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Grace McDonnell & Senator James M. Inhofe

Grace McDonnell & Senator James M. Inhofe

Last month, in a column entitled, “Some Ramblings on the Fringe,” we compared the Amanda Knox-Raffaele Sollecito “guilters” and Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. – the white supremacist who opened fire outside two Jewish community facilities in Kansas – to the Holocaust deniers. We got some criticism for that, particularly from those who disagree with us about who killed Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. The white supremacists, not surprisingly, didn’t bother to respond. We wonder if many of them can even read.

But while we don’t take either of these groups too seriously as intellectual threats, we do take their comments extremely seriously, particularly in this age of Internet ubiquity. And two new incidents this week will help demonstrate why.

In Mystic, Connecticut, there is a playground dedicated to the memory of Grace McDonnell, a beautiful blond seven-year-old, one of the 20 precious children killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Lately, the playground has been vandalized, according to David Moye in The Huffington Post, by “truthers” who believe that the massacre either didn’t take place or that it was a conspiracy on the part of the government to justify the confiscation of firearms. Among the acts of vandalism has been the repeated stealing of the 50-pound vinyl sign bearing Grace’s name.

Grace’s mother Lynn has even been verbally assaulted by an individual claiming that she is part of the conspiracy and that the child never existed.

Remember those who claimed the 9/11 attacks were organized by the American and Israeli governments to justify a holy war against Muslims?

But it’s not just the lunatic fringe – at least the traditional lunatic fringe.

As reported yesterday by Coral Davenport inĀ The New York Times:

“The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

“In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.”

The report, based on solid and ongoing scientific data and analysis, is being taken with great seriousness in the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House.

One place it is not being so regarded is in the office of Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Inhofe is a vocal critic of global warming and climate science.

Why is it always the Republicans who deny science?

In response to a comment about climate change from retired Air Force General Charles F. Wald, a contributor to the report and a longtime expert on the subject, Inhofe commented, “There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer. . . For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

No one denies the threat of rogue nuclear weapons, but what about the threat of rogue reality deniers?

If we cannot make our public decisions – be they decisions about climate, criminal justice, history, race relations, foreign policy or whatever – based on legitimate and responsibleĀ evidence, if we cannot maintain our society on a foundation of truth, we will be living in a spiteful dream world of alternate reality that will ultimately lead to doom.

Some years ago, one of us (Mark) was honored to attend an event and have dinner with writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. During the conversation, Dr. Wiesel, a onetime resident of Auschwitz, mentioned the Holocaust deniers. Mark commented that he thought there was an interesting subtext to the deniers. You didn’t find them among the “friends” of Jews, Israel or the United States. They all seemed to be white supremacists, antisemitic nut cases like Mel Gibson’s father Hutton, or weird Hitler and Nazi apologists like so-called historian David Irving.

So what these people are really implying, is that the Holocaust didn’t take place, but they wish it did. So the effect of hate and malice in their fevered brains is the same; you just add conspiracy to the mix. Wiesel said he hadn’t thought of it this way, but agreed completely.

And that is what it all comes down to. If you deny things for which the evidence is overwhelming, you are engaging in nothing but wishful thinking, as hateful as it may be.

You can deny the Holocaust while still targeting the Jews as the evil controllers of the world economy. You can claim Amanda Knox murdered Meredith Kercher. You can claim a little girl killed by Adam Lanza was never born. And you can claim that climate change is a liberal hoax.

But all the denying and wishing in the world doesn’t make any of this so. It just makes these folks extremely dangerous in their influence on other deniers like themselves.

9 Responses to Paying Attention to the Deniers

  1. Nicholas Peters says:

    Perhaps it is the global warming proponents who most resemble the vile, debased, anti-American condemners and persecutors of Ms. Amanda Knox and Mr. Raffaele Sollecito for the murder of Meredith Kercher committed solely by Rudy Guede. Both rely junk science that is essentially a pack of lies. Mignini, Nencini, and their minions rely the physically impossible alleged cleanup of the Meredith Kercher bedroom, the contaminated bra clasp and Sollecito kitchen knife, and the deceit concerning Rudy Guede’s actual break in to the apartment through the Fiomena window. The global warming proponents have come up with the thoroughly discredit Mann hockey stick, the fallacious Artic ice melting scare, the presumed melting of Himalayas snow, and many other claims that turned out to be reckless, often deliberately falsified, and erroneous.

    • I_The_Stranger says:

      Global warming:

      – The reports on global warming have been written by 2000 scientists each time, not just one scientists that would have been obeying government.

