The Sound of Silence

Andy Revkin's silence on the most important aspect of Fakegate is deafening. It is as though he and Peter Gleick's defenders are hoping the whole thing will just blow over, which it very well could.

It has been my impression that the New York Times leading writer on climate for the last 15 years, Andy Revkin, has been too close to Gavin Schmidt, James Hansen, and Michael Mann to have much in the way of perspective on their political agenda, or, if you prefer, their scientific agenda. I even argued this to the Times ombudsman shortly after Climategate broke in the fall of 2009. I was just aghast how comfortable Revkin was explaining away what was clearly malfeasance by his go-to list of scientific sources. Less than two weeks later, Revkin had left the news side of the Times, which was a strange coincidence. And, yes, I understand, nothing more.

Perched as he remains at the Times’ as the primary blogger on its Dot Earth Blog, he likes to insist that he is no longer part of the news apparatus at all. Particularly when things get a little dicey. And, make no mistake, things are dicey now. Why?

Because Revkin clearly has a relationship with the central player in Fakegate, the recent saga in which Heartland Institute documents were fraudulently solicited. Now, Revkin effectively threw that person, Peter Gleick, under the bus, it’s true. But he also clearly has a privileged relationship with Gleick. I’ve been asking Gleick to admit that he is the author of the most significant document that journalists around the world pointed to as evidence of Heartland’s heart of darkness. I’ve told Gleick that the longer he waits the more damage he will do both to his side in the climate wars and to his own career. And I sincerely feel compassion for the man. He is trying to save the world, no doubt, and he got a little carried away. OK, super carried away. Gleick has, I’m sorry to report, not responded to my calls for comment.

Here’s where Revkin comes in. I asked him whether he had been making any effort to get to the truth of the faked document at the heart of Fakegate. Revkin’s response: “He told me day one that the Huffington statement was all he was going to say.” Now, I can see how a reporter at The New York Times, and whatever he calls himself, Revkin remains a reporter (just one who’s entitled to express opinions without reservation), would accept such a statement from a man whose world was crashing down all around him, as Gleick’s was that day.

But I cannot understand why Revkin would not, upon reflection and with the passage of time, come to be curious about whether, as seems likely to just about everyone who has stopped to think about it for a few moments, Gleick not only impersonated a trustee at Heartland but wrote the central document in this saga.

And, so I asked Revkin, “Have you asked Gleick if he wrote the document?” Revkin’s response is here:

I don’t make a habit of discussing my reporting process when an issue/story is “live.”

The Times news staff is definitely engaged on this story, but our “firewall” means I don’t know more than that.

Let me start with the second part of what Revkin said. I am surprised to hear that he is not allowed to converse with Times reporters about climate change articles that they are reporting. In fact, it strains credulity somewhat, but oh well.

As for the first part, I wasn’t asking Revkin if he could share contact information for sources, or what sequence of steps his reporting will follow on Fakegate or any other story.

I have asked him, twice now, if he bothered to ask Peter Gleick if he was the author of an internationally significant document that someone fraudulently produced two weeks ago.

And Revkin has gone silent.

Sure, it’s possible that Revkin’s critique of Gleick was so impassioned that he feels he can no longer ask the man a simple question. You know what I say? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Before his e-mails to me, Revkin sent me a direct Twitter message saying he was open to ideas. Once again, here’s my idea: Ask Gleick.

And, Dr. Gleick, if you’re reading this, feel free to buy my book, available here. It’s never too late to come in from the cold.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
This entry was posted in Andrew Revkin, Climate change, climategate, don't sell your coat, global warming, Peter Gleick, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to The Sound of Silence

  1. hro001 says:

    Harold, strangely enough it’s not the first time Revkin has responded with “sounds of silence” wrt his interactions with those scientists whom he presumably deems to be on the “right” side.

