Denialgate and Fakegate – Revenge of the Nerds by Richard Komorowski – March 13, 2012
The previous article in this series covered a brief history of Climategate, the theft of numerous documents from a server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
Heartland – Serving Big Tobacco and Big Oil
Bullying is one of the main weapons of the climate science denial industry – the other is the spread of lies and disinformation. The Heartland Institute, like many Libertarian “Think Tanks”, relies on these two weapons to serve the commercial interests of its sponsors.
Think tanks usually have charity or tax-free status, and publish numerous publications on government policy, taxation, healthcare, global warming etc. Typically they try to present themselves to the media as “universities without students,” claiming as faculty various people from different academic disciplines. While there are definitely some think tanks that produce relevant and accurate studies, which can pass an extensive peer review process, many of the libertarian groups produce output with as much attachment to reality as Jerry Springer, Rush Limbaugh or Ezra Levant. (Levant is, in fact, a product of Canada’s premier right-wing libertarian PR organisation, the Fraser Institute).
According to its website, “The mission of the Heartland Institute is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.”
Heartland’s real issue (and many other so-called think tanks worldwide) is to undertake to fix the “social and economic” problems facing its sponsors. Its mission, more accurately stated, is to “discover, develop and promote free-market [i.e. Libertarian] solutions to the social and economic problems facing [mainly] the tobacco and fossil fuel industries.”
How has Heartland attempted to fix the problems that Big Oil is running up against? Instead of acknowledging the issues of climate change, and working to promote real solutions, it fosters and amplifies the Big Lie that there is no such thing as global warming – more precisely, that although there might be such a thing, it is not caused by human activity. Secondly, like a schoolyard bully, Heartland threatens anyone who gets in their way. Thirdly, like any legitimate PR or lobbying company (who, unlike Heartland, pay taxes on their profits), it tries to convince elected representatives to ignore climate change, and to continue “business as usual,” which includes subsidies to the fossil fuel interests.
Fakegate or Denialgate?
Heartland is describing the recent leak of their policy and budget details as “Fakegate”, alluding partly to “Climategate”, where documents were stolen from a University of East Anglia server, and partly due to one of the leaked documents being possibly a forgery. Heartland’s anger, indignation and reaction to the release of their documents, which, with the one exception, they concede are legitimate, has been one of the finest cases of corporate apoplexy in living memory.
Heartland, and especially its president, Joseph Bast, have long tried to bully people they perceive as standing in the way of their organisation and its customers. Commenting about the theft of documents from the UEA, Bast himself threatened genuine climate scientists and any journalist conscientious enough to expose the truth. “This incident, then, won’t be forgotten. Journalists who attempt to spin it away and politicians who try to ignore it will further damage their own credibility, and perhaps see their careers shortened as a result.”
This time, with the leakage of their own documents, which clearly expose their aims and methods in supporting and propagating fake science, they have escalated their threats and bullying. Immediately after publication of the leaked documents, their damage control shifted into high gear, threatening prosecution to anyone who even mentioned them. From the Heartland website (emphasis added):
We respectfully ask all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, especially the fake “climate strategy” memo and any quotations from the same, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We ask them in particular to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
Heartland, and its president Joseph Bast are obviously (and correctly) very frightened of the implications these documents will have on their credibility. Compare Tim Ball’s reaction to the original Climategate theft (emphasis added):
Someone hacked in to the files of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) based at the University of East Anglia. A very large file (61 mb) was downloaded and posted to the web. Phil Jones Director of the CRU has acknowledged the files are theirs. They contain papers, documents letters and emails. The latter are the most damaging and contain blunt information about the degree of manipulation of climate science in general and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in particular.
