Sou’s Ruse Slews Lew (Apologies Dr Seuss)

This article, like the last two here, is about this important article (Lewandowsky, Mann, Brown, Friedman).

If you haven’t been following, Lew has been standing by his Mann, and together they’ve been throwing up smokescreens around their troubled oeuvres.

Their first campaign enlisted three innocent medical researchers as fellow resistance fighters in the subterranean war on science.

This was the paper in which Lew mentions being labelled in an anonymous email as a “Nazi zionist kike”—unpleasant, but what’s it got to do with peer reviewed science?

The purpose of mentioning this vile insult (which strangely echoes one of Lew’s tell-tale signs of conspiracy ideation—self-contradiction) was clearly to taint us sceptics, who are the main target of the article. (Yes, articles at Psychological Science have targets. But, as editor-in-chief Professor Eric Eich of Vancouver University patiently explained to me, those targetted are perfectly at liberty to reply with peer reviewed articles of their own).

Lewandowsky comes back to the subject of hate mail in the new article, with a quote from an anonymous correspondent who “wanted to see him ‘six feet under’.” Then, directly after the mention of death threats, comes this:

Those public attacks are often paralleled by prolific complaints to scientists’ host institutions with allegations of research misconduct. The format of such complaints ranges from brief enraged emails to the submission of detailed multi-page dossiers…

I confess. I’m guilty of sending “detailed multi-page dossiers” to Lewandowsky’s university and to the publishers of his articles. So, I believe, are other members of the Climate Sceptic team. Should we confess straight away to being the authors of the death threat, or the “Nazi zionist kike” email? Or should we point out that associating a vile anonymous anti-semitic email with the valid complaints of individuals defamed in an article is itself defamatory? The last time we made this point Lewandowsky sent his lawyers to the editors of the journal concerned and publicly accused us of bullying and harrassment. It ended badly for Lew, since the article was retracted.

Another complaint in the first Lew/Mann paper was about being bitten by a “sock puppet”.

Other attempts of intimidation have involved the solicitation of potentially compromising information from the first author by a non-existent internet “sock puppet” whose unknown creators pretended to be victimized by climate deniers — and who then splattered the private correspondence on the internet

(Details here.)

Most people might feel slightly embarrassed at falling for a very obvious practical joke. Not Lew, who describes in detail his pratfall – in a peer reviewed paper, no less. Again, is this what science is for, to reveal the idiocy of its practitioners?

In February 2012 it was revealed that Peter Gleick, a reputed scientist working at the Pacific Institute, had assumed a false identity in order to obtain private correspondence from the Heartland Institute. Lewandowsky is on record as defending the action of Peter Gleick.

If it’s OK to assume a false identity in order to perform an illegal act, why not to perform a perfectly legal practical joke?

Or even the perfectly legal act of insulting oneself? Certainly; nothing in Lewandowsky’s publicly professed moral code would prevent it. Was it Lewandowsky who sent the email calling himself a “Nazi zionist kike”? Why shouldn’t he? After all, Lewandowsky has written a long learned article justifying such action.

Apparently sock-puppeting is OK when practiced by scientists like Gleick. Lew’s correspondent was not a sock puppet but a practical joker, and a very funny one. Think about this. A distinguished professor at a distinguished British university is writing peer reviewed articles in reputable scientific journals to complain about being the victim of a (very funny) practical joke, and to announce that he has received hate mail. Who hasn’t? What scientific conclusions are we supposed to draw from this?

We’ve had some fun discussing this article here, but the real action has been at the blog of one of the article’s authors, Nick Brown.

Several Cliscep authors have been active there; in fact, 23 of the first 25 comments are fom Cliscep authors or sympathisers. The only commenter I hadn’t heard of (DH Hunter) airs criticisms similar to ours, and is answered fully by Nick Brown. Congratulations to Nick. I’ve rarely seen a thread in which sceptics have been allowed to express themselves with such freedom. (Comments are delayed by moderation, which explains why there’s none of the cut and thrust of witty repartee to be found on our own blog…)

Then along came Sou, with:

BTW – were you warned about the band of Stephan Lewandowsky’s stalkers, who probably have a Google alert in place? If you weren’t, you’ve now experienced them first hand. (They are serial harassers/defamers who’ve been cultivating their grudge for something like three or four years now. To call it an obsession would be a vast understatement.)