    One of the Climategate 1.0 questions that for me remains unanswered is why no one (including Revkin) apparently was shown (or asked to see) the server logs which would substantiate Schmidt’s claim that the RC server had been “hacked” for the alleged purpose of “uploading” [a completely unnecessary action that has never made any sense whatsoever to my mind – and could well have jeopardized “The Saint’s” mission].

    This alleged “upload” has been variously described by Schmidt as an “attempted upload”, as an “upload” which resulted in four “downloads” (after the alleged “hack” had been spotted and “taken down”) – and as “sort of a prank”.

    Shortly after CG2, Commentary‘s Alanah Goodman posted an article in which she concluded:

    As one of the leading national environmental reporters, Revkin had a huge amount of influence over whether the ClimateGate controversy went anywhere. He ended up doing all he could to snuff it out. Should the fact that he wasn’t just involved in the emails, but also seemed to portray himself as an ideological ally to the scientists, raise ethical questions about the Times’ coverage of the first ClimateGate? I’d say so. And maybe Revkin’s departure from the news section one month after the emails leaked in 2009 means that, internally, the Times thought so as well.

    Revkin took umbrage and they had an E-mail exchange which both Revkin and Goodman blogged about.

    In response to Goodman’s second post, I had commented:

    To my mind, Revkin has spectacularly avoided asking some very basic questions regarding the Climategate “narrative” as relayed to him by one of his long-time “primary” sources, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. – whose word he always seems to accept at face value, and in this instance appeared to bend over backwards in order avoid asking the questions so as to hide the obvious from himself, not to mention his readers. Revkin’s errors of journalistic omission in this matter have almost earned him the rather dubious title of the Albert Speer of Big Green.

    One of the key parts of Schmidt’s ever-changing story (and I’m sure you’ll agree that when an individual’s story keeps changing over a relatively short period of time, this is – or should be – a very bright red flag; but perhaps Revkin is selectively colour-blind) is that FOIA allegedly “hacked” into Schmidt’s “RealClimate” server for the purpose of “uploading” the zip archive of the CRU files s/he had allegedly obtained from UEA in November 2009.

    This made absolutely no sense to me at the time (and still doesn’t). Considering her/his “mission”, does it make any sense to you?! And what’s the first question you would ask if told such a bobba-meiser?! You’d ask to see the log files, right?
    Not only did Revkin provide no indication that he attempted to verify Schmidt’s story (nor did he challenge him on the inconsistencies between what Schmidt evidently told him on Nov. 20/09 and what he apparently told him on Nov. 22/09), but also …

    Even when Revkin finally got around to asking Schmidt (circa July 6/2010) “whether a criminal investigation was ever conducted into the Real Climate hack”, he was quite happy to accept Schmidt’s reply that “It would have been up to us to report it, and I didn’t think it was worth it – If you recall, we were kind of busy. ;)” Schmidt was certainly quite busy from Nov. 20 onwards, but what was keeping him so “busy” from the 17th to the 19th that he couldn’t have reported this alleged “hack” to the appropriate authorities?!

    I also posted some direct questions to Revkin – and I’m fairly certain it was in his “umbrage” thread. I don’t post often on his blog, but this one (as I recall) took longer to be released from the confines of moderation. I do recall checking a few days later, and my question was visible, but there was no answer from Revkin.

    This post of yours prompted me to check again to see if Revkin had posted an answer to my questions. There’s no sign in that thread that my questions ever existed. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of that comment (and it’s conceivable that it may have been in another thread that I cannot find) But, trust me, I did 🙂 And I suppose it’s also possible that he might have missed my comment on Goodman’s post. And that he’s never done a search on his name which landed him on the posts on my blog in which I’ve mentioned this.

    But I do find his continued silence on this matter somewhat curious, to say the least!

    Hilary Ostrov (my real name, under which I post at NYT and a few other places!)

  2. Matthew W says:

    “it strains credulity somewhat, but oh well”
    Yes, yes it does.
    Just depends on what side of “The Cause” you live on

  3. sherlock says:

    Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to (not) asking obvious questions of AGW proponents. I mean, when have you even heard anyone even ask the question “Have you formed any hypotheses concerning climate change that are testable against independant observations of the Earth’s climate, and if so, what were the results?”

