The Chicago based Heartland Institute has recently succeeded in drawing attention and fire (both friendly and not so friendly) to itself with a PR decision to promote itself (and/or its somewhat belatedly announced conference) via a series of billboard ads which highlight the belief in “global warming” of a number of highly unsavoury characters.
As others have noted there’s nothing untruthful about the billboard claims. But this is beside the point. Such a billboard may well be par for the course in the notoriously heated and over-hyped realm of Chicago politics. However, if Heartland wants to establish itself beyond the confines of Chicago politics as usual – and reach out to the general populace around the world – the medium they chose delivered an epic fail.
I get that it’s the nature of the beast that organizations cannot forgo opportunities to draw media attention to themselves. I get that they want to portray themselves and their choice of actions in the best possible light. I get that perhaps the registrations for Heartland’s surprisingly recently announced conference may be in need of some boosterism.
And I cannot imagine that anyone who has done any research into the claims of the alarmists can fail to conclude that for many years we have been sold a bill of enviro-activist goods.
BUT an organization crosses a line when it chooses to embark on a course of action that fails to take into account the collateral damage it inflicts upon those who, in good faith, have accepted their invitation to participate and/or speak at their (IMHO) hastily convened conference.
I cannot get – or accept – Heartland’s refusal to apologize for its Billboard débacle:
We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”
It seems to me that Heartland’s Bast and Lakely fail to recognize that words do matter.
And it’s not that this has not been pointed out to them before. As Steve McIntyre has noted:
In 2009 and 2010, they sent advertising materials to speakers ahead of time. Not to invite comment but routinely. In each case, I took issue with their advertising materials. Their 2010 conference was in the wake of Climategate and their advertising heavily promoted the “hoax” angle. While I obviously had been as critical of CRU as anyone, I strongly objected to their draping a supposedly scientific conference in such unwarranted and inflammatory language and said that I would not appear if they used that advertising. They were unmoved. So I asked Lindzen and others for support; Lindzen immediately said that he would not appear with such advertising and it was withdrawn.
I also had a dispute with them in 2009. They wanted to associate their conference with a call for criminal prosecution of Hansen for one of his protests. I said that this was both pointless and an inappropriate issue for a scientific proceeding. Enough other speakers agreed and they dropped these advertisements as well.
Sorry, Heartland, but I find that your self-promoting hype is very disheartening.