More Attacks of Free Speech

This is cross-posted from Climate-Skeptic, but it is very much in the spirit of the Canadian tribunals and University speech codes.  There are increasing efforts, mainly on the left, to make the world a better place by limiting speech of those who don't agree with them.


I am not sure this even needs comment:  (HT:  Maggies Farm)

preparing a paper for an upcoming conference on this, so please comment
if you can! Thanks. Many people have urged for there to be some legal
or moral consequence for denying climate change. This urge generally
comes from a number of places. Foremost is the belief that the science
of anthropogenic climate change is proven beyond reasonable doubt and
that climate change is an ethical issue. Those quotes from Mahorasy's
blog are interesting. I'll include one here:

there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a
crime against humanity, after all. "“Margo Kingston, 21 November 2005

urge also comes from frustration with a "˜denial' lobby: the furthest
and more extreme talkers on the subject who call global warming a
"˜hoax' (following James Inhofe's now infamous quote). Of course there
would be frustration with this position"“a "˜hoax' is purposeful and
immoral. And those who either conduct the science or trust the science
do not enjoy being told they are perpetrating a "˜hoax', generating a myth, or committing a fraud....

I'm an advocate for something stronger. Call it regulation, law, or
influence. Whatever name we give it, it should not be seen as
regulation vs. freedom, but as a balancing of different freedoms. In
the same way that to enjoy the freedom of a car you need insurance to
protect the freedom of other drivers and pedestrians; in the same way
that you enjoy the freedom to publish your views, you need a regulatory
code to ensure the freedoms of those who can either disagree with or
disprove your views. Either way. While I dislike Brendan O'Neill and
know he's wrong, I can't stop him. But we need a body with teeth to be
able to say, "actually Brendan, you can't publish that unless you can
prove it." A body which can also say to me, and to James Hansen, and to
the IPCC, the same....

What do you think? Perhaps a starting point is a draft point in the
codes for governing how the media represent climate change, and a
method for enforcing that code. And that code needs to extend out to
cover new media, including blogs. And perhaps taking a lesson from the Obama campaign's micro-response strategy:
a team empowered with responding to complaints specifically dealing
with online inaccuracy, to which all press and blogs have to respond.
And so whatever Jennifer Mahorasy, or Wattsupwiththat, or Tom Nelson, or Climate Sceptic, or OnEarth, or La Marguerite, or the Sans Pretence, or DeSmog Blog, or Monckton or me, say, then we're all bound by the same freedoms of publishing.

He asked for comments.  I really did not have much energy to refute something so wrong-headed, but I left a few thoughts:

as proprietor of, I am sure flattered to be listed
as one of the first up against the wall come the great green-fascist
revolution.  I found it particularly ironic that you linked my post
skewering a climate alarmist for claiming that heavier objects fall
faster than lighter objects.  Gee, I thought the fact that objects of
different masses fall at the same rate had been "settled science" since
the late 1500s.

But I don't think you need a lecture on science, you need
a lecture on civics.  Everyone always wants free speech for
themselves.  The tough part is to support free speech for others, even
if they are horribly, terribly wrong-headed.  That is the miracle of
the first amendment, that we have stuck by this principle for over 200

You see, technocrats like yourself are always assuming the
perfect government official with perfect knowledge and perfect
incentives to administer your little censorship body.  But the fact is,
such groups are populated with real people, and eventually, the odds
are they will be populated by knaves.  And even if folks are
well-intentioned, incentives kill such government efforts every time.
What if, for example, your speech regulation bureaucrats felt that
their job security depended on a continued climate crisis, and evidence
of no crisis might cause their job to go away?  Would they really be
unbiased with such an incentive?

Here is a parallel example to consider.  It strikes me
that the laws of economics are better understood than the activity of
greenhouse gasses.  I wonder if the author would support limits on
speech for supporters of such things like minimum wages and trade
protectionism that economists routinely say make no sense in the
science of economics.  Should Barack Obama be enjoined from discussing
his gasoline rebate plan because most all economists say that it won't
work the way he says?  There is an economist consensus, should that be
enough to silence Obama?

Update:  His proposed system is sort of a government mandated peer-review backed with prison terms.  For some reason, climate science is obsessed with peer review.  A few thoughts:

At best, peer review is a screen for whether a study is worthy of occupying
limited publication space, not for whether it is correct.  Peer review, again at
best, focuses on whether a study has some minimum level of rigor and coherence
and whether it offers up findings that are new or somehow advance the ball on an
important topic. 

In "big
boy sciences
" like physics, study findings are not considered vetted simply
because they are peer-reviewed.  They are vetted only after numerous other
scientists have been able to replicate the results, or have at least failed to
tear the original results down.

More here.


  1. Micah:

    I can't find your comment. Was it deleted?

  2. nicole:

    What a vile post. And the back-pedaling in the comments—Lockwood seems to think that Holocaust denial and hate speech are illegal in the US. That somehow "regulation" of anything more than direct incitement to violence is allowed under the constitution and is necessary to a liberal democracy even though "censorship" is wrong. Ugh.

  3. happyjuggler0:

    Staggering stupidity. Sorry, there is no polite way to frame the issue.

    How someone can complain about a government gag order in the beginning of a post, and then end the post calling for government to issue gag orders?

    The stupidity, or at least the one I have in mind, is this: The author seems to think that somehow "the right people" will be in charge of censorship and that they will censor "the wrong people". Apparently his opening harangue about that gag order didn't clue him in that maybe people with differing views than his would sit on the censorship board, but that this time they'd have the power to silence everyone, not just government employees.