    In other words, show us the actual data, gathered by independant means and available for my inspection, that show your hypothese are supported by observations, that the oceans rising and the atmosphere warming. This is science – testing the predictions of hypotheses against observations, not publishing the results of computer runs of models, and certainly not running stories about underwater news conferences by island governments begging for money.

  4. Brian R Adams says:

    I believe the NYT will break the news of the document being written by Gleick, but only after waiting as long as they can to allow public interest to fade and minimize the damage to the AGW movement – and their reputation.

  5. Jeff B. says:

    The daily sins of omission from the media cabal. Truth be damned, news professionals today are cheerleaders for their ideological causes and nothing more.

  6. He probably asked him early on in an off-the-record capacity, hoping to be reassured, only to have Gleick confess. After advising him to come cleanearly for the sake of the cause, he how can’t betray the off-the-record nature of the confession. Just speculation on my part.

  7. Joe ryan says:

    I suppose Revkin is making the argument that he does have the inside scoop with Gleick and that as such he isn’t willing to hand his scoop over to someone else.

    I can understand this.

    But then the possibility is that he does have the inside scoop with Gleick and he is helping Gleick navigate the various media outlets in prepping for damage control. Once he gets all the ducks in a row and has assurances of muted coverage he would assist Gleick in making a silent confession… written by his lawyers.

  8. Canadian Mike says:

    When you are as ideologically committed as Revkin is, lying and hiding the truth become virtues when supporting the Cause. This should surprise no one.

  9. Gary says:

    The NYTimes de facto motto is “All the News that Fits.” The press tells most of it’s lies by omission. Keep up the questioning, but don’t doubt that they will stonewall as long as it takes.

  10. It’s not just a NYT tactic. The Guardian’s journos do the same thing.

    Leo Hickman said Heartland would have to ‘move’ to show the document was a fake. He has been asked multiple times to explain what ‘move’ Heartland would have to make. He kept saying he has already explained in his Twitter timeline, but no one can find it.

    When challenged about it, guess what? Yep, silence. Seems to be a modus operandii for the true believers when their bias and attempts to support the cause put them in a position beyond ludicrous.

  11. harrywr2 says:

    Revkin was named in the ‘fake’ document.

    The NY Times isn’t the greatest example of journalist ethics. But if a reporter is part remotely connected to a scandal then ‘fire-walling’ him would be SOP.

  12. RayG says:

    I just posted this in Andrew Revkin’s DotEarth thread on Jonathan Foley. I will check back later to see if it makes it through moderation and, if so, if he responds.

    Mr. Revkin, I realize that what I am about to ask is off-topic but consider it to be a question that warrants a response. Have you contacted Dr. Peter Gleick directly and asked him, in plain language, if he is the author of the “Strategy Document” that he forwarded to at least 15 recipients as a part of the package that included the documents that he obtained from the Heartland Institute?”

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Perhaps if 75 or 100 people make the same request, Revkin will relent.

      • RayG says:

        My attempt to post on DotEarth as noted above at 2:00 appears to have disappeared into the byte bucket. The URL is if others would like to weigh in.

        I will check over there periodically and advise if my comment has a Lazarus-like moment and makes it through moderation.

      • RayG says:

        Lazarus has arisen. The following is Andrew Revkin’s reply to my question:

        ” Andrew Revkin
        Dot Earth blogger

        I answered this when Harold Ambler asked. Folks can interpret the silence any way they please. There’s still silence from the Norfolk Constabulary, as well, and plenty of interpretations of that lack of noise.

        March 6, 2012 at 5:50 p.m.”

      • Reply to Ray: If servers have been hacked from outside their network then it is straightforward to detect that an intrusion took place. The fact Norfolk Constabulary have said nothing and failed to make an arrest is more likely to mean they cannot find evidence of an external attack.

        Andy Revkin is going round the twist if he thinks there is any comparison between his silence about whether he asked Gleick a question, and a lack of information from a police force investigation.

