Rash Brash and the potty peer’s PR pratfall

by Gareth on July 30, 2011

The schedule for “potty peer” Christopher Monckton’s visit to New Zealand next week has now been finalised. He’ll be visiting Auckland, Wellington and Whangarei, but there’s no sign of any of the high-profile debates his sponsors were so keen to set up. ACT party leader Don Brash is joining in the fun, accusing the Greens of being “yellow” (geddit?) for refusing to debate with the good Lord:

Apparently the Greens are prepared to cripple our economy and condemn us all to subsistence living with dopey measures designed to stop the planet warming, but they’re not prepared to debate their reasons for doing so with a reputable opponent.

Brash considers Monckton reputable? Really? That reflects very poorly on Dr Don, unless he considers that a reputation for misrepresenting scientific research and calling his opponents Nazis or Hitler Youth is somehow respectable. Perhaps that sort of thing is now de rigueur on the extreme right…

One of the stranger aspects of Monckton’s visit is that the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) is organising two of his appearances, in Auckland and Wellington. A little digging into the background of the PRINZ events reveals tantalising hints that fossil fuel interests in New Zealand could be tacitly supporting the potty peer’s short tour.

PRINZ is organising two events: one in Auckland and the other in Wellington. The Auckland event was intended to be a showpiece debate, but they’ve ended up with one sceptic — Auckland University’s Professor Geoff Austin — feeding lines to another. In Wellington, they’re giving Monckton his head — ostensibly to talk about “Is climate change another Y2K?”. The Climate Realists’ notice for the event notes that the Wellington gig is sponsored by Four Winds Communications (a leading Wellington PR company, apparently). A little digging into FWC’s background reveals that they count the Petroleum and Exploration Association, the LPG Association of New Zealand and Gas NZ amongst their current and past clients1. You might be forgiven for thinking that Four Winds and its clients have an interest in sowing doubt and confusion about the reality of climate change, and that sponsoring a Monckton disinformation event might meet with their clients approval.

PRINZ’s involvement with Monckton caused raised eyebrows2, and moved the organisation to post a feeble defence of their position on their blog:

…our intention is to have him talk about the communications issues around climate change – given that this is a hotly debated topic that many laypeople are confused about.

Promoting presentations by a man who has devoted much of the last five years to sowing that very confusion is somehow supposed to be helpful? There is an extensive literature on the difficulties of communicating climate change (and other) issues — the cultural cognition project springs to mind. If PRINZ really is a “professional” body, than that is where it should be focussing , not pandering to a pompous peer and thereby supporting fringe right wing political positions.

And finally, I can’t resist pointing to Monckton’s Auckland interlocutor, Prof Geoff Austin of the University of Auckland, who in a Herald op-ed on climate this morning offered this insightful little pensée:

My concern about the present situation is not that we may or may not reasonably expect catastrophic global warming. It is that anyone who has the temerity to try to discuss the issue will be the recipient of ad hominem attacks designed to shut down the debate…

Prof Austin would do well to reflect on some of Monckton’s recent public statements before he takes the stage with him next Thursday. Here’s what he said about climate scientists in a recent speech in Australia3:

So to the bogus scientists who have produced the bogus science that invented this bogus scare I say, we are coming after you. We are going to prosecute you, and we are going to lock you up. [Cheering]

So much for open debate. Let’s not bother with ad hominem attacks4, lets go straight to the threats and intimidation. Monckton may be on the surface a charming and entertaining eccentric, but his words reveal him to be a dangerous and deluded individual who should have no place in public discourse.

  1. Pepanz annual report 2009, LPG Association, Gas NZ. []
  2. To put it mildly. []
  3. Transcript of an excellent ABC Background Briefing programme by Wendy Carlisle here. []
  4. Such as describing the chairman of the ABC as “a shrimp-like wet little individual”. []

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

samv July 30, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Yellow, huh. Remind me, what’s the ACT party colour?

Just askin’

Rob Taylor July 31, 2011 at 9:34 am

Ah, Monckton, the fossil fool for fossil fuels and the “Climate Lord” of wingnuts and morons.

