of so many blog posts, papers, articles, books, inquiries, investigations, Congressional hearings and court rulings, Mann, to be touring the world signing book copies. With no active benefaction to science Mann now wears all criticism that ever came his way, and the troubles his actions brought him, as feathers in his cap.

In America, it pays to be on the side of the climate consensus.

Heartland therefore, is out of ordinary, everyday options. Its profile is higher. The path left is to realize, that the burden it carries on its shoulders – of failure, call it that if you will – is a gift it possesses. There is no need for Heartland to open the eyes of the public through its billboards. The climate issue is dead in the water for them. Even when it came before them, about ten years ago now, virginal and untarnished, climate change had the faintest whiff of a scam.

On the other hand, it is the consensus that needs billboards, snuff videos and Arctic animal pictures. It is they who need to spread their message to school children and television viewers. It is they who forget, that “… men are wiser than they know. That which they hear in schools and pulpits without after-thought, if said in conversation, would probably be questioned in silence.” Heartland simply ought to know. Everywhere it goes, the doctrine of global warming is questioned in silence. Talk about criminals believing in global warming breaks that fatal silence. Ironically, Heartland’s moral capital has catapulted it to an orbit its political opponents imagine that they inhabit. That is why they suddenly see it fit, to impose their unsolicited demands on Heartland.



  1. Steve McIntyre

    Shub, I have not changed my own standards in the wake of Climategate. I understand why people get angry, but giving in to such impulses is self-indulgent. Nor do I think that departures from politeness are ultimately effective.
    Regards, Steve Mc

  2. Shub Niggurath

    When I see what has happened now, I do feel disheartened on occasion. Every little detail has been laid out in the open, arising from your work and others’. But Michael Mann has not responded, and feels no need to respond. Nor does there seem to be a force that can compel him, or his co-authors to answer the questions raised.

    Instead, Mann’s book is a veritable catalogue of every little misrepresentation and obfuscation possible.

    When I saw what was done to Heartland, I saw a bit of a parallel. The barrage of criticism it faced, was ultimately based on a fraudulent document. But yet, the person who likely perpetrated the whole thing is giving talks at Oxford. There is not a way to make him answer either. I was reminded of the appeal letters Heartland sent out, asking those who supported Gleick to examine their own actions. That is all it can do.

    I was reminded of one more passage by Emerson:

    We feel defrauded of the retribution due to evil acts, because the criminal adheres to his vice and contumacy, and does not come to a crisis or judgment anywhere in visible nature. There is no stunning confutation of his nonsense before men and angels. Has he therefore outwitted the law?

    But then I guess, it doesn’t work like that.

  3. Richard T. Fowler

    Steve, I think that expressions of anger or disgust or mockery are sometimes effective and sometimes extremely counter-productive.

    Perhaps I am in a minority here, but I believe the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this. My perspective is that the U.S. is extremely polarized right now, and there is not one but two broad public audiences for anything. Heartland has a base, which is found in one of those two audiences. That is who they’re playing to. I doubt that it seemed of great importance to them what the other audience would think. They are focused on strengthening their base.

    Now that they have many educated climate realists and skeptics questioning them and threatening to withdraw over such a message, it may seem that their tactic backfired on them. But look at it from the point of view of their base. Their base, as I am expressing it, does not include those folks who often work with them, but are offended by this kind of message. Their base is already very familiar with these kinds of thoughts, and generally quite comfortable with them.

    Their base, I think, is cheering louder than ever right now.

    Why? Because like Heartland, they are engaged in an existential struggle. Unlike Heartland, the attacks on them have been going on for some time, so the base is very familiar with it. They don’t need a lot of material to pick up the theme. One short, simple thing like that ad can send the same message as hundreds of words. What is that message?

    -We know what you’re going through.

    -We’re now going through it, too.

    -We know who’s driving it. Here’s a symbol of how we see the side that’s driving it.

    -We’re on your side. If we weren’t before, we are now.

    So the question that arises is, even if Heartland has to pull the ad amidst a storm of controversy, is it still, on balance, a plus for them, if it gets the base’s attention in such a strong way? I don’t know the answer to that. I think it’s possible.


  4. Mailman

    The effectiveness of the ad campaign is the throw a great big light on the double standards of the catastrophiliacs! Where was the outrage at fake gate? Where was the outrage at all the FOI requests for data (I mean, why are people even having to go through FOI to get data that should be released without question?)? Where was the outrage at all the libelling and hatred aimed at anyone that dares question the religion of Mann Made Global Warming ™?

    Yet the second HI uses the same tactics as the other side and its holey jihad!

    BTW, the list is missing the biggest name in UK broadcasting, Richard Black.



  5. Shub Niggurath

    I agree, mailman. I think the warmies have shot themselves in the foot here. By jumping at Heartland with glee: “let’s hold Heartland to a standard we never hold ourselves to”.

  6. diogenes

    0all I can add is that we are all judged in the long run. In climate science, the long run seems to be about 5-7 years. Mann is being eviscerated now. And it never works for the people who want to be honest to play dishonest tactics for a longer-term gain. The Mann-Jones-Briffa team have played by this book and I think they are losing traction within their profession. It seems that they are getting side-lines…how many recent new papers with them at the top of the list of authors?

  7. Richard T. Fowler

    The only reason that Mann et al are suffering any significant inconvenience is because they got the science so woefully wrong. If temperatures were consistently rising for the last 20 years, almost no one outside the ranks of sceptical climate junkies would give a hoot about the Team’s tactics — even though their science and their policy prescriptions would still be wrong.

    That said, I still think the jury’s out. Heartland is not the Hockey Team, and they don’t have anywhere near the same kind of entrenched, ubiquitous support, from a whole, huge (and brainwashed) cross-section of civilization.

    If I play with a master carpenter’s tools, and I’m not a master carpenter, chances are I’ll cut my hand.


  8. papiertigre

    SO was Ted upset about being compared to global warming believers? Still a little fuzzy on why did they take it down.