Heartland took down its billboard comparing those who support climate science to the Unabomber when it became clear that they had stooped too low even for Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), a hard-nosed denialist who has engaged in a McCarthyist jihad against the climate science community. Sensenbrenner, who threatened to withdraw as a speaker at an upcoming Heartland conference, has attacked climate scientists as ‘fascists’ engaged in ‘a massive international scientific fraud’. Will Heartland escape further damage from this revealing episode, or will some of its conference participants and corporate sponsors take this opportunity to pull the plug on this destructive operation?
The Heartland Unabomber digital billboard in Chicago went up and come down in one busy day. Leo Hickman had the story first at the UK Guardian May 4:
Heartland Institute compares belief in global warming to mass murder
US thinktank launches poster campaign comparing Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden to those concerned about global warming
… The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based rightwing thinktank notorious for promoting climate scepticism, has launched quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.
I'll let its own press release for its upcoming conference explain, as there's simply no need to finesse it further:
Billboards in Chicago paid for by The Heartland Institute point out that some of the world's most notorious criminals say they "still believe in global warming" – and ask viewers if they do, too…The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010).
These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.
Why did Heartland choose to feature these people on its billboards? Because what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the "mainstream" media, and liberal politicians say about global warming. The point is that believing in global warming is not "mainstream," …
But then comes the best bit:
Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers or tyrants.
Joe Romm at Climate Progress did an excellent post: Heartland Institute Compares Climate Science Believers And Reporters To Mass ‘Murderers And Madmen’, which included:
...Will confirmed speakers like Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Czech President Vasclav Klaus, Joe Bastardi, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer, or former NASA astronauts show up at the conference, thereby endorsing this beyond-extremist message? Will leading deniers denounce these offensive ads — or will they implicitly endorse this kind of hate speech? Will media outlets like PBS keep quoting Heartland ‘experts’ as if they were a legitimate source of information?
GM ended their financial support of Heartland earlier this month, as has AT&T, but why are State Farm and Microsoft still supporting it? Many other public corporations have donated money or provided resources to Heartland, including Eli Lilly & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Nucor, Pfizer, and Time Warner Cable. Will they cut ties or implicitly endorse these extreme ads?
Forecast the Facts started a petition drive aimed at Heartland’s corporate sponsors, worthy targets for some bad PR on this:
Below is the petition we will send to the CEOs of Microsoft, State Farm, Pfizer, and every other corporation that funds the Heartland Institute.
All corporations should immediately pull their funding from the Heartland Institute in light of Heartland's ongoing and extreme support of climate change denial.
By late afternoon, Heartland threw in the towel and took the Unabomber billboard down:
New York Times Green blog
Heartland Pulls Billboard on Global Warming
By RACHEL NUWER
Drivers moving along Chicago’s inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday may have been surprised to see Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, staring at them from a massive billboard. “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” the billboard read in large maroon letters. Just below was the Web address www.heartland.org.
Hours later, the digital billboard was gone. It seems that the ad campaign, sponsored by the conservative Heartland Institute, had bombed.
“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” the institute said late Friday afternoon said in a statement. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.” …
Heartland’s decision followed the defection of Rep. Sensenbrenner, whose office announced that the Congressman would withdraw as a speaker at Heartland’s conference unless the ad campaign was stopped. Greg Sargent wrote at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog
By Greg Sargent
… Now the Heartland Institute has suffered its first major defection in the way of GOP public officials: GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a leading climate “skeptic,” will be pulling out of an upcoming conference sponsored by the group where he was supposed to speak, his spokesperson confirms to me. …
The group has a conference set for later this month, and one of the featured speakers is Sensenbrenner. I asked Sensenbrenner’s spokesperson, Amanda Infield, if he’s still participating. She emails:
Congressman Sensenbrenner will not participate in the upcoming Climate Change Conference if the Heartland Institute decides to continue this ad campaign. We have contacted the Heartland Institute and voiced these same concerns to them.
We have observed Rep. Sensenbrenner for many years. He is no stranger to scurrilous misrepresentations of scientific reality and guilt-by-association attacks on the integrity of scientists. On December 8, 2009, we did a post that started with this:
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) channeled the reckless spirit of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy in an effort to lead a December 3 House global warming committee hearing toward a witchhunt based on e-mails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit in the U.K. Sensenbrenner essentially accused the climate scientists of “fascism” and suggested that a scientific assessment that included the CRU global temperature record among its many sources is part of “a massive international scientific fraud.” Witnesses John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco, leading Administration science representatives, countered with cool reason. Committee chairman Ed Markey and Rep. Jay Inslee hit back harder. ...
On December 9, 2009, we did a post that started with this:
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), ranking Republican on the House global warming committee, has sent a letter to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling for scientists whose names appear in the e-mails stolen from the U.K. Climatic Research Unit to be blacklisted from participating as contributors or reviewers of the forthcoming IPCC Fifth Assessment Report.
Sensenbrenner is engaged in an outrageous McCarthyist jihad against the climate science community, making it abundantly clear that this controversy is not really about stolen e-mails, which have been misused and misinterpreted. Rather it is part of an aggressive campaign by the global warming denial machine to bully and intimidate the science community. Sensenbrenner shows no real interest in meaningful dialogue, nor in an honest examination of climate science findings.
Denialists are throwing up a smokescreen of propaganda in an attempt to legitimize their refusal to come to grips with scientific evidence on global climatic disruption and its implications. This is a power play.
Climate Science Watch calls on the IPCC to rebuff this attack. We call on the Obama Administration and in particular the President’s science adviser John Holdren to fully support theU.S.climate science community in this matter. We call on Sensenbrenner’s colleagues in Congress to chastise him for this censorious anti-scientist behavior. And we call on members of the science community to understand what the denial machine is up to and not allow themselves to be divided by innuendo about and attacks on scientists who have been singled out as immediate targets of a larger predatory attack on the community as a whole.
Seeking an IPCC purge is just the next step. This attack, using guilt-by-association and demagogy, will go as far as it can to delegitimize the entire climate science and assessment enterprise if it is not exposed and thwarted.
Now that Heartland has taken down the billboard campaign that embarrassed even him, will Sensenbrenner now appear at the Heartland conference later this month inChicago, all cozy again, delivering a keynote address that carries on his attack on the climate science community?
We note that well-known climate change skeptic/contrarian Ross McKitrick also let Heartland know he could not be associated with their propaganda approach:
… You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you. …
I appreciate what Heartland does, and I know this year has been frustrating for you, and your staff may feel like venting. But I can’t be associated with those billboards. I had really been looking forward to participating in this year’s conference, but unless the billboard campaign is immediately suspended I have to cancel my participation.
So now will McKitrick feel comfortable joining in Heartland’s denial-fest, after all?
Also re Sensenbrenner:
Earlier posts on Heartland: