Eli Rabett has a post about some extremely offensive comments on Judith Curry’s blog which raises the ugly spectre of physical violence. He also posted about some rather nasty comments which may not literally threaten violence, but certainly indicate the frame of mind which spawns violent behavior.

It is truly deplorable (as is pointed out on Rabett Run) that Judith Curry not only failed to censor such talk, she actually made light of it. We have also seen Anthony Watts recently attempt to ridicule those scientists who have felt threatened, because at least some people consider the comments not to be sufficiently explicit literal physical threats.

The threat of violence, whether explicit or implied (even loosely or jokingly), is no laughing matter. It’s nothing to be minimized or shrugged off. It’s certainly not right to ridicule those who feel threatened. When people are put in fear, whether the threat is explicit or not, they are victims of a crime.

Of course there will always be the dangerously deranged who do so, the world has never been free from insane behavior by insane people. But it’s up to those of us who disdain violence to show zero tolerance for the kind of commentary which eggs the attitude on. When someone makes explicit threats they should be censored. Period. When someone makes statements which are so personally insulting in a way unrelated to any relevant issue, they must be repudiated. I’m not talking about calling someone a “stupid fucking moron.” I’m talking about such comments as “GO FUCK YOURSELF AND DIE YOU CUNT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and “PEOPLE THAT PROMOTE IT NEED TO BE PUT DOWN!”

And it is certainly no help — in fact it’s a hindrance — to call those who feel threatened liars because the threats they see aren’t sufficiently explicit to take into a court of law.

This is one of those issues about which, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

88 responses to “Peace

  1. Sigh… um, sure, OK… let’s overlook all the coal and oil combustion since 1990 when the UN government sponsored IPCC science reports said that continued CO2 emissions cause global warming and would continue to do great harm. Koch and Exxon and BP and Shell all unleashed overt and secret denialist PR campaigns. No, although it was evil and harmful, it technically did not involve bullets or bombs.

    So when thousands who have already died from climate catastrophes made worse by global warming…and by continued and increased emissions…and the MILLIONS who will die from destabilizing climate. .. then yes, we can forget all about that and instead we can be concerned about the paranoid fantasy of a lunatic fringe.

    I don’t bother reading Curry, I have no interest in doing violence to her or Watts – but I dare say they would be very bothered that I ignore them.

    [Response: What point are you trying to make? That you regard my appeal to denounce threats of personal violence as trivial or irrelevant compared to the larger climate crisis?

    Perhaps you think that I’m wasting my time and yours when I should be drawing attention to the global warming problem? Lord knows I don’t make much effort to do that, now do I?]

  2. It is of paramount importance that no one gets hurt physically because of this debate, which will get more intense as AGW becomes more obvious and undeniable. It’s a real shame that Curry and Watts do not seem to understand this, the latter spending huge amounts of energy into focussing on one small aspect of the whole business to be able to imply there is nothing going on really, whereas he could just as easily have said: ‘It’s wrong, on whatever side, so don’t do it’. He cannot directly control the actions of all his followers, but he can influence them.

  3. My point is that there has been tremendous violence already… that should not be overlooked. It speaks to the tactic of violence, ether direct or indirect. Sorry that I did not explain that better. It is just that there has been violence throughout – just in different forms

  4. I read a few hundred of the comments on curryja’s blog. It was pretty sick stuff.

    And it was far from entertaining.

    OK, so that is a fairly obscure blog, and some real fringe and possibly quite demented people make comments there.

    But to me, what is more important is that “Dr.” Curry is a professor at a university and presumably she also has students that quite possibly read her blog.

    According to wikipedia, she is the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

    So, I am far more concerned about the young minds that are being exposed to her “scientific method” and what the effect of that exposure is.

    It seems to me that GIT should be taking her incredibly lax and irresponsible attitude into consideration.

  5. Curry’s failure to deprecate “Tucci78” and his vivid descriptions of liquidating “wrong thinkers” sets her elevation about equal to that of Heartland and its billboard campaign.

    How did she sink so low? The PR campaign in favor of remaining stuck in the smoky 19th century is surely degrading the public square beyond recognition. I doubt the Curry of ten years ago would have agreed if somebody suggested to her that a scant decade later she would be chuckling tolerantly over homicidal ravings directed against her peers.

  6. Thinking further about the dissolution of our moral behavior, Dr. Curry is ok now with the idea of providing a forum for modeling shocking behavior. What does that tell us about the future? Let’s model something else, something shocking that did not happen.

    It’s the year 2002. A random stranger approaches Curry and requests that she provide a public platform to discuss killing scientists, including researchers she knows personally.

    What would the Curry of 2002 have said?