Let’s be sure to give him a rousing welcome to these shores.

Gareth July 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

Where’s the Flat Earth Society when you need them?

Tony July 31, 2011 at 9:52 am

Is it just me or does Lord Monckton resemble the chap in “Total Recall” after he has fallen out into the Martian atmosphere for a few minutes?

If I were allowed a word in to discuss the issue with the good Lord, I would be querying when was the last time atmospheric GHGs were soaring at levels that we are witnessing today. You have to go to the paleoclimate record to find that out, and the details from there hardly ever paint a pretty picture.

But then I think that we have all figured out that this PR exercise is nothing to do with the truth. The important strength of Monckton of course, is in the art of debating with the masses (mass debating) an area in which the potty peer firmly holds his own.

Gareth July 31, 2011 at 11:46 am

… (mass debating) an area in which the potty peer firmly holds his own.

He is, of course, a prime exponent of mathturbation.

Australis July 31, 2011 at 2:36 pm

So, we now have a gatekeeper to make decisions on who should or should not be permitted “a place in public discourse”.

Insistence that all who agree with HT are “communicating” and all who do not are “sowing confusion” carries the undertones of old-time propaganda ministries.

At first glance, Monckton’s approach seems far more democratic. He wants to prosecute first, before locking people up.

Gareth July 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

No “gatekeeping” involved. The man is self-evidently a charlatan, and should be ignored, as he overwhelmingly is in Britain. Why, even Nigel Lawson’s sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation won’t touch him with a bargepole. That speaks volumes for just how “fringe” Monckton is…

bill July 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Dreary and predictable.

Please point to the bit where Gareth advocated locking him up? Oh, you can’t. Oh, that never happened. Well well. But still, Gareth’s probably worse than him, eh? I mean, as we know from listening to his lordship, facts don’t actually matter, it’s only what you’d like to be true that counts.

Macro July 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

It is indeed difficult to see how the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand can reconcile the promotion of this fool with their own Code of Ethics, which state inter alia:

‘We provide a voice for the ideas, facts and viewpoints of those we represent to aid informed public debate.”

The sponsoring of this self-promoted charlatan can in no way be seen as aiding “informed public debate”; in fact a very strong case can be made to the contrary!

Furthermore their Code notes that they should:

“Avoid deceptive practices”

The number of times their guest has stooped to such measures is now uncountable!

A further instance where this august body is acting counter to their own published principles, is in the matter of:

“Counsel colleagues on ethical decision-making”

There is a steadily growing and strong body of opinion that AGW is now an ethical, as well as a scientific matter. To actively promote confusion (which is the sole purpose of Mock ton) and thereby delay action or prevent it entirely; is to act unethically. Actually his whole performance, consisting entirely of lies and personal abuse, is unethical from start to finish, let alone the intention. I fail to see how his promotion sits within this tenant on ethical decision making.

Were I a member of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand my resignation, along with an open letter to the press on my reasons, would be in the mail forthwith.

Macro July 31, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Further to the above, The Code of Ethics states:

“Decline representation of clients or organisations that urge or require actions contrary to this code ”

what more can be said!

They are acting demonstrably contrary to their own code of practice! This speaks volumes of low to non-existent Ethical standards of Public relations in NZ.

Dappledwater July 31, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Macro – Do they have an e-mail? Maybe you can remind them of their code of ethics?

Carol Cowan July 31, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Here you go (from their website):
Email: national_office@prinz.org.nz

Physical Address:
Level 7, Hanover House 2 Kitchener Street, Auckland

Postal Address:
PO Box 5937
Wellesley St
Auckland 1141
Staff Contacts

Acting Chief Executive

Tim Marshall

64-9-358 9800
021 902 850

tim_marshall@prinz.org.nz

Macro August 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Good idea – I shall draft up an email tonight.

Have had other things on my mind today – Sue had fly out to Perth this afto to visit the family.

Tony August 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

“It is indeed difficult to see how the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand can reconcile the promotion of this fool with their own Code of Ethics…”

I fail to see how this exercise will give CC skepticism any credibility. Surely, if you were going to initiate a public discourse on relativity you would bring someone like say Einstein, and not Bozo the clown.

