Home > Climate Change, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Skepticism > Calls For AGW Skeptics To Be Silenced (Or Worse) In The USA Are Unconstitutional

Calls For AGW Skeptics To Be Silenced (Or Worse) In The USA Are Unconstitutional

US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr writing his dissenting opinion in November 1919 (Abrams v. United States):

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition….

But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe […] that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market….

That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment…. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Justice Holmes’s and the whole of the USA’s journey towards contemporary interpretation of the meaning of free speech in America is the subject of “Justice Holmes and the ‘Splendid Prisoner’” by Anthony Lewis, published in The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 11 · July 2, 2009.

  1. 2010/04/15 at 18:03

    Holmes didn’t say it’s unconstitutional to call a stupid, vapid or biased argument, stupid, vapid or biased.

    Holmes didn’t say that it’s unfair to point out that one’s opponent speaks untruths.

    Holmes was in the minority. It’s a dissenting opinion. His side lost this case.

    2009 must have made y’all sweat a lot, and not from the physical heat.

    • 2010/04/16 at 22:11

      Ed – I am sure Holmes and everybody else would have rather preferred you had read the title of the blog post you have commented on. Please try again, should not be difficult to figure out the meaning of “silenced”. But do keep your sweat for yourself, thank you very much.

      • 2010/04/16 at 22:36

        Holmes would point out to you that the dissenting opinion is the losing side. What Holmes said doesn’t count.

        The other view prevailed. Did Holmes say it should be unconstitutional? His side lost. It’s not.

        I’m sure that, had you read the case and understood the law, you might have gotten it right. Your title is wrong. Please try again. It should not be difficult to figure out the meaning of “unconstitutional.” Don’t have any sweat to spare for you, sorry.

      • 2010/04/16 at 22:47

        Ed – looks like I have to explain it almost on a word-by-word basis. My blog post was about “Call for AGW Skeptics to be SILENCED“. That has nothing to do with “[calling] a stupid, vapid or biased argument, stupid, vapid or biased”, or about the fairness of “[pointing] out that one’s opponent speaks untruths”. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if any climate skeptic would call for AGW believer to be SILENCED, that would be unconstitutional (in the USA) as well.

        Please let me know if you think otherwise.

      • 2010/04/17 at 08:56

        My comment was about your erroneous interpretation of the case, and your claim, in your headline, that Holmes pronounced anything unconstitutional.

        He didn’t.

        Nor have scientists called for others to be silenced. They’ve called for people to stop saying stupid, vapid and biased stuff and claiming its science, but even in their most exasperated moments, they have not questioned the rights of people to act as fools and say or believe foolish things. Look at the stolen e-mails, for example. In one case where the scientists found what they thought to be grossly unethical action, they called for no investigation, no sanctions, and especially no silencing. Instead, they determined they would tell the truth.

        Your guys, on the other hand, have called for official investigations of the scientists, for their firings, for their funding to be pulled, and for violence against them. People have acted on those calls — witness the stealing of the e-mails.

        And, by the way, it’s not unconstitutional in the U.S. to call for someone to be silenced. We have this thing called the First Amendment to our Constitution which guarantees the rights of people to call for foolish and even illegal things.

        It would be illegal to act on such calls, in many cases — like stealing someone’s private e-mails and publishing them to the world. Similar crime. Unconstitutional action.

        You would agree, of course.

  2. Martha Durham
    2009/07/11 at 23:27

    If you are truely a believer in AGW with CO2 being the mechanism, then you should join Jim Hansen and be protesting Waxman-Markey as a horrendous piece of legislation which will do very little to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Instead of the flat tax on tons of C02 put into the atmosphere which Mr. Hansen supports, you will get Cap and Trade where 85% of the permits will be reserved for giveaways (“political friends”) and only 15% will be auctioned, the clean air act will be gutted according to many, economic distortions will reign – think biofuels where important food crops will be diverted into inefficient sidelines which will result in huge issues in third world countries who will now do without as we gas up our cars and feel we are saving the world.

    Barbara Boxer is holding this up until September. You still have time to make your strong belief in AGW with C02 as the culprit heard.

    Jim Hansen is doing so. Check out the New Yorker. You may say Jim is just a scientist, not a politician. Jim is acting just like a scientist, he is standing behind what he believes. So, while I may have doubts as to the mechanism of the recent warming and may think that the cooling of the last eight years warrents some scientific second looks at the models which indicate the science is settled, I do admire his sticking to his guns.

    Al Gore, figurehead of this movement, I have not heard any objections from him regarding the impending legislation. Maybe he is telling old Jim that this is the way politics works, in steps.

