Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Heartland billboard ad

The Heartland Institute put up a billboard with a picture of the unabomber and this text:  
I still believe in global warming.  Do you?
All kinds of bedwetters have soiled their britches over the ad.  It was to be expected from the usual suspects.  However, I didn't expect some people to join the bedwetters in overreacting.  That was a disappointment.  Here is the text of an e-mail I sent to Jeff Id, who runs the excellent blog, The Air Vent   Jeff hasn't expressed an opinion that I am aware of.

My take:

Wow. Rationality took a vacation this weekend. What's with all the normally sane people losing their heads over a silly billboard?

I don't give a damn about Heartland one way or the other. And I don't care about left-wing idiots like Keith Kloor who think the billboard is the worst thing ever. I expect the wingnuts, wackos and opportunists to wet their pants and have the vapors. What is disturbing, however, is for people I trust and respect to lose all sense of proportion and grossly overreact.

The billboard is silly and it makes a dumb argument. If people want to distance themselves from silly and dumb, I won't argue with them. But it isn't reprehensible. Michael Mann is reprehensible. Fraud and slander are reprehensible. People need to take a deep breath and look at what the ad says and what it doesn't say. The ad is factually correct. It isn't dishonest. It isn't fraudulent. It doesn't defame anyone (defamation being far worse than simple lying). It is merely political speech making a silly argument. Silly and dumb.

Political speech -- that's the first thing that needs to be noted. This isn't about science. You don't do science on billboards. This is politics. And it should be judged by the same standards we apply to politics. By political standards, it's pretty tame. No one is being called a racist or sexist or homophobe. No one is being accused of wanting to starve kids or kill seniors or rape the planet. No one is being slandered as e.g. doctors were slandered when Obama accused doctors of cutting off limbs needlessly because they wanted the extra pay for doing an operation. There is a whole bunch of nasty reprehensible political speech out there lately. The Heartland ad isn't even in the ballpark with that kind of ugly stuff. Again, no lies, no fraud, no slander. Pretty tame by comparison.

The ad says the unabomber believes in global warming. True statement. Irrelevant and silly, but true. Everyone with at least a room temperature IQ knows that politicians and political causes have no control over who votes for them or supports them. Everyone with a pulse recognizes that millions of people will vote for either Obama or Romney in November. Each of those groups of voters will include a whole bunch of folks who are nasty, ugly, mean, rotten and terrible. And not one of them, by virtue of his vote, will be a reflection on whichever candidate he supports. If we all know this, why have so many people lost their minds condemning Heartland for a silly political ad?

The ad does not say that everyone who believes in global warming is a murderer and terrorist. Doesn't even imply it. Not to anyone with a whit of intelligence. If Obama ran an ad that says Bubba Cracker, head of the KKK, endorses the GOP, we would all laugh. Who cares? Unless the GOP solicited Bubba or catered to him, his support would be meaningless -- no different than if a Bill Ayers wannabe endorses Obama. Does anyone past kindergarten age really think that tenuous arguments of guilt by association have any persuasive power? Really?!

If the people who have gotten their panties in a bunch want to point a finger at reprehensible actions in the climate wars, let's focus on fraud, defamation, and dishonesty. When Michael Mann dishonestly says a particular scientist is a shill paid by fossil fuel companies to be a 'denier', he is guilty of something exponentially more reprehensible. When scientists fraudulently misrepresent their own work or lie about the state of the science in an IPCC assessment, they are guilty of moral turpitude far, far worse than a silly political billboard ad.

Some people need to get a sense of proportion. If this is the reaction to a silly billboard ad, I can only wonder why lynch mobs haven't descended on the homes of a number of alarmists to extract appropriate justice for their sins.

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