Monday 2 June 2014

The conservative family values of Christian man Anthony Watts

[UPDATE II: Anthony Watts responds. With intimidation.]

[UPDATE: WUWT Moderator dbstealey feels that William M. Connolley is evil; see below]

Anthony Watts has a reposted an ugly article by Pointman about William M. Connolley, in which I have a cameo appearance as collateral damage. The comments below the post are below any level. Williams name inspires these good Christians to toilet puns. My last name reminds these Republicans of the last time they had anal sex. I guess it would be of no use to explain these man of the world that the Dutch name Venema does not rhyme to the English word enema.

Maybe Anthony Watts did not notice these comments, he is so busy searching for the truth after all. Thus I asked him:
Dear Anthony, I am saddened that you would repost something like this. I had expected better of you. While I understand it would be pointless to ask Pointman to do so, could you at least remove the pun on my name by ATheoK and the various hilarious puns on William Connolley's name, please?
This comment was not published, but replaced by [noted]. The comment by ATheoK was not changed. And I even asked politely, last time the enema appeared on WUWT, Anthony Watts was only willing to remove it if I repeated the request with the magic word please.

My next comment:
Victor Venema says: [noted]

Dear Anthony Watts, it is regretful that you approve of the horrible language used in these comments. This ugliness is not something I had expected to see at WUWT, if only on opportunistic grounds. Don't you want WUWT to be a broadly read somewhat respectable mainstream anti-CAGW blog? The comments on this post do not sound like conservative or Christian family values to me, but more like atheist übermensch extremist thinking.

If you have to resort to this kind of language, you have lost the rational debate. Kudos for making this official.

While we now know that you condone abusive language, I am wondering if you also officially support misinformation. You know that this statement by NikFromNYC is wrong: "Here is the hockey stick you [Connolley] helped create, the WUWT site rating that just tripled in 2013:"

Surely, having "the world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change", the number of readers is important to you and you know your blog statistics. Any other blogger knows, surely you do. You know this is wrong, you need no scientific knowledge or skills to see this. You also publish the Wordpress summary results at the end of the year and everyone else knows it is wrong. Don't you think that the right thing to do would be to correct this misinformation? What would Jesus do?
In the hope of getting this one published, I had not added the link with the evidence that Watts has no respect for reality whatever the topic.

Fortunately not all conservative Christians are like Watts and his ilk. Maybe it helped that I had just had a long detailed and mainly pleasant discussion with Evan Jones on the Watts et al. (2012) manuscript. If people want to honestly discuss science, I am happy to talk to them if I have some expertise. Jones writes:
Over the last year-plus, I have had oddly reasonable exchanges with both Connolley and Victor Venema concerning the surfacestations paper. We explored their three main objections and have addressed them. That was actually quite valuable, as it turns out.

I do understand that they are controversial figures, and many have crossed swords with them, but I have made out okay. They found out we are for real — which they needed to know. I found out what their criticisms are and where how they will be arguing against the paper, down the road — which I needed to know.

REPLY: he seems to have a different persona when not in public view. In my case here and at his own blog, he wears his contempt on his sleeve – Anthony
I will be so modest and assume that Watts is speaking about Connolley. That does not resolve the difficulty of understanding how commenting at WUWT and writing on your blog would be outside of the public view. But then, that doesn't really matter, I have given up trying to understand these fake sceptics, the only reason to debate them is to show the lurkers the way back to reality.

The more important question is why the American evangelical Christians are sacrificing their place next to Jesus with their support of such a dishonest and uncivilised political movement. Christians in the rest of the world seem to read another bible and would never condone such unchristian behaviour. In the USA, the people of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) have already realised this.

While I understand that conservatives do not like some of the proposals for policies to combat climate change put forward by progressives and greens, I am disappointed by them tolerating this kind of language in their ranks. Weren't the conservatives once the people that wanted to conserve civilised manners, that claimed to have the moral and Christian values on their side? What happened to these conservatives? How could the rude behaviour of Anthony Watts and Rush Limbaugh become the conservative life style?

If you would explain a Martian the original conservative ideology, these Martians would expect conservatives to respond to climate change the way Newt Gingrich proposed, instead of betraying their own values in comments at WUWT and Co.

