The law won (again)

Correction and apology to The Listener and its editor Pamela Stirling

On 16 April 2008 we published on this site an article written by Gareth Renowden entitled “Climate cranks claim a scalp”. That article suggested that Dave Hansford had been sacked by The Listener as a result of views that he expressed on climate change, and that The Listener had caved in to pressure from the NZ Climate Science Coalition, or had sacked him because his views did nor coincide with those of The Listener‘s editor, Pamela Stirling. The article also questioned The Listener‘s commitment to environmental issues and its editorial integrity and independence, and was critical of its conduct with respect to Mr Hansford. In fact Mr Hansford was not sacked by The Listener, and nor did The Listener seek to censor or suppress Mr Hansford’s views. Hot Topic and AUT Media Ltd accept that The Listener and its editor have a strong commitment to environmental issues, and that there was no basis for any of the criticisms expressed on this site of either The Listener or its editor, or of the editorial integrity and independence of The Listener. Hot Topic and AUT Media Ltd unreservedly withdraw those statements an apologise to The Listener and to Pamela Stirling for the distress caused by our publication.

37 thoughts on “The law won (again)”

  1. Peter, the puzzling thing is that the apology seems to include things that weren’t in the original post eg. “The article also questioned The Listener’s commitment to environmental issues…”
    I have a copy, The Listener’s commitment to environmental issues is NOT questioned in the article.
    Also Gareth never claimed that the Listener “sacked” David Hansford for any specific reason, rather Gareth gave several possible reasons for him being “drop” from its “roster of writers.”

    It seems likely to me that Gareth was faced with a legal threat late on a Friday and opted to print an apology (written by who knows who? “On 16 April 2008 we published on this site an article written by Gareth Renowden” as far as I know there is no “we”, Gareth runs his blog solo) to cover himself over the weekend.

    Gareth, obviously some of the points I make above are speculative, if you’re concerned that such speculation is going to cause you more trouble, I won’t be worried if you need to edit.

  2. Peter,

    I hadn’t even thought of you in 20 years until you rang me up and reminded me about the last time we met. What happened then makes a lot more sense now.

  3. Doug, you mean head butting me Doug asking you for a kiss, I didn’t know you cared sweetie? I got over that one real quick, the 7-8 jugs of beer helped. But I met you a few days later in Albert Park, you looked like you were shitting yourself thinking I was going to get revenge. You were not worth it.

    So, if someone disagrees with you get physical then ah Doug. Especially a denier.

    Gareth, if it’s good enough for Dear Leader to use the term diddums I think I can use it, setting a great example is it not? If you don’t like it HTFU.

  4. Now that you mention it Peter, the similarities that you and Dear Leader have in your natures are striking.
    Same need to see free speech suppressed, same belief that you’re funny when you’re not. All you lack is her intelligence and her balls.

  5. Doug, Peter,

    Can we keep your personal histories out of this thread, fascinating though they undoubtedly are?


    Thanks for the chuckle. And you’ll understand that in the circumstances, “you might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment”.

  6. While the er, anti-AGW movement just recycles the same old lies over and over…”the hockey stick was debunked and is no longer in the IPCC reports”, “no warming since 1998″…blah…

  7. I think this speaks volumes about The Listener‘s good faith on the issue. Rather than explain themselves, they simply bring out the legal thugs.

    I think it also means they’re going to get a lot more attention than they otherwise would have. “Lifestyle magazine dumps columnist” isn’t particularly newsworthy. But by trying to stop people from talking about it, they’ve just made it very newsworthy indeed (news being “something someone doesn’t want you to print”).

  8. I was under the impression that New Zealand had modernized its libel laws so that this kind of bollocks wouldn’t happen.

    Coming from the US, home of the Heartland Institute, I was persuaded by the evidence laid out in the former post that the Listener sacked Dave Hansford as a result of views that he expressed on climate change.

    I am surprised, though, by the suggestion that the Heartland Institute itself was somehow responsible for his sacking.

