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Language, Nazis, Climate Change Deniers And African Gangs.

Every now and then, I’ll be reading about someone who consistently argues that there’s no such thing as climate change and, besides, the climate has always changed so it isn’t man-made… Of course, when I say consistently, I don’t mean that their arguments are consistent with each other; I simply mean that they’re one of those who consistently argue with whatever evidence is put before them. At some point, said person will object to being labelled a climate change denier, because the word “denier” places them in the same camp as the holocaust deniers.

They may have a point. Language is powerful. Take the recent ABC tweet:

“Far-right activists and young men of African appearance have clashed at St Kilda Beach, after the activists refused to stop filming the men while they played soccer.”

The comments that followed basically fell into three categories: Those who questioned the need to point out that the young men were of “African appearance”, those who objected to the term “far-right activists” and those who warned that young men of a darker complexion playing soccer made people feel unsafe so we need laws to change so that police can arrest such people for the crime of inciting racism by their appearance.

Of course, I wondered why the tweet didn’t read:

“Adult male filming attractive teenagers at the beach refused to stop even after police request”

It seems less loaded with emotive language like “far-right activists”. Still, I can’t help wondering why the ringleader, Neil Erikson, would object to the term. He certainly has been busy, what with his conviction for inciting contempt toward Muslims, so one would have to think that “activist” is more appropriate than “far-right couch-surfer”. As for “far-right”, given his tweets and retweets demonstrating his contempt for the left and his suggestion that Australian governments of all political persuasions were letting us down, he’d hardly be flattered by the term centrist. He’s even retweeted Mark Latham!

And, of course, the term “African appearance” is used as some sort of code for those who look like the ones who – according to Border Force Master Dutton – make us afraid to go out to dinner in Melbourne. It’s not used to refer to Algerians, Egyptians or Moroccans. And it’s certainly never used about people like Oscar Pistorius.

In the lead-up to the Victorian election, we were often warned about “African gangs”, and I’m not denying that there are some people of “African appearance” involved in criminal activity. I’ll even concede that the “African” crime rate of about one percent is slghtly higher than it should be compared to the number of “Africans” in the state. However, before I make any firm conclusions that have me fearing for my safety every time I see a group playing soccer, I’d like to know how the percentages compare with other young people in the same areas rather than the overall crime rate.

But back to the climate change deniers. Yes, language is an important thing. And yes, scientists have been wrong before. So is calling people who are sceptical about global warming, deniers really an attempt to label them in such a way that they sound as loopy as holocaust deniers? (Ok, before anyone starts defending holocaust deniers, I do understand that calling Hitler “far-right” offends Godwin’s law, so can we just leave that argument to another day, because I’ve really picked enough fights for today.)

I have nothing against scepticism. Scientists should be sceptical. In fact, whatever we’re being told, we all should examine the evidence with a healthy distrust of conclusions. However, the reason the word “denier” is entirely appropriate for a number of people is the simple fact that it’s exactly what they do.

“Since 1997 the world has been cooling.”

‘No, that’s not true. The latest evidence from NASA suggests that…”

“NASA? I wouldn’t trust them. They’re a government agency.”

“Well, what about your own experience. Surely you’ve noticed that it’s been hotter lately.”

“No, it was distinctly colder when I got up this morning.”

“But that’s because yesterday was 40 degrees.”

“Exactly. It’s much colder than yesterday.”

“40 degrees in December. That’s not normal.”

“Of course it is. Back when I was growing up we used to get days over 100!”

“But you were using Fareheit, so the temperatures were higher.”

“Exactly. It’s been getting colder.”

“That’s ridiculous! Even if you’re right and it’s getting colder, that’s part of climate change too.”

“Then why is it called global warming? Look, I don’t care what you say, I think it’s all a gigantic con to justify giving money to science because we don’t really need scientists any more because they just tell us one thing one day and something different the next. Good on Tony Abbott for eliminating the Ministry of Science and Donald Trump for declaring climate chage a communist plot!”

Yep, language is powerful. Sometimes more powerful than presenting the facts.


26 comments

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  1. helvityni

    I was all fired up to say something about ‘language Nazis’ , then I looked at the title again and saw the comma between those two words and I realised I was barking at the wrong tree….now I’m embarrassed, and lost for words…whatever that means…

    Anyhow, always a pleasure to read your posts, Rossleigh.

