Andrew Breitbart might be dead, but his spirit lives on in the form of angry, spite-filled, spittle-flecked followers anxious to lay waste to any human being who dares to express a contrary opinion. Two topics guaranteed to light their hair on fire: Muslims and climate change. Why, you'd almost think oilmen's pals fund that site or something.
Poor philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello made the mistake of thinking he could have a rational conversation on the Internet about climate change. I'm pretty sure he's rethinking that now, after the hate rained all over him.
The catalyst for the bilious outpouring was an article Torcello had written for The Conversation website arguing there was “good reason to consider” that “the funding of climate denial” was morally and criminally negligent.
“I knew there would be debate in the comment section, which I was welcoming,” Torcello told me, adding he also knew the “usual climate denialist blogs” wouldn’t like it too much.
“But I didn’t expect the wide level of exposure that the misrepresentations would get in the press and I didn’t expect the intense storm of hate mail and Twitter harassment the article experienced.”
At one point, he says he picked up his phone to be told that soon he would be “paid a visit”. One email told Torcello — in customary all-caps angriness — that he was a “FAGGOT” and that global warming was “A LIE STRAIGHT FROM THE JEWS”.
“When I include phone calls and twitter harassment in addition to the emails I’ve received, then somewhere above 700 items of correspondence seems like a good estimate,” says Torcello.
Why all the hate? It was one person's opinion, and one worth considering, given the stakes in play when it comes to climate science denial. Here's why:
Climate science denialist James Delingpole, now writing for the conservative activist website Breitbart, managed to twice misrepresent Torcello’s article in his very first sentence.
Under the headline “US Philosophy Professor: Jail 'Denialist' Climate Scientists For Criminal Negligence“ Delingpole wrote Torcello had argued “scientists who don't believe in catastrophic man-made global warming should be put in prison”.
Oh, that's so Breitbartian. They're just great at taking one person's comments and twisting them into a pretzel of nonsense no one actually said. There's a huge gaping maw between saying that funding climate change denial is morally and criminally negligent and saying what Delingpole claims.
Breitbart's site lives on for one purpose alone: To distort and twist what people say in order to keep all of their readers in a constant state of denial. If Fox News is the master of playing to how people feel rather than what they might think, Breitbart News is the master of playing to what people hate rather than what might be fact.
Torcello is just lucky Twitchy didn't ramp up the ugly. I'm sure it was bad enough with the Daily Caller, Fox Nation, InfoWars and Drudge Report all picking up the line and running with it. And then there was this. While sending a fusillade of personal attacks, a few of the hardcore deniers decided his job should be put at risk too:
Lord Christopher Monckton wrote to the provost at Torcello’s college to encourage them to consider if he was a “fit and proper person to hold any academic post at the Institute”. Lord Monckton’s outburst seems particularly ironic, given that he once told a partisan Australian crowd of climate sceptics: “So to the bogus scientists who have produced the bogus science that invented this bogus scare I say, we are coming after you. We are going to prosecute you, and we are going to lock you up.”
Climate science denialist blogger Anthony Watts promoted Monckton's letter and provided his readers with the email addresses of senior university personnel and encouraged complaints. In another post, Watts gave links to Torcello’s academic home page containing his email address.
Remember Groundswell? Breitbart's head honcho was at the table in the audio of the meeting I posted, and if you read through the entire trove of emails, you see that this is all part of a coordinated, intentional effort to shift the conversation away from facts to a perpetual state of anger and distraction. It's the Fox Effect on steroids, because there's not enough of them who actually give a damn to influence, so they're hoping they can just drown everyone in an orchestrated sea of outrage.
And they do all of this while claiming they love free speech. Only if they're the ones flinging around all kinds of threats, lies, and filth in the name of the first amendment.