Dr. Mann had an OpEd in the New York Times this week that began like this:
THE overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist."This virulent strain" may be a little harsh, but there really isn't much here to argue about with Dr. Mann. Unless, of course you are the "virulent strain" itself. In Dr. Mann's world, that's the National Review.
Follow me out into the tall grass to see what the National Review Online (NRO) had to say about Dr. Mann's NYT OpEd and talk about whether NRO really is actually trying to compete with the Onion in the irony business.
Dr. Mann and the National Review are epic adversaries in the war between climate scientists and those still denying that human activities are causing a problem. Dr. Mann's libel suit against the National Review and the American Enterprise Institute remains blocked by procedural hurdles sixteen months after it was filed. The suit certainly hasn't silenced the blatherers in the National Review's sphere of Wingnuttia. Here is what the NRO said about the quoted paragraph from Dr. Mann's NYT OpEd at the top of the post.
How many superlatives, how much vitriol and sanctimony can you crowbar into one paragraph: Overwhelming . . . fringe minority . . . irrational rejection . . . well-established . . . virulent . . . anti-science . . . infects. Zounds.Let's unpack that. Mr. Fowler at the NRO contends that the first paragraph of Dr. Mann's NYT OpEd is overstuffed with vitriol, sanctimony and superlatives. To check that out, I'm going to use online dictionaries to decode Mr. Fowler's observations. Hmmm.
A "superlative" as used here seems to refer to the term as a definition of a part of speech, of an adjective or adverb expressing the highest or a very high degree of a quality (e.g., bravest, most fiercely ). The only other meaning applicable as a noun is "an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise."
As far as parts of speech are concerned Dr. Mann's paragraph uses hardly any adjectives or adverbs and none as superlatives. I likewise see no exaggerated or hyperbolic praise there. Quite the contrary. What probably chafes Mr. Fowler is that Dr. Mann paints Fowler and his crowd as a "fringe minority". And they are a fringe minority.
Which of the following statements reflects your view of when the effects of global warming will begin to happen – [ROTATED: they have already begun to happen, they will start happening within a few years, they will start happening within your lifetime, they will not happen within your lifetime, but they will affect future generations, (or) they will never happen]?The "never happen" people have never risen to 20% and have dropped off to 15% in 2012-2013. If Mr. Fowler and his ilk chafe at being described as the fringe minority of the populace that they measurably are, so be it. But it has nothing to do with the expression of superlatives in Dr. Mann's OpEd.
"Vitriol" has a meaning in chemistry obviously not intended by Mr. Fowler. The other meaning is "Bitterly abusive feeling or expression". Mr. Fowler has to be talking here about the "virulent strain of anti-science" that Dr. Mann said he observes in the "irrational rejection of well-established science". I guess Mr. Fowler thinks Dr. Mann is bitter that Fowler and his friends won't just shut up and go away. But Dr. Mann's OpEd nowhere says so or expresses or reflects bitterness.
Finally, there's what Mr. Fowler says is "sanctimony". He must mean "affected or hypocritical holiness", except where the word has been used to mean actual holiness, a usage now obsolete.
I'm gonna need help from the comment thread on this one. I can't see where Mr. Fowler possibly finds the slightest hint of holiness, of any kind, real, affected or otherwise in Dr. Mann's opening paragraph or elsewhere in the OpEd for that matter. Perhaps Mr. Fowler is stung by Dr. Mann's dismissive description of "the appearance of a debate where none should exist." Well, it's a land of broken dreams, Jack, but the answers have been found. Science has determined how a lot of things work. The stuff your NRO crowd claims to want a debate about isn't science. No one, Dr. Mann least of all, is acting sanctimonious.
I looked up "Zounds", too. I can't stomach talking about it except to say, regarding Dr. Mann's NYT OpEd, no, not at all, really, for sure.
All of the above pertains only to the first paragraph of Jack Kelly's NRO piece and it's reaction to the first paragraph of Dr. Mann's NYT OpEd. The rest of Kelly's post at NRO is just as much of a word salad, as with this final taste:
Scientists who take heart in this op-ed are more concerned with political agendas than with hard data and the openness to prove theories in the face of challenges. And because there is “a debate where none should exist,” there will be enforcers who are all too ready and willing to remind us “deniers” of our right to remain silent.Wow! That was breathtaking, right there at the end, when suddenly, out of nowhere, the 5th Amendment pops up and starts waving around an old GOP bugaboo, the Miranda warning. That bit was the strongly aromatic and robustly flavorful anchovy in Mr. Fowler's word salad.
But the really funny, Onion worthy part is that the NRO post rails against Dr. Mann and his NYT OpEd but doesn't offer a shred of anything to refute or actually address what Dr. Mann is talking about. It's all about how he says it, you see. Dr. Mann, it seems, should never compare his duty to speak out about what he knows as a scientist to the duty of, say, me, who rides a lot of transit, to tell train crew, e.g., of oddities observed around the station or a train car. Same at airports. It's the "see something say something campaign." Fowler thinks Dr. Mann's allusion to the SSSS campaign ironic because Department of Homeland Security something. . . . Yeah. just more salad.
Fowler's NRO post does stay far far away from anything that could be defamatory of Dr. Mann. Maybe Dr. Mann's log-jammed defamation lawsuit against the National Review is having a beneficial effect after all.