-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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Death threats just par for the course for climate skeptics in Australia
The wimps of the Green/Left claim that various criticisms of their mental ossification are "death threats" (See here). It's just projection. The skeptics are the ones that get the threats -- from Green/Left thugs
DEATH threats and vile abuse are real. They infect the daily lives of key players in the debate over climate change. But it's not what you think: the main recipients of this torrent of abuse are not climate scientists.
They are the journalists and broadcasters whose job requires them to test the received wisdom on this and many other subjects.
They are the inheritors of that great tradition in which Western civilisation has encouraged criticism of the orthodoxy in order to expose its flaws.
That tradition, which thrives on dissent, is very much alive in parts of the media. But it is under threat.
The intolerance of those who support the orthodox view on climate change has reached the point where the physical safety of those who express a contrary view is regularly threatened.
So where is the outraged media coverage? The ABC and like-minded outlets have devoted considerable resources to allegations of death threats against scientists who defend the orthodox view on climate change. Later events have undermined the veracity of those allegations, but you would never know unless you were prepared to wade through the corrections on the ABC's website.
But at the same time, real abuse and real death threats against those on the other side of this debate have been largely ignored.
At the moment, climate change is one of the "hot button" issues that brings out the crazies. But it's not just climate change.
Melbourne columnist Andrew Bolt has also had threats of physical violence for criticising Islamism and Anita Heiss's book Am I Black Enough for You?.
He has even been threatened for opposing a national day of mourning for the Black Saturday bushfires.
Bolt puts it down to the morally superior manner of those who play a leading role in setting the tone of public policy debate.
The most startling incident occurred a decade ago when an activist organisation published his home address on its website "along with an exhortation to burn the house down".
Two weeks ago a filmmaker, whom he named, used Twitter to urge his followers: "Let's assassinate Andrew Bolt." It was later removed.
A Greens candidate at the last federal election used Twitter to publish this: "Andrew Bolt is a vile c ... of a man. I openly condone hunting him down and beating him to within an inch of his life."
Sydney Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair says he has received "death wishes" rather than death threats. The last one contained the cheery sign-off: "Die painfully, yours sincerely ... ".
Blair says this happens relatively frequently, whenever a "hot button" issue is in the news. And the most popular trigger is "anything to do with climate change".
Most of this material arrives by email and while they are abusive, Blair says they are not real death threats. "They want you to die, rather than saying they are going to kill you," he says.
But he was worried after he published on a private website Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that had triggered death threats against the cartoonist.
The Sydney Morning Herald accompanied its report on this incident with a photograph of Blair, which led to police calling him and suggesting he might wish to move to a more secure location.
Broadcaster Ray Hadley says he usually receives about 600 emails a day on a range of subjects, and 10 per cent are abusive.
In the 11 years he has been with Sydney radio station 2GB he has received about 20 death threats, only one of which seemed serious enough to refer to police. It contained details of his movements but turned out to be the work of an eccentric pensioner with an alcohol problem.
"The rest are in the form of 'I wish you were dead and if I could make you dead I would do it' ", Hadley says. "But some of the people I know in the security industry say that if someone is going to knock you off they are not going to tell you about it."
At The Australian, editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell says he has received hundreds of death threats during his 20 years as an editor and editor-in-chief and has ignored them all.
He says the recent debate about alleged death threats against climate change scientists gave rise to an implication that death threats only came from climate change deniers. But in his experience, that is not the case.
He has received threats from both sides of the climate change debate - from those accusing him of destroying the planet for their grandchildren and from those demanding that the newspaper withdraw its support for a carbon tax. In the past two years, most of the threats from the Right have largely come from Queensland and Western Australia.
He believes there would always have been threats made against those in the media and email has simply made it more convenient.
Climate scientists, like other new players in public policy debates, were clearly shocked by the vile nature of some of the abuse they have received.
But after 20 years of abuse and threats, Mitchell has some advice: "These climate scientists need to harden up."
The abuse directed at climate scientists, bad as it was, needs to be kept in perspective.
Ten years ago, the Brisbane home of The Australian's Hedley Thomas was peppered with bullets late at night, narrowly missing his wife and children.
Thomas, who has five Walkley awards, has received threats but does not take them seriously, "because if someone wants to do you in, they are not going to give you a warning".
He says he has never been scared away from a story because of threats.
More than a decade ago, reporter Tom Dusevic was beaten by two young men with baseball bats who were waiting for him when he returned home at night. This came shortly after Dusevic had written a contentious article. But he believes it was probably just a case of mistaken identity.
By JR on Monday, June 04, 2012
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