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Mar 11, 2010

Group think: a Crikey graph

ABC Chairman Maurice Newman believes "group think" is at work on climate change. Consider this graph...


ABC Chairman Maurice Newman on ABC’s PM last night, after urging a large group of ABC staffers yesterday to avoid “group think” on the issue of climate science:

MAURICE NEWMAN: The media hasn’t been good at picking these things up and it’s really been the question of what is conventional wisdom and consensus rather than listening perhaps to other points of view that may be sceptical.

And I brought in as well in that vain what’s been going on in climate change where there’s been clearly a point of view which has been prevailing in the mainstream media, and the fact that again perhaps consensus and conventional wisdom may not always stand us in good stead.

Below is the number of media mentions (c/o Media Monitors) this year of scientist James Hansen (currently in Australia) — head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University — graphed against media mentions of Christopher Monckton — 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, British business consultant, policy adviser, writer, columnist, puzzle inventor and climate sceptic:



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22 thoughts on “Group think: a Crikey graph


    That graph nicely puts that furphy to bed.

    Newman is a plank who clearly does not understand what ‘science’ means; it is not politics, for example, nor ‘opinion’. It is also not religion. So why do presenters on the ABC ask, as Tony Jones did last night, of Martin Ferguson, “Do you believe in man made climate change”?

    It’s not an article of faith FFS.

    When even good journalists use this sloppy language what hope is there that the public will get educated about what the science says?

  2. Tom McLoughlin

    Just another science gumbie, of a certain generation fraught with guilt.

  3. syzygium

    Good one. I was incensed by Neuman’s comments on PM last night. To truly represent both points of view we should have 19 scientists whose work supports human induced climate change for every 1 that doesn’t (and Monckton, of course, is no scientist). When presenting the errors in the IPCC report, one should also report the thousands of correct findings, and so on. Of course, no media organisation has the time for that and no media consumer has the stamina. Failing that, report on the overwhelming consensus view, and, now and again, some minor deference can be given to alternative points of view.

  4. Meski

    @Christopher: No it isn’t an article of faith, or it shouldn’t be, but it is often presented in such a way that if you question it, you are regarded as a ‘denier’ or a heretic. Me, I think that there’s a high probability that it exists. But I’m not close-minded enough to reject future evidence that goes against my Weltanschauung. 🙂

  5. Jennifer Dillon

    “…in that vain…” What is this – a terrible attempt at a climate related double entendre or is EVERYONE just losing their grip on the English language???
    Jennifer Dillon,

  6. Roger Clifton

    When a manager of an organisation charged with the responsibility of conveying truth to the people admits publically that he “doesn’t believe in the science”, we have cause for alarm.

    Whereas the commercial media will always be able to claim the excuse that they will lose advertising if they draw attention to the spin of business-as-usual, the ABC must be loyal to science.

    If the ABC has a special role at all in the climate struggle, it is to offer clarity to those who have been confused by the barrage of anti-science. If that role brings ABC into conflict with the interests of some big business, then it is no time to have an equivocator in the Manager’s office.

  7. Tim Villa

    Has anyone considered the possibility that Monkton received greater media coverage on account of that an inbred lunatic is much more entertaining than a climate scientist?

    I would wager it was less about his position than that accent, that circus and those eyes!

  8. Jack Dempsey

    Newman sounds like a nut

  9. Holden Back

    Any relation to Sam?

  10. Keith Bedford

    The ABC has ben severely impacted upon by the 11 years of Howard and the campaigns carried out by various coalition members caliming ABC bias to the left. This was not true but it has produced an ABC that echoes the Murdoch press in Queensland which is extremely right wing biased. In Queensland we only have one state newspaper , the Courier Mail and we repatedly find the ABC echoing news from that paper. In fact one of its journalist is also on the Courier Mail. What we need is an ABC that tries hard not to be biased and does not try for synthetic balance by quoting the deniers on Climate Change equally or with greater emphasis than those who are the scientists with knowledge of the science. This should be the commonsense approach for the ABC not the stupid way they now perform.
    Climate Change is a matter of the sciences warning us of the consequences of ignoring climate change and has nothing to do with politics. We ignor their warnings at our decendants peril. Why run the risk of doing nothing in the face of the warning?