  2. John Boyd

    It is no good arguing with real deniers, but it is disappointing that so many reasonable people are sucked in by the ‘climate is always changing’ line. I have had some success with pointing out that what is happening now is quite different from what has happened in the past, say the last 400 000 years, for which temperature and CO2 data exist from ice cores in the Antarctic and Greenland. A useful illustration is at ( https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/graphic-the-relentless-rise-of-carbon-dioxide/ which clearly shows how the CO2 level has broken out of the ice age driven trend since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Couple that with https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/ and you have the corresponding warming. Then it gets a bit tricky. To a reasonable person I say that the physics linking CO2 to the rise in temperature is ‘hard’, contestable and reproducible. There is no real scientific argument here. And so on. Good luck!

  3. Rossleigh

    Yes, saying that the climate is always changing is a bit of a red herring. It’s a bit like saying that people are always dying so there’s no need to investigate a link between smoking and lung cancer.

  4. John Hermann

    These people are irrational, anti-intellectual and anti-science. They are impervious to rational argument or debate. In their arrogance they are deluded into thinking they know more about how the natural world works than do scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying the various aspects of it. The Dunning-Kruger syndrome is alive and well.

  5. Pilot

    Great article Rossleigh and oh so true.

    @Helvityni, don’t feel let down about your “language nazi” mishap, mistakes happen. What we find is an opening for the”Spelling Police” or Spelling Nazi”, lmao!!

    Consider, “….Donald Trump for declaring climate chage a communist……” Chage? What’s a chage?
    ROSSLEIGH!!!!!!

    😉 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  6. David Bruce

    Even the scientists are sceptical about their climate models. How much of our climate change is caused by volcanoes, Fukushima, CERN, HAARP, Gulf oil spills and forest fires in Borneo and the Amazon? When CERN fires up and is at its highest it collapses our Magnetosphere!

    When Krakatoa erupted, it reduced the average temperature around the world by 1 degree C, allegedly.

    In the year following the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, average Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 °C (2.2 °F). (Bradley, Raymond S. (June 1988). “The explosive volcanic eruption signal in northern hemisphere continental temperature records” (PDF). Climatic Change. 12 (3): 221–243. Bibcode:1988ClCh…12..221B. doi:10.1007/bf00139431. ISSN 0165-0009. Retrieved 21 June 2018 – via Springer).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1883_eruption_of_Krakatoa

    I think the big con is that humans can do something to prevent climate change. BTW I have seen plenty of evidence of climate change in the South Pacific Islands over the past 2 years.

    Our Sun is less active (fewer Sunspots which influence our rainfall), Earth’s magnetic field is weaker and has holes in it and the Sun’s Heliosphere is weakening.

    King Canute, the Dane, was told by his courtiers he was so powerful, he could stop the tides coming in. Are humans so powerful they can stop and perhaps reverse, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. If greenhouse gas emissions accounted for 100% of climate change, then maybe we would have a chance? What do you think?

  7. MattersNot

    David Bruce re:

    What do you think?

    That you don’t! And that applies to research, reading, listening, watching and the like.

    Back into the Cave for you for a bit more shadow watching.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RWOpQXTltA&vl=en

  8. Paul Davis

    David Bruce, pleased that you renewed your Fox subscription, judging by your first paragraph being a paraphrase of a recent Paul Murray diatribe….

    Or do you like me live in regional area where Sky Darkside is free to air on WIN.

  9. Kronomex

    What the hell are you talking about with “When CERN fires up and is at its highest it collapses our Magnetosphere!”? Ohh…I see, are you talking about the supervillain Magneto after he went on a massive eating binge and became a sphere of fat?

  10. Andrew Smith

    Along with climate change denial and cynicism of the science, is the language used to encourage or mainstream Nativism; fossil fuel PR machine seems joined at the hip with Nativism ‘look over there, immigrants ruining the environment (or using Club of Rome language constructs ‘carrying capacity’, ‘limits to growth’, etc.).

    Two generations ago, for example, Maribyrnong Immigration Centre in Melbourne welcomed, housed and prepared ‘immigrants’ to become new Australians. Now it’s a Detention Centre to deport ‘immigrants’, especially (fellow ANZACs) Kiwis, back to our own former partner colony.