    “Yes, great idea; we need to discuss under what circumstances it’s acceptable to kill scientists, including people I work with! At a minimum it will be good for a laugh.”


    “Are you crazy? How do I know you’re not serious? I’m calling the police.”

    What happened to Curry in the intervening decade? She was dragged down along with the rest us, gradually accustomed to what was once unthinkable being barely remarkable.

    Ten years of increasingly extreme accusations in support of maintaining an antiquated industrial business model changed Dr. Curry’s perceptions into something she’d likely have claimed impossible if asked a decade ago.

    We see what can happen to public discourse and private conscience in ten years. In another ten years, where will we be? During the intervening years, will we have become accustomed to hearing even worse? Will words seamlessly turn into deeds in the same way that reasonable discussion has turned into physical threats? Are we completely certain we won’t see a dreadful inflection point reflected in newspaper headlines, one as incomprehensible today as Curry’s unimaginable choice of ten years ago?

    Where’s the evidence that we can rely on inhibition to stop moving down this continuum of degradation, proceed no farther?

    • db: In another ten years, where will we be? During the intervening years, will we have become accustomed to hearing even worse? Will words seamlessly turn into deeds in the same way that reasonable discussion has turned into physical threats?

      BPL: I fully expect climate scientists to be start being kidnapped and beaten, or even killed. Ben Santer already found an eviscerated rat on his porch, and a climate scientist in Australia was threatened with having her children “brutally gang-raped.”

      Two trillion dollars in annual fossil fuel industry sales are at stake. Don’t kid yourself. This is a war. There will be casualties. If the deniers win, that will include most of humanity.

      • Well, there you go. BPL is one of the less squeamish about speaking the unthinkable but I doubt the BPL of ten years ago would have found himself capable of uttering those words. They’d have been entirely beyond credibility, quite unthinkable. Ten years ago nobody had provided the empirical data in the form of threats BPL cites, now it’s there.

        Regarding war, it can’t happen out of the blue. A lot of chanting and other symbolic description is first necessary to strip away inhibitions, dehumanize the opposition, rationalize homicide. The Tucci78 personality neatly illustrates part of this process: the opposition is depicted as loathsome and outside of societal protection, circumstances justifying elimination of the opposition are described, descriptions of how the elimination should and could happen are elaborated. With enough repetitions and variations on this theme the bell curve of acceptable behavior will begin to move, with the fringes earliest reaching the point previously beyond toleration.

        It’s already happened with language and thoughts, obviously; Tucci78 is a recently emerged, visible part of a fringe that was previously invisible. What’s happening now, way out past Tucci78, on the cutting edge of the curve of behavior?

        Curry could help reverse this clockwork, easily. Whether that could happen depends on how stubborn she is.

      • You probably won’t have to wait too long… in the nuclear & GM fields, it’s already started:
        “A group calling itself the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation International Revolutionary Front has claimed responsibility for the non-fatal shooting of a nuclear-engineering executive on 7 May in Genoa, Italy. The same group sent a letter bomb to a Swiss pro-nuclear lobby group in 2011; attempted to bomb IBM’s nanotechnology laboratory in Switzerland in 2010; and has ties with a group responsible for at least four bomb attacks on nanotechnology facilities in Mexico.”

  7. Watts’ jihad against Nick Stokes is extremely offensive. Nick has been a significant contributor to the scientific side of the debate. Watts’ is going after him as a warning to others who try and engage. Nick deserves everyone’s support.

    It’s the usual nonsense making mountains out of molehills and then getting the amen chorus at full volume.

    • It’s more than that Eli. It is a deliberate attempt to delegitimize Nick so that his on-topic critiques can safely be ignored, assuming they even continue to be published. Its a simple example of “If you can’t win on the merits, smear your opponent.”

      I am curious about the timing – coming on the heels of the ICCC. Coincidental? Or did someone with experience in the more brutal political realm whisper in Watts’ ear?

  8. I agree wholeheartedly, Tamino. Having, on one occasion, tried to make a strictly science-based point on WUWT, I then found myself to be the target of abusive personal comments. Although he replied to my points, Watts made no attempt to censor the abuse; which can only be interpreted as tacit approval.

    On the other hand, the personal abuse on the denial sites serves the purpose of differentiating them from the so called ‘warmist’ sites which, generally speaking, seem to censor the sort of comment you illustrate. The fact that I often see passing ‘don’t knows’ saying they appreciate more considered comments suggests that a strong comments policy, well policed, is the way to go if the aim is to win the argument through a rational presentation of the facts.