Notice how Ball and Bast seem unable to agree about the source of the Climategate documents. Ball states clearly that they were hacked (i.e. stolen by someone breaking through the server’s security), whereas Bast continually pretends they were leaked (emphasis added). “Last week, someone (probably a whistle-blower at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, England) released e-mails and other documents written by Phil Jones, Michael Mann and other leading scientists who edit and control the content of the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
Here is an organisation that purports to know everything about climate change, but they can’t even keep their own story straight. The word “Fakegate” is peculiarly apt. While Heartland wanted the public to believe that one of the leaked documents was a fake, what they have actually shown is that Heartland’s approach to climate science, when compared to the other 97% of genuine climate scientists and researchers, is the real fake.
The link Ball gives at the bottom of his article, which he states contain the original documents, is especially revealing. http://www.megaupload.com/?d=003LKN94. It’s really worth following, and so far, as far as I can tell, no one at Heartland has commented on it – certainly they haven’t bothered to remove the link.
Bast Threatens 71-year-old Air Force Veteran
When 71-year-old USAF veteran Gary Wamsley first read about Denialgate, and in particular the plan to take over the entire K-12 science curriculum, he was “…so incensed at the thought of someone trying to ‘dumb down’ our already sinking science programs that I felt he was an enemy of the state. One of those domestic enemies that were part of my oath to defend against. Against that backdrop, I sent the same email to Bast and to every board member. The first response was from a board member. He defended his position, did not threaten me and I sent his email to the archive. Mr. Bast’s email turned out to be a different matter and I could not let him think that his bravado would deter me from speaking out. I therefore responded to him, and it was only when I received his snarky second email, with cc’s to the legal staff, that I thought their tactics needed to be exposed. I did not send the emails with the purpose in mind to publish the responses.”
Col. Wamsley’s initial email to the Heartland Institute was as follows:
You should be ashamed of yourself. The United States already has a problem in keeping up with the rest of the world in science education and now you want to play a role in further destroying our nation as well as our planet.
You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.
Colonel, USAF, Retired
Bast, however, was not impressed, as he replied as follows:
I assume your intemperate comments are based on a forged memo that misrepresents our efforts in the area of global warming research education, so let me explain before demanding an apology. [Followed by a justification of their work].
He goes on to say (emphasis added):
The forged memo has been quoted in scores of articles and hundreds of blog posts. We are working to get those statements removed and retracted. Meanwhile, and regrettably, many people like you are being misled about our work and intentions.
Now that you know the truth, I ask that you apologize for your intemperate and very offensive letter. Since your letter is threatening, I’ve forwarded it to our legal counsel, forensics team, and the FBI. It is important that you not delete the email from your sent file, or any other emails you may have exchanged with other people while preparing it, since this could be evidence in criminal and civil cases.
Please write back to let me know if you will comply with my requests. [Joseph Bast]
Col. Wamsley had originally emailed Bast merely as a private citizen, and not as the editor of the Recorder Online. It was only after this threat that he decided to publish the entire exchange in his newspaper.
Fakegate Threatens Heartland’s Future
Now that their policies, methods and intentions are public, Heartland is running in full damage control to protect its future.
Heartland is no small business as revealed by its 2012 budget, which totals $7,698,385 – almost a million dollars of which was for promoting fake science on behalf of the climate science denial industry. This is not the first time Heartland has taken a major role in promoting fake science. Before climate change became an issue, the institute played a major part in trying to persuade the public that there was no proof that cigarettes caused major health problems. Following a US lawsuit, the tobacco industry and their PR companies, including Heartland, were forced to bring all their documents into the public domain. Now that Fakegate has become public knowledge and has revealed Bast’s role in the inner workings of the denial industry, he and his colleagues have to come up with some unprecedented spin to protect their business and interests.
Their tactic is to try to take the moral high ground, which is particularly hypocritical considering their role following the Climategate thefts. (N.B. There is no proof that Bast and Heartland were in any way involved in the actual theft from the UEA, so unless and until they are convicted in a court of law, we must assume they are innocent of this crime).
Heartland is a bully – the company has continually tried to discredit real scientists, using any number of unethical tactics. Now that one of the victims has struck back and knocked down the bully in front of his friends, Heartland has to go whining to all who will listen about how they are the victim.
