In 2009, shortly before the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, hackers published a haul of climate scientists’ emails. That was Climategate One. Two years on came another batch, and a few days ago a third. Do they tell us anything about the science – or, perhaps, about the hackers? This Comment offers a few possible pointers.
Black ops” is what the military call it – using false radio messages, news releases and newspapers, leaflets, and creating conspiracy theories so the enemy is confused, demoralized and loses the stomach for the fight.
It worked so well in World War II that, in every conflict since, all sides have used the dark arts. Many of their methods and secrets are classified, too effective a weapon to allow to fall into the hands of the enemy.
In a sophisticated world, however, the military are not alone in using black ops. They have excellent propaganda value in the commercial world too, winning a war without a shot being fired.
A classic example has emerged in the last few days. A new leak of hundreds of thousands of emails between climate scientists is revealed. The climate deniers are having a field day. A new Climategate looms (see Watts Up With That?, which describes itself as “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change”).
Just to recap. In the battle over whether climate change matters and whether the world should do anything about it, nothing has recently been so potent as the leaking of emails between scientists.
These are alleged (by climate deniers and others) to show a conspiracy between scientists to cook the evidence and leave out inconvenient facts in order to falsely show that man-made climate change is happening.
The allegation is, successive inquiries have shown, a load of bunk, but that did not matter. The damage had already been done, doubt had been sown, and successive rounds of climate talks failed.
What was startling about the whole saga was that the black ops side of it went almost unnoticed. The whole leak was put down to climate deniers hacking into private emails “in the public interest” to unearth the “conspiracy”. Therefore, the argument ran, it was somehow a legitimate quest – at least there were no condemnations of what is both illegal and disgraceful behaviour.
If you were looking for a motive for the hackers, it could be to further the interests of the fossil fuel lobby, which wants no action on climate change. But not many journalists – or anyone else – bothered to look.
But scroll forward to this week. Along with the thousands more (probably innocuous) leaked emails came an extraordinary memo from the alleged leaker, anonymous of course, but showing all the brilliance of the best black ops in the business.
Signing himself/herself Mr FOIA, (Mr Freedom of Information Act), the leaker claims to be an individual who is an insider blowing the whistle on a conspiracy to foist climate change on an unsuspecting world.
Although the memo is written in perfect English, it comes with a classic black ops style disclaimer that the writer is anything to do with North America. He claims not to have English as his first language, so implying that he is neither British nor American.
Later, to underline the point, he says there is “no conspiracy, no paid hackers, no Big Oil. The Republicans didn’t plot this. USA politics is alien to me, neither am I from the UK. There is life outside the Anglo-American sphere.”
Attacking legitimate science
Mr FOIA even shows he has feelings for the scientists he is accusing of a criminal conspiracy. He pleads with climate deniers everywhere to protect the privacy of the email senders “where their personal lives are concerned”, but asks the deniers to sift through all 220,000 of the emails for evidence of conspiracy, because he has not time to do it himself.
His motivation is entirely pure. He is not in anyone’s pay, but it is a matter of conscience. He is acting to prevent trillions of dollars that could be used for inventions to help mankind from being diverted to prevent climate change, which is not happening anyway.
This is his motivation: “It’s easy for many of us in the western world to accept a tiny green inconvenience and then wallow in that righteous feeling, surrounded by our ‘clean technology’ and energy that is only slightly more expensive if adequately subsidized.
“Those millions and billions already struggling with malnutrition, sickness, violence, illiteracy, etc. don’t have that luxury. The price of ‘climate protection’ with its cumulative and collateral effects is bound to destroy and debilitate in great numbers, for decades and generations.”
So there you have it. Mr FOIA is trying to save the poor. Nothing is further from his mind than the fact that his invention of a gigantic climate conspiracy, and his attack on legitimate science, serves the interests of big oil in particular, and all polluting industries, far more than it would ever help the poor.
All the climate deniers, gullible to a man and woman, have seized on it with glee. To them Mr FOIA is a selfless hero who should get a medal. It is magic stuff. It is a classic of Black Ops. It ought to be in the training manual of every secret service on the planet.