A New Strategy for the ClimateBall Player: The Contrarian Matrix

Willard contacted me to announce that has been attempting to categorize all the contrarian plays in ClimateBall (his coinage), each play being a class or line of argument. He has created a website that displays his working result, called Contrarian Matrix.

We had a text chat about it. Highlights:

willard: you know what’s new
i’ve created the Climate Matrix
my logician friend likes it very much
i rather enjoyed doing it
not much feedback yet
but everybody’s busier than me, it seems
me: I merely pretend to be busy

willard: Tom Nelson quarrelled over my choice for “Climategate”
he wanted a link to his own collection of quotes
me: heh
willard: there’s a problem here
me: which is that your resource is helping the wrong people?
willard: oh, yes, he tried to use me
as usual

me: Well, it is lovely
But it is not a matrix
willard: yes, it is
me: How so?
willard: it encompasses everything contrarians say
it’s the equivalence class of all their lines
me: like the movie
willard: yes
me: not like, you know, an actual matrix
willard: yes, it is
but a matrix of lines
lines being sentences
if you want to create a complete argument
you need
one line from the level 0
one from the 1
me: aha
willard: think of it as dictionaries
pick one line
create a post

me: okay, so we need a little app now to pick one line from each category
willard: yes
we should
me: and it will be a contrarian message generating machine!
willard: i’d call it the MoranoMattic
me: lol
willard: we’ll be rich!

willard: the “ALL” is a bit problematic too
do i really have them ALL?

willard: One-page solutions are the future, i think
i’m quite well placed to say
that complex thoughts do not sell well
me: alas
willard: i mean
the matrix has 6 pages
6 paragraphs
me: but the law of bullshit, you know…
willard: i know
me: it takes ten to a hundred times as much work to refute a given item of bullshit as to produce it.
willard: yes
that’s what i want to solve
what we could have
is many one page solutions
a site full of one-page solutions
me: if we stop playing defense that may change
willard: yes
to play offense
we need one-page solutions
simple mantras

me: the thing is, I’m bored of ClimateBall
willard: yes
i know that
me: of course as you say, the only losing move
willard: is not to play

willard: take this http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/7/3/where-there-is-harmony-let-us-create-discord.html
this article
“yes, but random walk”
but it argues so
using a climateball move
“but the MET office agrees with us”
“models are wrong”
all this is because
people are not worried
about the consequences of AGW
that’s the main trick
to spend time on something which is not at issue
it protects and distracts
the main problem
is that 2 degress
will lead to 3
and 4

willard: do you know la cigale et la fourmi?
you are the Ant
and you need to convince grasshoppers
how do you do that?
grasshoppers like to sing and dance
so you need to make them sing and dance
you may need to make them realize what it is to spend a winter without food too
Ants are not sexy beasts
they are more into conserving energy
and being frugal
and efficient
like good Germans
who never buy 25$ wine
(it’s the European problem in a nutshell, btw)
me: oh bloody hell another Godwin violation
now I’m the good German! sheesh…
willard: no, you’re not
me: but yes, I take your point

willard: that’s the problem
you’re a conservative
but you’re also romantic
you’re a quebecer, after all

willard: your role
what you need to sell
is the Ants’ side
me: yes, I explained this to Mosher once
we lose because we are selling bad news
and I am beginning to see how to sell good news
but I have to step back from ClimateBall enough to refine my argument
but not so much that I lose my audience
willard: yes
this is why i tell you you need to become a guard
you need to play climateball
but you need to pick a foe
me: ah; but no foe is worthy… that’s the whole reason this is all BS; they have no sound arguments left
willard: then
you need to compile them all
into equivalence classes
and move on

I am sure Willard will appreciate your suggestions for any missing contrarian tropes.


  1. The source for my remark about the European problem:

    KIRKEGAARD: It's fair to say that if every consumer everywhere behaved like the German consumer, then the world would be in almost permanent recession.

    CHASE: This is why the Germans got in trouble with the European commission. They recently put out a report saying, Germans, you're not drinking enough Italian wine or eating enough Spanish figs. Basically, you're not buying enough stuff. Your trade surplus is above allowable limits. So start spending, or you will be in really big trouble next time one of these reports comes out. Now, one reason this kind of imbalance happens is these are really different cultures around money that have come together to share the Euro. Here's Gianluca, the Italian winemaker.


  2. I had something like that years ago. It was like a circular slide rule and was called "dial a buzzword." It was really amazing what sentences you could come up with using it. I wish I knew what I did with it.