    Yesterday Fairfax journo Erik Bagshaw described those who migrated to Oz post WWII i.e. Greek, Italian etc., still, as ‘immigrants’, meanwhile Anglo types fly under the radar (we still have several 100k British subjects without citizenship on electoral roles with only permanent residency); very WASPish and Orwellian?

  11. John Boyd

    David Bruce….bit of a contradiction there…we can’t do anything to influence climate, but we can destroy the magnetosphere????

  12. Rossleigh

    I don’t know exactly what the magnetosphere is, but that won’t stop from suggesting that there’s no way it can be destroyed because I have a gut feeling and some other person commenting on the internet assured me that this was true…

  13. Rossleigh

    Thanks, John, although I suspect that for some people a PhD disqualifies you from expressing an opinion because you’re one of those elites who think that just because they’ve spent time studying something that their opinion is better than others. Obviously, when it comes to medical advice my doctor is part of the medical fratenity trying to con me but my hairdesser has his finger on the pulse and assures me that there’s no dangers in my current lifestyle.
    In spite of having a better awareness of the Magnetosphere, I’m still trying to work out David Bruce’s point when he asks: “How much of our climate change is caused by volcanoes, Fukushima, CERN, HAARP, Gulf oil spills and forest fires in Borneo and the Amazon? When CERN fires up and is at its highest it collapses our Magnetosphere!” He later suggests that it’s a “con” to suggest that man can do something to prevent climate change when nearly everything he lists is a result of people’s actions and decisions.
    Of course, his point about King Canute overlooks the fact that the apocryphal story was about Canute showing his followers that he was mortal. Yes, I’m king, but that has it’s limits and while you may tell me that I can do anything, look, the sea doesn’t obey me.

  14. Diannaart

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/volcanoes-and-global-warming-intermediate.htm

    Volcanoes emit around 0.3 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. This is about 1% of human CO2 emissions which is around 29 billion tonnes per year.

    https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-poleReversal.html

    Scientists understand that Earth’s magnetic field has flipped its polarity many times over the millennia. In other words, if you were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in your hand, the needle would point to ‘south.’ This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth’s poles. The N-S markings of a compass would be 180 degrees wrong if the polarity of today’s magnetic field were reversed.

    Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth’s destruction. But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be ‘no.’

    For the climate change skeptic denier, knock yourself out(please, knock yourself out):

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    Global Warming & Climate Change Myths

    Here is a summary of global warming and climate change myths, sorted by recent popularity vs what science says. Click the response for a more detailed response. You can also view them sorted by taxonomy, by popularity, in a print-friendly version, with short URLs or with fixed numbers you can use for permanent references.

  15. Keith

    David Bruce

    The myth is that climate science is all about modelling .. such a view is indicative of little or no knowledge of climate science.
    Understand what consilience means in science, nothing to do with modelling.
    The melting of ice caps and thawing of permafrost have nothing to do with modelling. The work of Anton Vaks et al makes for some worrying information about permafrost thawing. Nothing to do with modelling.

    Years ago the grids used in modelling were huge; from memory something like 200 square ks, now they are down to 10 square ks. The data fed into computers can only be assessed by the very largest of large computers.

    Deniers go to satellite data to state that Earth is hardly warming; yet, satellites do not measure temperature, they provide data that can be utilised to provide temperature. It is modelling which is used to derive temperature from the inferred temperature created by the data! Satellites do not remain in the same orbit as they age, requiring very complicated modelling to be used. A denier trick, where in one context climate science is said to be wrong; but, elsewhere use the same principle to argue their case. That is, to make it abundantly clear, deniers use modelling when it suits their purpose.

    Earlier satellites have shown the interaction between radiated light and greenhouse gases. The isotopes of CO2 can be identified; that is, it is a myth that humans cannot do much in relation to anthropogenic climate change. It is more of a case of denier bastards being very successful in stopping any action years ago. It is now a case of hopefully being able to mitigate against the worst aspects of climate change. It has been profit seeking absolute greed that has been pushed by fossil fuel corporations putting out false claims through third parties such as Heartlands that have done damage to the ability to do as much as was/is necessary. There are several Court cases in the USA about putting out fossil fuel corporations putting out garbage; there are also any number of studies showing how the fossil flue corporations were aware of what they were doing. No conspiracy theories there, as are promoted by deniers.

