Wisely, Monbiot has chosen not to continue arguing with a crank. At a certain point it’s always a lost cause. And considering Cockburn’s evidence one would be crazy to continue.
It turns out, the sole-source of his rambling diatribe against all global warming science – the papers from Martin “Guy I met on a boat” Hertzburg – turned out not to be papers at all. They were never published, never peer reviewed. The only peer-reviewed literature Cockburn managed to find to agree with him was published in Lyndon Larouche’s fake journal 21st century Science and Technology!
My favorite part though is Monbiot’s sad realization he’s got nothing but a crank to argue with, and his somewhat mournful decision to write off Cockburn for good. He hits upon some big truths about cranks.
I have now learnt that it is pointless to seek to argue with Cockburn. Because he cannot admit that he got the science wrong, he merely raises the volume and widens the scope of his attack. Resorting to grapeshot, he now invokes just about every crazy theory ever raised by those who say that manmade global warming is not happening. It would require an entire website to answer them all. Happily, it already exists – www.realclimate.org – and, over the years, it has dealt with every new issue he raises, drawing on peer-reviewed papers. But Cockburn will not read these refutations. He has answered none of his critics; he has not even listened to them. For this reason, this will be my last posting in this debate.
I sign off with sadness. I have followed Alexander Cockburn’s writing for many years and I have admired it. His has been an important and persuasive voice on many progressive issues. But I can no longer trust it. I realise that he is blinded by a conviction that he remains right whatever the facts might say. In his determination to admit nothing, he will cling to any straw, including the craziest fulminations of the ultra-right, and he will abandon the rigor and scepticism that once informed his journalism. I feel this as a loss. I am sure I am not the only one.
I get the feeling Monbiot and I are on the same wavelength here. It’s clear to anyone that Cockburn is now operating from the Crank HOWTO, at which point there is no reason for him to be further engaged. The sad thing is how when people start down the path of crankery, it seems so rare for them to recover. They become so emotionally invested in ideas that are so laughable, and lose all perspective about the importance of being right all the time.
There is also something very fundamental here to the nature of a crank. A crank would rather rail against all known facts for a future reward – the likely mistaken belief that one day they will experience vindication. They believe that one day they will be found right despite all the evidence that they were wrong all along, making their victory all that much sweeter. There is something in our culture that feeds this contrarian tendency, this desire to be right, no matter what the facts. Sadly in real life, people who act this way are called cranks. They are not pleasant, they are a pain in the ass, and chances are, they’re never going to come out on the right side of the science – only movies vindicate the true believers. Whether its evolution denialism, HIV/AIDS crankery, holocaust denial, or global warming denialism, the tendency is the same, cranks say, “Screw the facts, I’m right, and one day, one day we’ll be the ones laughing.”