  9. Curry has been acting irresponsibly for a long time, but this is a new low.

  10. Tamino, you and Prof. Rabett are exactly right. This kind of disgusting abuse is not trivial, not acceptable and certainly not amusing. If I were ever on the receiving end of comments like those cited I would feel very upset as well as threatened. It’s hard not to see this as part of a deliberate campaign – first drag objective scientific questions into the realm of the subjective and personal, then criticise scientists because their ‘opinions’ are ‘wrong’, then vilify them . . .

  11. Hi,
    We are a longtime reader of this blog (even though we are not as math savy as most here, but the blog is lovely to follow with a bit of logic).

    However, we come in peace looking for some arguments to our newly established site at! If any of you would be so kind to contribute to our common cause by giving a solid argument or two it would be great!

    We apologize if this is considered as spam, Tamino! We have few channels to access and this seems to be one of the most popular blogs out there, so we thought we might give it a go.


    • My first reaction to the splash page is: physics, science does not care what you believe.

    • Susan Anderson

      Access to comments at warmingcheck appeared to be constrained to those willing to look at contrarian arguments (perhaps I didn’t look hard enough); having studied the available materials including real-world developments for years, it didn’t seem a good use of time to once again scroll through arguments that exhaust with wearying illogic to try to bulk up reality-based commentary.

      I’d suggest a look at SkepticalScience for well organized replies to all the arguments from climate science refusers.

      The site implies bias is equal opportunity, which is just wrong. Been there, done that, for decades, not true.

      When well over 95% of the knowledge-based community agrees, and only 2-3% present even moderately credible arguments against, implying that this is a 50:50 problem hugely advantages a very small minority whose motives are in many cases questionable.

      Returning to topic, we are now seeing an argument that threats of violence are also equal, which appears to be a preemptive attack, not only intended to mislead but to excuse existing and future violence and violent language.

  12. To my mind, if you have to back up an argument with threats of violence, then your argument itself is either incredibly weak or it is nonexistent: I too read the thread over at JC’s and if that’s what counts as “entertainment” over there, I guess that’ll be my final visit.

  13. There are a couple of reasons why this is important.

    Firstly, people self-censor. Often this works at such a subconscious level that they aren’t always aware that they are self-censoring.

    Secondly, institutions that employ scientists may start to feel that, as part of their duty of care, it’s in the best interests of their scientists to persuade them to keep a low profile.

    The unfortunate truth is that intimidation works.

    • This is exactly Eli’s point, that Judith Curry lets the id run free to no one’s benefit. Even more so than Watt’s or McIntyre.

  14. cRR Kampen

    “Watts made no attempt to censor the abuse; which can only be interpreted as tacit approval.” said John Russell.
    It is explicit approval. It’s how his machine functions.

    Quickest ban to be had? Use the D-word. Since, I call Watts et cetera ‘climate revisionists’ which is exactly what they are. Love this phrase more every day.

  15. I understand the revulsion caused by the comments on Aunt Judy’s blog and WTFUWT. I understand the disillusionment that an erstwhile colleague has refused to condemn threats of violence against scientists for simply doing their job.

    Here’s what I don’t understand: Why the hell do you guys read their crap? Anthony Watts is an idiot. The commenters on his blog are idiots. That blog diminishes anything that touches it. It presents no insight, nothing uplifting, nothing but an ongoing trainwreck of hubris and anti-rational, anti-science, weapons-grade stupidity. It is a sight that would surely make the good doctors Dunning and Kruger look away in horror.

    Aunt Judy if anything is even more nauseating. I tried reading her blog when she first started her campaign of reaching out to denialists. I really tried, but try as I might, I found nothing illuminating, nothing of value. Eventually I was left with the inescapable conclusionthat Judy doesn’t understand even the basics of climate science or the greenhouse effect. Her publication record bears that out. She was always mediocre. And now she has become so addicted to the attention of the fawning sycophants on her blog that she cannot bring herself to condemn even explicit threats of violence and vulgar, misogynic diatribes.

    In a sane world, Judy and Tony would get meds for their respective mental disorders. Th very least we can do is give them the apathy they so richly deserve.

    • Because occasionally somebunny can sneak some reality in for the lurkers.

      • Eli,
        I rather think that someone claiming to be a “lurker” at Aunt Judy’s or WTFUWT would be like someone claiming to be a lurker at The Bunny Ranch–you don’t get there by accident.

      • “Reality is for Lurkers”
        — by Horatio Algeranon

        Reality is for lurkers
        Not Climetc beserkers
        Or Tony’s circle-jerkers

      • It doesn’t matter how much reality you “sneak in”. Those people are impenetrable. Reality just bounces off. Most of them will carry their beliefs to their graves.