[UPDATE: It has gotten even worse, after all the vitriol there were two sane comments.
None of which excuses the reference to him [@wmconnolley] in the original article as “creature” or the comment reference “sub-human”.
I agree with The Other Phil. It doesn’t help to simply throw names at anyone,especially not terms with such an unpleasant history
So much humanity broke WUWT "moderator" dbstealey's back. He quoted from a piece about Elliot Rodger, Osama bin Laden, Anders Behring Breivik and Christopher Dorner:
Evil is not limited to the occasional spree killer. In the last century Hitler and Stalin oversaw cults of personality built on this same model under which millions died. Stalin’s Communism and Hitler’s National Socialism were messy and contradictory ideologies. They ultimately existed so that one man could exercise his power fantasies and destroy as much of the world as he could. And here in our own country, there is an ideology that is obsessed with controlling and shaping all of human behavior. We call that ideology by many names such as liberalism or progressivism, but it’s more accurately a diseased narcissism whose followers strive to stamp out anyone who doesn’t think like them, and to control the lives of everyone else.
And commented that quote with:
It’s from another blog, but guess who it applies to here [my bold].

That also applies to Michael Mann. Anyone reading his tweets and other comments knows what a warped person he is. Personally, I could understand pretending to have won the Nobel Prize. Lots of insecure folks self-aggrandize with fictitious accomplishments. But Mann constantly flings out insults at anyone and everyone who doesn’t toe his line, and he cowers from any fair debate [I suspect that connolley would tuck tail and run from any fair, moderated debate, too, since the science flatly contradicts his bogus narrative].

We are dealing with people who would be rejected by any normal society. But this is life in the new millennium. We just have to keep plugging away. And so far, it’s working.
On other blogs the moderators have the responsibility to keep the discussion somewhat civilised. Anthony Watts' guard dog, sock puppeteer and favoured mod, dbstealey aka Smokey aka dbs aka D Boehm aka who knows what else sees this differently.

No idea why Michael Mann suddenly makes an appearance.

Creature, sub-human, "the WC needed cleaning", "WC flushed", odious toads, evil, Hitler, Stalin and diseased narcissism. Those are the words of extremists, I would not want to get my science information from.

The idea that William M. Connolley would run away from any debate is almost funny. Given that he was commenting below this ugly post, which is an unfair and badly moderated debate, especially when dbstealey comments using one of his many sock-puppets and simultaneously moderates his opponents. Previously Connolley has offered to debate Lord Monckton, but the Lord did not take up the offer.

The often used term narcissistic to describe Connolley is probably the most ironic part. It is pure projection: it are the extremists at WUWT that think that William M. Connolley single handedly kept Wikipedia's climate articles clean of their nonsense. They are the ones that do not recognise the swarm intelligence of Wikipedia and how Connolley could never have kept Wikipedia clean without the other Wikipedia editors and the scientific literature.]

[UPDATE II Now also Anthony Watts chipped in. His response below my second comment, the published one, is rather long and content free. You can read it in this archive if you want to check my paraphrases.

I found it because William M. Connolley tweeted: AW invents new version of Godwin: "Oh puhleeze, invoke Jesus? Nope that’s when YOU lose".

The key sentence may be: "I know your university stoked ego can’t assimilate criticism from us mere peasants, so I don’t bother."

It would be nice if he would not bother and would stop the misinformation campaign, he calls "criticism" and I call WUWT.

The term "university stoked ego" probably tells more about Watt's inferiority complex than about me. My last name, which the ugly crowd at WUWT likes to make fun of, actually means peat bog worker in Dutch. I am the first in my family to obtain a PhD. Coming from a relatively poor background I am extremely thankful for the enormous support and trust society has given me for my studies and now to be allowed to do the job I love.

A job I love because of the culture of curiosity, reason, civility and truth. The anti-thesis of WUWT and Co. If Watts feels like a peasant, he might think about why scholars, scientists and cultured people no longer feel welcome in the Republican party where only two generations ago they could still be proud to be a Republican. These groups have the same range of political preferences as everyone else. Thus my guess would be that they are disgusted by the anti-intellectual and coarse political culture and by people putting ideology above values. WUWT is a mere symptom of this larger problem.

Watts may also feel inferior because people so often find that the posts at WUWT are completely wrong. This is documented daily on HotWhopper. However, Watts should not take this personally. If I had to publish five posts a day, my quality would also go down. Especially, if those posts would have to follow an ideological story line and I could thus not orient myself by the scientific literature. Given those difficult circumstances, Watts is doing a great job and I have often praised him as a great PR expert.

The next complaint is that I would "whip up comments here [at WUWT] then go write a post [at Variable Variability] about how terrible we are here [at WUWT]." I don't know. I thought this was called decency. To first alert Anthony Watts that there is a problem and to give him the possibility to correct it. I find that more decent as immediately writing a post about an over-the-top comment, the way Anthony Watts did about a comment someone made at AndThenTheresPhysics that was removed when people complained. But maybe those are just my exotic moral values.

Is it necessary to state that the comments below that WUWT post on AndThenTheresPhysics were similarly hateful. But were not removed?

