Thursday, September 21, 2006

Another proper interview ten years late

Last night on the BBC's Newsnight, after a report by George Monbiot, Myron Ebell presented himself on the TV. This was only after the BBC had checked with Exxon to verify that they were too cowardly for an interview. They supplied a written statement with the usual boilerplate about how they fund lots of different groups which don't all subscribe to their views. In other words, they fire off a lot of harmless decoys to distract your attention so they can get round and shoot you in the back.
UPDATE: See the whole show on you-tube -- thanks to random variable.

Q: Myron Ebell, why do you imagine that Exxon give you money?

Ebell: You know, I think the attempt here to claim that only the purest of the pure can engage in the public policy...

Q: Please answer the question, Mr Ebell. Why do you imagine they give you money?

Ebell: Because we send them letters asking for money to support out general programs. Our general programs is this: do you believe in free markets? and we support policies to promote less regulation in people's daily lives.

Q: And they would not be giving you that money if you were, for example, taking a different view on climate change?

Ebell: I suppose that's right. We develop our policies, and then we try to find funding for them. Some we find some funding, other's we find very little.

...
In other words, he's claiming that the CEI is acting like a door-to-door salesman selling PR, rather than one that stays in the shop until you come over and ask for their services.
Q: Mr Ebell, you don't contest the science of [climate change], do you?

Ebell: Uh, no.

Q: What is your beef then?

Ebell: We tried to make two points in those ads. In the first we tried to point out the huge, the enormous, the inconceivable blessing that access to modern energy brings to humanity. And in the second ad we tried to show that the public policy debate is really skewed by a certain small group of scientists, particularly by the media, who give very large headlines to every piece of research that comes out that supports the alarmist agenda, and basically ignores every piece of research that shows that climate change could have some beneficial effects or some perfectly neutral effects.

Q: Although you yourself are not a scientist, are you?

Ebell: Uh, no. And I should make that clear, I am not a scientist.

...
That's correct. What he is is a calculated liar who will carry on saying something that has been proven to be false in as many places as he thinks don't know it yet.

The interview referred to in the following exchange is from the BBC in 2004 on the right hand panel of this blog. Due to the power of the internet you can magically refer to real sources and hear Myron's words in context -- actually making them sound more extreme, not less.
Q: Mr Ebell, you are not a scientist. It is clear that many people on your side of the fence are misrepresenting the arguments. You yourself described the government's chief scientific advisor in this country of "knowing nothing about climate science". He is at least a scientist. Now, do you see the problem that respectable scientists have with the sort of points made by organizations such as yours?

Ebell: No, I do see it if people are continually misquoted as you have just misquoted me. What you have just said -- and this was in a BBC interview -- you have taken completely out of context. You have distorted it to make a political point. Now if you want to discuss this in a reasonable manner, I am perfectly willing to do that. But if you want to try to pigeon-hole me by taking a little piece of an interview out of context, then I don't see the point in trying to engage in a rational discourse.

Q: Just for the record, do you also deny saying that "climate change was a myth cooked up by the EU to hamper American competitiveness"? Is that also something you didn't say, or has been taken out of context?

Ebell: Yes, I was quoting Margo Wallström, the former commissioner for the environment in the European Commission, and I quoted her I believe exactly, and then I interpreted what she was saying, namely that this is not about protecting the environment -- and I am now not quoting her exactly, I am paraphrasing -- this is about levelling the playing field with American businesses without which [EU] firms cannot otherwise compete. And so, again I think seeing the forest is generally useful, and not getting lost in the trees.
There are only so many tricks to use. Tony Blair used this one when confronted by his operative lies about Iraq, where he claimed that only the "totality" of his remarks could be used to damn him, not just, say, large excerpts. But, since the totality of someone's remarks doesn't exist, and is too large and mostly lost to the air without a recording device being present, as well as the fact that people are only supposed to hear parts of it, we have to settle for enough.

But to follow up his quote from Margot Wallström. The source article is here, and she did indeed say:
"[The Kyoto Protocol] is about international relations, [it] is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world."
Myron's interpretation is, as usual, f***ed up. He said:
"And that's because European businesses are not competitive with American businesses, and by putting a governor on our energy use, the EU hopes to hamper American competitiveness."
The actual context was that in March 2001, Bush had withdrawn the US from the Kyoto protocol. Ms Wallström was explaining why this made it very difficult for the rest of the world to carry on with it because then America would be on an uneven playing field. Consequently, if we all don't adopt Kyoto or any other climate change targets, business will once again be on an even playing field. It'll just be one that's underwater. But that's fine. I am sure the corporation of Exxon will continue to exist, long after all the bodies of the men who have supported its cause are rotting corpses who have adapted to the new environment by dying.

6 Comments:

Blogger Andrea. said...

I think you misunderstand the difference between "context" and "totality". The former is necessary for objective journalism. The latter is you whining to make political points.

Cheers,
Andrea.

7:29 PM, September 24, 2006 Permanent link to this entry  
Blogger goatchurch said...

It's a common and generic defence to claim that a quote has been taken out of context, as a way to suggest that what was said on record has been distorted. In this particular case it's a false allegation, but like most lies it sounds reasonable until you check it out. You will have noticed that Myron went on to claim that the interview was being unfair, rather than actually telling us specifically in what way his speech had been distorted. His full speech is linked on the top right so you can check it yourself. It matters that you do because he uses your tendency to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one unless shown overwhelming evidence.

Unfortunately, the live interview didn't have the time to follow this inquiry through, so Myron's lie was left to stand. Had he been challenged, there would have been a fall-back lie that the full speech itself was being heard out of context of all of what he was saying that year. And so on. In truth, he is trying to say, he is neither for nor against the science of climate change -- we just haven't analyzed enough of what he's been saying to determine this fact properly.

Obviously we don't have the time to gather the totality of the evidence, which is what's required for a legal opinion, and the schema he is working from is designed to abuse the inherent weaknesses of "objective journalism" as it is practiced today.

One practice which should be learned is that there are a large number of paid spokesmen, like Myron Ebell, who are paid to lie. They are easy to identify. Not one word these men say should be taken at face value. Preferably, journalists should never go near any of them, and if they do they should apologize to their listeners with a greater level of contrition as when they get caught out by a stunt from the yesmen.

regards

1:17 AM, September 25, 2006 Permanent link to this entry  
Anonymous Naadir Jeewa said...

I've uploaded the interview itself to YouTube.

5:40 AM, October 01, 2006 Permanent link to this entry  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what ever you are trying to show on your side is bull s***. You just turn the words around in order to get out of them what you want, but by that you form a lie

11:23 AM, May 12, 2007 Permanent link to this entry  
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