In a move unprecedented in the democratic world, the Australian Academy of Science is lobbying the tech giants Meta (Facebook), Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and TikTok to censor and harass any Australians who circulate what the Academy insultingly labels “climate denialism misinformation”.
The Academy represents 589 leading scientists and operates as funding/political lobby and trade union for the largely university-based science community. When not disrespecting freedom of speech and crying wolf about climate perils, it does good work promoting Australian science in education and the community.
It wants the Big Tech giants to “inoculate” Australians against critics of alarmism by “actively promoting reliable, peer-reviewed and appropriately labelled material from trusted sources,” presumably the Academy and its followers. “These positive measures should be in addition to measures to reduce the spread of disinformation.”
The Orwellian agenda is in the Academy’s public submission to the tech giants’ 2022 review of the Australian Code of Practice on Misinformation and Disinformation. The Academy made its submission on August 3 in conjunction with the junior group, the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering.
The Academies wants the tech giants’ power brought to bear against news organisations – it specifically names Rupert Murdoch’s “Sky News Australia and its media personalities”.
Dr Garth Paltridge, who has been a Fellow of the Science Academy for more than 30 years, is shocked that the Academy is turning to Big Tech to shut down climate debate. He tells Quadrant Online: “The bottom line is that research on climate change is indeed still highly controversial – both in the prediction of the extent of the change and (even more so) in the prediction of the impact of the change on society.
“I just cannot understand how any science academy that is supposed to operate through rational debate can behave like this – that is, to use pure political brute force to prevent one side of the argument from putting its case.
“I can only assume that the Academy is subconsciously ‘chasing the money’ and is influenced by the vast funding available these days for the support of alarmist climate research. Certainly there is virtually no money to support scientists brave enough to put their heads above the parapet with a contrary view. That might be why the critical scientists seem largely to be retired.”
The Academies’ submission says,
The Code currently excludes professional news content that is published under a publicly available editorial code, except where a platform determines that specific instances fall within the scope of disinformation. However, some Australian news outlets are havens for climate science misinformation (Lowe, 2018) – so this exclusion undermines the ability of the Code to guard against such denialism.
This exclusion allows climate science denialism and other misinformation to flourish, either through lack of enforcement of the disinformation provision of the Code or failure of news outlets’ misinformation to meet the higher bar of being considered disinformation. For example, a UK report recently found that Sky News Australia and its media personalities are a key source of climate science misinformation globally, including during the late 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) (King, Janulewicz & Arcostanzo, 2022). Clearly, the Code was not sufficient to address the traction of climate misinformation from Sky News Australia during this time.”
A King et al paper Deny, Deceive, Delay which the Academies’ submission cites approvingly, refers to “political right-wing … top influencers” as part of an alleged “intellectual dark web”. The authors name Sky Australia’s Rita Panahi and prominent UK, European and North American sceptics. They condemn Ms Panahi as follows:
Pahani [sic] is an American-born Iranian refugee who became a prominent right-wing media personality in Australia. Starting her media career at the major News Corp newspaper the Herald Sun, Panani [sic] also hosts a show at Sky News Australia. She belongs to a set of presenters at the station that are promoting the most controversial content and platform conspiracy theorists. During COP26, Panahi attacked Prince Charles as the “biggest hypocrite and idiot” and claimed he bullied a hitherto reluctant Australian PM Scott Morrison to attend the summit. Previously, she called climate change “scaremongering” that was not “rooted in hard science.”
It’s curious that Rita Panahi is the only ornery Australian individual actually named in the Academies’ submission and citations. The major damage to the Academies’ catastrophism is being done by Andrew Bolt on Sky, Chris Kenny in The Australian, the Spectator (Australia), Joanne Nova’s world-ranked sceptic blog, the Institute of Public Affairs’ bulletins and speakers, Tim Blair’s blog for the Daily Telegraph (sadly, paywalled), Senators Malcolm Roberts and Pauline Hanson, the Nationals’ ex-Minister Matt Canavan and ex-PM Tony Abbott, famed for calling climate science “absolute crap” and likening climate scientists – presciently – as “thought police”.
All this sceptic output is re-cited and re-published on social media. Clearly the Academies would be delighted to see the media giants slapping “Misinformation!” and “Code Violation!” labels on it, cancelling accounts, as LinkedIn has being doing to US sceptics, and down-ranking the material to oblivion on search engines.