Next Anthony Watts sends a mixed message. Climate "sceptics" often complain that scientists are not willing to debate them, like dbstealey above, but when scientists show up they are bullied.

Watts published my comment email address; the good Christian regularly intimidates people by publishing private information when he feels cornered. He "calls me out" for using my university email privately and threatens to write a blog post about Victor Venema and the University of Bonn to flesh this out. Nice chap, isn't he? That will stimulate civilised debate.

(Dear readers, do not worry, private use of the internet is allowed in Bonn and Germany has freedom of research in its constitution, thus I do not have to fear harassment by the fake sceptics. I am happy to life in a country where scientists cannot be bullied by political pressure groups that do not like the inconvenient results.) ]


  1. Hi Victor...what a charmed life you have! :)

    I believe your point about why conservative politics should be tied to denial of AGW is very important. More and more lately, I have been thinking about a tiny minority viewpoint has set the agenda for conservative politics -with nobody benefiting but the super-rich and corporations.

    People from the political left will reliably support action to reduce carbon emissions, and they will tend to organise themselves. It seems to me that the key political work in the next few years will be from grass-roots conservatives who reclaim their heritage from the Watts of the world.

    You might like this article

    by the philosopher, Clive Hamilton. It has a very eloquent description of the way a certain faction of conservative activists have managed to equate acceptance of environmental science with left wing politics.

  2. I made the mistake of reading that post of Pointman's and some of the comments at WUWT. It really makes me feel sick to read that stuff. There's something so unhealthy about the discussions there and the odd exchange with William Connolley was particularly disturbing. I don't know how you do it.

  3. Rachel, Mark, thanks.

    It is not about my life. These people do not know me, which is one of the reasons they can only make cheap puns on my name.

    I have doubted some time whether I should write this post. I do not want to discourage any sane person from joining the climate debate. This kind of sick language is one of the ways in which the fake sceptics try to do this, so that their small number of fools look larger. (In practice the problem is likely small for any newcomer because the "sceptics" only know a handful of researchers and do not want to enlarge this circle too much because that would make their scientific conspiracy against humanity look even more foolish.)

    On the other hand, people (the lurkers) should know what kind of people they are and what a dysfunctional epistemological culture they have (to put it into Mark's terms). This alone makes clear that these people will not contribute to our understanding of the world.

    In this respect, this incident nicely complements the discussion at AndThenTheresPhysics about the importance of the scientific culture for scientific progress. Comparing the two cultures could be a good Science and Technology Study. If the scientific culture were as dysfunctional for improving understanding as the one of the "sceptics", I would join the extremists among the social scientists in saying everything is just opinion.

  4. I have been thinking a lot lately about who is worth talking to.

    I believe there is an ineducable 10% at either end of the debate on climate change. I have met many people with environmentalist politics who I bet would go into their own denial if some amazing technology appeared tomorrow to scrub Co2 out of the atmosphere. And of course, I have met people who think AGW is a conspiracy, etc.

    I'm interested in what happens at WUWT, but I have no interest in engaging with that milieu. I want to find ways to communicate with the 80%...

  5. I want to find ways to communicate with the 80%...

    Exactly, that is important. And at least hard for a blogger, because these people are typically not very much interested in the problem.

    In the USA also about 30% of the Democrats are not convinced that global warming is a problem. (And normal Republicans are not that different; the difference is the Tea Party). These are people that should be reachable, do not have ideological blinds on them that makes them reject any evidence, but they are probably hard to reach.

    That is where the importance of mass media comes in. And they are not doing their job when it comes to climate science.

  6. I was also amazed by both Pointman's post and by it being highlighted on WUWT. Hard to see how any mature individual can see Pointman's post as anything other than petty and childish (and the comments as anything other than highly objectionable).

    I feel that I should continue with something snide and insulting, but that would seem to be stooping to the same level, so I'll stop here.

  7. If people do not use arguments and try to evade real discussion, it is easy to respond with snide and insult, but it is better not to. I put the blog momentarily on moderation just in case.

  8. Pointman is certainly an interesting character.

    It's also interesting that Judith has linked to his posts a number of times, w/o, as near as I can tell, much consideration as to whether Pointman's rhetoric is really conducive to her goal of "building bridges."

  9. I have the feeling that most claim to want to build bridges, only want to build them towards climate "sceptics". Never noticed one of these honest brokers building bridges to alarmists.

    And you the impression that they see these bridges as a one-way street where the honest broker shows the dishonest scientists the way to the true conservative political ideals. Did you ever see one of these brokers correct clearly wrong comments by their followers, except maybe claims that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. To me that is part of being a scientist and surely it is part of being an honest broker.