      • metzomagic

        I lurk on WTFUWT, and about once a year I see something that’s so much more weapons-grade stoopid than than the rest of the drivel up there that it ‘demands’ a response. So I respond. Then I always regret it afterwards, as any voice of reason there inevitably just gets “shouted down in the comments”. There are about 5 toxic regulars there that feel the need to respond to every reality-based comment in an extremely hostile manner. You probably know who they are.

        I’m tending to agree that the WTFUWT denizens are “impenetrable”. But I keep going back there because the draw is strong (to see to what depths of stoopid they have sunk to now). I suspect I will eventually cease going there altogether. It would be better for the blood pressure if nothing else.

    • snark: Here’s what I don’t understand: Why the hell do you guys read their crap? Anthony Watts is an idiot. The commenters on his blog are idiots.

      BPL: You have it right. I never read WUWT or Curry’s blog, simply because there’s no useful information there. Let’s decrease their hit count.

    • Know your enemy. If you don’t know what rubbish the denialists are spreading then you won’t know why so many people seem not to understand what you are saying.

      (note – use of the word ‘enemy’ does not mean that physical violence is planned, encouraged or relevant in any way)

    • I can’t stand looking at the site, but I’ll always have deep gratitude to the noble sewage worker who engaged with Ol’ Triple Point Goddard long enough for that supercilious moron to repeatedly embarrass himself and Denialists by insisting the phase triple-point for water was relevant to the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

    • arch stanton

      Ray, as usual your snark is right on, but hit count is not everything. Guthrie is right: One needs to know the opposition and the techniques they employ. Ignoring them and hoping they will go away doesn’t work.

      One of Watts’ shticks (beyond hosting Goddardetts) is to tar science with the dregs of journalism: He find interesting published papers, he then finds the most off-the-wall news review of the paper and bases his post on it. If the paper has findings that imply that the world is warming, he can then accurately cite and point to the news article and say “look what the alarmists are saying!” even though the paper itself never made such radical claims. If the paper has any “We don’t know enough about this” or “perhaps earlier research might not be accurate in this respect” comments, the news article Watts’ finds exaggerates the implications. The Wattsetts then all join in with their “another nail in the coffin” song and dance and in the end a casual or sympathetic reader may be lead to the impression that (s)he has read a thorough analysis of the paper.

      • Arch, I am afraid in this case, familiarity can only breed contempt. I encounter plenty of denialist stupidity–albeit perhaps not of the white-hot, weapons-grade character over at WTFUWT–to know what are the current arguments among the denialati. When I encounter it in, for example the comments of an on-line news story, I counter it, all without increasing Tony’s hit count. I don’t even find Watt’s or Aunt Judy’s blogs illuminatng when it comes to learning what the enemy is thinking…or at least doing what passes for thinking among single-celled organisms.

  16. Tucci 78 is a member of the same tribe as Curry. Thus she sees his abusive comments as amusing. On the other hand, she shunts valid criticism from those outside of her tribe as ‘villification.’ Tribalism and nothing more.

    • It’s called the “Diatribe”

      • “The Diatribe”

        The Diatribe is filled with rage
        By those who never passed the stage
        When Ego is free of Super’s cage.

      • not “diretribe”?

        Seriously, there is no place for threats in a scientific debate, it is just a tacit admission that their scientific position is untenable. If they could make a convincing scientific argument, they would do that instead.

      • Ego free of Super’s cage – nice!

        Yeah, look, just invert Tucci78’s rants by replacing ‘AGW’ and ‘warmist’ with ‘AGW-denier’ or ‘ “skeptic” ‘ and then imagine how ‘entertaining’ they’d all find them, and how complacent the reaction would be.

        It’s the most basic ethical position there is – the Golden Rule, in fact – that is not being grasped here.

        Does anyone seriously doubt there’s a direct-line from toleration of hate-speech to abuse, death-threats, threats to family, dead rats on doorsteps, stuff smeared on cars- or worse?

        Not if the hate-speech is aimed at them, they don’t…

  17. Yes these are horrid and immoral tactics – agreed. But realize that this has been a financial and industrial war that has no ethics. Less than zero morality. While it is an uncivil expression, it should not be surprising to any of us. The lunacy will continue to increase as the climate stresses and financial situation deteriorates.

    • Pete Dunkelberg

      Yes, that’s the standard solution: as denial gets harder deniers deny harder.

    • Climate change deniers are actively working to stage a coup on science. Similar ethics to those that are trying to get opposition voters off the voting roles in states around the country while raving about phony voter fraud concerns – so they can stage a political coup in national elections.

      • Susan Anderson

        Certainly feels that way. Hard to believe one can name this insanity in all sanity – depressing and then some.

