The Smoking Guns and Blue Dress Moments of Climategate

In the days and weeks following the theft of climate scientists’ emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in November, climate change skeptics and deniers flooded the blogosphere and mainstream press with reactions suggesting that the ‘scandal’ had proven global warming was a myth. 

In many instances, the reactions sounded like a choreographed choir singing from the same sheet of talking points, or at least the same sheet of of well-worn memes and cliches, like ‘smoking gun’ and ‘final nail in the coffin.’

The Desmog team took a look at several unique phrases that flew around the denier echo chamber in the aftermath of the CRU email hack, and how those memes were often adopted by the mainstream media as a result.  Here is a sampling of what we identified:

Smoking gun on Global Warming
11/20 Myron Ebell to NYTimes/Revkin “This is not a smoking gun, its a mushroom cloud”
11/20 Fox News Affiliates  “
Climate Skeptics See ‘Smoking Gun’ in Researchers’ Leaked E-Mails
11/21 Fox News  “
Climate Skeptics See ‘Smoking Gun’ in Researchers’ Leaked E-Mails
11/21 Tim Ball (Canada Free Press) “a remarkable hacking of files that provided not just a smoking gun, but an entire battery of machine guns.”
11/22 CBS
“The university commented on the hack and the purported “smoking gun” in a press release, which confirms that the document is genuine.”
11/25 Noel Sheppard (Newsbusters) “Smoking gun found by bloggers, not MSM
11/25 Tom Blumer (Pajamas Media) “Deconstructing Climategate’s Smoking-gun email”

11/26 Steve Milloy (on Pajamas Media) “What’s the real smoking gun among the emails allegedly “hacked” from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit?”

Blue Dress moment for global warming
11/19 Chris Horner (on Planet Gore) “The Blue Dress Moment May have Arrived”
11/20 Chris Horner (on Big Government) “Global Warming’s Blue Dress Moment”
11/20 Roy Spencer “Global Warming’s Blue Dress Moment - The CRU Email Hack Scandal”
11/20 Roy Spencer (On Free Republic) “Global Warming’s Blue Dress Moment - The CRU Email Hack Scandal
11/23 The Patriot’s Flag “ClimateGate’s Blue Dress”
Repeated, quoted or linked to by countless small blogs

Final nail in the coffin of global warming
11/20 James Delingpole “Climategate: Final Nail in the Coffin of Anthropogenic Global Warming”
11/20 Comment on Climate Audit - reposting Delingpole article
11/20 Climate Realists - Reposting Delingpole Article
11/20 David Icke - reposting Delingpole Article
11/21 Free Republic - reposting Delingpole article
11/24 Drudge Report “Greatest Scandal in Modern Science” links to Delingpole
11/24 Sydney Daily Telegraph - “Final Nail in Rudd’s Climate Change Coffin”
11/25 Fox NewsMedia Silent on Global Warming Scandal” by Greg Gutfeld - “These e-mails have been called “the nail in the coffin” of global warming hysteria. I wish that were true.” (complaining some people still believe in global warming)
11/26 James Inhofe Wall Street Journal editorial “Ninety-five percent of the nails were in the coffin prior to this week. Now they are all in.”

There should be investigation
11/21 Chris Horner on Pajamas Media “For some time. several individuals have asked why we don’t just initiate suit against the obviously dishonest tactics and claims by the global warming industry under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO)”
11/23 Matthew Moore Telegraph “Lord Lawson, the former chancellor, has called for an independent inquiry into claims that leading climate change scientists manipulated data to strengthen the case for man-made global warming”

11/23 Tony Romm - The Hill blog - “Inhofe to call for hearing into CRU, U.N. climate change research”

11/23 Drudge ReportScientists manipulating data, calls for investigation
11/24 James Inhofe on Washington Times radio interview - calling for investigation
11/24 James Inhofe on Fox News (video) 
11/24 Fox - “Key GOP Senator pushes for probe into climate change research”
11/24 Inhofe Staff - EPW Minority page “Inhofe Launches Climategate Investigation”

The Whitewash begins.  Delingpole trolled the internet to find a word bouncing around and used it as his headline, spreading it far and wide. 
11/24 Green Hell Blog 
11/24Youtube on CNN Titled Whitewash 
11/27 Bishop HillJames Delingpole (Telegraph)
11/27Tony Aardvark 
11/27 Chris Booker (Telegraph)

The repetititve use of these phrases and cliches by deniers would probably make GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz proud.  By sticking to a small set of familiar, eye-catching and dramatic-sounding memes, the denialosphere succeeded in getting many of the mainstream outlets covering the stolen emails scandal to follow suit by using the same language again and again. 

So, instead of investigating who was behind the theft, or exploring the context of some of the supposedly scandalous things said in private emails between a handful of climate scientists, many mainstream outlets followed the lead of the denier choir by repeating their version of events.  It’s a classic case of misdirection - telling the same story over and over again until it’s assumed to be true by lazy reporters who don’t bother to question its veracity before repeating it again themselves.  The lie is perpetuated, and, in the absence of diligent reporting, the quest for the truth is lost.

What remains in the case of the CRU email theft are a lot of unanswered questions.  After spreading the warped version of events as told by deniers in the blogosphere - tired cliches and all - the mainstream media has moved on to other scandals without ever trying to identify the hacker or correcting the false premise that private email chatter between a handful of people could undermine a massive body of scientific evidence corroborated by experts around the world. 

No wonder the public is increasingly confused.


You would think that a few reporters in the media would get tired of seeing their entire profession being played like a piano. So much of the digging has been done for them – in terms of the identification of the front organizations, the dollar amounts, the identification of the methods being used and so on, and yet things go on as usual. Whether it is by money, laziness or sheer stupidity, they’re pwned.

Incidentally, I was going to argue that your use of the “blue dress” metaphor(?) was in extremely bad taste (regardless of what one might think of Bill Clinton – and I personally had a strong dislike for the man until the US was into the next administration), but I see it wasn’t your bad taste. In addition to everything else, the widespread use of this phrase by the deniers most definitely deserves to be spotlighted.

“Circling the wagons” is much favored, too. In fact, McKitrick just did a variant with his extended literary pout over not getting his self-admittedly wrong analysis of temperature trends published, titling it “Circling the Bandwagons.”