Sunday, July 8, 2012

Threats against climate scientists: Phil Jones' inbox

The looney right did this up themselves, as a "joke."

Glenn Tamblyn at Skeptical Science flags the University of East Anglia's release of threats and hate mail sent to Phil Jones. PDF here, examples below:

1. “Subject: Kill yourself scum
Fuck you for your lies and deceit. You deserve to die. And if you don’t take your own life, I fucking hope somebody does it for you.”

2. “Your children and family will know because we know where you live. expect us at your door to say hello ^\-(”

3. “Faggots like you will be dealt with, as now people know what you need and will beat the living shit out of you every time you show your socialist ass in public. I’d kill you in a second if given the chance. . . . I’m now going to take physical action against you. You deserve it you fucking prick!”

4. "If anyone of those perverted assholes ever steps within the boundries of the U.S., they decimated [sic]. We have 2nd amendment [sic] and you as a stupid Briton probably don't know what that means. We have a right to bear arms and these perverted assholes will be wasted. We will have plans for you as well. If you bring your family all the merrier.

You fuck prick! [Sic.] Britain needs to kill these scam artist [sic]."

 5. "Keep this in mind. Not all will tolerate your thieving lying ways when it impacts their family.

Beware of retribution upon yours.

Someone some where [sic] will hurt you down."

6. "wanker you wanker you nead [sic] to be killed"

7. "i [sic] hope you fuckers die slowly and painfully.

you are the scum of the earth and should be put in front of a firing squad."

8. "update your google search, it should say, widely known group of cocksuckers and liars that tried to enslave the world through a huge scam perpetrated by a bunck of fuckin cocksuckers, if was i charge [sic] you would all be lined up againt [sic] a wall and shot."

So what is the significance of this, besides telling us something important about the character about a certain group of "climate skeptics"?

I think it puts the question to people like Judith Curry and Roy Spencer, who still have a foot in the world of science, but derive much of their hit counts and claim to public notice from "climate skeptics" who regularly air similar paranoid ideas and abusive language in their comment threads.

Let me be clear; I am not calling for them to moderate with a heavier hand. What I am saying is that if you put yourself at the head of a mob waving pitchforks and torches, you have some responsibility for the kind of people who take you as an inspiration. I have no hope for people like Anthony Watts, who is merely a "shock jock" of the internet. But I would like to see more grown-up climate deniers and lukewarmers taking pains to isolate and marginalize the violent, paranoid, homophobic and neofacisist elements of their fellow travellers. If they and other vocal opponents of strong mitigation cannot grow up, as a movement, enough to denounce their bigots and terrorists, then they and their movement will be defined as a movement of bigots and terrorists in the public mind, and deserve to be.

The academic that launched a thousand insults.

Earlier posts on threats against climate scientists: 


Coward deniers continue threats
UPDATE: Supporting documentation here (h/t Quark Soup).


  1. One wonders why the emails of the individuals have been withheld. I'm not doubting that these threats were made, because anyone who visits any website where 'controversial' science (climate especially) is discussed and if the site fails to moderate comments, such comments can be virtually guaranteed. These people need to be hunted-down and punished*, and I'm not talking about hard-working publishing scientists, but those internet thugs who wish to bully scientists into avoiding studying and publishing science that these internet thugs love to hate. We know what resulted from toadying to Fascist thugs and we have to realise that we mustn't give into these thugs either.

    *(hunted-down and punished by the Police and Criminal Justice system)

  2. > One wonders why the emails of the individuals have been withheld.

    Because we're not like them. And I'm pretty sure law enforcement has this information and keeps an eye on the circles involved. As they should.

  3. I imagine the e-mails are withheld to avoid incidents like the one in which George Zimmerman murdered an unarmed teenager, and there were death threats to a totally unrelated Zimmerman across the state.

    People also use each other's email accounts, use open account they find, etc.