This attempt at spin is vital to protect Heartland’s financial interests. In a new website they have set up specially for this purpose – fakegate.org – they claim they are the real victims, and continue with the lie that the Climate Research Unit scientists at the UEA are trying to fake the science (emphasis added).
Fakegate matters because it reveals the inner workings of the radical environmentalists who have turned climate science into a politically-driven movement. Peter Gleick is not the exception. He is not one man who made a poor choice. He is representative of the character of many of the leading voices in the global warming movement. The tactics he used to try to shut down debate – deception and outright lies – are common in the environmental movement.
In reality, the deception and outright lies that Bast complains about are simply the tactics of the climate science denial industry, so well represented by Heartland and its fellow ultra-right Libertarian think tanks.
This is not the first time the global warming movement has been exposed by a scandal. In 2009 and again in 2011, a whistle blower inside the University of East Anglia leaked emails showing the loudest “roosters” of the global warming movement conspiring to limit debate, hide uncertainty, and destroy data. The scandal has been called “Climategate.”
Bast and his colleagues cannot get it into their heads that no one leaked any emails from the CRU. The documents were stolen by a hacker. Even Tim Ball admits this truth.
Fakegate is worse than Climategate. Climategate showed scientists violating the law as well as basic ethical standards of science, but they avoided prosecution due to a technicality. In Fakegate, Peter Gleick has already confessed to assuming a false identity to steal documents. Soon, he or someone close to him will be unveiled as the author of the fraudulent memo. No one was punished for the misconduct exposed by Climategate. Peter Gleick will be punished.
Bast conveniently forgets to mention that eight separate and independent inquiries absolved the scientists involved of any wrongdoing, and not only that, they ascertained that their research and conclusions regarding climate change were valid. This is not, however, what some of the clients of Bast’s climate science denial company want people to hear, as they might start demanding real action from the politicians to do something about global warming. The real purpose and achievement of Climategate was to sabotage the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, and those that followed.
The site finishes with a plea to all the followers of the climate science denial industry to help pick up and support the fallen bully:
You can help us catch the crooks by reading the articles that appear in other sections of this Web site and by following the investigation underway by hundreds of professional and amateur forensic scientists who are on the trail of the Fakegate Gang. Link to this feature on your Facebook page or at your own blogs and Web sites, tweet about #fakegate, and visit the sites linked.
Hundreds of professional and amateur forensic scientists? Really? Just how far does Bast think he can stretch his credibility? Perhaps, if he were so concerned about the truth, he would let slip his “hundreds of professional and amateur forensic scientists” to track down the person or group who stole the University of East Anglia documents?
Plus, you can make your comments heard at the Web sites of DesmogBlog, ThinkProgress, the Huffington Post, and other Web sites that have joined the Fakegate Gang, condemning their conduct.
In other words, you too have the opportunity to become blog fodder for the climate science denial industry and spread our message and rationalisations.
So who is correct – the denial industry blog fodder posters with no facts, no research, and bad science, who post (often anonymous) rants that provide no information, just insults, or almost 100% of the world’s professional and qualified climate scientists, whose research passes the test of scientific scrutiny? Keep in mind too that these honest and qualified scientists would love to have research budgets matching those of the climate science denial industry.
Another approach Heartland is attempting is to persuade its followers to take some ownership of the company’s new problems and to come to their aid. Professional and national sports teams are experts in these tactics – fan and booster clubs, sale of merchandise, publicity events etc., all designed to boost revenue. Likewise, political parties use similar psychology in soliciting donations, telling people that they and everything they hold dear will be at risk if they don’t contribute. Heartland, with its annual sales of over seven and a half million dollars (tax free), is appealing for donations to its legal fund.