The Science Academy’s chief executive is Anna-Maria Arabia, whose early career included a total of five years as an adviser with Anthony Albanese and Kim Beazley. In a subsequent job as chief executive of Science & Technology Australia, she led a march of 200 members to Parliament in 2011 calling for legislation or similar means to silence global warming sceptics. (at 2.20). She jumped to the Academy leadership in 2016 after three years part-time as policy director for the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
Various members of the alleged “ intellectual dark web”, according to the Academies’ cited King paper, include mega-best-selling psychologist Dr Jordan B. Petersen, Danish climate rationalist (but orthodox warmist) Dr Bjorn Lomborg, US investigative author Dinesh D’Souza, Canadian founder of Rebel Media Ezra Levant, US blogger Tony Heller who daily fact-checks alarmist propaganda, Dr Patrick Moore who co-founded Greenpeace but quit over its anti-science campaigns, Michael Shellenberger – another sceptic convert from environmentalist lobbies, Prager University which combats left-wing academia’s brainwashing, US media personality Sebastian Gorka who has perceptively likened climate policy to Stalinism, artist Scott Adams and his Dilbert cartoons, and American Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and critic of Antifa – justifiably — as a far-Left terror group. The King paper says (p32),
While climate issues are not part of their [conservative pundits] main content strategy, they nevertheless engage in frequent criticism of their respective governments’ environmental policies, attack or ridicule prominent climate activists, or employ narratives outlined in the previous section of this report. During COP26 in particular, they downplayed the climate emergency and amplified accusations of hypocrisy against politicians and other figures attending the Glasgow summit.
Another paper cited approvingly and quoted by the two Academies is a conspiracy rant “The Toxic Ten — How ten fringe publishers fuel 69% of digital climate change denial.” It is published by a fringe leftist group calling itself Center for Countering Digital Hate. Calling the sceptics “fringe” publishers is odd as the Center then says they have 186 million direct followers. The Center’s evil-ten list is Breitbart News, The Western Journal, Newsmax, Townhall, Washington Times (as distinct from leftist Washington Post), The Federalist, hugely popular centre-right commentator Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, The Patriot Post and the Media Research Center. And just to smear sceptics by association, “Russian State Media”.
I am familiar with the US Media Research Center, a well-resourced and incisive critic of America’s Democrat-supporting mainstream media. I read every morning its “Newsbusters” update (damned in the cited paper) which pillories the daily bias in left-liberal print and electronic media. I also tune in regularly to Ben Shapiro’s daily podcasts, which involve per month 20 million visitors, 130 million page views and 40 million downloads. Blocking such outlets would be a huge win for the Left.
The Academies’ cited Toxic Ten paper actually attacks Facebook, Twitter et al for supposed slackness in censoring critics of alarmism, calling them “greedy platforms” sucking in money from fossil fuel interests:
It is the greatest crisis ever faced by our species… We are calling on Facebook and Google to stop promoting and funding climate denial, start labeling it as misinformation, and stop giving the advantages of their enormous platform to lies and misinformation. As long as Facebook and Google carry on doing business with climate deniers, they cannot claim to be ‘green.’ They owe it to us and the planet we all share, to deliver.
The two Academies also want a tech-giant crackdown on any “issues advertising” involving criticism of their net-zero CO2 fantasies and apocalyptic forecasting. A sceptic group called “The Climate Study Group” has paid for about ten ads in The Australian exposing flaws in the climate-apocalyse narrative and the harmful impacts of renewables. It could be the Academy’s target. .
THE Academies also want a crackdown on health information with which it disagrees, notwithstanding that health bureaucrats such as America’s Dr Fauci, Victoria’s Dr Brett Sutton and politicians often change their minds about what COVID science claims are valid. So much for “misinformation”.
The Academies also appear stung by the revelation from the Australian Institute of Marine Science that the Barrier Reef’s coral extent is the highest on record, notwithstanding the Science Academy harping for decades on the Reef’s alleged perilous decline. The Academy now says (my emphasis),
Climate denialism is just one example of how misinformation results in societal harm. Disinformation on health matters (such as false and misleading vaccination, sexual and reproductive health information), or ecological and environmental matters (such as material misrepresenting studies of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef) are a barrier to good policy and a healthy society.
The Science Academy began life in 1954 as a respected body, but in the past decade has been captured by the green/Left lobby. For example, it displayed its dark-green philosophy and economic illiteracy in 2014 by sponsoring and bankrolling its Fenner conference on an anti-growth theme titled, “Addicted to Growth? How to move to a Steady State Economy in Australia.” The show attracted a host of eco-nutters keen to drag Australian living standards down by 50-90%.
About the same year it dumped on high schoolers a supposed “Science by Doing” course, taxpayer-funded, for 10,000 science teachers and around 60,000 students.
It urged the teachers to shame kids into climate activism:
Ask [15-16 years old] students if they have ever taken action or advocated for a cause. Do they know of anyone who has?”… Key vocabulary: advocacy, campaign, champion, environmentalist.
PLUS lesson outcomes: At the end of this activity students will … appreciate the need to lobby at all levels of government to ignite and lead change – even if it is unpopular with the voters.
PLUS: “If you were concerned about Earth’s sustainability, who would you vote for?”
PLUS: “Could we do without it [mining]?… Would you work for a mining company?”
PLUS: “Students debate the merits of government spending on science. They research six big-systems experiments and justify their funding proposals. Which big experiment will you fund?”
