Jonathan Holmes, presenter of Media Watch, writes a lengthy defence of his team’s reporting of the ANU death threats story on ABC’s The Drum. You can read it here.
The only point I am going to comment on is detail is the following claim:
In any case – and this is a factor which The Australian keeps dodging around, although it is crucial – the 11 emails were in fact irrelevant to the ANU scientists being moved to more secure offices, because that had happened 16 months earlier, in February 2010.
The Canberra Times’s Rosslyn Beeby no doubt knew this, but did not make it clear in her report. The ABC and the AAP don’t seem to have taken it aboard, and certainly didn’t report it back in June 2011. Simon Turnill didn’t understand it when he put in his FOI request.
Well actually, it’s nothing to do with understanding – Beeby didn’t make it clear, as Holmes states, if indeed she did “no doubt” know it. In any event, my FOI request was based on the ABC’s reporting of this event, which says:
Several of Australia’s top climate change scientists at the Australian National University have been subjected to a campaign of death threats, forcing the university to tighten security.
Several of the scientists in Canberra have been moved to a more secure location after receiving the threats over their research.
Vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young says the scientists have received large numbers of emails, including death threats and abusive phone calls, threatening to attack the academics in the street if they continue their research.
He says it has been happening for the past six months and the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.
I cannot see any way of construing the above to mean anything other than the following: death threats have been received at ANU in the last six months and we’ve moved staff as a result.
Holmes then quotes a number of emails, none of which contain “death threats”, but simply confirm the unfortunate truth that scientists (along with many others public figures) receive abusive emails from a tiny minority of disturbed individuals. This fact should not have been used as a way to tar all critics of the climate consensus as being a bunch of dangerously unhinged lunatics who would resort to sending death threats to climate scientists because they disagree with what they are saying (the inference – intended or unintended – from the Canberra Times and ABC reporting).
Holmes ends thus:
Who you believe on this matter – The Australian, or Media Watch – should have nothing at all to do with whether or not you accept what the vast majority of qualified scientists are telling us about climate change.
Science by consensus again. And still the ANU haven’t produced evidence of any death threats to any staff at any time. They are welcome to do so whenever they like and then we’d all be happy to see an end to this farce.