  18. Threatening violence is not appropriate.. And comments like the ones mentioned take away from the credibility of the host..

    I have to wonder though: when a warmist calls for climate criminals to be jailed, or fossil fuel users to be fined, do you think it would be a hugfest of peace if the accused refuses to abide by the laws your side has been forcing on others? Why does the EPA need firearms if it’s all hugs and kisses?

    Don’t be so blind; your side is calling for violence against any who disagrees with your mandate. You just do it in a way that keeps you from having to do the dirty work.

    [Response: You’re wrong. “My side” does not call for violence against those who disagree with us. If any do, I repudiate them. If anyone attempts to do so in comments here, I will censor them or actively renounce them.

    As for “mandate” — you just made that up. I have no “mandate” other than truth.

    This kind of falsehood, attempting to evade responsibility by accusing your adversaries, doesn’t help. It’s certainly counterproductive for you to respond to a post decrying threats of violence by raising the level of active hostility even higher. And if you’re not part of the solution …]

    • Ah, an excellent example of the tu quoque fallacy. Thomas will excuse any action up to and including murder by simply accusing the other side of being just as bad. It’s a favorite fallacy among war criminals and Republicans.

      Thomas, let’s pay a visit to reality, shall we? Now don’t be frightened. I know you haven’t been here in a while. See, here in reality, we have a highly complex civilization that depends on a relatively stable, predictable climate to feed, clothe and house a population of 7 billion and counting. Now over here in reality, what do you think is going to happen when the population is 10 billion and we’ve degraded the planet’s productive capacity to the point where we’d have trouble feeding a billion. Does that sound like a world you want your grandchildren growing up in? Because that, Thomas is the violence you are visiting upon them.

      • Snarkrates, don’t put words in my mouth. I never once condoned threatening behavior. I don’t think it’s right, no matter which side does it.

        To the meat of the matter; you have an opinion and want to force others to abide by some set of rules that they might not want to abide by. You’re upset (rightly so) that some cranks on the other side of opinionland are waving pitchforks and torches because of this..

        Some, but not all, on your side of opinionland are doing more than just waving the pitchforks though– they are prepared to use them! The EPA has its own arsenal of firearms; why?

        Your little diatribe above is full of brinksmanship. Your position is so extreme, so black-and-white, and yet you act shocked to find that there are counter-positions just as extreme and black-and-white as your own.

        I don’t think statements like yours (which indirectly condone violent action), or the others that have been referenced by Tamino (which directly condone violent action) have any place in a rational adult discussion.

        Tamino: it’s a bit rich that you’re closing your comments with ‘if you’re not part of the solution…’. What ‘final solution’ are you proposing here for the ‘deniers’? It’s frightening that some of you folks don’t see just how mad this looks. Some of you scare me some of the time.. Yes, I feel threatened.

        [Response: The “solution” I called for is to end toleration of threats of violence, whether explicit or implied. Everybody got it except those who don’t want to. For you to liken that to the “final solution” (the attempt by Nazis to exterminate Europe’s jews) is both deranged and despicable. What’s really frightening is that you don’t get just how mad that makes you look. You have no need to feel threatened, but you are greatly in need of feeling ashamed.

        It seems to me that you are definitely not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.]

      • Thomas, the laws of physics are not a matter of opinion. They really don’t give a fig what you believe. Your side has chosen to ignore them. Your grandchildren will reap the consequences. Unfortunately, the children of my nieces and nephews will also reap those consequences.

        Can you cite even one person who has ever been shot by the EPA? One?

        You are afraid not because anyone here threatens you but rathe because you are fundamentally a coward.

      • “it’s a bit rich that you’re closing your comments with ‘if you’re not part of the solution…’. What ‘final solution’ are you proposing here for the ‘deniers’?”

        come now, Thomas: if you’re going to Godwin the thread, at least do it properly.

    • Equating calls for those who willfully violate existing and legally constituted statutes and regulations to be prosecuted and fined if convicted with “violence” is intellectually bankrupt.

      • Jim Eager: The War of Independance was intellectually bankrupt was it? The underground rail-road was immoral and antisocial? Harbouring Jews was worthy of execution? A teenager caught with a bit of Pot should be fine with a criminal record and jail time? Give me a break… laws come and go. What’s illegal today could very well be celebrated tomorrow. And vice-a-versa.

        [Response: Equating law enforcement in general with pre-war slavery and the Holocaust is even more intellectually bankrupt.]

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        But…but… but… for libertarians the mere existence of the state is a form of violence

      • Equating the War of Independence against an unelected and tyrannical colonial government with enforcement of laws and regulations duly enacted by a representational democracy is also intellectually bankrupt.
        Someone is wound just a wee bit too tight to maintain a grasp of reality, much less perspective.