    But on the subject of disclosure, I wish more of the scientists targeted would release, or the authorities investigating would release, files of their emails. People know in the abstract that climate scientists are getting death threats, but hearing it from the horse's mouth, in the thugs' own vernacular, is important.

  4. Excuse me, but how do we know these emails are legitimate? The site they come from is poorly written with no names attached....

    Why doesn't the FOI have a cover letter? Every FOI I've ever received has a cover letter showing where the information came from, and from whom....

  5. So I can understand what you are suggesting -- are you saying the University of East Anglia wrote and published fake death threats against Dr Jones? At first blush that seems unlikely.

  6. I'm not suggesting anything. I'm asking, though, how we know who wrote these emails or where this PDF came from. What person in what department sent it to who? Who runs the site it appears on? Where are *their* names? It's all very poorly sourced....

    It would hardly be difficult to manufacture such a document.

  7. Here, David, here is the original request.

    Fer crissakes, you call yourself a journalist. It took me all of 10 seconds to find the top of the tree.

  8. Thanks. And good for you -- you are clearly the superior person.

    I'm wondering why no one here cared to ask or provided a link.

  9. Perhaps because everyone else here has at least the Internet skills of an anonymous rodent?

  10. David Appell indulged in that antic more than once.

    It seems that demonstrating his own idiocy and ineptness is just too big a rush for him to not try it multiple times.

    Bernard J.

  11. I did actually intend to include a link to the SkS post. That was my mistake. Updated.

    Mr. Appell has done a little more work than I did in identifying some supporting documentation. A link to that, and his post, are included as well.

  12. "David Appell indulged in that antic more than once."

    Maybe because he really wanted to know, as his own post reflects?

    Let's try not to let the denier assholes change us too much. We know that their favored modus operandi is questions that are not really questions. That can make us suspicious and hyperreactive. Journalists go around asking questions; that's kinda the only way to do it. If his Google-fu was not strong today, that's no reason to be jeering and abusive.

    "I'm wondering why no one here cared to ask or provided a link."

    Because SkS is very solid usually, UEA would be unlikely to release fake documents, and the tone and content are consistent with other e-mails that have been released. You were suspicious, you investigated, with the happy result that the document is more clearly sourced.

    Among the people here with names, I know, like, and respect all of you. Let's all, including me, try not to be testy with each other.

  13. TheTracker.

    I fully appreciate your moderation with respect to Appell's apparent attempt to find information.

    The thing that jangles for me is that the very first time I heard about "The PDF" I sought it out for myself - and just as Rattus notes, it took all of a few seconds to locate the background material.

    One would think that such trivial research should not be beyond the capacity of those who would normally engage in it in their daily grind. When that simple research is not so conducted, it's difficult - nay, impossible - not to wonder why.

    And it's not the first time that I've been left with the impression that with some folk "fair and balanced" means having two bob each way.

    Bernard J.

  14. Martin and Bernard, thank you for indulging my asking questions and for my terrible, embarrassing, inexcusable idiocy. I hope it wasn't too difficult for you.

    For some, climate science has become a proxy for other (maybe even most) issues. The tactics in the debate, for them, are the same on either side -- it's just the side they take up that's different.

    Experiences like this make me *more* wary of what each side says, not less.

  15. Experiences like investigating a source and finding it absolutely valid?

    Or experiences like people being rude to you on the internet?

    Many people -- see if you can relate to this -- have a touch of internet-argument PTSD, such that somebody showing up to say "I just have a question -- this seems sketchy" may put people on their guard.

    I'm sorry we were rude to you. I hope that won't help seduce you to the fallacy of false equivalence. That you find imperfect people on both sides of a debate does not mean their tactics are the same -- pox-on-both-houses is just as much a lazy oversimplification as my-side-right-or-wrong.

    1. > I'm sorry we were rude to you

      Not in my name, Tracker.

      And would this be the place for another "I'm sorry" for inventing motive for us, implying that we, like you, haven't done our homework on Mr Appell?

