One always suspects these things are going on, and so it’s no surprise when evidence surfaces to confirm them.
This article blows the lid on a US ‘think tank’, the Heartland Institute, which has a clearly documented strategy for influencing public opinion by handing out money to key individuals in return for supportive commentary.
Whenever I hear the term ‘think tank’, my bullshit antennae go up. In my experience, think tanks are anything but – they should instead be called ‘belief tanks’, because they seem to exist on the basis of some belief or ideology, and operate in such a manner as convince others of their ideology. For example, they’ve spent money on developing a school curriculum to teach children that climate science is a hoax. Clearly, there is no thinking involved, just a Borg-like drive to assimilate, although I don’t thing the Borg were in it for the money.
And I don’t think I’m being naive here; I know that there are zillions of lobby groups out there, including unions I guess, which make donations to political parties and various causes. But I think this case is qualitatively different. Words which come to mind are sneaky, underhanded, dishonest, manipulative, deceptive. You get the idea.
Back to Heartland. The guys at Desmogblog, have published some Heartland documents here, which make interesting reading. It’s worth noting that Heartland claim that a number of the documents have been faked to sully their reputation, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. However, the documents which identify key people on the payroll, are not included in the list of fakes. Other commentators also cast doubt on the claim that the strategy is a fake. On my reading, a key part of the strategy is to pay people to ‘spread the gospel’ on a whole range of issues, and that’s exactly what they are doing.
But who is on the payroll? One Bob Carter of James Cook University, who happens to be one of Australia’s most vocal climate denialists. According the Age report:
The documents show Professor Carter receives a “monthly payment” of $US1667 ($1550) as part of a program to pay “high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message”.
Professor Carter did not deny he was being paid by The Heartland Institute, but would not confirm the amount, or if the think tank expected anything in return for its money.
“That suggestion is silly and offensive – a kindergarten level argument,” Professor Carter told The Age.
“Institutions or organisations simply pay for services rendered – in the same way that an architect is paid for their work, so are scientists,” he said. “What they may make any payment to me for, I’m not discussing with anybody outside of my family.”
So Bob, you don’t like kindergarten arguments. And yet your response is: I’m being paid for services rendered but I’m not going to tell you what they are. You may as well cover your ears and sing ‘la la la’. Very mature, and not the least bit disingenuous. No, even a kindergarten child can see the obvious.
What is most galling about this case is the sheer hypocrisy of climate denialists, who continue to point the finger at scientists for perpetuating a hoax in order to get ongoing science funding – in effect prostituting themselves for cash, when in fact it is money- and ideology-driven denialists who have been caught standing on a darkened street corner, wearing fishnet stockings, and smiling at every sleazy think tank which drives by.