    • Thomas: “Don’t be so blind; your side is calling for violence against any who disagrees with your mandate.”

      Stripping away your vague language and strong emotions, by “violence” you seem to be implying that if your local political unit demands that your toilet be hooked up to a properly functioning septic disposal system, you’re a victim of violence and should be able to take up arms to protect yourself.

      That’s pretty absurd.

      Anyway, if you don’t like the way your government works, what laws you must follow, the normal means of dealing with your frustration is to vote, not kill.

    • Thomas: The EPA has its own arsenal of firearms; why?

      Black helicopters, too?

      “Why” is pretty easy, if you’re not overcome by whipped-up emotions and can use Google.

      EPA does have a criminal enforcement division. It’s described thus:

      EPA’s criminal enforcement program enforces the nation’s laws by investigating cases, collecting evidence, conducting forensic analyses and providing legal guidance to assist in the prosecution of criminal conduct that threatens people’s health and the environment.

      The enforcement division’s activities mostly seem limited to investigations providing information for prosecutors. EPA does have some 200 “special agents” who are described as full fledged law enforcement officers. Presumably they’re equipped with weapons, this being the USA we’re talking about. That’ll be the source of the vapors over “EPA weapons caches,” doubtless.

      A lot of the enforcement action seems to be connected with making a serious mess and then lying in order to evade accountability. Details of recent cases may be found here.

    • Thos: Why does the EPA need firearms

      BPL: The EPA hasn’t got firearms. Are you thinking of the FBI?

    • Thomas falls for the old mistake of confusing the messenger with the perpetrator. When the people those in denial call ‘alarmists’ warn of the problems that the future holds if we don’t address the man-made climate change, they interpret it as a threat — “do as we say or millions will die”. It’s then easy to imagine how a misperceived threat of violence is seen as requiring violence in return.

      I’m sure all of us, to varying degrees, feel rather helpless when confronted with the bad news that climate change represents. Such feelings of helplessness produce different reactions, not all of them rational, in different people. It’s not for nothing that there are so many aphorisms along the lines of, “no one loves the messenger who brings bad news”. Try reading the following and substitute ‘climate change’ for ‘engineering problem’:

      It’s also worth reading the Wikipedia entry on shooting the messenger:

  19. I’d bet there’s been serious study on how to deter discussion in public media of any particular issue — and what levels of intimidation or interference or undermining to apply, and how to pick which people.

    Nowadays imagine how selective it can be, announcing information in places that end up exposing the people you want discouraged to damage and distraction.

    I imagine there’s been serious study at every level about how many people you need to control or silence in order to run the polity as you want to.

    Charles Fort summed it up: “We are property.”

    Uppity and unreliable property, if we’re doing it right.

    You know the worry about concentration of riches and income distribution?
    This is why. When few enough people control enough money and power they can buy control of everyone else at low discount rates.

  20. Thos: The EPA has its own arsenal of firearms; why?

    BPL: Could you cite a source for this? I mean, other than the voices in Glenn Beck’s head?

  21. Thos: What ‘final solution’ are you proposing here for the ‘deniers’?

    BPL: First, we’re going to send the black helicopters to round up all the White Christian patriots. We’ll put them all in UN detention camps. Then we’ll force everybody to stamp the UPC code, which is actually the sign of the Beast, on their forehead or the palm of their hand in order to buy and sell. And we’ll top it off with a whole new era of earsplitting acid rock!

    [Response: Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but … I don’t like the idea of such talk, even in jest.

    I know your point is that this is so ridiculous, that we would never do such things, that the idea is worthy of being mocked. But what are the odds that someone will take you seriously? Maybe I’m just being too sensitive.]

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      > Maybe I’m just being too sensitive
      That’s not what history teaches us.

    • And they will be transported to said UN concentration camps in those big white rail cars with tiny perforated windows disguised as auto carriers:
      (Railroads are one of my hobby interests and it’s absolutely astounding where they come up with this utter nonsense.)

    • Tamino:

      Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but … I don’t like the idea of such talk, even in jest.

      I dunno, I could get into the ear-splitting acid rock bit :) :)

      • Susan Anderson

        yeah, I’m with the guys on some noise therapy – maybe even a mosh pit! But lately even that has been corrupted by exploitation, spectacle, and get rich quick pandering.

    • I should have added that it’s those perforated windows that tipped them off that these rail cars are really meant to haul internees.
      Never mind the fact that loading crews have to drive new cars in and out of them without damage and then get in and out themselves, or the fact that taggers love these rolling billboards, so the fewer openings that allow paint aerosol to settle on said new cars the better.
      These people are simply no longer capable of using logic or common sense.