Obviously, they have no need of these donations because prosecuting Peter Gleick, who obtained the incriminating documents exposing their Fakegate operation would be up to the federal government, who prosecute alleged felons at no charge to the victim. However, it does allow their followers to feel a part of the whole process, subliminally persuading them that they too are potentially threatened by the exposure. Their other motive, of course, is to make up for the potential lost revenue if their clients feel threatened by their exposure and pull out of Heartland.
A by-product of the leaked documents has been to put Heartland’s very existence and future in doubt, as parts of their budget show that they might not meet the IRS’s definition of a charity non-profit organisation. There seem to be too many big donations from major corporations and trusts compared to individual donations, and their areas of spending raises doubts.
Parts of the leaked documents demonstrate that much of Heartland’s business has nothing to do with “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Heartland appears to be more of a lobbying and PR company, prepared to act on behalf of the highest bidder. Should the US government decide to prosecute, it would mean the end of Heartland, Joseph and Diane Bast, and would put severe pressure on other Libertarian think tanks, which might also become targets of government audits.
The consequences of this would be severe on all the stakeholders – Heartland and other Libertarian think tanks stand to lose their tax-free charitable status, and would no doubt have to pay back taxes and penalties. Their clients, besides receiving unwelcome exposure, might also have to pay tax on their “donations,” as these would no longer be tax deductible. Not only that, the businesses that have to promote climate change denial in order to prosper would no longer have anonymous front groups to shield their commercial interests.
With their seven and a half million dollar tax free business at stake, the Basts have much to lose.
The “Fake” Document
One of the documents allegedly released by Heartland includes one titled Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy, which is reproduced in its entirety below (emphasis added).
Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy
Given the increasingly important role the Heartland Institute is playing in leading the fight to prevent the implementation of dangerous policy actions to address the supposed risks of global warming, it is useful to set priorities for our efforts in 2012. This document offers such a set of priorities. I propose that at this point it be kept confidential and only be distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff. More details can be found in our 2012 Proposed Budget document and 2012 Fundraising Strategy memo. In 2012 our efforts will focus in the following areas:
Increased climate project fundraising
Our climate work is attractive to flinders (sic), especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 – about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012 – see the 2011 Fourth Quarter Financial Report. We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.
Development of our “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project.
Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.
Funding for parallel organizations.
Heartland is part of a growing network of groups working the climate issues, some of which we support financially. We will seek additional partnerships in 2012. At present we sponsor the NIPCC to undermine the official United Nation’s IPCC reports and paid a team of writers $388,000 in 2011 to work on a series of editions of Climate Change Reconsidered. Expenses will be about the same in 2012. NIPCC is currently funded by two gifts a year from two foundations, both of them requesting anonymity. Another $88,000 is earmarked this year for Heartland staff, incremental expenses, and overhead for editing, expense reimbursement for the authors, and marketing.
Funding for selected individuals outside of Heartland.
Our current budget includes funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message. At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.
Expanded climate communications
Heartland plays an important role in climate communications, especially through our in-house experts (e.g., Taylor) through his Forbes blog and related high profile outlets, our conferences, and through coordination with external networks (such as WUWT and other groups capable of rapidly mobilizing responses to new scientific findings, news stories, or unfavorable blog posts).
Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own.
This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out. Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as Revkin at DotEarth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators such as Rornm, Trenberth, and Hansen) or Curry (who has become popular with our supporters). AVe have also pledged to help raise around $90,000 in 2012 for Anthony Watts to help him create a new website to track temperature station data.
Finally, we will consider expanding these efforts further, or developing new ones, if funding can be obtained.
Is the Document a Fake?
Heartland and the climate science denial industry maintain this document is a fake, written solely to discredit them. The truth will probably never be found without a forensic examination of Heartland’s computer systems, and even then, maybe not.
James Delingpole, of the UK Daily Telegraph, and a prominent communicator for the climate science denial industry, is the one responsible for coining the term “Fakegate,” alluding to Heartland’s contention that the leaked document quoted above is a fake. Unfortunately for Mr. Delingpole, Fakegate describes perfectly Heartland’s activities in the field of climate change. This was a very poor choice of words, which the author no doubt wishes he could take back.
