Michael Tobis’s “gate-crushing” crusade

Michael Tobis considers himself to be a “moderate” who “believes” that the “risks are severe” and that “carbon emissions must stop”. (Presumably “now”, one suspects – if not sooner). That’s his story and he’s stickin’ to it; one might even surmise that if Tobis had his way, we’d all stick to his story!

He claims to be a scientist, and no doubt he is. But Tobis would do well to consider the advice of Donna Laframboise, who, in a recent post, concluded:

Politicians Dressed in Lab Coats

When a forensic pathologist gives testimony at a murder trial he describes bruises, lacerations, and bullet holes. It is not his job to decide whether the accused is guilty. It is not his job to determine the length of sentence a guilty party should receive. Nor is it appropriate for him to opine to the media about how such murders might be prevented.

Personally, I’ve had it up to here with scientists who sneak their political views into the conversation beneath their lab coats. We need clarity about where an individual’s scientific expertise begins and ends. Scientists owe us professional, circumspect information – not political opinions masquerading as scientific fact.


In the broader debate about climate change, the opinions of someone who does this for a living are merely that – one man’s opinions.

Dr. Judith Curry, a bona fide climate scientist, has recently started her own blog, Climate Etc.. In olden days, Curry would probably have been burnt at the stake by her peers – some of whom have been very (vociferously) unhappy about her “heretical” respect for those whom Tobis’s allies call “deniers”. Many, who appreciate her civility and her open mind, have welcomed Curry’s decision to join the bloggeratti :-) Tobis extended his own welcome:

“Regarding nomenclature, I find the avoidance of oppositional labels a commendable goal. I’d like to propose that the word “climategate” be among the words to avoid. I believe have seen you use the word at Keith Kloor’s site. (My apologies if I misremember this.) As a defender of what I take to be the consensus mainstream, I find it an emotionally hostile word filled with innuendo and practically devoid of meaning.
“I strongly urge you, therefore, to eschew the contentious and obfuscatory word “climategate” in discourse here.

I’m not exactly sure what Tobis means by the phrase “the consensus mainstream”, and I certainly don’t understand how any word can be simultaneously “devoid of meaning” and “filled with innuendo” – let alone wherein might lie the “emotional hostil[ity]” he has apparently detected. As for “contentious” and “obfuscatory” … all I can say is Tobis must have been reading from the same dictionary in which the words “trick” and “fudge” do not carry a connotation of “deceitful”. But then, I’m not a practitioner of post-normal science, so what do I know, eh?!

Excerpts from the responses to Tobis:

“Erasing the name Climategate seems Orwellian to me. It will continue to be called Climategate everywhere else so the term is still going to appear frequently in this blog when these external references are linked to in this blog.

“Maybe an honest discussion of Climategate should be the first step rather than disappearing the term.”

“I can understand perfectly the frustration that honest warmists must feel, at having warmism automatically linked to science fraud. But they bring it on themselves by their deafening silence over Climategate, their praise by faint damnation. And their attempts to silence any talk of it through coverups and whitewashes such as Mr Tobin recommends.”

“I’m willing to replace the word with an alternative word or phrase for reference. The event, though, was significant and I don’t think that it can be argued that it has had no impact. Would you be willing to propose a new word or phrase? Perhaps something like the “11/19 Climate Credibility Anomaly”?”

“We do not need euphemisms for Climategate. The openness that climatology so badly lacks entails calling a spade a spade.”

Yet, for some reason – perhaps best known only to himself – Tobis chose not to respond to any of the above, including Curry’s own:

“[…] I have used the word climategate, this is the first time (that I recall) that somebody has actually pointed out to me that they regarded my use of the term objectionable. Since I am working to lose the labels and build bridges, I will put this on my list of words to avoid. “CRU emails” just doesn’t have the same ring, tho”

Because of a slip-up in html formatting of his original comment (for which he apologized), Tobis had decided to repost with html corrected. That’s his prerogative, of course; however, his silence regarding the responses to his first post leaves me with the impression of a tactic occasionally utilized by one of the more articulate Holocaust deniers I encountered in alt.revisionism: he would post something two (or sometimes even three!) times, then choose only one thread in which to selectively respond (while conveniently pretending that the earlier responses did not exist)!

But speaking of Holocaust deniers, while I must confess I rarely visit Tobis’s blog (I find his arrogant tone most off-putting!), I can’t help wondering if he’s ever upbraided any of his allies and acolytes for their use of the word “denier” when speaking of those whose feet (and keyboards) are not firmly planted in the CO2->AGW camp. But I digress …

In reply to Tobis 2, one person wrote:

“Your solution then,…for the serious issues which come under the climategate rubric is to them scatter to the winds in the gray areas between science and science policy?”


“Let’s try to see what someone’s saying, instead of cordoning off, drawing boundaries and setting limits and haggling about politically correct climate terms. Climategate is here to say – it pulls together everything CRU and Mann did or said over a decade. Let us, and other climate scientists be not in such a hurry to forget.”

to which Tobis replied:

“[…] a lot of us remain unconvinced that any clear scandal was revealed by the CRU emails. I am conceding that issues are raised; whether justly or otherwise is another matter.

“Of course, if one scans the emails of practicing scientists over ten years, one would be astonished if only a few issues were raised. But many of us see nothing more than a tangle of unrelated issues, enhanced by active campaigns of exaggeration and innuendo, as far as we can see. So it’s not at all clear that there is a need for a collective noun at all.

“The use of the “-gate” suffix quite clearly begs the question; it makes an implicit claim not only that there was wrongdoing, but indeed that it was at least comparable to a felony.


“This is not to say that there are or aren’t real issues raised by some of the CRU emails. Let’s discuss them one by one with care, rather than painting coarsely with a broad Nixonian brush.”

Don’t know who the “us/we” might be but, that aside … Comparable to a “felony”? Painting “coarsely with a broad Nixonian brush”? Nah … I don’t think so. Seems to me Tobis is verging on, well, engaging in a campaigh of “exaggeration” (and innuendo)!

Perhaps rather than attempting to establish himself as the Lord High Arbiter of climatically correct terminology on someone else’s blog, Tobis should do himself a favour, and take a look at Wordorigins.org.

There he will find:

“Watergate, as the collection of scandals came to be known, was the biggest American political scandal of the 20th century.

“Watergate, n., a hotel-apartment-office complex along the Potomac River in Washington, DC. In 1972, the Democratic National Committee had its offices in the complex and on 17 June of that year burglars working for the White House broke into the offices to plant listening devices. Watergate became the name of the associated scandal. Subsequent Washington scandals were commonly dubbed with the –gate suffix, such as Koreagate, Irangate, and Monicagate.

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me that Tobis’s “gate-crushing” crusade collapses under its own weight!

P.S. Andrew Montford’s much anticipated report, The Climategate Inquiries is now available. I doubt that he is about to rename it to keep Michael Tobis happy.


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