Unraveling anti-science noise machine Heartland Institute attached the name “Fakegate” to Peter Gleick’s unveiling of internal Heartland documents, the most embarrassing of which is disputed by them.

But daylight has not been good for the organization, as many corporations find the PR hit of being associated with the most rabid paranoiac views on climate science puts off their customers in a big way. Especially interesting has been the wholesale defection of the insurance industry.

The question of whether the disputed document was drafted by Gleick has been the centerpiece of Heartland’s attack. Hence their choice of the (from their point of view ill-advised) label for the event, “fakegate”. This was a self-imposed blow by them, of course. The more people hear “fakegate” in regards to climate controversy, the more the “climategate” meme is devalued. It’s a contemptible failure that the press allowed that name to get “legs”, but in its panic Heartland has wiped out much of their gains.

Anyway, contrary to HI’s dubious textual analysis, the Pacific Institute itself has apparently concluded that the disputed document is not a fake, or at least not one concocted by Peter Gleick.

At the time of Gleick’s amazing confession, many argued that something had snapped, and that Peter’s behavior was inexplicable, especially given that he was chairing the new ethics committee at AGU. I argued that his behavior was ethical on balance in the light of several beneficial outcomes, particularly the unmasking of Heartland as anything but an educational organization. I also argued that the outcome of the event could be good or bad contingent on subsequent events. Fortunately for all concerned, Joe Bast of HI followed on his mistake of calling the event “fakegate” with an even stupider move – the infamous unabomber billboard. There’s no doubt that this was an unforced error on Bast’s part. But the consequences to Heartland’s donor base would not have followed had Gleick not revealed them.

So far so good. Now it would be good if people’s attentions meandered toward the whole issue of “nonprofits” that serve entirely the interests of corporate and/or wealthy donors.

As a start, nonprofits should have to identify large donors as an ordinary aspect of business. Unrevealed donors, at the least, should get no tax writeoff. And we can thank Peter Gleick for the lesson.

As always, speculation on who wrote the document is encouraged. The more we talk about “fakegate”, the more attention goes directly to Heartland and not to the nonsense they are spewing.

ICYMI #Heartland merchandising, featuring Peter Gleick on Twitpic
Heartland merchandising, featuring Peter Gleick, by Suzanne Goldenburg via Twitter.

Click for higher resolution

So. Fakegate. Fakegate, fakegate, fakegate.


  1. Pingback: Operation Heartland: Fakegate, Fakegate, Fakegate (spread the meme) « Watching the Deniers

  2. Keith is not wrong that the article is rather thinly sourced. Why should this news come out as a leak to Suzy G rather before an official PacInst press release? It muddies the waters unnecessarily, seems to me.

    I want a Fakegate shirt too.

  3. Meh. Anonymous sources used to be the exception, rather than the rule, and used to come with some disclosure of a "source which requested anonymity for thus and so of a reason." Why would PacInst not want to go on the record with this? And if it's not PacInst, why are they talking about the analysis? And if it's second-hand and unsourced, what is there, really, to talk about?

    It's not an assumption on my part that this report is wrong, necessarily, but rather a weariness with Bushian/Obamian anonymity as the default. I don't see why commenting from behind an anonymity shield is a benefit to journalism and civic understanding except in very specific "whistleblower"-type situations.

    The New York Times published utter bullshit in the run-up to the Iraq war. "The paper trusts it" is not, in and of itself, a reason to trust a report.

  4. I've never heard of a requirement to report. I believe there are a number of reasons that the mainstream press will sit on a story, some legitimate.

    Some not, as in:

    scientist accused = story
    scientist vindicated = not a story.

    But editorial judgment is called for even at the level P3 operates at. The main reason I don't always tell you everything I know is that it might interfere with my ability to know more important things in the future.

    But another one is that the story isn't appropriately sourced and I'm not sure I buy it. The Guardian trusts @suzyji . Fair enough. In this case we'll find out soon enough whether they should have. And I trusted her too, so ditto.