Many observers contend that the document is in fact a fake. One of the most powerful and illustrative arguments for it being fake is presented by Megan McArdle, a senior editor for the Atlantic. What gives her view good credibility is that she declares her interests up front.
Full disclosure: One of the donors in the apparently authenticated documents is Charles Koch, and my husband did a year-long fellowship with the Koch Foundation. However, nothing I’m going to write either defends or indicts Mr. Koch, who’s actually pretty incidental to both Heartland’s funding, and this story.
I should also probably note that I disagree pretty strenuously with Heartland’s position on global warming. I not only believe that anthropogenic global warming is happening, but also support stiff carbon or source fuels taxes in order to combat it. While I’ve expressed some dismay at the behavior revealed in the leaked Climategate memos, they haven’t changed my mind about the reality, or the danger, of global warming. I’m not defending Heartland’s stance on climate science; I’m mostly interested in this because I have a longstanding fascination with fake quotes and documents.
Given this disclosure, and looking at the evidence she presents, it is quite clear that her argument is sincere and well researched, unlike the general verbiage currently put forward by the denial industry. Rather than trying to summarise her very convincing reasoning and taking up even more space, I recommend reading her article in its entirety.
The format of the document is also different from the others – it appears to be a paper document that was photocopied on a machine able to make the copy into a PDF file. In addition, it bears a Pacific time stamp, rather than the Central time zone stamp it should have if it originated in Heartland’s Chicago office.
There are equally logical reasons for considering the document is genuine. First of all, the document could have been considered too sensitive to keep in any Heartland server, and existed on paper only. It could have been emailed via a photocopier, although this doesn’t explain the time zone difference. However, times on machines can be changed.
The so-called fake document does not contain any information that cannot be found in the documents that Heartland has grudgingly admitted are true, which would be the case if Heartland only meant the document to have a very limited distribution. On the other hand, however, as Megan McArdle points out, the fact that the document says nothing not found elsewhere in the leaked documents is an indication that the strategy document might have been written after the fact by a Heartland outsider.
Heartland may have written the document with the express intention of “leaking” it to Gleick as a form of entrapment – it even mentions him by name. It would have been merely a printout, composed and printed elsewhere so it would not appear in any Heartland computer or server. Then it would have been easy to mail it to a Heartland agent on the West Coast. This would also explain the Pacific time zone stamp and the different format of the PDF compared to other Heartland documents. Had Gleick immediately published it, Heartland could then have convincingly denied it as a fraud, thus legitimising the climate science denial industry. As it happened, Gleick outsmarted them with one of the oldest tricks in the book, and got hold of the truth Heartland needed to protect.
A third, and quite compelling reason why the document might be genuine is because the recipient, Gleick, says it is. Gleick’s primary purpose in obtaining and releasing the information was to reveal, once and for all, the true workings of the Heartland Fakegate machine, and their funding. The other seven documents, which Heartland concedes are genuine, do a brilliant job at doing just this, humiliating the company, Bast and his associates. Why would Gleick, aware that he might face prosecution over his actions, intentionally go to the trouble of creating a fake document with the potential to save Heartland and the denial industry from having to face the truth and the consequences of their own actions, and also increase his own chances and consequences of being convicted? If the document was created by Gleick or another Heartland Outsider, why not simply label it for what it is: an “executive summary” of the other documents? At the moment, Gleick has credibility as a scientist, regardless of the alleged criminality of his deed in obtaining the legitimate documents. The information in these other seven documents is, in itself, more than sufficient to blow Heartland’s fake science out of the water. To risk damaging the reliability of these documents, and potentially damaging his own credibility, by creating a fake document makes no sense.
Denialgate or Fakegate? Both. Denialgate in the sense that the inner workings and motives of the climate science denial industry have been fully exposed from the inside, and Fakegate, in that the inner workings of the Heartland Institute and their propagation of fake science are now no longer speculation, but public knowledge.