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Several friends of Heartland have expressed trepidation about continuing their long-time associations with us. This is my reply to one of those scholars, which shines a little more light about what’s going on around here since Peter Gleick confessed to creating the “Fakegate” scandal:
Sorry you feel this way.
For 28 years, The Heartland Institute has tried to stay “above the fray,” producing high-quality research and commentary and staying focused on the issues, even as the political dialogue became more and more polarized and corrosive. Almost alone among think tanks, we focus on communicating with people who do not already agree with us. We rely on research and reason, not rhetoric and emotion, and still do.
In February of this year, when a climate scientist named Peter Gleick stole Heartland documents and circulated a fake memo purporting to reveal our “secret strategy” on climate change, the tone of debate took a terrible turn for the worse, and environmental extremists started to use tactics that had never been used before in the public policy arena. Virtually all of the mainstream media reported the event as a major expose of a “climate denier” organization, deliberately overlooking nuances of our position on climate change, and deliberately lying about our funding sources. The stolen documents didn’t expose us, they exonerated us from charges that we are a “front” for the fossil fuel industry.
Regarding tactics, since the “Fakegate” scandal, Greenpeace has contacted the employers of every scientist who works for us, demanding that they be fired for having the temerity to question the official dogma of global warming. Can you imagine a more egregious attack on free speech and open academic debate? Donors to Heartland in the past two years have been the subject of hate mail, letter-writing and telephone campaigns, and online petitions demanding that they stop funding us. All of this happened BEFORE we ran a controversial billboard for a single day a few weeks ago.
Finally, regarding the billboard, after 15 years of being the target of vicious ad hominem attacks, we decided to punch back instead of stand back. Our billboard was factual: The Unabomber was motivated by concern over man-made global warming to do the terrible crimes he committed. He still believes in global warming. We simply put his picture on a billboard, pointed out the “inconvenient truth,” and asked, “do you?”
The mainstream media, which has tolerated and even promoted people who call global warming skeptics “Nazis” and “traitors’ and called for the death penalty for skeptics, now pretends to be “outraged” by this billboard. We took it down immediately and admitted that it was in poor taste and a mistake, but they continue to promote madmen on the other side of the issue including Michael Mann and Bill McKibben, and hypocritically pound on us for our “ethical lapse.” This is fake indignation, being staged by ideological extremists as part of the ongoing attack on us and our donors. It is not sincere, it is not accurate, and it is not ethical.
So John, I’m disappointed that you would side with folks who would use such tactics. if you want to stand up for truth seeking and honesty, for taking an unpopular stand against prevailing wisdom, then you should be speaking up for me and The Heartland Institute, not abandoning us in this moment of need. I hope you will reflect on what is really going on, reconsider your position, and let me know if you’ve changed your mind.