Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The power of the pen

You know you have made a "hit" when the greenies start squeaking, by which measure Booker's column last Sunday has achieved precisely that.

Only now dropping to number two on the Telegraph website's own "most viewed" list, it has been mentioned on the Drudge Report and many other US websites, as well as sites worldwide. In all well over a hundred blogs seem to have run it, most for and a very few against.

The piece, of course, highlighted the extraordinary blunder made by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) – prop. James Hansen - in compiling the temperature dataset for October, including September figures from Russia and elsewhere, thus falsely inflating the monthly figure. And, with this flaw embedded and undiscovered, GISS went on to claim that last October had been the hottest on record.

Reaction to Booker's piece on the comment's section was quite remarkable, with a huge number of replies, most of the in support of the article, but the one I enjoyed most was an anti, which stormed: "Every, and I mean every, comment on this thread made by the deniers that addresses the SCIENCE of GW is wrong … That applies also to the many worthless websites that are linked to by those in denial over AGW."

That, of course, refers primarily to the two key blogs which, more than any, have, with their expert commentators, exposed the flawed data used by GISS. The first is the invaluable Watts up with that whose current post on the issue sports no less than 270 comments.

The second is Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit. His current post picks up a mere 141 comments, but then he has done a whole series of posts on the issue, with the comments on each running to the hundreds.

Displaying an ironic sense of humour, McIntyre even heads a post asking, "Did Napoleon use Hansen's Temperature Data?", stating that "It's colder in Russia in October than in September, as Napoleon found out to his cost in 1812."

Flash forward almost 200 years later, McIntyre writes, to the NSA report of record warmth in October throughout Russia, with many sites experiencing similar temperatures in October as in September, and perhaps that was the sort of situation that Napoleon had hoped for - similar in actual temperatures in deg C.

Booker's piece itself was a marvellous example of the synergy that can be achieved between blogs, their commentators and the MSM. It was Watts who picked up the story in the first place and his expert readers then piled in to find out why the temperature record was so high, putting their findings on the comments section. McIntyre had also picked it up, and did a series of technical evaluations, with his readers joining in.

The now disjointed but technically comprehensive effort was then picked up by Booker, synthesised, compressed down to a mere 750 words and published in The Sunday Telegraph. From there it was picked up and spread throughout the world on more than 100 blogs, the cumulative readership now running to millions.

As for the greenies, lead naysayer is Gavin Hudson on his blog "Eco Worldly", who storms: "The power of the pen, when used irresponsibly, serves not to illuminate and progress human discourse, but to confuse and stifle it. Christopher Booker's article does a disservice to climate skeptics and climate activists alike."

Under the heading, "The Bias and Logical Fallacies of Christopher Booker's 'Freezing Heat'", Hudson purports to debunk Booker's piece, accusing him, inter alia, of resorting to ad hominem attacks of (sic) climate scientists.

But what is hugely ironic is that the piece itself is one long ad hominem attack on Booker. What gives the game away is that this author presents the case made by Booker as if it were his and his alone, an expression of his personal opinion.

Nowhere does Hudson mention either Watts or McIntyre (which means, of course, he does not link to either's site) yet the whole thrust of Booker's piece was to report the drama unfolding on these sites. They take the central place in his account and, on the online edition, there are active links to both sites.

Thus, you can see Hudson's game. His task – as with all the greenies – is to control the flow of information, close down the debate and silence, or denigrate the critics. Controlling the flow of information, incidentally, is what the MSM also does. Although scarcely a day goes by without the media running a "warmist" story and you can bet that, if the GISS figures had not been savaged by two expert bloggers and their readers, the "hottest October on record" would have spread throughout the MSM like wildfire.

But, strangely, when the great greenie guru James Hansen makes a complete Horlicks of the figures, not a word is said, apart from in the Booker column. Such is the real "power of the pen". Never is it so powerful, in the media's hands – to say nothing of the greenies - as when it is not used. It is perhaps deeply significant, therefore, that Hudson should use as his illustration for his piece (which I've nicked - top left), a pristine pen, evidently unused.