Before you’re used to it, it can be both fascinating and amusing to listen to the ravings of a lunatic. The way they can weave tales of persecution and nefarious woe out of wildly disparate strands of evidence is wondrous to hear. The sheer inventiveness! The tightness of argument! The unsinkable, wild-eyed conviction that everybody is in on it!
That’s before you’re used to it. After you’ve witnessed the antics a dozen times, the whole thing becomes tedious.
Take the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change, an organ ostensibly devoted to the science of climate, but really a newsletter for those who are convinced occult forces are out to destroy the world and that they, the readers, are the only ones who know about it.
Just as a for instance, in December 2013 they published the peer-reviewed article “Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change” by John Evans and Justin Feng. They discovered “that conservative Protestantism does lead to being less likely to want environmental scientists to influence the public policy debate about what to do about climate change.”
What does this have to do with climate change? Nothing. What to do about global warming when it strikes—soon, soon—is not a matter we should expect people who have devoted a lifetime to studying the hydrostatic equation to have any expertise in. The opinion of a radiative transfer specialists should carry no more, and probably a great deal less, weight in political matters than, well, conservative Protestant politicians.
But never mind. The real juice of the locoweed is found in Robert Brulle’s “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations“. Now Brulle himself is not a climatologist and probably could not tell the difference between a parameterization and an approximation. He is, however, one of a legion of fellow travelers who don’t understand the hard physics but are sure the predictions of climate catastrophe must be right—else why would scientists make them?
Wait. Brulle is convinced of the apocalypse because scientists told him so, but unconvinced that all is well even though other scientists say, “Hey, don’t worry so much.” Since he doesn’t have the physics chops to see who is right, how is he picking sides? Bias always happens to the other guy, right Bobby?
Anyway, turns out there is secret cabal of billionaires funding a climate change “counter-movement.” Brulle figured that out using a technique called “field frame analysis”, which has to be right because it sounds so cool. The technique told him to list every organization worldwide which he, Brulle, distrusted and to sum up their budgets, regardless of how the money in those organizations was spent. The organizations and governments which he trusted he ignored.
Turns out that organizations Brulle distrusted had a total budget of such-and-such, which must surely be dwarfed by the budget sum of the organizations and governments Brulle liked. Brulle assumed the monies of groups he liked must be put to good purpose because he liked them, while the monies from groups he disliked must have contributed to the “counter-movement.”
I’m not kidding: this is the paper. Made the press; people oohed and aahed over it.
He’s got some charts in the paper that resemble bullet trajectory diagrams cherished by Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists. Goodness! The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a line right to the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program. Think of it! Why that line is almost as liney as the line between the American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research and the Searle Freedom Trust. Maybe even more mysterious!
“Dude,” you might think of telling Brulle, “You’ve just ‘discovered’ that right-wing foundations give to right-wing think tanks. Much like left-wing foundations give to left-wing think tanks.” I imagine it’s at this point Brulle’s eyes, like the eyes of the subscribers to Climatic Change, would go googly. He emphasize how all these lines form a pattern—a non-coincidental pattern! And do you know where you find patterns? Conspiracies!
But since the sources of funding aren’t secret—how else could Brulle have discovered them?—it’s not much of a conspiracy.
Still, gotta have somebody has to be Goldstein, somebody has to be responsible for all that is wrong, somebody has to take the blame. Might as well be Big Oil.