  13. noaaprogrammer says:

    Alll the king’s horses and all the king’s men …

    • Brian H says:

      The very interesting real history of that saying is perhaps even more relevant than the children’s “smashed egg” picture.

      “Humpty Dumpty” was the nickname of a large cannon, mounted on a wall near a cathedral during the English Civil War ( 1642 – 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 – 27 Aug 1648). At one point, the Roundheads scored a hit on the base of the wall, and the cannon fell. The Royalists tried hard to remount it, bringing in their cavalry from the field at one point to help, but failed, and the city ultimately fell.
      (The nickname was slang for an obese person at the time; the cannon was very large!)

  14. Eric Dailey says:

    It is long past the time when you folks who pay attention to the NYT should grow up and see the reality of this corrupt enterprise. The record is clear about the deceit of the NYT and it is well known.

  15. RichardSCourtney says:

    Mr Ambler:

    Thankyou for your article.

    It seems to me that there are five issues here.

    First is the moral requirement for investigation and action pertaining to global climate change. There is no empirical evidence of any kind that would justify the conclusion of the NYT, Messrs. Revkin, Gleick, and et al. that there is a discernible human affect upon global climate. Hence, that conclusion is (at best) superstitious belief. And, therefore, there can be no moral imperative to oppose and/or expose those who challenge that belief. Furthermore, those who subscribe to that belief are calling for harmful economic actions because – they assert – those actions are needed to prevent the human effect on global climate from inducing catastrophe. Therefore, and importantly, the pertinent moral imperative is to investigate the validity of that belief.

    Second is the personal interest of Messrs. Revkin and Gleick. They have each constructed a career on the basis of their promotion of that belief. So, anything which challenges that belief is a threat to their careers and reputations. The Heartland Institute (HI) provides a platform for those who question that belief. Hence, severe scepticism needs to be applied to every statement of Messrs. Revkin and Gleick which pertains to the HI.

    Third, is the interaction of those who share that belief. The shared belief of Revkin and Gleick requires that they avoid diminishing the credibility (however low) of each other because that risks damage to the credibility of them both. Hence, it is against Revkin’s personal interest to say anything about the origin of the fraudulent document unless Revkin can give assurance that Gleick did not compose it. So, Revkin’s silence is a clear indication that Revkin is not sure Gleick did not compose it. Indeed, Revkin’s silence implies that he suspects Gleick was its composer.

    The fourth issue is ethical conduct. Gleick seems to be the only advocate of that belief who has been exposed as a thief. But in all other respects his behaviour is seen to be typical of those who support “the cause” of promoting that belief. The ‘Climategate’ emails reveal – in their own words – that promoters of “the cause” use (as their normal practice) lies, smears and defamations of those who question that belief.

    The fifth and probably most important issue is that the behaviour of those who promote “the cause” will continue to damage the reputation of science until the truth or otherwise of that belief is revealed to the general public (some, including me, think that belief is already disproven).


  16. Revkin was trusted, inside hockey team player. It is highly probable that Gleick did not act alone. Heartland’s discovery could well expose a ‘team effort’ leaving these players open to criminal conspiracy and joint civil liabilities. If that’s the case, then the Gray Ladies little ‘firewall’ is an ex post facto act in futility. Meanwhile, the grandaddy of this mess was Ken Lay’s original carbon tax and Gleick hires former Enron defender. Unscientific, ammoral, agenda driven hypocrites scarcely begins to describe these players.

  17. Doug Proctor says:

    Gleick needs to be asked if the memo came from an associate Green group, specifically the David Suzuki Foundation. There are solid connections between the DSF and the Pacific Insitutute. The memo reads like an intern who has never written real corporate memos. Sending it outside the country would be a good way to confuse the trail, and sending it by corporate mail would be a good way to confuse the trail further. Except that FedEx and mailrooms keep records.

    I’ll bet there is an interesting Gleick e-mail history waiting to be read.

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