PLUS (in an updated 2018 version): “Scientists let us know all the facts and figures about climate change. They know just how quickly the icebergs are melting, and almost to the day when the Great Barrier Reef will be dead.” [It’s currently at record coral extent]
PLUS: propaganda songs, cartoons of “CO2 elephants” dropping from the sky, featuring of conspiracists like Naomi Oreskes and video rants by alarmists competing with Al Gore to depict the coming apocalypse.
It withdrew the course soon after its public exposure.
The Academy not only fell hook line and sinker for “death threat” nonsense from ANU luvvies some years back, but just last year ran the fauxborigine Bruce Pascoe as its opening plenary speaker at its Future Earth three-day summit called Reimagining Climate Adaptation. Bruce regaled the Academy’s science-friendly audience about how his alleged forebears chatted to whales in Bass Strait circa 12,000BC, before joining their peace-loving cousins in Victoria (shields an optional fashion accessory).
The Academies’ submission shows influencing from the psychologists Drs John Cook and Stephan Lewandowski playbook on how to deal with “deniers” who continually find support among the public. Those two psychologists spent much of their careers at Monash/Queensland and WA Universities respectively, trying to liken climate sceptics to various sorts of lunatic conspirators. Cook was lead author for the 2013 paper claiming a 97 per cent scientific consensus for the orthodox warming hypothesis – though he defined the hypothesis so broadly that the vast majority of sceptics would also agree with it. Cook’s paper on the alleged “97 per cent” was eviscerated in the peer-reviewed science literature by Dr David Legates et al as flawed in every dimension and actually showing only a 0.3% consensus. Another of the Cook-Lewandowsky papers on “deniers” (Recursive Fury) in 2014 was retracted by its hosting journal, Frontiers.
Cook-Lewandowski’s 28-page playbook invented the concept of “inoculating” people against “denialism” by getting in first with orthodox claims. The Academies’ third recommendation uses the same meme:
Platforms should consider mechanisms for proactive promotion of trusted information to inoculate against misinformation.
The Academies’ submission also castigates “anti-scientific” scepticism without any attempt to answer claims by scientists who dispute the orthodoxy – scientists often an order of magnitude more eminent than the Academy executives trying to shut them down.
For example, in mid-2019 ninety leading Italian scientists petitioned the Italian government that the IPCC climate narrative about CO2 warming from human activity was an unproven hypothesis deduced merely from complex computer models. They said natural variability involving the sun, moon and ocean currents can explain most of the warming, and the suppression of fossil-fuel energy is therefore harmful to society.
The petition’s lead authors are below. I am not saying numbers of signatories matter, only disputing the Academy suggestion that sceptics are anti-science nutters:
- Uberto Crescenti, Emeritus Professor of Applied Geology, University G. D’Annunzio, Chieti-Pescara, formerly Rector and President of the Italian Geological Society.
- Giuliano Panza, Professor of Seismology, University of Trieste, Academician of the Lincei and of the National Academy of Sciences, awardee of the 2018 International Award of the American Geophysical Union.
- Alberto Prestininzi, Professor of Applied Geology, La Sapienza University, Rome, formerly Scientific Editor in Chief of the magazine International IJEGE and Director of the Geological Risk Forecasting and Control Research Center.
It’s my speculation that the Academies were emboldened to take their brazen anti-debate stance by the success of Twitter and Facebook in swinging the US 2020 election Biden’s way. The Academy had been appalled by Trump’s disavowal of the Paris 2015 agreement and his rollback of Obama’s anti-emissions regime. The digi-tech giants in the crucial last weeks of the campaign suppressed the corruption revelations from Hunter Biden’s laptop. Facebook was encouraged by the politically corrupted FBI and more than 50 ex-intelligence operatives to falsely label the laptop contents as Russian disinformation. The Washington Post and NYT, six months after Biden’s accession, admitted the contents were authentic.
Oh well, the Academy of Science seems happy now to trash its own credibility. Say what you like, I still insist the Academy does some good work in non-alarmist disciplines.
PS: The submission finishes: To discuss or clarify any aspect of this submission, please contact Mr Peter Derbyshire, ATSE Director of Policy and Government Relations at Peter.Derbyshire@atse.org.au or Mr Chris Anderson, AAS Director of Science Policy at Chris.Anderson@science.org.au.
Tony Thomas’ latest essay collection “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available from publisher ConnorCourt
 The term “Climate denialism” was invented to echo “Holocaust denialism”.
 The conference flier read: “Novelist Edward Abbey once noted that ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell’. Our economy is meant to be a ‘servant of society’, not its master, yet is this true today? On a finite planet nothing physical can keep on growing forever – yet that is the ideology of the ‘endless growth’ neoclassical economics that now dominates the thinking of most governments and business. This has led to a rapidly worsening environmental crisis that degrades the nature on which we all depend. We cannot keep avoiding talking about this issue – hence the need for such a conference…”