      – You say that carbon dioxide created by man is only a very small proportion of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere. What you forget to say is that carbon dioxide, in normal conditions, is released AND absorbed. The most well-known examples may be that animals, plants and humans breathe, and in so doing absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide, but plants, through photosynthesis, also absorb carbon dioxide during the day. So, what is relevant is not: what proportion of all carbon dioxide released (which, for the large majority of it is re-absorbed) is caused by humans, but what proportion of all the extra concentration in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is caused by humans? Here, the problem is that since the start of the industrial era, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by 30% and methane has increased by 145% since 1750. Both increases were for the most part due to human activity.

      A lot of methane or carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere, per se is not the problem, it is being off balance hence having an increase in the concentration which is the problem – and man is at the origin of this problem.

      This is true for many arguments – changes created my man are only a small portion of what is happening in the atmosphere. But they are the major portion of the changes that are happening.

      Also, you try and compare concentrations today with concentrations say, million years ago. The issue is that, firstly, if you go far enough in time, man did not exist, so I do not see the point in saying that Earth has known worse, if this was during the period when man did not and could not exist. Nobody believes that, with global warming, the Earth will cease to exist. But the existence of Man, and its civilisation, are of concern to us.

      The other point with historical concentrations of carbon dioxide is that, though changes in concentrations (higher and lower) have existed over time (with the present situation being an all-time high if you take a period which is meaningful to humans, rather than billions of years), changes have always been extremely slow as compared to what is happening today. Climate change being, without the intervention of Man, something inherently slow, that allows for minimum damage. Obviously, some species do not adapt to climate change, but many species manage to because, when climate change is slow, they have time to migrate and adapt that the current speed of climate change cannot allow. So this climate change is a high risk one for living species.


      • I_The_Stranger says:

        The last problem I would like to underline is that some scientific articles suggest that we may arrive, around the end of the 21st century, at an irreversible change.

        Let us say that today, we suddenly stopped emiting extra carbon dioxide (which we cannot given our technologies, but we could limit the emissions), the climate would eventually be expected to come back to where it used to be. But what the scientists I am quoting have underlined, is the risk that if we continue having the growth in carbon dioxide and other components (methane and others) responsible for global warming, then we’ll arrive at a point where, even if we suddenly drastically reduced emissions, climate would not go back to where it used to be as irreversible changes would have taken place (for example, the ice cap, when it melts, changes how well the Earth reflects light, which worsens the greenhouse effect, so once it has melt going back to the original concentration in carbon dioxide will not enable the Earth to go back to its original level of greenhouse effect).

        This article is not part of the climate change reports (which, as I said, required the agreement of 2000 scientists), and is only one article good enough to be published in the review Nature. But I believe it is worth thinking about it.

        One thing skeptics tend to advance is that climate change scientists tend to say “highly likely” rather than “certain”.

        The thing is, nothing is certain in life, not even the most “certain” things. I do not think that John Douglas or Mark Olshaker are certain 100% of what happened in the Kercher case, they are just more than 99% certain.

        I am also sure that we might be able to have a conversation with John Douglas like the following:
        Skeptic: John, why do you predict that this serial killer, if released, will continue killing?
        John Douglas: because I have studied a hundred of such serial killers during my life, 35 of whom I have personally interviewed extensively.
        Skeptic: but isn’t it possible that one serial killer of this type in 1000 would stop killing? If only one such serial killer in 1000 stopped killing, wouldn’t you have possibly missed him?
        John Douglas: if only one in 1000 stopped killing, it would be plausible that I would have missed him. But, firstly, you have nothing to back your claim that one in 1000 would stop killing, since you have no example of this. Furthermore, since my experience shows that all those I have studied have continued killing, unless forced to stop, I believe that we need to use the principle of precaution and keep this killer in jail – even if we have 0.1% or even 2% of hope that maybe the guy will stop killing.

        The problem with climate change caused by human beings is that saying that it is caused by something else than humans allows us to do nothing (which is comfortable) while saying it is caused by humans (or very highly likely caused by humans) pushes us to act, and this is not an easy task. It is the daunting challenge ahead that pushes many people to deny climate change. If all we had to do to stop climate change were to switch from ice cream to frozen yogurt, nobody would be denying it (except ice cream shops).

      • I_The_Stranger says:

        And as for it not being possible to point at a given drought and say “this one is, I am certain, caused by climate change”, this is a true claim. It is as true as it not being possible to point at one incident of a private citizen insulting or harming a Jew in Nazi Germany and say “this one was caused by Hitler”. After all, it is possible that this private citizen would have insulted or harmed a Jew, even in the absence of Hitler, since racist people have always existed – even without Hitler, all we know is that Hitler made it very much worse.

        If I stop the Hitler comparison now, it is not possible (at this stage in scientific development) to point at any single climatic event and to point at a cause (whatever cause). The way climate science works is statistical – we had a certain frequency of droughts, or other extreme climatic events, and the frequency is changing. The more specific you are (taking one single event or even climate change in one very small part of the Earth), the less able you are to make predictions or attribute cause. But this does not mean that links are not very strong at the statistical level.