    Maybe Al is liking the 85% giveaway.

  3. Martha Durham
    2009/07/11 at 22:51

    A recent piece in the NY Times had Krugman, the nobel laureate Krugman, calling skeptics deniers and their questions treason. Doesn’t get more mainstream than this.

  4. RoyFOMR
    2009/07/09 at 11:12

    Erasmussimo (23:21:18) :
    These wild accusations about a pogrom against AGW deniers are paranoid delusions

    This was the line taken by many German Citizens, when confronted with rumours of the Holocaust, during WWII.

    • Erasmussimo
      2009/07/09 at 13:02

      Yes, and I’m sure that I can find statements here that are similar to statements made by Hitler. But that won’t lead me to conclude that you fellows are Nazis.

      Sheesh. You really ARE paranoid!

      • 2009/07/09 at 13:32

        > I can find statements here

        Please do

  5. wastingtime
    2009/07/09 at 05:19

    Holmes also said in his Abrams v. United States dissent that:
    “The United States constitutionally may punish speech that produces or is intended to produce a clear and imminent danger”.

    I expect the AGE crowd is preparing us for this defense with their constant harping on the catastrophic dangers of CO2.

    Be careful of lawyers, they speak out both sides of their mouth.

  6. papertiger
    2009/07/08 at 22:39

    I don’t have to look for any abstracts. Two of my friends have been given the sack for their position on global warming.
    Lubos Motl was discharged from the Harvard Physics dept a year or so ago.
    And now Jen given the boot.

    Erasmussimo, when you can show me someone that lost their job for promoting the fraud, then you can talk.

    Hopefully you’ll get the chance to be a regular Chatty Cathy right after the 2010 elections.

    • 2009/07/08 at 22:56

      Chatty Cathy???

    • Erasmussimo
      2009/07/08 at 23:21

      Papertiger, I looked up Lubos Motl and read a number of items about him. He seems to be quite a polemicist, having gotten into nasty fights with a number of eminent scientists. Moreover, his style seems to be more about personal invective than intellectual discussion. And although the various articles I read mentioned disputes about string theory, high energy physics, and quantum mechanics, there was no mention of AGW. It seems that Mr. Lubos managed to get himself fired out of general nastiness. I doubt that his politics had much to do with it.

      These wild accusations about a pogrom against AGW deniers are paranoid delusions.

      Oh, Omnologos, “Chatty Cathy” was a doll in the USA during the 1960s who would say girlish things when you pulled a string on her back. The term now refers to a voluble person.

      • papertiger
        2009/07/09 at 14:22

        so you did a search. Took you all of an afternoon did it?

        You say he is a polemicist, but his firing had nothing to do with politics?
        You find a number of detractors, failing to mention any by name, and he’s the one who is supposedly tossing personal invective and nastiness?
        You assert that AGW has nothing to do with his firing. How to test that?

        I got it. Find me a current professor at Harvard who thinks AGW is crap. Shouldn’t be too hard since AGW belief or lack there of isn’t a firing criteria.

        I’ll wait right here. It won’t take any longer then your research of Lubos Motl, I reckon.

      • papertiger
        2009/07/10 at 01:56

        Nothing yet?
        What ever could be the matter. I’m sure a famous school like Harvard with it’s devotion to diversity must have at least one other skeptical professor.
        I mean they have special endowment for Islamic terrorist studies.
        They have an endowment for Hamas.

        No room for AGW skeptics?

  7. Erasmussimo
    2009/07/08 at 18:11

    Do you realize how flimsy that evidence is? It starts with an anonymous post that was quickly removed; it definitely suggested violence against AGW deniers. But you know what? Blogs are full of weird, crazy people saying weird, crazy things. If you really want to blame the AGW movement for the claims of a few weirdos, then I can come up with a long list of weirdo statements made by AGW deniers. Let’s get real…

    Your link later lists some other purported examples of verbal threats of violence against AGW deniers. It claims that:

    NASA’s James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for “high crimes against humanity.”

    When you follow up the links, what you discover is the Marc Morano has (unsurprisingly enough) distorted the story. Mr. Hansen did not call for trials of climate skeptics. He did refer to oil company executives — not all climate skeptics. Moreover, I was unable to discover evidence that Mr. Hansen did indeed call for trials. The single piece of evidence here is a story by Ed Pilkington in the Guardian that stated:

    James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

    Note the use of future tense: WILL TODAY CALL FOR. There is no actual quote from Mr. Hansen. I found 26,900 apparent references to this story; I examined the first ten links and nine of them were echoes of the Guardian story, expressing their outrage that Mr. Hansen was predicted to say those things. There was one other link that used past tense. But what is striking is that not one of these links actually presented a quote to that effect from Mr. Hansen after the fact. They presented instead a quote he gave to the Guardian:

    “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

    He doesn’t say that it’s a crime against humanity; indeed, his use of the word ‘crime’ could well be construed as a synonym for “very bad action”, not “illegal action”.