    Think tanks are shills for the powerful, not seats of power themselves. Their corporate puppetmasters, however, are capable of exercising power over the media — frequently via threats to cancel advertisements.

  9. Hi Bi
    AGW ers say what they like, deniers say what they like, free speech on both sides. The main point of difference is that the AGW ers say the matter is decided and try and suppress us deniers from saying what we think. (Use of the dumb main stream media also helps). I am not blind Bi, AGW ers try and blind people though by getting personal and calling us deniers, bit like Hitler’s Germany/Stalin’s Russia. I am a well qualified person, above IQ, you don’t know me so don’t worry about some Chinese proverb to stereotype me.

    All out attack on deniers at sites like this, pathetic really.

    Peter Bickle

  10. the listener has a global warming denier bent.

    its crap they got defensive and pulled the lawyers out.

    boycott the listener till it becomes objective. not slanted in the direction of climate deniers like Don Brash.

  11. You’re not blind, Peter Bickle, but you’re deliberately turning a blind eye to the blatant lawsuit-trolling of your own inactivist brethren so that you can claim that there’s “free speech on both sides”.

    Peter Bickle, care to explain the curious title — “The law won (again)” — of this blog post? Some sort of free speech?

    And to Gareth:

    Don’t cede to any more demands from these lawyering scoundrels, because when you do there’ll be no end to it. If they make any further demands, try raising a huge stink — call up some reporters, write letters to newspaper editors, whatever. And put back your original blog post and replies and stick it to them!

  12. The book was sponsored by MinterEllison, and we acknowledge that here. The site, however, is purely myself and AUT Media, and hasn’t – to date – accepted advertising. That might change…

  13. APologies for my misinterpretation. I still think the irony stands.

    Incidentally, do you stand by the headline “Climate cranks claim a scalp” as being a fair representation of that post and its conclusions? I understand if you are constrained from commenting.

  14. The bit of MinterEllison that did the sponsoring is their environmental law practice, not the defamation department (if there is such a thing).

    I hope you’ll understand that I will not be commenting on this matter, at least for the time being. Though I have to say that some of the stuff you’re posting elsewhere makes it look as though you’re advising Bell Gully 😉

  15. I can assure you I am not advising anyone anywhere on this (apart from the world in general through the wisdom of my opinions – it’s nice to know you are reading them).

    I was concerned from the start that you had drawn some rather shakey conclusions of a conspiracy that just didn’t gel, and as experienced writers you should have known better. As it turns out, more information came to light that I think changed the picture.

    Reading between the lines, I suspect you may have accepted in good faith the story you were told and may not have been fully aware of all the facts…

  16. Can we not do this sort of speculation, please? I understand that it is to an extent inevitable, but I am not at liberty to discuss the full facts of the matter, or to defend myself.


  17. Hey Gareth, Steven Price has blogged about this (with link to the original article) over on It’s now on Public Address, too.

    The blog machine is mobilising… Kiwiblog shouldn’t be far behind.

  18. Thanks Keith and Insider. Both posts are noted under Mick’s youthful mug (unless you’re a Firefox user, in which case strange things are happening to the html – we’re on the case).

  19. Outside of the legal/defamation stuff, the issue key remains:

    FACT: The Listener ran a column which broke a story about how the NZ climate sceptics are now being funded by an Exxon-funded US right wing think tank to fly around the world and spout their scepticism. All information in this column was fully substantiated.

    FACT: The Listener, under pressure, then runs a “reply” piece by climate sceptics which was full of errors…

    *note to self* must pitch an opinion piece to The Listener about how second hand smoke is good for you. Doesn’t look like I’ll need to back up the science which is excellent.

  20. Hi folks;

    I posted this the other day under “More on the Listener,” but that thread has since been overtaken by events, so I’m re-posting it here.

    Cindy is correct; it’s important that we stay focused on the fundamental issue arising out of this saga; it’s given us an opportunity to critically appraise the issue of the media’s handling of the climate denial industry.