I dare say on the other hand, if relativity were to somehow impinge in any way or form the freedom of libertarians, then we would have seen a much sterner challenge from skeptics, who would make an effort to discredit what is after all just theory backed up by experimental observation.

nigelj August 1, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Obviously the main scepticism of a lot of people including Brash is complete hatred of the green movement, and the ends justify the means. The means being a very missleading, devious man without conscience. Its surreal.

Macro August 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Actually nigel the main aim of these right wing fundamentalists who worship the “hidden hand”, is to obfuscate, and thereby delay and hopefully avoid any action that might be taken to regulate or tax that which is sacred. It is their undying belief, that all that matters in this world is the sanctity of the market place. NOTHING must be be done to threaten that, and they will do EVERYTHING in their power (which is considerable) to ensue that laissez-faire economics prevails. Greens, reds, scientists of all manner of disciplines, whatever, even moderate republicans, are all seen as the enemy – simply because people with even a modicum of rational thinking can perceive that unfettered consumption is unsustainable.

LS August 1, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Thanks Gareth for your update on Monckton. When I saw that he was arriving in NZ to “debate” Anthropogenic Climate Change I was quite worried. One does not ever “debate” serious science, at least not in the usual sense.
I have had a career in forensic science. Court cases are debates – but they are conducted under strict rules: The debate is by proxy – the witnesses are led by lawyers well versed in the intricacy of the case (one hopes). The witnesses swear an oath that they will tell the truth. A (hopefully) alert judge ensures the questioning of witnesses is fair etc etc. Nevertheless, forensic scientists agonise over the inadequacy of the legal forum for settling scientific issues, when scientific evidence conflicts.
(To reduce misuse of scientific evidence in court special rules apply to scientific evidence such as informing the other party in advance of new scientific information – to prevent “scientific ambush”. Not always applied, but the rules are there.) Of course, neither the normal rules of evidence nor the special rules around scientific evidence apply when debating with the likes of Monckton, creationists, or anti-vaccination propagandists.

Instead the scientist is confronted with claimed facts that he/she is in no position to comment on or refute on the spot. We have seen debates where whole flocks of these various counter-facts are fired at the hapless scientist, so there are just too many to deal with in the artificial time constraint of a debate. (The famous “Gish Gallop”.)

The net result is that the scientist in nearly all such debates is made to appear to have few answers to the opponent’s points. No real scientists should ever consider a agreeing to a debate of this type. Debates are for entertainment, and suit the charlatan. Real science works on much longer time scale and trawls data much more widely and deeply.

cyclone August 2, 2011 at 10:25 am

I found Austin’s comments regarding “many of the same activists” a little puzzling. The 1970′s were a long time ago, and most of the more well-known activists of the time would be getting quite old now, if not retired, so I would dispute the use of the word many, more likely “a few”.

Further, the “ice-age” issue pretty much evaporated when subjected to more rigorous analysis. AGW has been subject to much more hostile and prolonged scientific scrutiny for 30 years now and hasn’t gone away.

Finally, his comments leave the impression that skeptics have been silenced – what a load of rubbish. They have big-media and big-money behind them.

Mike Palin August 2, 2011 at 11:38 am

I’ve been killing brain cells wasting time over at Climate Con(versation) Group and there was a comment that the PRINZ had pulled out of sponsorship of the Monckton-Austin debate due to “lack of interest” by its members. Apparently it is now being organised by “climate realists”.

Mike Palin August 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Some more interesting news from the far side. The PRINZ reported pulling out of the Auckland debate because of lack of interest from its members – apparently only 3 signed up. The Climate Realists have taken over hosting the big event and believe “PRINZ caved in under a torrent of criticism and sheer abuse from members of the public”. They are now are advertising half-price admission. Watch out for the echo chamber when no one shows.

TV programs Closeup and Q&A have reportedly pulled out of interviews with Monckton “citing the Green Party’s change of heart and claiming no “opponent” could be found.”