    Would you people PLEASE get your facts straight before shooting off all these wild accusations?

    You write:

    > No, it’s an attempt to say that they’re wrong

    It would be, if “the science is settled” would not be invariably followed with exhortations to talk about solutions to the climate change crisis, and to shut up about the scientific debate

    Sure, you can find blog posts to that effect. But I can find blog posts claiming that supporters of AGW are Stalinists. The world is full of nut cases — do you want to reduce your blog to the level of arguing over nut cases? Wouldn’t you rather discuss the issues instead of bitching fecklessly about the nasty things that nasty people said?

    I’m going to amend my statement that “there aren’t any calls for AGW deniers to be silenced.” I stated that in the context of reasonable political discussion. But yes, if we include the Wild West of the Internet, there are plenty of calls for AGW deniers to be silenced. There are also calls for AGW supporters to be silenced. There are claims that Mr. Obama is an Islamic terrorist, and that Rush Limbaugh is a gay pervert. Why, we could spend months citing all the crazy things that have been declared on the Internet. And what would any of that accomplish?

    • 2009/07/08 at 19:08

      a crime is not a crime, just a bad action? Are we going to discuss what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is, by any chance?

      “The science is settled”, by the way, is not something you just read in blogs. It’s been the mantra of countless politicians and activist scientists since the IPCC AR4, or perhaps even before that. I am sure you understand that if the opening line by a scientist is that the science is settled, and you disagree with that, there is not much room for your disagreement to be aired as you will have to deal with arguing that the science is not settled.

      ps more about intimidations

      • Erasmussimo
        2009/07/08 at 20:56

        Well, if you want to engage in paranoid delusions, be my guest. These wild fantasies of yours have no substance. If you think that “The science is settled” means that the brown shirts are coming after you, perhaps a tranquilizer would be of greater value to you than reasoned discussion.

      • Erasmussimo
        2009/07/08 at 22:27

        First, I did indeed follow the link trail to Climate Depot where I read some of the other wild claims and, after tracking down one of them at length, determined it to be without substance. Still, I readily acknowledge that there are lots of people out there saying extreme things. And you can concentrate on them if you wish. But I could reciprocate with horror stories of deniers who make vicious threats. You and I would swap tales of whose side is more wronged by the idiots on the other side. And it would accomplish absolutely nothing.

        When you’re ready to discuss climate change, I’m ready, too.

      • 2009/07/08 at 22:58

        > You and I would swap tales

        And why not? There is plenty of climate websites, but I haven’t managed to find anyone telling of “horror stories of deniers who make vicious threats”. As that might be a “first”, I am all ears for those stories!!

      • Erasmussimo
        2009/07/08 at 23:24

        You want me to engage you in this silliness? Sorry, but arguing about which side has worse crazies is a topic for puerile arguments, not illuminating discussions. When you have an intellectually interesting topic about AGW to discuss, I’ll be happy to engage with you.

      • 2009/07/08 at 23:43

        As you wish…but unfortunately, all you have done is claim those “horror stories” exist only to provide none. Why did you ever mention them if you had not even one to talk about?

      • papertiger
        2009/07/10 at 09:24

        reprinted from a 1993 WSJ article
        Al Gore fired the director of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy “for asking the wrong questions”.