    2. It's my blog and I'm can apologize for stuff that happens here.

      It's not "in your name."

      I see no need to apologize for trying to understand where different people were coming from. I never claimed to be reading your mind.

      If you want to share your "homework" as it pertains to this discussion, feel free. I'm glad you have time to do background research on minor climate bloggers; my free time is perhaps a bit more limited.

    3. > It's not "in your name."

      Then you and I agree.

      And please cut the snark: homework doesn't always get done by choice. And isn't always pleasant.

    4. ...but I see that the homework experience found you ;-)

  16. If people can't handle a question about an unlinked/unsourced document with no identifying information, then their cause is already lost.

  17. "If people can't handle a question about an unlinked/unsourced document with no identifying information, then their cause is already lost."

    There are a number of problems with this statement:

    1. The question did get handled successfully and in short order, if not super politely. "If people are rude to me, their cause is already lost" does not have the same ring of righteous indignation, but it is more descriptive of what happened.

    2. Unless you have some other planet you are planning to relocate to, it's your cause too. This is about all our interests, and if the people making the case are deficient, the smart thing for you to do would be to pitch in and help, not carp. You are not a disinterested observer.

    3. The document was never unsourced. And while hyperlinks are good manners, they aren't a moral imperative. As others have pointed out, the link which I carelessly omitted could easily be found in seconds.

    4. Last and least, I might point out that in response to your simple question I asked you a simple question -- What are you getting at? -- and you never managed to answer that simple question. Seeing your own post, I might imagine the answer would have been "I'm going to blog about this but I want to be sure it is solid, so I'm looking into the exact pedigree."

    Instead of answering the simple question, you got defensive and a little snarky. Which is to say, we all committed more or less the same sin. So I would suggest we now forgive each other and move on.

  18. I missed that post too, worse luck . . . anything with Carrick in it gives me hives.

    Nice post . . . makes me feel a little -- what's the word?

  19. "If people can't handle a question about an unlinked/unsourced document with no identifying information, then their cause is already lost."

    There are several notable logical fallacies underpinning this single sentence.

    I'll start you thinking about them by listing just one - the fallacy of 'poisoning the well'.

    [snark*]If you're as good a researcher and logician as you seem to think you are, you should be able to demonstrate it to this thread by adding a few more.[/snark]

    [*With apologies to TheTracker, from one who certainly does suffer from a touch of internet-argument exasperation, if not PTSD.]

    Bernard J.

  20. No one *did* do their homework here, that I can see -- there were no links at all to supporting information. The blogger doesn't even reveal his real name. (What is he/she afraid of?)

    With all the junk surrounding climate issues, being suspicious was (and is) warranted.

    1. Now you're shifting your ground, raising new complaints. That suggests to me that you are going to keep arguing regardless of whether you have to find new axes to grind. That makes addressing your concerns far less interesting.

      1# -- So what? Not everybody who links to a story is obligated to link to "supporting information," however you define that term.

      2# -- You are a very smart person, but that is a very dumb question. Review the quotes above.

  21. The point of the Web, hyperlinks, and blogging is that one can simply link to the evidence, instead of expecting each and every reader to go find it for herself. This blogger -- who, being unwilling to use their name, already has reduced credibility -- didn't do that because it fit the preconceived notions and biases of his readers.

    1. Double posting is bad and you should feel bad.

      And repeating an bad argument twice in one hour does not persuade -- somewhat the opposite, in fact.

  22. While the courtesy I grew up with has largely disappeared from discourse, there are no "rules" about either blogs or comments that require the blog owner to do anything other than what they choose to do. A little humanity might help guests realize that they are guests.