  11. george

    Now why ruin Chairman Mau’s fun with some real world statistics… after all climate sceptics don’t believe in those either.

  12. Frank Campbell

    Now do a graph on pre-Copenhagen pro and anti AGW coverage.

    The AGW orthodoxy was in control before Nov 2009, although AGW support in the polls had fallen for three years. Dopenhagen was the crunch. Nothing would be done about CO2. Least of all in Australia, which is expanding coal export and use rapidly.

    Then there was climategate. None of you have read the emails- all of them. It’s tedious, reading them, but you’ll then understand why doubts are so profound about the computer modelling (not “science”).

    Whatever, the media realised it was OK to cover sceptics and deniers, rather than ignoring or vilifying them. Have you forgotten already? No critical mention of AGE orthodoxy was allowed on the BBC, ABC or anywhere in the mainstream media, except the usual Murdoch Foxholes. Today, Hamiltonian intimidation has collapsed. No wonder the media loved Lord Planckton, the entertaining lunatic. And haven’t heard about Hansen? What a surprise- we’ve heard his alarmism for years. Everyone is sick of it. Including many on the Left.

  13. klewso

    Apparently the “wizards of oz” – and they wouldn’t have a “dog or two in this fight would they?” – had a lash at the issue too, on the back of that publicity. Someone contacted Madonna King this morning, quoting from it. Media Watch got a “mention’ too.
    It’s always good for a laugh hearing someone citing “Murdoch” on such things as “bullying”, “our Right, or no, news”, or “bias”, from any perspective but “experience”.
    Could these people really be touting for the sort of “impartial and open treatment” of news as embodied by “Limited News” in all it’s “forms”? Does their “CEO” offer such open critique of their modus operandi? Would they dare stray from “His word”?
    Then, of course there was the “question” “which sceptic could I interview?” Well, maybe, there’s Barnaby Joyce, again! Imagine the sort of probing questions there. Then, later, we could have an “interview” with an “expert” on “string theory”, or “black holes” or “anti-matter”, or an electrical engineer! Or what about chairing a debate between Joyce and, say, that Flannery chap?

    And if these sceptics haven’t had enough time dedicated to their barrow – on the basis of Newman’s “evidence”, your “graph” must be wrong – why aren’t we using the ABC as a forum to talk more openly about “female circumcision”, “the truth about the holocaust”, “the pro’s and con’s of Sharia Law”, or the “truth” about certain deaths in certain ceilings, over the years, based on ‘history'”?

    Does “Alfred E’s” cousin have anything to do with “managing” Q&A?

    K.B. – not just a “journalist on the Courier Mail”!

  14. george

    @ Frank Campbell:

    “Then there was climategate. None of you have read the emails- all of them. It’s tedious, reading them, but you’ll then understand why doubts are so profound about the computer modelling (not “science”).”

    Ahh yes, the old “I’ve read the emails/journals/tree clippings/tea leaves and I can assure you all the fundamentals are wrong” bit.

    Do tell Frank, what exactly is incorrect? What part of the science did you read, understand and then realise “Oh My God” there’s no truth in this climate change thingy?

  15. Pete WN

    So with 1 graph, the Chairman of our national broadcaster is made to look like a partisan fool. Nice one Crikey; I’m sure the staff at the ABC (having just had their a-ses kicked) will get a laugh out of this.

    So yet another bloke who “isn’t convinced by the science” has been shown that he can’t do simple basic checks before making a public comment. How did this guy become Chairman of a news organisation!?!

  16. Rob

    This graph is nonsense (such a small sample for the second person), and if it was it tends to disprove the case I think you want to make.

    Lord M: ABC number of mentions are 35% of those of the others
    Hansen: ABC number of mentions are 42% of those of the others

    So Hansen _does_ get relatively more attention.