        If I go back to the Nazi Germany comparison, we’ll never be able to attribute an isolated racist event to Hitler. We may not even be able to attribute changes at the level of a village to Hitler. But this does not prevent us from saying that, at the global level, changes in Nazi Germany in the way Jews were perceived and treated, by the government obviously but also by private citizens (as a consequence of Nazi propaganda and a feeling of impunity) is a consequence of Hitler’s presence and actions.

        So, to sum it up, there is not innate contradiction between not being able to attribute cause to any single event and being perfectly able to attribute cause to global changes.

        What climate scientists do is find a causal link between human action and changes in Earth’s climate, even though no single drought (or storm, or whatever) can, individually, be linked to human being’s impact on Earth’s climate.

      • Nicholas Peters says:

        Stranger wants to believe that the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is like a bowl. One the bowl is full all the extra carbon dioxide remains and fills the atmosphere. This thesis is wrong. The carbon dioxide is absorbed in sea water according to Henry’s Law which means that the absorbed carbon dioxide is not like a bowl. Extra carbon dioxide provides for extra plant growth which is quite helpful for growing food. Studies have demonstrated that plant growth has increased in the last decades. Moreover over the geological eras carbon dioxide has been absorbed by the natural rocks and has tended to decline.

        The IPCC predicted that the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be 20%. In fact isotope analysis demonstrated it to be 4% (See Steve Goreham, Climatism, p. 45.).

        Stranger claims that somehow humans can’t live with somewhat higher carbond dioxide levels. Bunk. Mammals and many other animals existed with much higher carbon dioxide levels over the geological eras. Humans are not that different. Moreover carbon dioxide is an will remain a trace gas, present in one tenth of the concentration of water vapor.

        The recent scandals demonstrate that the global warming thesis is driven by lust for power, no science. James Inhofe is right.

      • I_The_Stranger says:

        As my previous posts clearly state, I never said that the atmosphere is “like a bowl”. But the fact that there is constant absoption side by side with constant production of carbon dioxide does not mean that the quantity we produce is indifferent: what happens is that when more carbon dioxide is produced, the balance changes – towards a different climate. As Peters points out, plant growth has increased in the last decades – this is one of the symptoms of very real climate change. Not all symptoms are positive or inocuous, however. What matters are two things:
        – what climate we are moving toward
        – how fast we are moving there.
        We know we are moving toward a warmer climate, and we know we are moving there at an unprecedented speed.

        I will not hypothesize as to the reasons for opinions on climate. I guess that at the grassroot level, most people (on all sides) just follow what visible figures say (with more weight given to figures the individual trusts).

        At the higher levels, however, I wonder how much those whose massive earnings may be threatened if they agree about climate change are the ones driving climate change skepticism.

  2. Nicholas Peters says:

    Senator Inhofe is absolutely right about the global warming hoax. Droughts can be caused by many weather patterns. And it does not seem that the human contribution to carbon dioxide is one of them.

    Anthropogenic carbon dioxide consists of only 4% of the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere. Most is released from oceans and rotting biomatter. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the last hundred thousand years is at billion year low according to scientist William Happer. During the geological periods when carbon dioxide levels were much higher the earth was moister and there were fewer, not more, deserts. And carbon dioxide is needed for plant growth.

    Carbon dioxide only reflects certain infrared frequencies of heat energy, most are already reflected by water vapor which is ten times more prevalent in the atmosphere. Note that carbon dioxide heat reflection has the filter effect. Or each extra unit of carbon dioxide has less, much less, effect on the reflection of energy emitted from the earth than the unit placed in the atmosphere before it. And carbon dioxide does not stay in the atmosphere forever. The half life of a carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere is under twenty years according to many scientific studies.

    Senator Inhofe can see science by evidence beats science by authority. Some others can not.

  3. I_The_Stranger says:

    Having lived around the world, including in places where many hesitate to acknowledge the existence of (or responsibilities for) 9/11, or the Holocaust, my perception of their motivations is that a lot of this is actually driven by fear.

    I feel that there is a certain fear that, if some groups of people are true victims of horrible crimes, then it may somehow prevent you from ever disagreeing with these groups, complaining about them, or having your own suffering recognized.

    For example, there is a fear that, if you recognize the Holocaust, then this will somehow mean that you cannot ever disagree with Israel’s actions, or that you will no longer be allowed to ask people to acknowledge the suffering you went through (because, after all, what you went through wasn’t as bad as the Holocaust).

    I guess some of the denying that takes place, when it is done by otherwise “normal” people (I am not sure that applies to the average lunatic), may come from that – not necessarily always hatred, or always just hatred, but also fear.


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