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Quadrant on the death threats

Quadrant magazine reviews the climate death threats issue:

The elements involved an organized and possibly funded campaign by sceptics to terrify and silence climate scientists, who were merely doing an honest job of putting climate facts before the public. “The barrage has left the scientists… working behind unmarked doors and surrounded by heavy security,” as one report put it.[1]

In the past fortnight official information has been released that the ‘death threats’ were fiction. The story was a mammoth beat-up promulgated and/or swallowed by the science community, which normally prides itself on checking evidence.

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Reader Comments (113)

"Also we know ANU sought exemption of the 11 documents using 37(1)(c) of the FOI Act claiming they: "endanger the life or physical safety of any person"

Since the ANU consider these known emails fit this description, we now know how low their threshold is."
No, as the Commissioner carefully explained, the exemption that he was considering was whether the release of the documents would "endanger the life or physical safety of any person". Presumably by inflaming the situation.

Well, it could. And ANU has to give safety of staff priority. It's for the Privacy Commissioner to make that judgment call.

May 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Nick Stokes

No, as the Commissioner carefully explained, the exemption that he was considering was whether the release of the documents would "endanger the life or physical safety of any person". Presumably by inflaming the situation.

Well, it could. And ANU has to give safety of staff priority. It's for the Privacy Commissioner to make that judgment call.

Yes, I see. By this careful logic ANU could claim to be exempt from revealing a request for the time of day and ask the Privacy Commissioner to adjudicate using 37(1)(c) as a reason and leave it in his hands to sort out. Marvellous. Meanwhile no death threat or account of one was recollected or reported seen in the inbox of the six senior members of the ANU's Climate Change Institute and no police authority has been shown to be taking any claim of death threats seriously.

Yet we still have the remnants of the "death threats" legend being used as a "fact" for Clive Hamilton to bolster criticism of a play on another thread here. I am fascinated by this and the kind of mind that accepts this low level of "fact", once the legend has started rolling, that is based on a lack of forthrightness of the alleged aggrieved parties, and it being impossible to show it could never have happened. Reminds me of the tactical silence employed by Gleick on the HI affair today.

You may not believe this, but I am sincere when I say I first believed the reports of death threats and now find I am not persuaded after seeing the details arising from the FOI. It is easy to compare this story to other incidents of threats involving animal researchers, abortion doctors, mexican jounalists etc and see that in this situation there is a startling lack of evidence Australian climate scientist are subject to anything like that level of threat. Which I am glad to hear but sorry to see that the threat rhetoric is cheapened so readily.

May 9, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Ok, reading the information you provided there where no death threats received as claimed by scientists at ANU.

There is one hearsay incident that was never followed up on or in any other fashion acted on but that is it. I see worse things posted on various public forums daily than where in the emails you posted.

May 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterLamontT

How are you on Professor Hamilton's language — see the 'Fulmination in Oz' thread above?
At the very least I sense a degree of mental instability lurking in there and language that certainly bears comparison with stuff you pointed us to on Redfearn's site. Someone who can react like that to a work of fiction could well be a danger both to himself and others, don't you think?
I find the thought that I might meet him somewhere without the means to defend myself worrying especially if he were to identify me as a "fossil-fuel industry hatchet men" or a "cyber-bully" or a "shit-spreader". Or any other of his foam-flecked epithets.
Or is it all right for him because he is fully signed up to The Cause?

May 9, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

How are you on Professor Hamilton's language

It's a local dialect which I don't speak but can understand.

May 9, 2012 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Nick, do you endorse (uncritical) "churnalism"?

May 10, 2012 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

Nick, do you endorse (uncritical) "churnalism"?

No. And I note the latest article in the Australian following the email release. The lede is "Australian National University officials have capitulated and agreed to release 11 emails". Critical review of their own speculations made in advance? Zilch. No death threats? No mention. Well, they do say that five of the emails are pretty harmless. That's it.

And I note Simon Turnill, who made the FOI requests and was excitedly posting a few days ago, has said nothing.

May 10, 2012 at 3:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterNick Stokes

Nick, give me and others a break.

Did you read the released emails you mention above?

I asked elsewhere ( : "Can someone name two or three persons (either "way")? Does somebody think this [death threats] happened/happens just to/on "one side"?") but I didn't get any rational response (cf. also with P. Jones: : "Morddrohungen" (so-called death threats)). You write (3:08 AM): "They do say that five of the emails are pretty harmless". I am more with Simon Turnill than with you on this one ( see Turnill (10 may 2012): )

May 10, 2012 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

I'll give you one grin for that reply!

May 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

So the only "overtones of mortality" that anyone has managed to come up with so far is a second-hand retelling of a harrowing tale where someone might have brandished a piece of paper at a meeting? (Oh no! He's got some sort of government-issued LICENSE! Take cover!)

For some reason this quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off comes to mind:

"Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

May 11, 2012 at 5:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimone

Thanks Skiphil that discussion page is very interesting, having followed this now, and knowing what kind of “evidence” we are dealing with, it is indeed possible that this is the guy; and that is all that happened. Although I think we have to be careful and admit this is hearsay too and it could be another conversation that happened to have coincidental subject of gun skills since I gather there were a few farmers there.
However if it is this guy Coochey then he may not realise the full implications of what was spun of that conversation - it does seem he would have mentioned a police follow up if it happened.

That page is well worth a read I actually found their two other points more revealing than the Coochey story. They have dug out the actual contemporary ANU report of the meeting, which in a footnote mentions a sceptic “clashing verbally” and one leaving certainly no hint of physical threats. However, that meeting obviously stuck in their minds as a heated debate and no doubt became an easy event to source when later prompted for retrospective musings about what, if anything, constituted a threat. So is it no wonder that a farmer talking about a gun license could easily be remembered and eagerly added to a meagre pile of threat evidence?

The main thing I notice on that page is the news that some guy call Readfern disputes the threat debunking because he quotes an ANU guy saying the move to secure premises actually took place in March/April 2010 before the FOI period. Now, if you are willing to forget the press claims of an escalation of threats, which was the purpose of the FOI period, (as I am sure some are ;) ) then what about the

Looks like we've had our first serious threat of physical violence.

(my emph above)

Dated 6 June 2010 !?

It doesn't add up. This story is actually looking really, really shonky - as I believe they say in Australia ;)

May 11, 2012 at 7:59 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

You might want to update this

May 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

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