Mike Palin August 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Interesting news from the far side. The PRINZ pulled out of hosting the big Auckland debate due to lack of interest from its members – only 3 signed up. In an effort to shore up support in the face of a “a torrent of criticism” from an “incensed” public, the Climate Realists have stepped in and are advertising half-price tickets. Will a small turn-out lead to an echo chamber?

TV programs “Closeup” and “Q&A” have apparently backed out of interviews with Monckton “citing the Green Party’s change of heart and claiming no “opponent” could be found.”

Mr February August 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Mike,
that outcome is really heart-warming! I feel as if there has been a spontaneous outbreak of sanity on the front-line of climate change skepticism.
Good effort risking your brain-cells over at the other side – bet they are really “septic”!
Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Macro August 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Yes very good news indeed.
I have been wondering if one could really call a performance by the comic duo of Donald D and Monckton M a “debate”. Two garrulous old men talking about something neither of them knows anything about. Sounds riveting stuff! I had thought that they might compare the success of climate models against that of economic models – but that would be too hopeful.

Mike Palin August 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Hmm, Brash Don may want to rethink an appearance at an event with a low turn out – not a good look going into an election.

RW August 3, 2011 at 7:19 am

DomPost “journalist” Karl du Fresne has weighed in with a couple of sentences re the refusal to debate Mo(ro)nckton. Typical – I’ve always regarded him as a maundering fool. He wouldn’t know climatology from climbing rose varieties. Stick to the wine-lover radio spots, Karl.

Carol Stewart August 3, 2011 at 9:40 am

RW – I just threw together a letter to the editor about the wrongness of Karl du Fresne’s column – let’s see if they print it.

RW August 3, 2011 at 10:18 am

A good test, Carol. My impression of the Dompost is that it is very willing to present “sceptic” comment and letters – e.g. from Vincent Gray – and generally silent on the mainstream climate science.

LS August 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

Hmmm – I responed to a headline in the Dompost business pages a couple of weeks ago. “Global Warming (or Climate Change can’t recall exactly) a False Alarm”. Checked the academics being quoted – they were both quite well qualified – as economists. Pointed this out and regretted the information appeared to be incorrect. Not published, of course.

RW August 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

I see your letter in the DomPost today, Carol – and another letter. There was also one yesterday, so it’s been an unusually good passage of sanity in the Letters column, as far as climate is concerned!

cyclone August 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

I thought the comments attributed to James Renwick (in the K D-F piece) and to Martin Manning in another article about the debate being closed were too polite. I wish they had said something like- “it’s just a f’kng great waste of time trying to argue with a delusional idiot and bully who for years and years has peddled demonstrably false arguments despite countless good-faith efforts to correct his mistakes.”

Keith Hunter August 3, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Please give Jim Renwick and Martin Manning some slack. They are doing their best in a difficult situation. They are also both very polite people and we should celebrate that attribute. Good on them both!

Steve Wrathall August 4, 2011 at 9:05 pm

“My impression of the Dompost …generally silent on the mainstream climate science.”
So, a newspaper that on 15 July 2011 took up most of its frontpage with “You have been warned: Monstrous storms, extreme droughts, devastating floods-…” climate porn, is “generally silent” because it occasionally mentions that there is an alternative point of view. What a fascinating insight into the warmist viewpoint on how the media should operate, and how it would if their political agenda was ever allowed to rule unchallenged.

RW August 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

Utter poppycock. The DomPost only used that because they could have an attention-grabbing headline. “Occasionally”? – that’s a laugh. I have been tracking the articles and letters to the editor there for years. They are overwhelmingly dominated by denialist tripe of the kind you spout. Just one individual – a well-known inhabitant of Crofton Downs – has probably written 50% of the letters. Indeed, if one’s only source of information were NZ newspapers then one would imagine that a body of warming theory barely existed at all.

One Australian presenter at a recent conference gave a talk on his analysis of the change in content bias in the Australian newspaper (and its relatives) after the mightly empire decided to abandon any sense of honesty on the issue.

You’re out of your depth – get back to your lab.