    If there’s to be a positive outcome, let’s hope it will be that the media finally (if belatedly) steps back from this counterproductive modus operandi and conducts instead a lucid re-analysis of its relationship with the denial industry (and by extension, US neo-con front groups).

    We need to replace the denial industry in its correct position and appropriate status in climate change reporting.

    That is to say; we recognise them for what they are, and duly attribute them so; political lobbyists pushing a free-market agenda. With the exception of Chris deFreitas THEY ARE NOT CLIMATE SCIENTISTS (and my understanding of Chris’ work is that it does not focus on global climate modelling).

    Given that they are in fact a political entity, instead of a scientific one, let’s by all means consider and report their comments on mitigation policy, pricing instruments, even energy options (that’s something Bryan Leyland can at least claim some experience in). That is their rightful place in climate change coverage.

    Let’s hope the media can – as did the BBC and the New York Times – come up with an editorial policy that does not deny readers the critical information they need to evaluate the claims by the Climate Science Coalition.

    That information is;

    * that these people are not qualified (again, with the possible exception of deFreitas) to call the IPCC’s findings into question,

    *that they are paid by industry to stall progress on climate change policy,

    The Listener’s “right of reply” piece this week denied its readers even that basic background – as does virtually all mainstream media treatment. (Incidentally, its piece – also this week – on evolution, did not go to any creationists for their comments. It seems “balance” is being employed selectively)

    That firmly established, we then need to decide precisely what weight, in terms of percentage coverage, we give them. They represent a minority position, and a still smaller one at that. I think that would be an excellent place to begin.

    Finally, the media must apply the same standards of accuracy, balance and credibility to these sources as they expect of their own reporters. There has been a signal failure to do this.

    The media is complicit in this. We helped create this monster; we gave it oxygen, energy and exposure. We lent it a credibility it has not earned. Now it’s turned around and bitten us. It’s out of control, and we have to decide what to do about it.

    Climate change is the single biggest, most important environmental threat New Zealanders face, and the media, by pandering to the denial industry, has manifestly failed to give them the quality of information they need to respond to it.

    Meanwhile, we squander our most precious resource; time.

  21. Hi all,

    Steven Price, who wrote about the Listener-Hot Topic dispute on, sent me the following link to a 2004 Press Council decision on “Michael Mann vs NZ Herald”

    Mann complained that the Herald gave too much space to de Freitas and would not publish a reply by Mann. The complaint was not upheld.

    In other words, in reply to Dave Hansford’s line that “50% is not balance”, the Press Council takes the line that “50% is so balance”. So, if we want to prevent a political group from exploiting the media’s unwillingness to explore issues of scientific fact – ie from creating a phony scientific issue – the PC will be no help.

    It seems to me that the media have explored the issue to some degree. They have explored it and decided that 50% is balance – the reaction to Hansford’s original piece being a striking example. But they have to admit that they have made a stand. They can’t argue that “the science is too complicated for us to understand, so we’ll let everybody express their view.” On other issues, eg 9/11, they’ve decided that fringe views will not get an equal hearing.

    The only remaining strategy to change this situation seems to be to try and persuade the editors to adopt a more reasonable, and more explicit, policy on reporting of climate change issues. The link to the new BBC policy posted here shows that this can be done.

    In the meantime I’ll write to Pamela Stirling and say I won’t be buying the Listener anymore. I’m still smarting over her comment that child abuse is a “failure of ethnicity”, anyway.



  22. Robert,

    Sorry about the delay in posting your comment – it got caught in the spam filter for some reason…

    I wonder if something like the Science Media Centre in the UK might not be worth looking at. If the scientific community could come up with a body for editors to refer to – or which provided advice and guidance to the media on controversial topics – then perhaps the Press Council could adopt the view that editors who ignored its advice were not following due process. An idea to boot around, perhaps? Maybe I’ll put it up as a post…

  23. Robert
    A lot has changed since 2004 – in the world if not at the press council. For one thing they now have Hot-Topic to refer to, not to mention AR4.

    I would hope that a different decision would be made today.

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