The Climate Wars and agent Deep Woolabra Wonga.
I think it’s about time I finally told you I’m running an asset deeply embedded inside Big Green. Running is probably the wrong word; it’s more a partnership by now. They operate under the codename I gave them of Deep Woolabra Wonga, not only because they’re submerged deep in the flock but also as a hat tip to their Welsh ancestry.
As a matter of convenience and as a protest about the occasional desecration of written English by politically correct barbarians, I’ll be referring to them throughout this article as he, although they could just as equally well be a she.
Given the curious gender demographics of the climate wars, they’re more likely to be a man than a woman though, since the usual role of women on the alarmist side is confined to small innocuous things like wiping the brows of their noble menfolk battling to save the planet or escorting David Suzuki to a podium. In the fundamentalist cult of climate alarmism, they have little or no influence. They are rarely in the loop. The skeptics have a more healthy fifty-fifty distribution of the sexes when it comes to movers and shakers.
It’d probably be more prudent to leave you to speculate on the cause or effects of such an abnormal difference in the gender demographics of the opposing sides, but I can’t resist floating my own pet theory. At the risk of attracting fire from both sides, as well as getting embroiled in the traditional war of the sexes, I’ve always thought that a bunch of men without the stabilising influence of women tend to go off the deep end, just as women without any men around do exactly the same. When you stop to think about it, that imbalance might just account for the madness of climate alarmism.
Deep Woolabra Wonga was a classic walk in, just boldly strolling through the front door of a viper’s nest of skeptics, otherwise known as chez Pointy, and offering their services for nothing. They were exactly my speciality, a conviction agent rather than a breadhead just doing it for the money, which is why they probably got in touch with me in the first place, since I’ve barely got a pit to hiss in.
Conviction or not, unless they’ve access to sensitive material, they’re useless but fortunately Wol, as I’ve come to call him, looked to have great access. As it turned out, God himself does not have better access. After an understandable how-do-scorpions-mate careful approach to each other, we’re now the best of pals. We’re Pointy and Wol nowadays and have become a bit like the dynamic duo with the only point of dispute being who’s Batman and who’s Robin.
Personally, I was always a Marvel man myself, rather than a DC comics kid, so it’s a moot point we’re not going to fall out over and anyway, everybody knows Marvel was always the best and DC was just for ladyboys.
We’ve both had to learn some new skills and update some old ones. Instead of a safe house tucked away in a leafy suburb, we meet in a very exclusive invitation-only chat room hidden away in a secluded corner of the darknet. Things like putting a chalk mark on a wall to request a meeting have given way to equally innocent looking comments scrawled on the web. One-time pads have been replaced with disposable one-time email services. The Minox camera and the photocopier have both been supplanted by the chipped smartphone. The dead letter box is now an open file server randomly located somewhere on the other side of the world, safely beyond the reach of any domestic search and seizure powers.
It’s all very information savvy stuff but I think I’d still prefer meeting up face to face and eating piping hot Piroshki, washed down with a bottle of ice-cold Stolichnaya that’s been in the freezer compartment for days.
It’s one of those relationships that has evolved over the years, though I have to say it’s mainly been on his part as a result of getting to know a free-range skeptic in the flesh, but not in the biblical sense I’d hasten to add. There’s only so much I’m prepared to do in the name of climate skepticism.
It was something like deprogramming a person who’s been rescued from a cult. The first big hurdle to get over was convincing him that I, like all the other skeptics, operate on a budget of precisely nothing. The second one, that we were all minions of some vast covert conspiracy, took a while longer. However, it sometimes proved useful when Wol delivered some information I couldn’t use – rather than disappoint him, I’d tell him I’d pass it up the line to the people at Skeptic Central.
I think Wol is getting wise to Skeptic Central though he hasn’t exactly said it. The last time he delivered a mote of information he’d high hopes for but which I couldn’t see any earthly use, I was about to pull the standard weasel out when he preempted me with an “I know, I know, Skeptic Central” but with a sly smile. An emergent benefit of Wol’s deprogramming has been the release of a latent sense of humour which is surprisingly dry. I’ve started nagging him about it because it’s a danger to his cover. It really worries me because the alarmists just don’t have any sense of humour.
As it happens, his deadpan sense of humour fits in perfectly with our strategy over the last few years but before explaining it, I’ll have to go over the history of how we arrived at it. Initially of course we used leaking, but in packets arranged like a sequence of command detonated mines. Explode one mine in their path and when it goes off, you’ve second guessed which direction they’ll all run in, which is of course where you’ve already planted the next mine.
