From current and past experience of speaking to climate scientists, I know many have been receiving threatening and abusive communications for years.
In some ways it is seen as a part of their role. A quirk of the job that needs to be tolerated and managed, whether they like it or not.
For some, spam filters remove the need to engage directly with the emails. Some say they just brush off the conflict. Others ignore it. Some have internal systems to guard themselves from the communications.
But none of this makes it right.
The latest unsavoury swag of attacks targeting Australian climate scientists is now being reported in The Guardian and other news outlets around the world.
But just what is the nature of the threats? What kind of language is being used?
Here are some extracts of emails sent since January this year to three Australia-based senior scientists researching climate change and its impacts. Information that either identifies the recipient, or the sender, has been removed.
Please be advised the texts contain strong language:
arfgh shaddup you fckn wanker…go push you your yuppie bllshit propaganda to your useful idiot mates and shut the fck up…
[clipped] how the fck do you know that? how old is our continent? what and how many extreme rain events have their been in the last 250 million years…yr a dckhead-and they made you a professor-wot out of a fckn cornflake packet?
The clipped section above was removed because it refers to a quote that the scientist had given,and so could be traced back to the individual. A second example follows.
Wouldn’t mind that turds such as yourself spend your time mast-rbating and collecting grants but you are costing jobs, and billions to the tax payers your filthy piece of lying shit! Die you lying [email protected]
A third example follows:
You lying c-cksucker!
How much did you take to blurt out that climate change bullshit?
The IPCC was completely disgraced over a year ago and now you are too..
F-CK YOU SCUMBAG!
A fourth example:
YOU ARE A F-CKING LYING PIECE OF SHIT COMMUNIST !!!!!!!!!
GO F-CK YOURSELF AND DIE YOU C-NT !!!!!!!!!!
A fifth example:
You [clipped] are nothing but a Traitorous Lying A-shole !!
The quicker that C-nts like you and your kind Die the better !!!!!!!
A sixth example:
F-ck off mate, stop the personal attacks. Just do your science or you will end up collateral damage in the war, GET IT
A seventh example:
…what a joke you w-nkers are! There will be a day of facing the music for the [clipped] type frauds. What a f-cking idiot, the last decade has been the hottest in recorded history….. [clipped] you are a f-cking fool!
An eighth example:
If we see you continue, we will get extremely organised and precise against you. We will not do so if you rightfully argue against our points from a science view. But we will if you choose to stray into attacks on us as people or as a movement. The institution and funders that support you will find the attention concerning.
Whether or not some of these emails constitute a genuine threat to someone’s life is up for interpretation, but there’s little doubt that they are threatening and abusive. These texts are not a full representative sample of all the attacks that climate scientists are receiving. Neither are attacks of this nature isolated.
What cannot be in doubt, though, is that climate scientists are routinely subjected to abuse and threats that are either direct or implied. There is no doubt either in my mind that the conduct of those sending these emails is deplorable and should be impossible to condone. Yet at least one commentator in a newspaper, one of Australia’s highest-selling tabloids, not only failed to condemn the actions of the perpetrators but suggested the scientists deserved it.
Two government ministers did eventually condemn the attacks, saying they had no place in Australian society.
Commentators engaged in the climate change issue, even those who question the science, have an important role to play in either encouraging or condemning such behaviour among their readers and listeners. As Professor Clive Hamilton explains, they help to set the tone.
You could consider that threats like this are heard in playgrounds every lunch time across the world and this might be so. But those are children trying to win a playground argument. The senders of these emails are, presumably, not juveniles. This is not just friendly banter or sledging at a cricket match.
This is not a playground argument.
*This post first appeared on Graham Readfearn’s blog.