  5. If you truly believe that "all the other stuff is meaningless" so long as a publication disseminates information it "trusts," then we just have very different perceptions of what journalism SHOULD be (as opposed to what it IS).

    I don't know Suzanne Goldenburg and I neither trust nor mistrust her. My gut, and my admitted biases, tell me that it MAKES NO SENSE for Gleick to have forged that document. My only point was that the same methods that allowed Judith Miller to gin up war fever in 2002 are no more worthwhile when they support a conclusion I tend to think is the right one.

    Punto, e basta.

  6. Yes, use of the word "required" is over doing it for a general rule, and I should stay away from what I believe the press "should be". But I'll stand by the notion that in this instance reporting this information (if trusted) was required by duty, and certainly justified. It's big news whether or not the source wanted to be revealed. And there was enough there to be meaningful. I do wish it was much more in depth, but that just wasn't in the cards. We'll know soon enough.

  7. I also believe the Judith Miller case, with it's crucial implications, was something the NYT should have seen beforehand (as she apparently wasn't even up their internal standards on sourcing) and put an end to it. She clearly did not vet. And it turns out, after Plame, she was just a relay for Cheney. We can't end the ability of journos and news outlets to vet their sources because of past mistakes. It's up to others to learn from them. If the vetting in the Gleick case wasn't good enough, then shame, but we need a vent for sources who don't want to be named.

  8. Pingback: Looking for sugar daddies: Heartland Institute announces the end of its “annual” conference, begs for cash from “rich uncles” « Watching the Deniers

  9. "I argued that his behavior was ethical on balance in the light of several beneficial outcomes, particularly the unmasking of Heartland as anything but an educational organization."

    I had a similar argument, not going as far as you did, saying that we wouldn't know how the ethics would balance until a bit of history passed. I'd have to say now, taking Heartland's meltdown into consideration, that if 1) pretexting was his worst sin (which appears to be the case) and 2) the climate science community didn't take a hit to its image** then the ethics case is easier to make. I think we should also wonder whether or not the corps who dumped Heartland are also thinking twice about who they donate to from now on, and how this also may effect these oligarchic org's future behavior.

    **I've always thought of Gleick as an advocate and founder of a sciency-political org more than a "scientist", so my bias colors my view of the outcome

  10. "...his behavior was ethical on balance in the light of several beneficial outcomes..."

    Exitus acta probat is an extremely slippery slope. I suspect this comment belongs in the "shiny penny" thread but I can't read this post without getting stuck at that point.

    If you posit that there really are people who've read extensively and sincerely believe that they understand that the climate science community is engaged in a vast conspiracy to transfer wealth and hobble the global economic system and that this is a very bad thing, then you have to acknowledge their right, indeed their duty, to pilfer the so-called "climategate" emails to derail the conspiracy. You can argue that "but I'm right and they're wrong" but, of course, so can they. You can argue that "we're trying to save the planet" but ....

    I will concede that Gleick's actions appear to be among the proximate causes of Bast's brain-dead billboards, but that's really just arguing expediency. I don't like it.

  11. Ethics is not law. Neither Gleick nor the CRU hackers had a legal right to do what they did. Occasionally law and ethics are at odds.

    People who believe in the vast conspiracy model arguably do have an ethical basis for hacking. What they don't have any ethical basis for doing is making or implying excessive conclusions based on what they found. Another thing Gleick achieved was to expose hypocrisy about this sort of thing on both sides.

    I don't mean to dismiss your argument though. Just to say that it doesn't entirely settle the case

  12. The Pacific Institute is pleased to welcome Dr. Peter Gleick back to his position as president of the Institute. An independent review conducted by outside counsel on behalf of the Institute has supported what Dr. Gleick has stated publicly regarding his interaction with the Heartland Institute. This independent investigation has further confirmed and the Pacific Institute is satisfied that none of its staff knew of or was involved in any way.


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