In real terms, do a leak that strongly suggests they were up to no good, otherwise known as the bait, have the patience to let them deny it indignantly and run a whitewash inquiry or two, and then after they’ve been fully exonerated, do another leak showing them plotting to do exactly what they denied they were doing in the first place. Hey Presto, you’ve just demonstrated in public they’re liars so their next denial of anything is less credible, even of the occasional black propaganda stunt you’ve orchestrated that they were always innocent of anyway.
The downside of leaking is that if you do it too many times, some intrepid mole hunter will eventually narrow down the list of suspects with access and then your source is in danger. Fortunately, and I do hate relying on fortune in certain things, a new fashion in climate science meant we could move off the leaks strategy. Essentially leaks started coming from everywhere in climate science. You name an orifice, it was haemorrhaging insider information. Since we’d established the precedent, people started joining in with gusto and nowadays we all get to see large amounts of material even when it’s in draft form. Climate science now leaks like a colander that’s been used for shotgun practice.
The new strategy came to me after agreeing that some brickwork a friend had done for me was really a bloody good job. They were very proud of it and since he was a good mate of mine, I was suitably complimentary, especially as he was helping me out and did it for nothing more than fun and a few beers, because I was swamped with other things at the time. Unfortunately, the problem was that he got the mix for the mortar totally wrong, so the whole thing would never set. A good try but he’d fallen at the first fence.
I’d taken it apart a few days afterwards, scraped all the powdery mortar off the bricks and rebuilt the whole damn thing. So often, it’s well meaning friends helping you out who you’ve got to keep an eye on. What was interesting was he’d totally overestimated his skills as an amateur builder and didn’t even recognise the work he was innocently fishing for compliments about wasn’t even his own. I just didn’t have the heart to tell him.
That sort of overestimation of ones skills and failure to see concrete evidence in front of your eyes, reminded me of the unreal bunker mentality prevalent at the heart of climate alarmist circles. A delightful idea dropped into my head that perhaps that bunker mentality, combined with the humour bypass operation all the alarmists appear to have undergone, might be the basis of a new strategy.
It was so deliciously perverse, so irresistibly appealing to the pure badness in me, I had to try it out. No matter which way I looked at it, it was a blinder of an idea.
Thinking it through, it ticked every box, distancing Wol from the mole hunter danger, utilised the humour weapon they’ve no answer to, ruthlessly exploited the secrecy of the peer review process, required only a modicum of technical support which I could easily handle, and as an abso-bloody-lutely beaut of an added bonus, inserted a platoon of malicious skeptics into the climate science peer review loop.
We weren’t going to redefine the peer review process, we were going to rape it.
I knew the only problem would be convincing Wol. That took more than a few conversations, all of which ran along the following lines.
It’ll never work. Why not? There are too many safeguards in place. None that we can’t circumvent, trust me, I’m scummy enough to get around all of them. But they’re bound to spot something’s wrong. No they won’t just as long as it’s supportive of the cause and anyway, it’ll be their own papers. Do you seriously expect them to publish rubbish? Yes, it’s been done several times already. Who by? For one, Alan Sokal who got complete crap published. But that was just fuzzy sociology, not climate science. Wol, who’s kidding who here, climate science is fuzzier than aromatherapy these days.
But it’s totally dishonest. Remind me again Wol, but what exactly drove you to come knocking on my door in the first place? What if they trace it back to us? That’ll never happen, we’ll be safely hidden behind five layers of cut-outs. But what if they do? They’ll have to cover the whole thing up. Why would they do that? Because it’d totally undermine the it’s been peer reviewed therefore it’s true propaganda. What happens then? We’ve got them by the balls is what happens then.
Listen to me Pointy, it’ll never work. It can’t work. No way. Seriously, you do know that, don’t you?
Wol is a person I admire of the highest personal integrity combined with great moral fibre and a true believer in the essential wholesomeness of all people, which is why he’s totally vulnerable to the machinations and corrupting influence of a low, scheming and morally ambivalent creature like my good self. He never actually stood a chance, so I got my way in the end.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why over the last few years peer-reviewed papers about global warming by highly qualified and supposedly sane researchers, have predicted a bizarre and frankly ludicrous variety of things. To give you just a few examples of this tendency, it’s been variously suggested global warming might; make fish go deaf, cause more women to become prostitutes, make us more violent, cause oceans to lose their smell and even incite aliens to destroy us. All of those predictions are for real, except for the one I just made up. Your mission Mr Phelps, should you decide to accept it, is to spot which one that is.
