International Journal of Inactivism (now supplanted by Decoding SwiftHack)


Stirling: we have principles except when we don't

Filed under: NZ Climate Science Coalition,NZ Listener — stepanovich @ 08:28

F. Bi. 2008. Stirling: we have principles except when we don’t. Intl. J. Inact., 1:17–20

More from the trenches on the Listener brouhaha! For those who haven’t been watching it: It all started when a columnist for the New Zealand magazine Listener, Dave Hansford, wrote an unflattering article about some climate inactivists called the “NZ Climate Science Coalition”. The article made some inactivists really angry; and in a totally unrelated move, Listener editor Pamela Stirling decided to downsize samesize Hansford. NZ Hot Topic blogger Gareth Renowden wrote about these events (and more)1only to be faced with legal threats himself from the Listener! Yeah, it’s a mess, and it seems that legal proceedings are afoot.

So, in the latest development of this sorry saga, Robert McLachlan reports in a blog comment on an interview by Mediawatch with Stirling, regarding the magazine’s legal action against Hot Topic, and its editorial policy. Renowden and McLachlan have kindly pointed me to a podcast (9.1MB, 25′ 26″ MP3) of the interview.

We say they lied, and they’re big (but not very big), so we sue them

At 4′ 15″ in the interview, Stirling said:

Stirling: Well, we’re all in favour of debate, and there is a lot of informed debate in the blogosphere, but in this case, there were things being said that were untrue about the magazine and myself.

Which is quite arguably false, according to NZ media lawyer Steven Price. Anyway, at 4′ 39″:

Stirling: It [Hot Topic]’s not just your normal blog, it’s sponsored by a university — AUT — and it has the name of a prominent law firm — corporate law firm, Minter Ellison — right there at the top of a page.

Hmm… OK, I guess I’ll grant that. (Though that still doesn’t answer the question of what happened to Coleman’s “lawsuit” against Al Gore. After all, Gore’s Generation Investment Management is much, much, much bigger than Hot Topic can even hope to be.)

No, no pressure… they asked, we complied, that’s all

At 5′ 32″:

Mediawatch: Now, were you caving in to pressure to let the climate change skeptics have their say in your publication?

Stirling: Absolutely not.

But at 6′ 12″:

Stirling: …and of course one of the members of the Climate Science Coalition had claimed his viewpoint was not adequately represented. So we printed some, but not all, of this submission of the Climate Science Coalition, and in tandem with a response from Professor Dave Kelly.

So that’s not “caving in to pressure”.

The Listener‘s editorial policy…?

On the Listener‘s editorial policy, at 6’ 30″:

Mediawatch: But ironically that [“he said, she said”] I guess was the very approach — that Dave Hansford was arguing in his column — that is out of date in the media these days. Organizations like the New York Times and the BBC now have got these editorial policies, where they say, look, no longer will we do these thing where we give both sides of the story equal weight. Does your treatment of this problem indicate that you’ve actually got a different approach, you don’t want to follow on from it?

Stirling: Well, our approach, our editorial policy is really clear. And it was restated I think just a month ago in an editorial: we talked about the fact that we have to vigorously, all of us, individually and collectively, tackle climate change. So that, we’re not into censorship of any kind. As we discussed with Brian Leyland, the Voltaire quote, you know: “I disagree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.”

So let me get this straight: we won’t give equal weight to inactivist views, but which means we must allow inactivists to have their say because to do otherwise would be “censorship”. Or does the remark on “censorship” actually refer to censorship of the activist view — that global warming is serious and we need to tackle it? It’s hard to tell…

At 8′ 14″:

Stirling: In 2004, we were pressured to print criticisms of the new meningococcal B vaccination, and we decided on the basis of the precautionary principle not to do it.

Now this is getting really confusing. So what are the Listener‘s editorial policies? Facts? Voltaire? Precautionary principle? Or maybe the so-called “policy” is simply determined by Stirling’s random brain movements?

Shorter Stirling: we have principles except when we don’t.

(At 9′ 7″, there’s also a longer interview with veteran BBC journalist Alex Kirby, who exposes the inactivists’ bogus call for ‘equal debate time’ for what it is.)


  1. By the way, it was I who archived the Google cache of Renowden’s blog post. šŸ™‚

Update 2008-05-18: Apparently another blogger also has issues with the Listener‘s science reporting.



  1. It’s Renowden, actually šŸ˜‰

    Comment by The Tuatara — 2008/04/28 @ 10:16 | Reply

  2. Thanks, I’ve made the correction. (I don’t know where I got the idea that it’s spelt “Renownden”…)

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/04/28 @ 10:20 | Reply

  3. […] 2: International Journal of Inactivism, Mediawatch (27/4, Radio New Zealand).] If you come across any more, stick ‘em in the […]

    Pingback by Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? : Hot Topic · Global warming and the future of New Zealand — 2008/04/28 @ 10:29 | Reply

  4. For some reason, when I click on the Mediawatch link, my browser (Firefox) shuts down.

    Comment by John M. — 2008/04/29 @ 11:15 | Reply

  5. John M.:

    Hmm… that’s strange… I’m using Firefox and it’s downloading fine, so I’m not sure what the problem at your end is.

    I’ve made a WebCite archive of the MP3. Do let me know whether it works.

    Comment by frankbi — 2008/04/29 @ 11:33 | Reply

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