    • “we’ll top it off with a whole new era of earsplitting acid rock!”

      i like the sound of this future. please, tell me more! :-)

    • Susan Anderson

      Unfortunately, your “ridicule” is capable of misinterpretation and can be quoted out of context.

      I would beg that everyone retrain from this kind of talk, even in jest. I have a particular reason, which is that a long-term unskeptical skeptic has made a friendly offer to think a little harder about this if I can offer evidence that it is really going on. I had hoped to refer him to this post, but if sarcasm undermines the fundamental point, I be unable to do so. Staying sane in the face of insanity requires a bit of self control.

      Our host calls this “Open Mind” and though we cannot all attain the heights of Gandhi, the answer is not more violence, even in jest. The truth, like peace, is without defense but is without peer.

  22. Getting back to Prof Judy, I’m a bit concerned about her role in a university,

    You don’t have to try very hard to come up with a version of those unacceptable comments – let’s say by a bloke representing a small group of male students – talking violent trash about women or gays.

    Would she airily wave away any concerns raised by students or her colleagues? ‘ Boys will be boys’ has been excluded from civilised responses to such language for a long time. I presume her university has explicit criteria and rules for identifying what counts as threat or intimidation or harassment. If a female student came to her saying that she felt uncomfortable having to share study or laboratory facilities with a writer of vile threats against women, what would she say? Would she do anything?

    Maybe she can only cope when there is a written directive from on high about what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. Unwritten social conventions are beyond her? Shouldn’t be. I recall paying attention to her blog when she first started it. My memory is not so feeble that I’ve forgotten all that self-congratulatory wittering on about civility in blog discourse.

    Seems she’s discarded that along with her claims to scientific discourse.

  23. I can’t imagine that if the bozo spouting violent fantasies used rape as his “muse” [his used that word] instead of murder that Curry would stand it for a second. She’d not only censor the guy, she’d turn over his IP to the police for investigation. (And rightly so) Why does she tolerate murder imagery?

    What a strange world we live in where people would make such a distinction.

  24. There are two types of human rules: fundamental rules and circumstantial, situation-dependent ones.

    Fundamental rules derive from the universal human rights that are intrinsic to human nature. These right are life, equality and freedom. They exist independently from the specific social/economic/historical circumstances involved. For this reason things like slavery, torture, social inequality, etc, were, are and always will be morally bankrupt. Historical circumstances do not make this aberrations immoral, they alway were, and many courageous people understood that. Today they are remebered as heros , martyrs, saints or even divinities.

    The other kind of rules do not exist by themselves, they are a product of specific economical/social/historical/political situations, and are designed to allow a good functioning of the society. Here there are the economic rights (for example like property) and rules (for example driving rules). Property makes sense in a society were there is scarcity of goods (the same reason economy itself exists) and driving rules in a society with cars. In the paleolitic(almost 90% of human history), there was no property, and before cars there were no driving rules.

    . Any rule that derive from fundamental rights is legitimate, and any rule that is in conflict with them is not. If there is a rule that, for example, says that black people are just a source of power with no rights, that rule is morally aberrant and must be fighted.

    Finally, violence is a violation of one of those 3 fundamental rights: life. There is only one thing that can justify violence: the protection of human life. In other words, to prevent some people from violating the right of life of some other people, an amount of violence should be used to prevent weak people be harmed. The amount of violence used must be the minimum required to do so. Any excess is NOT legitimate.

    This difference is key to avoid the fallacy that commenters like Thomas that to enforce basic human rights is a form of arbitrary violence. It isn’t. It is just defending the weak from the attacks and abuses of the powerful

    • [edit]

      BPL: original link is dead, but try this.

      [Response: This post is not for people to argue about the good or evil status of society acting through the mechanism of government or other structures. It’s about the necessity to repudiate threats of violence. Period.]

      • The ~200 available EPA armed “special agents” will blanket the country, overwhelming the ~22 million members of the well regulated militia within mere minutes. Presumably agents on personal leave or on vacation will be called in as each agent is only capable of keeping his boot planted on the necks of about 1,500,000 citizens even when heavily armed with a single Glock.

        See upthread re EPA enforcement, calm down. Perhaps a nice cup of warm milk will help.

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        It’s not the EPA as such, it’s its Criminal Investigations Division. AKA cops. There is such a thing as environmental crime you know

  25. I forgot to introduce my previous comment with:

    “Violence is inherently evil because goes against the human right of life. Some commenters are equating law enforcement with violence, saying things like “was morally bankrupt to save jews from torture and execution because the law at the moment (either Nazi Germany or Medieval Europe) said that was a crime?”, are forgetting one basic principle: the difference between fundamental rights and circumstance-related ones.”