  17. Frank Campbell

    George: No need to patronise me. I read it all. It helps having a stats background. The science, the history of science (about which you clearly know nothing) and the sociology of the climate modeller group. I read in detail about how they suppressed heresy within their own ranks (they don’t bother about denialist trolls). I read how they vilified scientific opponents (in Phil Jones own words last week to the Commons committee- “I wrote some awful emails”). I read how they fought for control of journals, and excoriated those that they couldn’t control. I read how they deleted and hid data as a matter of course. I read how they anguished over the failure of observational science to meet their predictions after 1999. I read how they acquired vast research grants after years in the fiscal wilderness. I read how they used this largesse to extend their influence of new, young and dependent researchers. I read how they debated the “reliability” of these untested recruits. I read how they routinely corrupted the peer review process. I read how they fretted over the inability of proxy data to confirm their hypotheses. I read how they travelled continuously and in style to every corner of the world from the mid-90s, and what a heady experience this was for marginal, provincial academics. I read how they bonded while skiing and fishing. How they followed and encouraged each others careers. I read how intellectually limited they were, some of them semi-literate. I read how uncertain their grasp was of statistics- how they had to call in real statisticians to sort things out. I learned how little they knew of basic science- how narrow their chosen field was- the manipulation of computer models, all of them blond.

    There’s a lot more, but I sense your attention is wandering….

    I did edit the million words down to 120,000. I might turn this into something digestible if I get the time. But as we speak the real environment is being savaged by rednecks, farmers, loggers, wind spivs, miners and a raft of other arseholes. I’m busy, and meanwhile the AGW cultists drivel on about what is already a lost cause.

  18. Malcolm Street

    Rob – the point is still made, that Lord M got a totally disproportionate coverage on both ABC and non-ABC networks. The ABC according to the graph referenced a conspiracy-obsessed crank *17 times* more often than a leading scientist in the field. The non-ABC media gave him 22 times. BFD – both numbers are a disgrace in an issue of such prominence and potential impact.

  19. zimmerman

    And what do the crikey groupthinkers think of one of L.Tanner’s excuses for not releasing the Henry Tax report on 7:30 report.
    “Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership was under challenge and the opposition was in disarray”.
    To paraphrase Mr McEnroe..”you can’t be serious!!”
    Followed politics since Gorton.Voted 60/40 Lib to Lab.A swinger.
    No doubt…This is worst goverment I’ve seen.

  20. Matt

    I think what needs to be addressed is why Monckton has had so much publicity; and I think that is self explanatory because he is opposed to a contentious and controversial issue in our society, Anthropogenic Global Warming. I think that he has gotten so much publicity because he is pointing out a lot of flaws in the argument for AGW (he acknowledges that he is not a scientist and says not to trust him because he just gathers evidence that can be checked easily the majority of the time unlike other sources that are slightly harder to find supporting the motion that we are causing the warming) and making a lot of scientists and politicians hot under the collar.

  21. Alexander Berkman

    @Tim Villa -certainly, any relative of Marty Feldmann (RIP) deserves incredible media coverage, even if what he is saying makes much less sense than Feldmann did in any of his films!

    @ Frank C – Head still up there Frank? Still no word from you on what you propose is your idea of a sustainable future – or perhaps it is just business as usual, money is god, who gives a rats about the future generations?

    Lastly, Newman is just another pawn in the long conga line of ahsoles who have been put into political appointments in our ABC whilst not so slowly dwindling the actual intelligence of the broadcaster – what is is with all those f??&&*%$% pommie cop / murder mystery shows -for chrissake what happened to all the docos -both natural world & political – just another case of dumbing us down -the ABC news & current affairs is turing into Mike Moore’s Frontline! Tho Q & A Richard Dawkins was great!

  22. Adam Dale

    It is clear he received more mentions on the ABC, however I believe if we have a look at the mentions Monckton received, you’ll see that a proportion were simply bagging him about his large eyes (re your Feldmann comment @Alexander Berkman), or his funny looks, or his speech…
    I wonder if the mentions he received were broken down further, how many would be complementary, how many would support his view of climate science, how many would accurately argue against them, and how many would be simply derogatory.


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