        Happer made the mistake of crossing Vice President Al Gore, the Clinton administration’s ranking environmentalist. In April, Happer testified before the House Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on Appropriations. “I think that there probably has been some exaggeration of the dangers of ozone and global climate change,” he said. “One of the problems with ozone is that we don’t understand how the UV-B is changing at ground level, and what fraction of the ultraviolet light really causes cancer.”
        In any case, if stratospheric ozone is declining, more UV-B sunlight should be reaching the earth’s surface. But there’s no evidence that the planet is experiencing an increase in surface UV-B, and this is what puzzles Happer. “We have lots of lovely measurements of upper layers of ozone in the stratosphere, but when we look around at what we know about ultraviolet light, the data is very sparse and what data we have shows very little change,” he testified. “If anything, it shows a slight decrease.” Researchers have found that the amount of UV-B reaching the surface of the United States has declined by between 5 percent and 18 percent over this century.
        ” Why not measure directly the thing that worries you, which is UV-B at the surface, not just reductions in stratospheric ozone?” he asks. DOE, under Happer’s direction, developed an Ozone Project to build an improved network for measuring UV-B at ground level. But Happer soon discovered that’s not the way science works in Washington, D.C. He says the ozone alarmists in the Clinton administration “want to declare victory and make sure that no one second-guesses them.”
        He pointed out that during the Antarctic ozone hole the amount of UV-B light reaching the surface is far less than that reaching the surface at the equator. Happer noted that the richest fishing area in the world, just off the coast of Ecuador, receives “a thousand times more UV-B radiation that do the oceans around Antarctica during the height of the ‘ozone hole’. Yet many of the same species of phytoplankton thrive in both areas with little or no apparent damage.” Watson backed down from his most outrageous assertions. But this dispute earned Happer a powerful enemy.
        Happer believes that others in Gore’s coterie may have been out to get him. “I was told that [Kathleen] McGinty has an enemies list and that I was on it,” says Happer. McGinty, a legislative assistant to Gore when he was in the Senate, is now the director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy.
        Happer describes the officially accepted approach to climate policy this way: “When you ask this gang overseeing ozone depletion and global warming how much two plus two is, they first ask, ‘Why do you want to know?’ Then you say, ‘Well, I’m interested in finding out what’s happening to the ozone layer, and I thought the answer would help.’ Then they say, ‘Well, how much do you want it to be?'”
        In the worst cases, science has been turned on its head. Instead of policy being guided by factual information, the facts are being forced to fit the policy requirements of certain politicians, bureaucrats, and activists. “With regard to global climate issues, we are experiencing politically correct science,” Happer says. “Many atmospheric scientists are afraid for their funding, which is why they don’t challenge Al Gore and his colleagues. They have a pretty clear idea of what the answer they’re supposed to get is. The attitude in the administration is, ‘If you get a wrong result, we don’t want to hear about it.”

  8. Erasmussimo
    2009/07/08 at 14:11

    I agree: calls for AGW deniers to be silenced would be unconstitutional. Fortunately, there aren’t any.

    • 2009/07/08 at 14:26

      > there aren’t any.

      I wish it were as you describe it. Sadly, it is worse. AGW skeptics have been variously described as criminals, Nazis, etc etc. And every declaration that “the science is settled” is in itself an attempt to silence people holding different ideas

      • Erasmussimo
        2009/07/08 at 15:28

        Yes, there’s plenty of vituperation in this debate, a fact that I decry. But let’s be honest: the vituperation is bidirectional. I’ve seen plenty of it coming from both sides. And vituperation is a far cry from censorship.

        every declaration that “the science is settled” is in itself an attempt to silence people holding different ideas

        No, it’s an attempt to say that they’re wrong. You’re blurring a very clear line here. That line is between disagreement — which is vital to public policy debate — and censorship. Censorship occurs only when somebody is denied the opportunity to express political opinions by some legal agency. If you choose to throw me off your blog, that’s not censorship. If you managed to get some governmental authority to prevent me from expressing my views, that would be censorship.

      • 2009/07/08 at 15:44

        > the vituperation is bidirectional

        Have you got examples of AGW believers being threatened with going to jail or being executed? It would be interesting to see. For a quick list of “threats, intimidation and censorship”, see here

        > No, it’s an attempt to say that they’re wrong

        It would be, if “the science is settled” would not be invariably followed with exhortations to talk about solutions to the climate change crisis, and to shut up about the scientific debate

  9. papertiger
    2009/07/08 at 11:20

    There won’t be noisy “off with their heads” pronouncements ala Jimmy Hansen’s “Coal mines are a crime against humanity.”
    It will be a quiet affair. Public servants will find their contracts go unrenewed
    for thinking the wrong thing.

    • 2009/07/08 at 11:45

      interestingly, just as the First Amendment guarantee does not necessarily cover wartime, Al Gore has just gone public in making the fight against global warming a war-like endeavor…

      • George Carty
        2009/07/08 at 12:19

        Why is no-one advocating a REAL “War on CO2”? We already have a CO2-free way of producing huge amounts of energy – it’s called “nuclear fission”. Why aren’t governments building nuclear power stations under emergency conditions, cutting whatever corners are necessary to get them built ASAP, and shooting any protesters who try to stop them?

        After all, some of the more extreme AGW alarmists suggest that AGW could turn huge areas of the planet into desert, resulting in world-wide famine killing billions. Compared to that, what’s a few more Chernobyls, with a combined death toll in the mere tens of thousands?

        Makes me think that the AGW (at least in its catastrophic form) is a hoax which governments are using to try to bludgeon people into low-energy lifestyles…

      • 2009/07/08 at 12:33

        look for “black soot” for more evidence in the same direction

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