    • Violence may “go against the human right”, but you are forgetting one other law – natural selection. In that context violence works. There are no “rights” in that arena – there is only survival and reproduction, and these must be fought for. Violence gets the perps what they want and puts their competition down. It is prevalent in the gene pool and there is no way to select (genetically) against it.

      Our “rights” “exist” only because we have evolved cooperative social behavior, and “rights” are a part of the “code” of cooperation, civil-ization. Without this trait we would be not much more than little bands of uncivilized nit-picking overgrown chimps. Violence threatens the deeply-ingrained cooperative instinct that has raised us to be the masters of the planet. We abhor and suppress violence because if we allowed its free expression, we would revert to being primitive sod busters and bandits, and even the violent among us don’t really want to go back to that world.

  26. Curry is moving more to the outer every day from the look of things.

    Watts is a bully and incites his fans to bully more. My personal experience is that he gets very worked up even over something minor, then follows up with veiled threats – “I know who you are” or, in my case since he doesn’t know who I am (I’m a nonentity), it was “I know the small town where you live”. If you are someone of note he publishes your email address presumably so his fans will send you hate mail (or frivolous FOI requests). Then he stops allowing your posts to appear automatically and neither do they appear in the normal moderation queue. They go somewhere before a decision is made on whether or not to publish them.

    I think that’s why he got his knickers in a knot over Nick Stokes (who is one of those rare birds who are happy to discuss issues with ‘skeptics’, including fake ‘skeptics’.) Watts does so much inciting of hatred himself.

    Curry – well she’s lost all perspective since her ‘epiphany’ and realisation that she missed the limelight that shone in her 15 minutes of fame a few years back. The only light she can get these days is from the crackpots who visit her blog, and by acting contrarian for those people who want some false balance (Revkin and and the odd minor journo/blogger).

  27. “I disagree strongly with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to make death threats.” — Revoltaire

  28. Susan Anderson

    “Nature is not cruel, only indifferent.” (Bob Parks, UVa)

    Trying to work out how this tag fits here, and what comes to mind is the ability to believe that if one can find somebody to blame the problem will go away. Escalation of this way of thinking is making things horrible.

    Not exactly unconnected is the recent spectacular uptick in gun sales (over a million bought last Christmas season, making it one of the more profitable industries). I find the combination of increasing acceptance of radical speech (Ayn Randian pronouncements are now common currency) combined with the acquisition of arsenals very disturbing.

    New subject: I don’t think it helps to descend to the level of these nasties – it makes it easier for them to claim it’s equal opportunity.

  29. Susan Anderson

    oops, Bob Parks is U Maryland, not Virginia.

  30. I can’t help but be struck with the resemblance between some of Curry’s followers and threats emanating from the fully-evolved pro-smoking campaign in the UK.

    Pro-smoking activists threaten and harass health campaigners

    I suppose it’s likely that PR campaigns needing to be pushed to extremes will inevitably spawn threats. There’s no way to avoid creating a spectrum of responses so if the main group is pushed far enough along the continuum of extreme speech then threats will happen.

  31. There’s nothing legally actionable against someone who publishes somebody else’s insane threats, no matter how direct they are. If the opposite were the case you could sue the Post Office for delivering a ransom note. Regardless, Curry should apologize. That’s what professional and ethical publishers would do in a situation like this.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      It depends. A ‘common carrier’ cannot be held responsible for whatever death threats etc. get carried; this applies to the Royal Mail, the phone network, and email service providers.

      The moment you start moderating however, you have editorial policy, and you become responsible for what your commenters write. Just like newspapers are responsible for the letters-to-the-editor they publish.

      Even if you don’t pre-approve, you still have editorial responsibility: as soon as someone points out (validly) that a published comment is, e.g., libelous, you must remove it.


    The above is in quote marks but I don’t see where it from, either from this or the Rabbetts post. Can you point me to a link?

  33. OK got it.

  34. Michael Brown

    Is this covered by Georgia Institute of Technology’s Code of Ethics (

    The abusive emails mentioned above came to light via a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Media Watch program (see for a transcript).

  35. [edit]

    [Response: You’re not Ben Santer. Posting under his name is unethical.]

    • Susan Anderson

      There appears to be no pit of infamy too deep for these people to dig themselves into.

      I cannot believe people are living in the world today and so unobservant they think they can snark, insult, lie, bully, and maim their way out of the truth that we are in deep trouble unless we start acting like a community of human beings.

    • Probably James Dey from Exeter, England. He went through many a User ID at Skeptical Science, including impersonating Judith Curry. If you’re interested, I’ll send you the details for comparisons.