Why should Nick need warning about us? He’s the joint author of a paper which states that we’re part of a dangerous conspiracy in receipt of “up to US$1billion” already.

The fact that we “probably have a Google alert in place” obviously increases our dangerosity. But should we apologise? I quote from “Recursive Fury” the retracted (but still available on the internet) article by Lewandowsky et al (h/t Barry Woods):

the second phase of the research used Google Alerts to detect newly published material matching the search term “Stephan Lewandowsky”…

Sou, along with commenter Andthentheresphysics, is one of those ardent defenders of Lewandowsky and Mann who prefers to remain anonymous. We sock puppets understand.


  1. But these dossiers you freely admit using to attack science a scientist Stephan Lewandowsky, are they ‘richly adorned with baroque formatting,’ [Lewandowsky, Mann, Friedman, Brown 2016] Geoff? Baroque formatting is by far the most sensitive diagnostic of denialist harassment. It’s one of the 5 techniques of science denial, as we all know (with the exception of those who deny the science of science denial—a step too far even for me).


  2. By the way, you exaggerate slightly by describing Lewandowsky’s publicly-professed code as “moral.” Otherwise this is a magisterially sober, objective précis of the historical facts leading us to our current pass. Nicely done indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I fall for the joke posts all the time does that make me eligible to write a paper with Dr Lew? In my defence, the mad things you guys write are very hard to tell apart from the real mad stuff that happens. But if you haven’t made an idiot of yourself on the internet, you aren’t part of the 21st century.

    Dr Lew’s dirty tricks are very transparent however.


  4. I find it difficult to take seriously females of a certain age who appear to be obsessed with Hot Whoppers, myself…


  5. I don’t think we need to be so circumspect in not naming those who are no longer anonymous. The desire to try to hide ones conduct by continuing to maintain the fiction that you are not known by name is fundamentally dishonest and yet another sign of an unethical personality, or at least a hypocritical one, don’t you think?


  6. David,
    do you mean Miriam O’Brien, Ken Rice, Gavin Cawley, Josh Halpern, Grant Foster or…? Which masked crusader did you have in mind?

    I’ve never been able to puzzle out why people who are adamant they’re saving the planet wouldn’t want to take credit for their heroic labors, while most of us deniers—who, if you believe the myths, ought to be losing sleep over what’s coming to us at Climate Nuremberg—feel no particular need to hide our light behind a bushel?

    It’s almost as if we have the courage of our convictions or something, whereas they don’t even believe their own bullschtick.

    If I didn’t know better I’d almost get the impression WE were the ones on the right side of history.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. The main difference between Lew’s verbose and pontificating climate-outputs and a bucket of shite is the bucket, but nevertheless it is helpful to have a less emotive, more analytical examination of the contents. If only to help the man come to his senses and find something else to do with his time. So this excellent post is very welcome, and well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh dear, sounds like a conspiracy theory. As of course does the suspicion that there is a “subterranean war on science”. Perhaps someone should write a paper about the tendency of climate activists to indulge in conspiracist ideation.
    What is a “google alert” anyway? Oh, I see, it’s something Lewandowsky uses to feed his paranoia.


  9. Geoff,

    I confess. I’m guilty of sending “detailed multi-page dossiers” to Lewandowsky’s university and to the publishers of his articles. So, I believe, are other members of the Climate Sceptic team.

    I find this particularly appalling, but that’s probably no great surprise. It’s an illustration of why some might choose to engage pseudonymously.

    I had a serious question. What do you hope to actually achieve? Even if anyone took your dossier seriously, all that would need to happen is that someone would direct them to your various blog posts and blog comments, and they would almost certainly stop taking it seriously. As far as I can tell, all you will likely achieve is that you will essentially illustrate what is being discussed in the recent Lewandowsky et al. article. Do you really think that anything will come of this other than you being remembered as one of those who spent a great deal of time harassing someone who published papers that you didn’t like?


  10. I was very taken with the description of Gleick as a “reputed scientist”. Knowing you, Geoff, I assume the ambiguity was deliberate.

    It’s a neat phrase, worth salting away for future use!

    Liked by 1 person

    Baroque? Me? I think of myself as more Romanesque – solid, four square, with the odd gargoyle here and there.

