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The ABC broadcast bullying and science hooliganism problem

By Graham Young - posted Thursday, 15 May 2008

As you would expect, Williams has form. When it comes to climate science he is no respecter of the facts, having claimed once that sea waters will rise 100m. The IPCC puts the maximum increase at 68m if all the ice caps and glaciers melt.

He regularly indulges in queen bee behaviour. Only a few weeks before the Aitkin broadcast he described this piece by Charlie Veron, predicting the demise of the Great Barrier Reef because of anthropogenic global warming as “… one of the most important talks we've broadcast”. Yet as this piece by Walter Starck demonstrates, Veron makes significant factual errors.

You have to go to On Line Opinion to find the corrections to Veron, but just in case Aitkin has made errors, Williams has scheduled Stephen Schneider to provide a rebuttal in a week’s time. Seems his quality control only works in one direction, and if your one of teacher's pets you'll get a pat on the head.


Williams appears to have picked-up the campaigning bug early in life. His father was a public servant and Marxist who sold socialist newspapers on the street. He remembers the excitement of going on anti-nuclear marches. Fascinated by prestige and fame, he also recalls with relish that Bertrand Russell used to phone friends of his.

Obviously the fascination with prestige intrudes into and distorts his journalism. It also appears to distort his CV. Among other achievements he claims to be a professor at the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales. In fact he is an adjunct professor at one, and visiting professor at the other - these are courtesy titles, not to be confused with the real thing, which is undoubtedly why he isn’t listed in the online staff directory at either institution.

Williams isn’t the only global warming bully, and unfortunately universities are used to give some of the others added credibility as well. John Quiggin, an economist who specialises in modeling, at the University of Queensland, and Tim Lambert, a computer scientist specialising in virtual realities, at the University of New South Wales, are web activists who practice brown-shirt tactics on any who question what they define as the global warming orthodoxy. Neither would pass Williams’ test of being qualified in the area.

Quiggin freely and frequently abuses any who challenge his orthodoxy using smear. He is a frequent editor of Wikipedia on the issue where along with the notorious William Connelly, he ensures that global warming sceptics are presented in the worst light. Take a look at the history of changes to the entry for Theodor Landscheit where Quiggin is determined that Landscheit must be an “amateur” climatologist, even though his wiki entry shows that he published at least two peer reviewed articles in the area. Landscheit was also interested in astrology.

He also has a fascination with Fred Singer, an eminent scientist, first director of the US National Weather Satellite Service, who once did a review of epidemiological studies and came to the conclusion that there is no demonstrated harm from side-stream tobacco smoke. Quiggin is keen that this fact gets into Singer’s biography.

Why do I cite these two entries? Because Quiggin frequently dismisses global warming sceptics as being aligned with the tobacco industry and astrology (this despite the fact that the greatest hysteric of them all Al Gore was a tobacco industry advocate himself). It helps to have a Wikipedia entry which partly justifies your position!


Lambert, through his blog Deltoid promulgates whatever the current orthodoxy happens to be, but he does not restrict himself to his blog, frequently diving into comment threads on other online publications. And once you have Lambert on your thread, he sticks closer than a tick, hoping to suck the lifeblood out of the argument until you give up.

I could go on, but I think this demonstrates that the problem is widespread and that the ABC is not the only quality organisation compromised by it.

What should happen? When you have bullies in the school or the workplace you deal with them, generally by isolating the worst instance, and making an example of them. Williams might not be the worst, but in this case he has stuck his head up a lot higher than any of the others. The ABC must do something about him. And it must be more than a half-hearted apology.

He has smeared a respected academic using doctored quotes and shoddy research, and he puffs his curriculum vitae with imagined qualifications. It’s about time that ABC science broadcasting was opened up. After more than 30 years monopolising the field, it’s time Williams did something else.

Apart from opening up his world view it might encourage others to do something about other broadcasters and academics who, while paid to give us an accurate view of the world, in fact abuse their positions to promote a slanted version of reality.

I’ll be writing to the ABC. Time to get this ball rolling.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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