    It is one of the many distractionalist techniques to insist on links, data, and/or references, and choose isolated material out of context to make a great song and dance. But any volunteer writer, skilled or unskilled, may choose to say exactly what they prefer. Speaking for myself, I used to provide multiple lines of evidence, but after a while I chose to indicate the line of country and say what I wanted to as effectively as I could. The research is massive, available from any involved world organization and authority, and elsewhere, and the evidence copious. In addition, the best expertise comes from experts, not amateur commenters like myself, while the primary sources are common knowledge and not difficult to find.

    For example, there have been nine separate investigations that have acknowledged the integrity of Michael Mann and the truthfulness and usefulness of the hockey stick metaphor for climate records. Those records are the richer for including a variety sources that are difficult to measure and therefore require wider error bars and clear qualification. That's because we live in a real, not a theoretical, world.

    David Appell appears in an accusatory mood, insists someone else do his homework for him, makes a lot of noise about the impatience of his respondents, and then shifts ground. He gets several responses indicating a willingness to admit mild fault and continues on his tear.

    He seems to have forgotten the contents of the post to which he is responding. I think he ought to read them for content, and compare them with the way he has been treated, and calm down. Nobody has threatened him or published his email or flooded him with emails requiring years of time and effort and excessive invasion of privacy.

  23. Appears this signin does not include my last name: Anderson

    For a bit more evidence, try this Bill Blakemore piece. He brings up an important point, which is that in the eight years he's been covering the science, he is finding worse rather than better coverage, while the evidence is piling up.

    This sick nastiness is a distraction, and you at this point should be concerned not only for your descendants but for yourself, unless you are awfully old and don't care.

  24. Accusatory mode? I simply asked why the document was not sourced, what as the source, and why no one here seemed to care.

    It's odd that such questions should disturb people so much. If you cannot handle such little questions, how will you ever handle the really tough questions from people who really want you to fail?

    1. 1) The document was "sourced" - you simply did not find it, or could not find it, before posting here and at Skeptical Science.

      2) At least several of us did care sufficiently to track down the "source" before you even posted here. If we didn't care to spoon-feed you as one as one would a baby with porridge, that's probably because we are well aware of your form and could not be bothered to play your game - or because we know that you'd already been directed to "sources" in the first place.

      3) Those questions are not disturbing. What is disturbing is that you choose to manufacture controversy where none exists.

      4) To date I have not seen a single "tough question", from those who would like to see the science of climate change discredited, not answered well and in supportable reinforcement of the science.

      I have, however, seen countless examples of denialists who refuse to accept such answers, because to do so is an inconvenience to the continued internal cognitive acceptance of their factually-untenable ideologies.

      Bernard J.

  25. I think my mistake was assuming this blog had intentions to convince people of arguments. That's the kind of writing I prefer, but there's no reason it has to be universal, I guess. Sometimes people just want to be told their views are right and justified, with no bother for the details. Indeed, that's the basis for some very profitable cable news programs and radio talk shows.

    So I will leave you back to your little club. Good luck.

  26. David Appell, for science go to a science blog or a hundred of them.

    All mainstream news organizations
    All scientific bodies in areas of relevant expertise

    plenty of evidence, as I say. You appear to be here just to snipe.

    Once again, I suggest you read the article above for context.

  27. Oops, that's

    not very scientific of me!

    That's just it. Those of us who have studied, whether or not we have completed a degree, know what it is to set aside opinion and read through carefully for comprehension. It's hard work, but rewarding in the long run. Some of the stuff is heavy going. After years of acquiring skills and studying a wide variety of material, it is just instinctive to set aside all the noise and just learn.

    The group that calls itself skeptical is not skeptical at all. They go in with an opinion, and they come out with it, and the material itself barely dents the surface.

    It's very hard work, which is why so many people prefer to pretend they've done it when they haven't, or choose to put it down instead of diving in.

    I repeat, it DOES NOT WORK to ignore the content of what you read and study, and follow up on it. It is HARD work. It is not instinctive, it is learned.

    Like when you listen to a friend, instead of calling up your own experience, you set yourself aside and actually take it in. That is friendship, but many substitute activity for substance.