Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Global warming: Email hackers beyond evil

The big tobacco companies, having attempted to suppress research linking smoking to cancer, have for years been considered the most evil of evil, regarding, as they do, profits as more important than the health of their customers. But with the hacking and release of the CRU emails "big tobacco" is no longer the biggest evil:

Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.

That's according to science historian Spencer Weart, who adds that the emails are off limits:

There would be a lot to learn if the owner of these emails (I suppose the University) would release them for analysis; for example, you could run up statistics on the types of interchanges and the structure of networks of discussion among researchers. Of course no scholar can make use of stolen material, and in particular one cannot legally or ethically quote a private message without the explicit permission of the writer.

Weart seems a bit confused. On the one hand he supposes (rightly) that the University of East Anglia effectively owns the emails but on the other says that the emails can't be quoted without the permission of the writers. It's like the emails (and other stolen documents) are behind a double firewall of security. Regardless, Weart ignores that all UEA employees are on notice that (emphasis is original):

The [Freedom of Information] Act gives everyone both in and outside UEA a right of access to ANY recorded information held by UEA

As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional

So, yes, the documents were taken illegally but as they are effectively public property, their release could have been accomplished legally through an FOI application, provided the UEA cooperated with a freedom of information request - and given apparent UEA foot dragging on past FOI requests, compliance is no certainty. The hacker was possibly cognizant of this and decided to whistleblow as a public service rather than as an act of malice.

Right, back to the evils of "big tobacco", which Weart mentions for the edification of lefty readers. Always keen on conspiracy theories, the left "discovered" that the big tobacco companies had conspired to further their interests by discrediting science in general in order to cast doubt on research linking smoking to cancer. Thus the tobacco companies are accused of funding a general attack on science with special emphasis on attacking those seeking to remove DDT from the arsenal of weapons used in the fight against malaria. In short, anyone supportive of DDT's continued use was subject to being slandered as a lackey of evil tobacco companies.

The left sees a similar "big oil" conspiracy where anyone sceptical of global warming is effectively a henchman of the big oil companies. Naturally these two theorised conspiracies are co-mingled in the minds of many lefties. Which takes us back to Spencer Weart:

It's a symptom of something entirely new in the history of science: Aside from crackpots who complain that a conspiracy is suppressing their personal discoveries, we've never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. .... In blogs, talk radio and other new media, we are told that the warnings about future global warming issued by the national science academies, scientific societies, and governments of all the leading nations are not only mistaken, but based on a hoax, indeed a conspiracy that must involve thousands of respected researchers. Extraordinary and, frankly, weird.

Lefties see right-wing, corporate-sponsored, money-based conspiracies all around them but it impossible for a similar left-wing, state-sponsored, money-based conspiracy to exist. With the entire structure of human civilization at stake nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.

Hands up everyone who is totally comfortable with the United Nations (led by those wacky Europeans) effectively controlling the world economy.


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