    Needless(???) to say this is a recipe for spreading ignorance and propaganda, not a recipe for stopping it.

  4. Wiseburn:

    Remember that Galileo was placed under house arrest for disagreeing with the settled science of his day. Of course people believed the Earth was the center of the Universe a lot longer then they believed man was destroying the planet.

    Where's a vengeful god when you need one?


  5. greg:

    Actually Nicole, direct incitement of violence is allowed under the constitution.

  6. ElamBend:

    The last line of the excerpt is a killer:
    "then we’re all bound by the same freedoms of publishing."

    It's double-speak straight out of 1984, Freedom=regulation

  7. mjh:

    I disagree with the content of the guy's post in it's entirety. But you might want to take a look at his follow-up post where he admits that he made a mistake re: censorship. People make mistakes. IMHO it's best if when those mistakes happen, we give people room to back away from the mistake. I don't see how piling on will help. It'll just serve to discourage him from backing away if he makes a future mistake. Which doesn't help this particular debate.

  8. Paul:

    Perhaps a more interesting bureaucratic incentive would be: what if the bureaucrats felt that to protect their job a major dispute over the validity of the climate crisis was necessary, so blogs like this one should be strongly protected even if they are (to climate alarmists, and perhaps the bureaucrats themselves) completely wrong-headed.

    I can see this plausibly happening in the next few years anyway, as the global warming crisis gets discredited, then all those supporters will need "dispute" to keep their funding, rather than accepting that the science is settled and AGW is not a true crisis, and either does not exist outside of flawed models, or is controlled by negative feedback.

  9. KJ:

    I can't find any comments at Lockwood's post.
    When I go there, I get only his post, but no comments.
    When I go to his home page, and scroll down to that particular post, and click on "Comments", all it does it take me to the same page, but still with no comments.

    Am I doing something wrong?

  10. TigerHawk:

    Your first argument is your best: Freedom of speech is relevant only for people who express opinions that the majority finds objectionable. A "right" that projects only that speech supported by the majority is not a right at all, but a political preference.

    My own view is that these ever-more-frequent calls to censor people who do not accept the AGW catechism in its entirety stems from a barely concealed fear that the majority position is really not very strong.

  11. Jeff:

    There needs to be a public debate on the differing scientific views on AGW. It hasn't happened, yet, and probably never will.

    By taking a page from the environmentalists' play book, a legal action seeking an injunction to stop cap and trade regulations (for starters) might force the issue. This way, the global warming naysayers would, literally, have their day in court to tell the world what is wrong with the "settled" science.

  12. clouse:

    From the Manifesto of the Communist Party:

    " 2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax."

  13. BobH:

    I'm all for free speech, but ...
    I'm a free-trader, but ...

    Any time I hear these statements, I know that whatever follows the "but" will totally negate the first part of the statement.

    Up until 15-20 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association (or whatever they call their trade group) defined homosexuality as deviant behavior. Luckily, despite this settling of the issue, debate continued and eventually the APA rescinded that doctrine.

  14. BobH:

    I'm all for free speech, but ...
    I'm a free-trader, but ...

    Any time I hear these statements, I know that whatever follows the "but" will totally negate the first part of the statement.

    Up until 15-20 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association (or whatever they call their trade group) defined homosexuality as deviant behavior. Luckily, despite this settling of the issue, debate continued and eventually the APA rescinded that doctrine.

  15. tehag:

    I'd welcome a government agency empowered to silence statements by politicians that were not provably true. Were it work politicians would be unable to speak; news shows would have nothing to report; cable news networks would crumble. Utopia, to be sure.

  16. Methinks:

    I'm all for free speech, but ...
    I'm a free-trader, but ...

    I'm not shilling for Dr. Phil or anything, but the man was exactly correct when he said that "but" means "forget everything I just said, here's what I really mean."

  17. Nonner:

    The devastation of the holocaust was over-hyped just as is happening now with man made global warming.

    By the way, did any notice Alex Lockwood uses the term "climate change". I don't think there are any climate change deniers. Everyone knows that the climate oscillates between warm and cold by itself. Of course, I know what he means, but the semantics are becoming deceiving... man made global warming --> man made climate change --> climate change...

    I remain skeptical. Even if man has created a problem, does this mean we should continue to force the climate in any direction of our choosing? Are we so powerful and knowing as to know what the ideal conditions of the planet should be? Maybe 10 degrees warmer or colder is better, meaning more conducive to evolution, living conditions and survivability?

  18. JD:

    Breathless fascism at work - attempting to make illegal the arguments of your opponents, and mark any criticism as being out of bounds for being 'hateful' or 'harmful'?

    Why do the tactics of the man made global warming alarmists so eerily echo the tactics of the Islamist extremists? Birds of a feather...

    And this guy falls prey to the typical lefty delusion that they support free speech, except in extreme cases, when in reality they want all speech they consider offensive banned. They do not understand that it is exactly that kind of speech which the freedom of expression is supposed to protect: speech considered hateful, harmful, wrong, intolerant, and offensive by the majority.

    If it was something everyone agreed upon, or some statement upon which there was consensus, there would be no need for or point in freedom of speech. But our laws about freedom of speech are there *specifically* to guarantee the right of people to say things we think are wrong, hateful, harmful, dangerous, offensive, insulting, intolerant, misguided, etc. *THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT*

    If you remove the ability of people to say things you don't want them to say, then you don't have free speech at all.