    ”…if you haven’t made an idiot of yourself on the internet, you aren’t part of the 21st century.”
    Indeed. I once fell for a practical joke played by one Ian Woolley. My peer-reviewed article about this hurtful episode will be appearing in Nature shortly. Someone in our neighbourhood has been poisoning cats. I’ve no evidence it was Ian, but I thought I’d mention it in the same paragraph anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Out of idle curiosity, I thought I would have a look at Sou’s blog. Her latest is going on about cosmic rays and lambasting Anthony Watts, which seems to be her favourite pasttime – when she’s not calling cliscep authors Lewandowsky stalkers. But it appears she’s so busy “eavesdropping on the deniosphere”, she can’t quite grasp basic scientific facts:

    “That is, the more cosmic rays, the more clouds. At this point I should point out that when the sun is strongest, that’s when the least amount of cosmic rays hit Earth, so according to the cosmic ray hypothesis, that’s when cloud cover would be at its lowest. With the sun losing strength since the middle of last century, and with this last solar cycle being particularly weak, there would have been more cosmic rays and more cloud cover.”

    [Correct, no argument there]

    “Roy Spencer is arguing that fewer clouds mean more warming, and the reverse – that more clouds mean less warming. The problem with Anthony quoting that is that, according to the cosmic ray hypothesis, there should be fewer clouds with the weaker sun of late, not more clouds. Therefore all things being equal (leaving aside the extra CO2), the planet should be cooling, and it’s not. It’s getting very hot.”

    There’s an easy way to remember it Sou:

    Less active sun = more GCRs = more condensation nuclei = more low-lying cloud = global cooling
    Active sun = less GCRs = less condensation nuclei = less cloud = more direct sunshine = global warming

    But of course she is obsessed far less with getting such ‘small details’ correct as she is with attacking ‘pseudosceptic’ Watts’ ‘pseudoscience’.

    “Almost every time Anthony Watts tries to write an article he makes a fool of himself, and this is no exception”, says Sou the Kettle, Sou the Eavesdropper on Lew Stalkers.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. ATTP
    “What do you hope to actually achieve?”

    To raise the level of rational discourse in western culture of course. Why does anyone blog?

    But in the short term, I hoped to achieve the withdrawal and then the retraction of all Lew’s papers where he insults both us sceptics and the intelligence of his readers. Then to gently prod the serious press back to seriousness when it comes to reporting climate change and, if possible, everything else.

    We got one paper retracted, but it got worse. He merely republished it with all the evidence left out: “Climate sceptics are paranoid weirdoes incapable of rational thought. And here are some quotes I made up to prove it.”

    There are journal editors, no doubt professors with distinguished careers, who publish this garbage. Aren’t you sometimes ashamed to say you’re a scientist?

    And it’s not just Lew, it’s everywhere. Take two psychology lecturers who are frequently cited by Lew and have peer-reviewed his papers. Michael Woods claimed that belief that Lady Di was assassinated was correlated with belief that she is still alive. How many people believe those two things? Zero. Steve McIntyre had to FOI the information out of Woods’ university, and the paper is still there.

    Or what about Dr Viren Swami? When he’s not peer-reviewing Lew papers he’s knocking out research papers of his own – at the rate of one a fortnight for the past ten years. One paper “Perception of Female Buttocks and Breast Size in Profile”
    completely overturns everythng we thought we knew on the subject.

    Since I last explored the subject of dead princesses and female buttock size both these jokers have been made professors.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Geoff,

    But in the short term, I hoped to achieve the withdrawal and then the retraction of all Lew’s papers where he insults both us sceptics and the intelligence of his readers.

    Sounds like the epitome of bad-faith harassment, so I doubt you’ll achieve any such thing.


  15. Ken admits that to him, a frank, evidence-based request to have a defamatory turd of a paper withdrawn “[s]ounds like the epitome of bad-faith harassment.” Anyone wondering whether Ken’s grasp of English was on par with his grasp of science need wonder no more.

    Weep. Weep for Scotland.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. “Sounds like the epitome of bad-faith harassment”

    Something you are a World-leading expert on, Kenny. Along with smears and ad hominems, of course.

    Go play with your computer games and stop pretending to be some sort of scientist.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I thought I might have a better grasp on this new paper after giving it a few days. But what’s really striking me is how poorly it bears re-reading.