Well, it’s hands up time. Wol and I are the proud facilitators of quite a number of papers of that ilk.
I call it the helping them over the cliff strategy and it’s unique to the climate wars. Probably unique anywhere. In essence it consists of simply doing introductions. We introduce lone and wandering eccentrics into the Grand Buffalo Lodge of Smug Prathood that establishment climate science has become. We want to swell their membership with liabilities. Bring me your mad, your incompetents, your deranged, your outright maniacs, your muddled masses of weird individuals shunned by normal science and we will give them a home.
Our job has come down to advancing the careers of people advocating various deranged and sometimes madly conflicting ideas. In the ordinary way they come to us but I prefer to go out hunting for them myself. Nothing tastier than free range climate scientists. I’ve become like a barnacle hunter wading far out at low tide onto the shores of the Great Sea of Insanity, to find the most passionately committed but off the wall alarmist lunatics we can lovingly attach to the hull of the good ship Global Warming.
All we have to do is get their papers through peer review to publication and that’s a sure thing. It all follows from there since it hijacks the whole green propaganda machine from then on. The journalists love their papers because there’s always a punchy bit that’ll make a great headline.
You might be wondering how we can guarantee an easy pass through peer review but that’s simply because of the other type of introductions we do. Wol, once and only once, pleading pressure of work to an editor of an obscure and since defunct journal he was being asked to review a paper for, gave him the name, wiki reference and email address of another academic, who was eminently qualified to review the paper in his place. A quick glance by the lazy editor at the wiki entry showed that to be very true.
That wasn’t really that surprising since Wol and I had written the fictitious professor’s entry between us and I’d already set up a slightly spoofed email and a telephone number that’s forever on voicemail. The editor bought it hook, line and sinker – we’d made that first precious breach and were in through the peer review firewall. We built from there.
The new reviewer proved to be an editor’s dream, a real diamond geezer, always hitting his comments in by date without requiring any chasing up. That being the case, the editor naturally loaded him up with work over the following months until the good professor himself started pleading pressure of work, but helpfully supplied the contact details of someone else who could do just as good a job. A recommendation from a trusted source is usually followed with minimal investigation.
If you can see where this is going, you can probably see that having slowly established our small stable of first class reviewers, our next problem was to extend their influence by traversing their peer reviewing activities to other journals.
That was solved by one of our stable of tame professors submitting a rather dry and impenetrable paper to another journal, recommending three of his stable mates as suitable reviewers. That paper of course never made it through peer review to the light of day and was quietly withdrawn and forgotten but the editor was nonetheless impressed enough with his new reviewers to add them to his list of trusted climate science contacts.
Our network of phoney reviewers has grown in its own modest but geometric way. We steer well clear of the major papers, preferring to do what we do on the minor ones. You’d be amazed at what people are prepared to do to their own work just to get published. All it needs is a reviewer comment like you really need to strengthen the link between global warming and the plunge in the sperm count of Snailbats, and they’ll happily restructure the whole thing.
When you run this variation of a radio game for a long time, it’s inevitable that an occasional emergency will arise but so far, we’ve been lucky. Wol, who’d got blindingly drunk celebrating the Gleick fiasco and by now a true and truly appalled believer in the power of subversion, was pushing the envelope to see just exactly how outrageous we could get. He made the mistake of doing an email under the influence to an editor recommending a new reviewer going under the handle of something which was the slang equivalent of Prof. Galah P. Drongo-Bogan. Fortunately, he’d BCC’ed me and after some frantic digital footwork, their email server had a terrible accident. I think the bugger just wanted to make me sweat.
You might be wondering why I’m revealing Wol’s existence and there are a range of possible answers. The simple one is that this is just a fun piece. There is no agent Deep Woolabra Wonga, no help them over the cliff strategy, no shadowy network of fictitious reviewers, no Skeptic Central. All is illusion, there is no spoon.
On the other hand, a slightly more complex answer could be that this is a pure disinformation exercise, meant to do nothing more than sow distrust and confusion in the enemy’s ranks.
If you’re an alarmist, the nightmare scenario is that some of it or perhaps quite a lot of it, might just be true, which would go some way towards explaining a number of strange things which have happened in the climate wars, but you’ll never know for sure. Perhaps, over time, one or two commissioning editors have come to suspect, but they don’t want to know for sure. Someone else can have that chalice.
Welcome to the wilderness of mirrors.
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