    It is worth going to the research of Dr Benjamin Burger in relation to the end of the Permian era and the “great dying”.
    Benjamin Burger, a Geologist took samples from rocks which displayed artefacts consisted with greenhouse gases being in involved in the “great dying”. To make it very clear, climate change created by greenhouse gases through the ignition of coal seams. He used references suggestive of what he found. A new study published in the last week states we need to take seriously what happened during the “great dying” which identified situations already beginning to happen. Currently, a combination of all greenhouse gases is 493ppm, which goes back a long /long way into the past before such an amount can be identified. It goes far beyond the simple comment that climate has changed in the past. CO2 takes a very long time to break down in the atmosphere.

    Currently the Earth should be cooling, why is that not happening?

    Whatever happened to the denier datum year of 1998? Funny how 1998 is not promoted any longer by deniers, it was one of their main arguments.

    Katharine Hayhoe; a climate scientist assessed the research of a number of skeptical climate scientists; the problem was that the research could not be replicated. The ability to replicate science is what science is about.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Keith,

    When the deniers recently stopped using 1998 as their start year for climate comparison, a whole heap of my resources used in teaching kids about misinformation became redundant. Not to worry. I am sure the gap will be filled by Liberal Party graphs during the election campaign. They provide a wealth of material on how to manipulate data and its representation.

  17. John Boyd

    Just as a comment on the state of the world, I clicked on a NOAA climate related website and received…https://governmentshutdown.noaa.gov/

  18. Keith

    Deniers do not appear to understand that opinion accounts for nothing in relation to science.

    A guide in obtaining reliable information is to use Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a good source to use to be able to find any number of Abstracts and at times full articles. Any articles with “doi” in their url are reliable. Books can be suspect, they are often written on the basis of promoting a view rather than taking a skeptical approach. The IPA book is a farce, for example.

    Blog spots such as WUWT are totally unreliable. WUWT has published completely inaccurate information in relation to weather stations in the US, and some farcical assessments of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
    Newspaper articles unless they have hyper links to science research are useless. If taking a denier view from science research, it is important to check the science. There have been so many times when blogs have misrepresented the research. In some cases, authors have warned readers that their research might be misunderstood by deniers and used inappropriately.

    There are very few research articles put out by skeptical scientists. In 2013 it was literally only a handful; whereas, about 12,000 research articles were published (Powell et al). Graphs used by deniers are very unreliable, often cutting off the most salient points.Monckton in the past has been caught out displaying fraudulent material. Hansen in his early career provided 4 possibilities in relation to climate change, 2 of those were left out, to suit denier nonsense. The 2 left out, displayed the most accurate assessment!

    Thom Karl et al, were involved in reassessing temperature and found that there had been no “hiatus”, a peer was critical about administrative aspects of the research. Deniers took that to mean the research was wrong; the critic of the Karl research had to repudiate the denier claims.

    As Hunt found out when “Minister for the Environment” Wikipedia is not considered to be the best reference!!

  19. Kaye Lee

    The problem is the deniers are not interested in science so linking them to scientific proof just doesn’t seem to work. The campaign of doubt has been very effective. People seriously believe that NASA, the CSIRO, the BoM and every scientific body you can think of are in cahoots to rip them off. Apparently it is a UN plot for world domination engineered by environmentalists and Jewish bankers. Burning fossil fuels is an altruistic duty to lift us all out of poverty and has NOTHING to do with greed….

    How can one possibly argue sensibly with that?

  20. Andrew Smith

    Understanding science and research methods should be compulsory amongst journalists and in school curricula, with peer reviewed research being used to support claims and credibility (better than doi no. and Google Scholar are university libraries accessing journal databases with ‘peer reviewed’ tags, many are not).

    However, it’s more complicated than evidence etc. with mostly Conservative MPs, commentators and think tanks constantly denigrating science, education and universities in favour of beliefs, authority and religion.

    Turnbull’s govt. vs. Alberici and ABC was about pushing corporate tax cuts for top end of town and MNCs through intimidation, pseudo science while everyone forgot the original claim of the ‘trickle down effect’ (Chicago School).