    — “When the scientific method yields discoveries that imperil people’s lifestyle or worldviews or impinge on corporate vested interests, the public and political response can be anything but favorable.” —

    It is an opening statement that has all the subtlety and nuance of a cricket bat to the teeth. So much for the cool, objective and dispassionate reasoning of ‘academics’, then.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ben, the opening statement of Lew’s paper is like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 cannons going off, followed by the symphony itself, a particularly dreary affair composed by Lew & Mann (with a little help from the other two authors). But those ‘cannons’ are really the sound of Lew shooting himself in the foot (twice) with a double-barreled shotgun. In establishment climate change science, the “scientific method” has yet to make an appearance and therefore it certainly cannot claim to have yielded any “discoveries”. The things which imperil our lifestyles and impinge upon (fossil fuel) corporate vested interests are political/economic decisions driven by green ideological imperatives in combination with . . . . . green corporate vested interests.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I rather liked Nick Brown’s post and his comment moderation. I think we owe him a debt of gratitude for being even handed. I noticed that eventually Gavin Cawley and Ken Rice withdrew from the fray. In Casley’s case after making some disingenuous suggestions about how I might contribute to science. It was quite condescending and dishonest, since the problems in science are structural. Ken Rice left a very insulting to Steve McIntyre comment that was really unfair. It is a pity that Steve didn’t respond directly.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. David,

    Even if comments had been left open indefinitely I doubt Steve would have seen any need to respond to Ken’s repetitive, tedious, plangent last salvo.

    Honor had well and truly been satisfied by then.

    Respekt to Nick Brown for letting us make our point.


  21. ATTP:
    Me: “I confess. I’m guilty of sending ‘detailed multi-page dossiers’ to Lewandowsky’s university..”

    You: ”I find this particularly appalling, but that’s probably no great surprise. It’s an illustration of why some might choose to engage pseudonymously […] …Sounds like the epitome of bad-faith harassment.”

    It all depends on the seriousness of the complaint, doesn’t it? If it was just about Lewadowsky lying about me beng a right wing knuckle dragger a multi-page dossier would be a bit over the top, wouldn’t it? But Lewandowsky is using the scientific press (and his position as a member of a caste that has automatic access to the scientific press) to try to marginalise us and silence us. This political use of science is a dangerous first step towards fascism, isn’t it?

    It’s funny how Lew and now you latch on to the phrase “multi-page dossier”. It’s the idea of going into detail that upsets you, isn’t it? How much more comfortable to stay in the fuzzy world of beta values, vague accusations of conspirationist ideation, and gravitational wobbles that might mean that the little green men are on the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. If you haven’t read the thread at Nick Brown’s blog to the end, you will have missed the essential. Nick is pleased to have co-authored an article largely written by Lewandowsky, which suggests, very reasonably, that laymen should engage with scientiststhe way Nick did, and not by writing angry insulting blog articles.

    Steve McIntyre comments, pointing out that he did exactly that, replying to Mann’s MBH98 with a peer-reviewed article of his own. For this he was insulted and censored at Mann’s blog.

    Then Sou and ATTP intervene to accuse the likes of McIntyre (and us) of harassment…

    Liked by 1 person

  23. David,

    regarding your:

    “ATTP and Nick, I tend to loose patience with this word parsing about how to determine if a data request or request for interaction is “genuine.””

    I think you mean mind reading, not word parsing (which, as I mentioned, refers to one of the necessary steps in the understanding of spoken and written text).


  24. Geoff (5.49am)

    It seems Lewandowsky is insisting good criticism comes at a very specific length, neither half a page of ‘enraged email’ nor 18 pages of detailed rebuttal. Perhaps he’s saying only 2.9013 pages of rebuttal are valid.

    (Yes, Brad’s done the joke before, but you can’t let that stop you.)

