Being an opinion-maker means never having to say you’re sorry
For pundits with an agenda to push, one of the best things about blogging has to be the fact that new posts appear at the top and old content just fades into the archives. Get something monumentally wrong? It’s no big deal, because if you keep cranking out more blog posts then the dodgy ones will sink to the bottom of the pile and be forgotten. Unless someone happens to keep track of these things and spread the word. And that’s a role Pure Poison can play.
So, here’s a story about Jennifer Marohasy. For those who don’t know the name, Dr Marohasy is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Afffairs (IPA), a conservative think-tank with ties to the Liberal Party. As well as producing IPA publications and writing a column in The Land, Jennifer has a blog that she refers to as an online community, despite allowing some of the most abrasive and personally insulting commentators in the blogosphere to comment freely.
It was on her blog last month that Jennifer published a claim that Bond University had dismissed an Adjunct Professor because he had published an article criticising the evidence for global warming. Dr Jon Jenkins published an op-ed in The Australian titled “The warmaholics’ fantasy”. I won’t discuss the flaws in the article here – it’s been done elsewhere by Graham Readfearn and Tim Lambert. Instead, let’s move on to the consequences of the article’s publication. Marohasy reported that:
For his opinion, Professor Jenkins received an official reprimand from the Bond University Registrar and then was informed last Friday that his adjunct status had been revoked.
She didn’t give any indication of her source of the information. She then elaborated on her view of what had happened:
No doubt he has contravened some rule or other at the University and no doubt this would have gone unnoticed if Professor Jenkins had a more popular opinion on these most politically charged subjects.
It’s interesting, and more than a touch ironic, that a scientific opinion writer who claims that we are not sceptical enough was happy to present an unsourced and unconfirmed claim while asserting that there was “no doubt” about what had happened, why it had happened, and what might have been different if Jenkins did not argue against the evidence for global warming.
Fortunately for those interested in the truth, someone was sceptical about Marohasy’s claims. Tim Lambert contacted Bond University and received the following explanation:
Dr Jenkins was a member of staff here for some considerable time and resigned to enter the NSW Parliament.
Dr Jenkins was asked to keep an association with University as an adjunct but indicated in 2008 that serious health problems would probably prevent him taking an active role. As a result Dr Jenkins was removed from the adjunct staff listing in 2008. An administrative oversight resulted in Dr Jenkins not being informed of this change in status.
Assertions that Dr Jenkins has been reprimanded and/or ‘dismissed’ are without foundation.
That cleared everything up. So, Marohasy could have just given her readers the accurate explanation and indicated she was wrong, right? Well, no. Instead, she felt the need to continue to suggest there was climate change politics at play:
That is, an administrative oversight resulted in Dr Jenkins not being informed of his change in status until after he published the controversial opinion piece in The Australian newspaper.
Perhaps if the piece had been more politically correct his name could have just been added back onto the list?
And then she went even further, visiting Lambert’s blog and insisting that “[g]iven you have previously very publicly accused Dr Jenkins of deceit on this issue I suggest you now issue him with a very public apology,” and began making false assertions that Lambert had claimed Jenkins had never held an adjunct position. But her most disingenuous statement was the following:
My original blog piece included both fact and opinion. You may disagree with my opinion (based on the facts and my world view), but the facts stand. Mr Lambert queried the facts unsuccessfully. His opinion (based on his world view), though, has not changed.
Marohasy claimed that “[f]or his opinion,” Jenkins was reprimanded and then dismissed – an assertion of fact that turned out to be wrong. She suggested there was “no doubt” that the university had done so on some technical violation that “no doubt” would have been overlooked if his views were different – and maintained that opinion even after the facts were clarified. When her description of the facts was shown to be wrong, she nonetheless managed to maintain her opinion.
“No Doubt” Marohasy, that is not the way a sceptic or a scientist should think. Your readers deserve better. And this sort of intellectual dishonesty should not be forgotten.