    Not reading Climate Etc. that often, I was somewhat shocked to recently see a post of Curry encouraging her readers to read Pointman. Not something I would expect a scientist to do.

    The tribal rhetoric is very effective in shutting down critical thought. Maybe some need that to ease their internal conflict between that they know and feel.

  10. ==> "Did you ever see one of these brokers correct clearly wrong comments by their followers, except maybe claims that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas."

    Not exactly. I have seen Judith, on occasion, and not recently, criticize someone like Morano. I don't recall seeing RPJr. speaking of aspects such as "politicization" of the science except with reference to "realists." When I have raised that question with RPJr. and Judith, the response has been along the lines of (paraphrasing) "I am primarily concerned with poiticization/underevaluation of uncertainty among those who have disproportionate authority as members of the 'climate community.'"

    A case in point is Judith's most recent post, where she expresses concern about inaccuracy and the potential to mislead in the term "climate change," but is unresponsive to questions about the inaccuracy and potential to mislead in the rhetoric of "a pause [or stop] in global warming."

  11. Irrelevant invocations of Mann, hockey-stick, Al Gore ,etc may be called a dos-whistle (as in politcs).

    "Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. The phrase is only ever used as a pejorative, because of the inherently deceptive nature of the practice and because the dog-whistle messages are frequently themselves distasteful, for example by empathising with racist or revolutionary attitudes. It is an analogy to dog whistles, which are built in such a way that their high-frequency whistle is heard by dogs, but is inaudible to humans.'

    Search this post for whistle, which will give you a list of the more common ones.

  12. Kudos for your calm, considered response to this.

  13. Victor, ICYMI this line of research explains much of what goes on at places like WUWT.

    So for example, Mike Mann is accused of lying in order to mislead rather than merely being wrong precisely in order to evoke the threat to purity => disgust reaction. That reaction seems strange to those who don't share the response (to that extent; we all have it to some degree). Similarly, you're mystified at the business with your last name.

    It does seem to be a neat explanation for the severe shortage of liberals in the climate denialosphere.

  14. Joshua, thanks, that is interesting information. You know Climate Etc. much better than I do. It is nice to have your pet topics, but I feel that if you are communicating science, you have to obligation to paint a balanced picture. Goes with the Schneider quote, the climate "sceptics" like to show, that you should communicate honestly and understandably.

    John Mashey, are the irrelevant invocations of Mann etc. really a dog whistle? A dog whistle is supposed to be only comprehensible to dogs. That would suggest that it means more than I currently understand. Was this irrelevant invocation more than just a lack of arguments and a swore of allegiance?

    Hank Roberts, I also do that quite often. You think one word and your fingers type a more common similar word. Does show that John's coding skills are getting rusty. :-) Most people on the net no longer know what a disk operating system is.

    Steve Bloom, An interesting relationship between conservative preferences and disgust, which makes sense. If you are easily disgusted you probably have a tendency to avoid new experiences and people.

    However, it does not seem to fit to the language at WUWT. Why are the conservatives not disgusted by WUWT?

  15. They are expressing disgust toward others, Victor.

  16. The urge to purity expresses itself in various other ways, e.g. egoism and greed. First Dog on the Moon has some relevant thoughts.

  17. Expressing disgust is not the same as easily being disgusted, but maybe they have learned that that is an effective strategy among their peers.

    In any case, ugly tribal language is the perfect way to make people shut off their logical brain. That is naturally important if you blog about scientific nonsense.

  18. Just so.

    I suspect scientists would tend to score pretty low on that disgust test.

  19. Yesterday, I had an unpleasant exchange on twitter with Steve Goddard, that I guess, fits well to this post.

    Goddard was enormously rude in a large number of tweets, "intellectually challenged", "talking brownshirt trash", "ass kicking to improve your behavior", "scumbags rationalize their cowardice", "a severely defective personality", "You are indeed a world class coward. I will bet you have difficulty looking at yourself in the mirror."

    As a consequence I asked him if he thought to be a good example for his son. I happened to know the name of his son. After the Heartland Institute published their speaker list, which mentioned that the real name of Steven Goddard was Tony Heller, I googled his name and one of the top hits was his YouTube channel, with a video of the graduation ceremony of his son.

    I was wrong to use the name of Steven Goddard's son on twitter, I have deleted that tweet and I have apologized for that.

    In response Goddard published the tweet with the name of his son together with my photo and address and allowed a comment that people should visit me there:

    hannuko says: "I wonder are there any readers of this blog in XXX? Somebody should go visit him at the university and explain that threatening children (or threatening anyone) is not a proper behavour and living far away from your target is not something that justifies this."

    I hope that Goddard will remove that post and apologize, like I did, and will leave it up to the reader to judge who behaved worse.


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