    Liked by 2 people

  25. And it has to be suffused with either Mannerist or Romantic formatting, nothing in between.


  26. Thanks Brad, I take your point about parsing words. I meant their silly attempts to delineate “legitimate” data requests from “harassment.” Of course they view themselves as almighty in making this determination. Arrogance is the word that comes to mind

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Hi Richard

    Rather than attempt to locate the thread in question, I hope it is acceptable to dump some thoughts here. I didn’t want to hijack the discussion then and I am sorry if I did but I think that anyone who cites Isaiah Berlin as an authority needs to do so with caution. I accept that he was a man who charmed a large number of people and influenced a number of people very positively but…

    If I put “Isaiah Berlin” into google, the first opinion piece, rather than encyclopedia entry, is by a man who has dedicated much of his life to getting Berlin’s writings into print as his literary executor. So you would not expect anything negative from Henry Hardy. Note however the paragraph that says:

    “But when he found that other people manifested lack of integrity or moral failings of one kind or another that he disapproved of, he was very free – at least in private letters – with his criticism of them. He was willing to judge people negatively. He always said that you should understand before you condemn – which, of course, I hope we would all agree with. But some people felt that he was too ready to condemn without understanding. He was occasionally liable to a sort of visceral antipathy to certain people, which appeared to proceed not from an intellectual assessment but from some instinctive level – people like Hannah Arendt. It’s difficult to account for it in rational terms, but he had a small panoply of hate figures, undoubtedly.”

    In a review of a volume of his letters, Stefan Collini touches on some of the troubling sides of Berlin’s character, particularly in the case of Chomsky where Berlin acted in what seems to be a duplicitous manner.

    Then there is this piece that looks directly at the Arendt episode and also a case involving another academic, Isaac Deutscher where Berlin does not look good.

    Finally, I cite a long article from the London Review of Books by Christopher Hitchens, which covers much of the above stuff at greater length. There is no doubt that berlin was a highly intelligent and widely-read person. But he did seem to have the trait of wanting to be all things to all people and this points to the need to be cautious when using him as an authority – wanting to be a friend while dissing you behind your back, being a friend of liberty while happily socialising with Cold Warriors. Very rarely can you trust that what he said was a true statement of his personal opinion, unvarnished by any other consideration.

    “Many years later, reviewing Personal Impressions for the New Statesman, I mentioned the old story of Berlin acting as an academic gatekeeper, and barring the appointment of Isaac Deutscher to a chair at Sussex University. This denial had the sad effect of forcing Deutscher – who had once given Berlin a highly scornful review in the Observer – to churn out Kremlinology for a living: as a result of which he never finished his triad or troika of Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin biographies. In the next post came a letter from Berlin, stating with some anguish that while he didn’t much approve of Deutscher, his opinion had not been the deciding one. I telephoned Tamara Deutscher and others, asking if they had definite proof that Berlin had administered the bare bodkin, and was told, well, no, not definite proof. So I published a retraction. Then came a postcard from Berlin, thanking me handsomely, saying that the allegation had always worried and upset him, and asking if he wasn’t correct in thinking that he had once succeeded more in attracting me to Marxism than in repelling me from it. I was – I admit it – impressed. And now I read, in Ignatieff’s book, that it was an annihilatingly hostile letter from Berlin to the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University which ‘put paid to Deutscher’s chances’. The fox is crafty, we know, and the hedgehog is a spiky customer, and Ignatieff proposes that the foxy Berlin always harboured the wish to metamorphose into a hedgehog. All I know is that I was once told – even assured of – one small thing.”


    I have to say that I have never actually understood the point of his famous essay about the fox and the hedghog, nor do I see what was/is so fascinating about his 2 concepts of liberty. But those are personal prejudices that I hope I can put aside when I read such material about the man.


  28. MIAB: I enjoyed all four of those articles very much, thank you. Hitchens’ “All I know is that I was once told – even assured of – one small thing” is very witty. But then so is Berlin’s “There are many versions of this story, all true.”

    However you’ve left me in a quandary how and where to respond on the serious stuff to do with Arendt, Eichmann and the Holocaust. (I gave you the link last time but you didn’t realise!) I may seek special dispensation from the group running the blog to pull this out into a post of its own. Let me consider.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Yeah I’ve never been convinced that boring is the WORST thing you can be accused of. The whole evil-of-banality thesis strikes me more as a throwaway line by Oscar Wilde than a serious attempt to grapple with the industrialized, powered-by-IBM mass evil of the following century. But anyway, how did we get to there from Hannah Arendt’s subtly-different formula? (As this debate seems to be distributed in the cloud I hasten to add that I haven’t followed it in full, so apologies in advance if the answer is obvious.)


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