  3. Schopenhauer (h/t Greenfyre, and ain't I old and unoriginal):


    "The tricks, dodges, and chicanery, to which they [men] resort in order to be right in the end, are so numerous and manifold and yet recur so regularly that some years ago I made them the subject of my own reflection and directed my attention to their purely formal element after I had perceived that, however varied the subjects of discussion and the persons taking part therein, the same identical tricks and dodges always come back and were very easy to recognize. This led me at the time to the idea of clearly separating the merely formal part of these tricks and dodges from the material and of displaying it, so to speak, as a neat anatomical specimen."

  4. Planet3.0 Beyond Sustainability

    Honest, wide-ranging, scientifically informed conversation about sustainable technologies and cultures, toward a thriving future
    . . .

    50 years you say until the apocalypse?

    What sort of 'scientifically informed conversation towards a thriving future' is this?

    More like reading chicken entrails.

    Send more money now or the chicken gets it in 50 years!


    [ Fifty years is a very short time geophysically. Learn something about systems before you come back, please. Keyword "time constant". -mt ]

  5. handjive illustrates why we need to distinguish ClimateBall (tm) from the Contrarian Matrix.

    His main line of argument is "alarmism!," which is a level 2 move:


    (Note to self: add "alarmist!" to that level.)

    His main ClimateBall trick is to overburden P3 citizens. First, he injects an unrelated topic in the thread by linking to Geldof's article. Second, he groups everyone he targets by saying something like "50 years you say." This has the effect of burdening everyone he targets with the defense of Geldof's claims.

    In any case, we can see that this kind of trick is independent from the "alarmist!" line.


    The irrelevance of this move only adds to its efficacy. If we respond to it, it derails. If we don't, it shows we have nothing against it.

    Scientifically-minded players oftentimes fall for this ClimateBall (tm) move. They are suckers for responding to bad arguments. Those who doubt that could re-read the beginning of AT's: he got his leg pulled more than once.

    Even Michael got a bit distracted by Tom Nelson yesterday and had to defend. It took lots of energy to contain the Gish Gallop. When contained, Michael simply lost interest, and Tom Nelson escaped from the main attacking move, which I had to put back in the game, i.e.


    Even if Michael won the scientific argument, he only parried. Meanwhile, Tom Nelson still has to own the discrepancy between his tag line and his list of credos. Tom Nelson has not responded to that request, as Tom Nelson is not on Twitter to answer questions, but to ask them.

    On the other hand, now that Tom has not answered my questions (he forgot to answer the one I asked him the day before), his tab of unanswered questions is growing. After a while, Tom Nelson won't be able to question me about anything until he respond to these questions. Instead of answering, I expect Tom Nelson to start ignoring my feed.

    (He could also start to talk about me in my back, like some ClimateBall (tm) players do. But that is inadvisable, as they would not be about to appeal to INTEGRITY (tm) anymore. This is why I have this other trademarked word, btw.)

    Anyway. This is not a thread about ClimateBall (tm). Hope this helps nonetheless.

  6. I love it! Thanks for the example. I wish I had more time to explore this, and think you've got a useful tool there.

    I found the Wikipedia site sufficient for the list of Schopenhauer's points, easier than the original, fwiw. But I can be a little shallow on the attention span sometimes.

  7. Thanks for links to Schopenhauer's stratagems, which I hadn't seen before. If you want to read just one, make it the last one, #38. It ponts to the value of selecting only worthy adversaries if you want to learn something from the debate, to accept that the rest of them are at liberty to be fools and that not fighting idiots brings its own reward, peace.


    I'm troubled, though, by the apparent lack of worthy adversaries and it smacks of elitism to disdain all opponents as either confused or insincere. Also, even if you do retreat to the peace of tending your own garden, the noise from outside keeps intruding.


  8. Thanks for Ginsberg's theorem, Andy.

    The 38th stratagem was featured a lot in yesterday twitterstorm, e.g.:

    > And so we already get the 38th stratagem, @mtobis - http://coolhaus.de/art-of-controversy/erist38.htm Thank you for your kind words and for your concerns, @bfolson18.


    There's even a 39th one:

    > @mtobis @nevaudit Stratagem 39: If the shoe fits..... Hey retweet this one Willard!


    My favorite was this one:

    > @nevaudit Word salad. Talk sense, or shut up.



    If someone could remind me the name of a 140-characters tweet, that would be nice.

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  1. 50 years?

    Moving the goal posts again?

    Not 100 years?

    What about 2030?


    Think I could wait until then, barring some unforeseen circumstance.

    Worst apocalypse ever.

    You Doomsday Global Warmers should just drink your kool-aide & do all sane people a favour.

  2. Now that's an alarmist response. Come back in 50 years and say that? Considering the actual (recorded, not predicted) rate of temperature rise, you have to be delusional to believe a catastrophe will have occurred.

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