    Also symbolic for aspirational conservative voters who would not see financial benefits but maybe fairy dust of WASP or middle class status will ‘trickle down’s on them, if they follow orders.

    PS Beware of high profile scientists and/or PR types sounding ‘sciency’ but outside their own discipline.

  21. Keith

    Kaye

    The fundamental flaw in capitalism is that external costs are not taken into account .. the environment being a huge one. To an extent policy makers have taken some matters on-board such as the ozone hole, asbestos and lead in petrol and paint. The current crop of politicians are useless in comparison, they care more about their ideology than their children or young people generally. How often is it that corporations leave an environmental mess which the tax payer ends up having to pay for?

    I believe showing the myths that deniers put out and displaying what the facts are is hard for deniers to break down.

    Climate change has an impact economically for individuals, families and communities; through infra-structure loss, health and cultural matters.

    The bastard Agencies such as the IPA, Heartlands etc don’t care about the costs they place on ordinary people as long as they gain their profits.

  22. Kyran

    “Yep, language is powerful. Sometimes more powerful than presenting the facts.”
    Slightly off topic, but it’s funny that our media doesn’t respect the premise when reporting sibling differences. In a comparison of two different treatments, the Khawaja and Pezzullo matters are noteworthy.
    There’s a bloke who plays cricket for Australia and, by many accounts, he’s one of those ‘journeymen’ who never quite hit the big time but usually acquit themselves well in their field of endeavour. His name is Usman Khawaja. His brother, Arsalan, is a uni student who allegedly set up a class mate. The matter first hit the headlines when the class mate was arrested and sent to ‘super-max’ before investigations were started, let alone completed, as we do with anything ‘terrorist’ related. Ironically, he was released when our intrepid security services found, after a month’s worth of ‘cursory’ enquiries, the source document was a fabrication.
    Oops. Our anti terror people must have legitimate terrorists terrified. They have now arrested Arsalan Khawaja and seem to be pursuing him as a terrorist, rather than an aggrieved (if not overly intelligent) suitor of sorts.
    “Police will allege Khawaja attempted to set up Nizamdeen because of a dispute over a girl. On Tuesday Willing said police believe he was “motivated, in part, by a personal grievance.”
    He told reporters he felt sorry for Nizamdeen, but did not apologise.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/dec/04/cricketer-usman-khawaja-brother-arsalan-arrested-terrorism-hitlist

    Of course, the headlines were “Cricketer Usman Khawaja’s brother charged over ‘terrorism’ notebook”. Other than their sibling status, there is nothing in any article that even hints at a connection between the brothers pursuits or endeavours. The end result is that the name became the headline and guilt was inferred or conferred by association.
    On the other hand, brothers Fabio and Michael Pezzullo were not only engaged in the same industry, but Michael was the ‘boss’, with charge for ethics and compliance matters, and Fabio was a customs official who had been naughty. The sibling status was noted in headlines, but Pezzullo wasn’t named.
    “Brother of Customs boss to be sentenced” was the norm.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/brother-of-customs-boss-to-be-sentenced-20140609-39t8o.html

    Not too many of the articles made mention of the fact the boss Pezzullo claimed ignorance of his brothers activities and alleged he had never ever been approached by his brother for guidance or advice, even after he was charged. None of the reporters, that I’m aware of, ever asked boss Pezzullo if, in his role of pursuing corruption across all departments, he had ever been involved in his brother’s investigation or had been required to recuse himself.
    Yeah. It’s lucky the Stray’an media isn’t into racist dog whistling and that they are vigilant in their diligence of language, particularly when real crimes are being committed.
    Thank you Mr Brisbane. Take care

  23. Rossleigh

    I met a guy at the pub today who explained to me that gravity is a myth pedalled by scientists so that we can’t fly everywhere and need to buy cars or call a taxi…When I asked how public transport fitted into this idea, he explained that public transport didn’t exist because when have you ever seen a train arrive when you wanted one?
    Seems legit…
    Must have been the number of drinks I had which caused me to fall flat on my face…

  24. Nato

    Wishing all editors, contributors and commenters the best for the New Year. I look forward to reading tAIMN opinions, in the articles and comments throughout 2019. It’s good to be reminded that people can come to such morally different positions, by putting different weight to different arguments. You make me gregarious and more fun at parties.

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