Macro August 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

I was about to reply in much the same fashion RW – but quite frankly the man is beyond the realm of reason and reality. Your reply will provide the casual reader with some factual evidence however.

cyclone August 5, 2011 at 11:22 am

I thought the comments by RW in repsonse to Steve Wrathall were too polite. I wish he had said something like- “it’s just a f’kng great waste of time trying to argue with a delusional idiot and bully who for years and years has peddled demonstrably false arguments despite countless good-faith efforts to correct his mistakes.”

RW August 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

I was tempted… I was “reprimanded” on a NZ forum for telling a couple of obnoxious trolls what I thought of them – the trolls and their lies went unmolested. The forum lost as far as I’m concerned, though – I had been providing a series of monthly NZ climate histories there, copied without electronic assistance from paper reports I hold. I have stopped doing so and will not resume unless the trolls disappear and I get an apology.

cyclone August 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

The other letter today was from Martin Manning and was also very good. He expanded greatly on his refusal to participate with Monckton.

cindy August 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm

So. Country99TV interviewed Monckton – but they also (shock horror) did some hard research on his science beforehand. He didn’t like this at all. Amazing that he goes round saying everyone else’s science is rubbish but really CANNOT hack it when people start questioning his.

Check this out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ODCTPGmERw&feature=player_embedded

Thomas August 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Classic! Thanks for posting this. It shows Monckton for all he is….

Btw where did Monckton inherit these eyes from? Did some humans stem in a direct line from the common frog? They pop out like those on a frog inhabiting deep wells with high walls around them.
In German we have this saying: “He has a (mental) perspective of a Brunnenfrosch” (well dwelling frog)…..

Carol Cowan August 9, 2011 at 11:26 pm

where did Monckton inherit these eyes from?

Monckton has Graves disease.

bill August 10, 2011 at 12:30 am

And has supposedly developed a cure!

Also effective for HIV, Malaria, Multiple Sclerosis, but not, apparently, Barking Madness…

Thomas August 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

Graves disease, of cause! Now all makes so much sense! From the symptoms list of Graves disease I cite: (I left out some nasty other symptoms as not to fall foul of the word filter)
“Anxiety, Difficulty concentrating, Double vision, Heat intolerance…”
Now wonder the man has issues with reading science papers and most of all, he is in utter terror internally that the world might heat up. Anxiety + Heat intolerance = “GW Phobia extemis”!
The man is simply terrified that the world might warm and tries desperately to construct a reality in which it does not in order to survive mentally. As shared delusions are so much more believable than solitary ones, he must try to convince as many others to join him in his private dreamworld.
Oh well, I knew it all had a simple answer in the end. Occams Razor has done it again!

bill August 9, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Now I’m depressed. He tours Australia and our media barely manage to challenge the man (with the notable exception of Background Briefing) and now NZ Country TV actually does the homework our journos apparently can’t!

Note at 0′ 36″ the appeal to the expertise of an overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed economists, incidentally? Not only is this decidedly not true, the appeal to it is blatant hypocrisy!

Dappledwater August 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Cindy, that sure was funny. Good on Country99TV for actually being journalists, not that many left in media circles today.

Keith Hunter August 9, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Hats off to Country 99 TV and especially Benedict Collins for a well-prepared and professional interview. What a pity that more mainstream media couldn’t match this quality. Makes me feel very good that the minor channels are cultivating quality journalism. But, isn’t that the way!

RW August 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Predictably, the DomPost has two letters in “rebuttal” of the earlier ones. The first, from one Graham Clayton of Taupo, is replete with the usual denialist nonsense. His name seems familiar, and I suspect that he has sounded off a few times before.

cyclone August 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Those letters were entirely predictable. I wonder whether it is allowed when sending a letter to an editor to refer readers to a website that debunks denialist claims. I say this because; after watching a program that aired last night on the History channel which contended that the moon landings were a hoax my wife seemed to be convinced by the arguments presented, until I pointed her to sites that easily dismissed the conspiracists claims. Interesting too that when this show was broadcast in the USA (on Fox – where else?) the percentage of people polled who believed the moon-landings to be a hoax went up to 20%.

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