Pointman has another interesting post up at his blog today The Climate Wars which is starting to draw attention from some of the heavy hitters of the shorter wavelength end of the global warming/climate change frequency spectrum. Steve Mosher has weighed in comments, and Anthony Watts has elevated Pointman to Quote of the Week!
In all seriousness, well done Pointman, you’ve worked very hard at this.
The thrust of Pointman’s post seemed to me to be about the how the current scandal surrounding Peter Gleick [fakegate, heartlandgate, gleickgate – what have you] has turned into a state resembling guerrilla or asymmetric warfare between the so called skeptics and the alarmists, where the alarmists find themselves fighting a swarm of gnats where they imagine themselves to be fighting a cyclops.
The problem the alarmists had, was that there was never anything substantial to hit back at. They had the equivalents of the big guns and the massive air support but there never was a skeptic HQ to be pounded, no big central organisation, no massed ranks of skeptic soldiers or even any third-party backing the resistance. Every one of the skeptics was a lone volunteer guerilla fighter, who needed absolutely no logistical support of any kind to continue the fight indefinitely. The alarmists never understood this, preferring to think that there simply had to be some massive hidden organisation orchestrating the resistance. While they wasted time and effort attacking targets that only existed in their head, each of the guerillas chewed on them mercilessly in their own particular way.
Naturally I had some unsolicited feedback for the Pointman – [I wish someone would take the time to give ME this kind of feedback, but what can you do?] You can read Pointman’s post for yourself and see if it is warranted or not. Maybe you would like to comment yourself.
This was my comment:
Congratulations Pointman, you’re hitting the big time! Well done.
However, I hear the ghost of Norman Maclean’s father calling to you from beyond the grave, “Again! Half as long!”
I would have started with something like this, then just rolled.
“The problem the alarmists had, was that there was never anything substantial to hit back at.” + “It becomes asymmetric warfare.” + “Fighting them with all your heart just isn’t good enough; you’ve got to fight them with your head as well.”
I also think the whole opening pugilism episode doesn’t really doesn’t support your asymmetric/guerrilla warfare thesis [which I mostly liked], and I found myself wading through it to get to the nub of your argument.
I take it we’ve both fought bare knuckle. My experience is that fighting someone bigger and stronger than yourself toe to toe the damage you take early on in a fight will cost you the fight in the end, and rarely do you have enough ground that you can give ground for long [unless you are the USSR] without finding yourself backed into a corner or in another untenable position.
The ground I would hate to see lost by realists is the moral and intellectual high ground that the alarmists seem to have abandoned as ‘inconvenient’.
The reason I give a qualified ‘like’ to your guerrilla metaphor is that what must be remembered about guerrilla warfare [speaking as a former spec. ops. soldier], is that the guerrilla also fights outside of the restraints upon warfare that have been hashed out with such difficulty by civilized nations over centuries, which usually results in the general state of affairs degenerating to the lowest common denominator – atrocities committed on both sides. You can take a look at the title bar of this blog as a reminder to what happens to a warrior who has lost sight of this fact. [what irony, I actually couldn’t have thought of a better example myself]
Your asymmetric warfare metaphor is the better metaphor, particularly, in your analysis of the skeptic/realist movement as being “diffuse” [I’m not seeing it now, did you use that term?] – diffuse – without a centralized structure, leadership, or hierarchy. We congregate at these electronic Litfaß columns, post our little messages, hang out, have conversations, then go back to what ever else we do all day. It’s very hard to attack, unless you manage to gain control of the whole internet. The alarmist mind cannot stand that, they are essential Sith, they want no opposition, and they want absolute control over everyone else’s thoughts, they can’t stand to be confronted with a competing idea, they can’t imagine someone disagreeing with their position unless they be: stupid, uninformed, or evil. Being essentially paranoid they require an equally paranoid opposition which is why Heartland, as tiny an institution as it is, draws so much enmity – as you pointed out.
You also point out, correctly:
From any rational viewpoint, Fakegate has turned out to be a disastrous event for the alarmists. When you’re patently losing a battle, you withdraw to conserve your forces to fight another day.
However, as Spengler over at the Asia Times points out, “Across epochs and cultures, blood has flown in proportion inverse to hope of victory’. The Germans call it ‘Mut der Verzweiflung‘ the courage born of desperation when victory is impossible but death is preferable to surrender. These people aren’t rational so we cannot expect rational behavior from them. They may actually prefer to risk go down in flames, even as Confederate soldiers could barely be compelled to surrender in April 1864. hoping that their position can be maintained in the end.
Another point I would like to add to the discussion is that we ALL seem to be losing the fight, alarmist and realist alike, as a civil society. One side in particular seems to have split itself off psychologically from the rest of society so completely that they no longer feel it is even necessary to pretend to engage civilly to those whom they define as their enemies – and I’m talking about smart, highly educated professionals here, scientists, academics, journalists – people who look and act in every other way very much like you and me, they expect to simply be able to steamroll their opponents without reply. Their logic and hubris, have become so completely self-referential that they can now rationalize virtually any action as for the ‘greater good’ – and expect to get away with it in front of the only people whose opinions they actually care about, their fellow alarmists.
Question is, will they get away with it in front of the courts? What will we do if the Gleikster does get away with it. We can expect worse if he does.
The world wonders,