Update end of day 3/29/09: Last spring, Ted Nordhaus wrote the definitive piece on Joe Romm and like-minded environmentalists. It is headlined, “The Green Politics of Personal Destruction: Deconstructing Joe Romm.” It is a must read for anyone who is concerned about the damage this particular brand of environmental activism — characterized by demonization, conspiracy theories, and invective — is doing to efforts aimed at protecting the planet.
Update 3/29/09: Joe Romm has now decided to censor my comments at his blog: “I am putting you on permanent moderation for repeatedly engaging in such ad hominem attacks,” he wrote, and he excised much of what I said at his blog in response to his Freeman Dyson blog posting. Yes, I have said Joe Romm uses “hyperbole” and “sensationalism,” as well as “invective” and epithets.”I believe these words are accurate descriptions, not ad hominem attacks, of the language Romm routinely employs to lambast anyone who disagrees with him — language like “crackpot,” “loopy,” “slander” and “rant and rave,” which he used liberally in reference to Dyson.
Evidently, when Romm can’t win an argument using reason, logic and evidence, he resorts to censorship.
Since I’m not sure whether he’ll run it, here is the response I just tried to leave on Romm’s blog (we’ll see whether he prints it):
Yes, I have written that you use “hyperbole” and “sensationalism.” To that you might also add “invective” and “epithets.” These are not ad hominem attacks Joe. They are accurate descriptions of your own language. You did in fact lambast Freeman Dyson as being a “crackpot” and “loopy,” and you actually did accuse him of “slander” for daring to say that Hansen exaggerates, isn’t that right? If these are not good examples of hyperbole, sensationalism, invective, and epithets, I don’t know what are.
For the record: I am not commenting here on whether Hansen does or does not exaggerate. I am responding to the outrageous charge that Dyson “slandered” Hansen simply for disagreeing with him. [I might add here that Hansen doesn't view it as slander either — see the update immediately below.] But Joe, that is what you really think, isn’t it? Any one who dares to disagree with you is automatically “loopy” or “slandering” or a “crackpot.”
And now your readers can see just how you respond to criticism like this: Rather than engage in honest debate, you shut down free expression of ideas. If that’s not what you really mean to do, then run this comment in its entirety and respond to it. Tell us why you need to rely on epithets and invective to get your points across. While you’re at it, you should also restore my complete comment above rather than censor it. What are you afraid of Joe? That your readers may get a different point of view?
Update 3/28/09: Go here to see why James Hansen is a class act compared with Joe Romm. He evidently has a lot more respect for Freeman Dyson than Romm does. And when he takes Dyson to task, he does it with appropriate deference and civility.
Follow the bolded words below to see what passes for intelligent discourse on Climate Progress, Joe Romm’s allegedly “indispensable blog” (as Tom Friedman inexplicably put it several weeks back):
“Shame on the New York Times Magazine for publishing an extended, largely favorable profile of Freeman Dyson, a true climate crackpot …”
“Shame on them for printing his scientifically unjustifiable slanders of the country’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen …”
“And shame on the NYT’s top climate science reporter, Andy Revkin for promoting this piece on his blog with not a single criticism of Dyson’s numerous anti-scientific statements and smears . . . I call on Revkin to retract his absurdly indefensible assertion that, ‘On climate, Mr. Dyson may be right . . . (see full quote at end)’”
Romm betrays himself with the editing of Revkin’s sentence; more about that in a minute. But first… Romm aims his wrath at the New York Times for publishing a profile of Freeman Dyson in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, and, of course, at one of his favorite whipping boys, Andy Revkin, for writing about the profile dispassionately in his DotEarth blog.
In Joe Romm’s logic, anyone who disagrees with him is guilty of “smears” and “slander,” as opposed to simply offering an opinion, which, well, may be right or wrong. It’s not good enough for Romm to argue passionately against a point of view. For anyone with the chutzpah to advance an argument he disagrees with, Romm seems compelled to use taunts and epithets. He also frequently ties this tactic with the demand that a writer or publication “retract” what they’ve published. One gets the sense that honest debate is not Romm’s goal, but quite the opposite: the shutting down of free expression. And in my opinion, this makes him the entirely dispensable censor.
Romm reveals just how dispensable his blog really is with his editing of Revkin’s sentence — editing that was clearly intended to twist Andy’s original meaning to leave his readers with a false impression. Here is the full sentence, minus Romm’s excisions: “On climate, Mr. Dyson may be right or wrong, and pretty much admits that.”
Yes, Romm did direct his readers to Revkin’s blog to see the “full quote at end.” But how many will actually take the extra steps to do that? Not many. If Romm really was interested in truth he would have have included the six extra words in that sentence.
I suspect that something other than a pursuit of the truth and healthy debate is at work here. What might that be? Let’s string together the strong words from his post, one after the other: shame; slanders; shame; shame; smears; absurdly indefensible; loopy; famous crackpot camp; outlandish; crackpot; rant and rave; loopiness; slander-fest; uncivil, unjustified ravings; crackpots. (Did I catch them all?)
And then this:
“Shame on the NYT, shame on the reporter, Nicholas Dawidoff, for publishing this crackpot’s crap for millions to read and possibly think is credible”