Heartland Institute Jumps the Shark

By Mike Lemonick

By taking climate change seriously, I always thought I was in the company of some of the world’s most accomplished scientists and most passionate defenders of the environment. But now, thanks to the campaigners for truth at the Heartland Institute, I know better. My real peers are some of the most despicable criminals and tyrants in modern history, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro.

I know this because Heartland has begun putting up billboards in Chicago featuring Kaczynski and the other villains in advance of the organization’s upcoming climate conference, to let Chicagoland residents know what’s what. “I still believe in Global Warming,” declares a scary-looking Kaczynski. “Do you?”

Credit: Heartland Institute. 

Tough stuff, but you’ve got to love the reasoning, which Heartland explains on its website. “…what these murderers and madmen have said differs very little from what spokespersons for the United Nations, journalists for the “mainstream” media, and liberal politicians say about global warming.”

It’s a breathtaking tour de force in logic: if a murderous lunatic believes something — anything at all — then everyone else who believes it is a murderous lunatic. By this impeccable reasoning, you’d better not be against smoking, because…so was Adolf Hitler (believe it or not, this gambit has actually been played). Hitler was also a vegetarian, at least some of the time, so if you subscribe to both of these beliefs, you’re doubly despicable.

Or maybe you’re a devout Catholic. So was the Spanish Inquisition’s chief torturer and burner-at-the-stake Torquemada. I even heard once, though I can’t confirm it, that former Ugandan strongman Idi Amin loved little kittens, and I have it on good authority that Genghis Khan was good to his horses.

I, for one, am ready to accept whatever Heartland tells me — that the theft of emails in the so-called “Climategate” affair was justified because it revealed the lies and deceptions of mainstream climate science, and that any vindication of the emails’ original senders was a whitewash. When a climate scientist tried deceiving Heartland into releasing its own internal documents, on the other hand, the institute was shocked — shocked! — that anyone could be so devious.

But they shouldn’t have been, of course. According to them, anyone who considers anthropogenic climate change to be a serious threat would do anything — send mail bombs to strangers, send his disciples out to murder people or impose a politically repressive regime on a Caribbean Island. And worse: on the list of future billboard stars is none other than Osama Bin Laden.

So as of this moment, I hereby renounce anything I ever said about humans and climate change. Those so-called “greenhouse gases” I used to talk about until… an hour ago, more or less… aren’t the cause of anything. They can’t be, because if they were, Bad People wouldn’t think so.

And that column I wrote recently about the unbelievable nonsense some climate skeptics keep talking? I take it all back.

While I’m at it, I think I’ll take up smoking, and go find a horse to kick.

**Update: 5:30 PM, May 4: The Heartland Institute pulled the digital billboard late this afternoon, after it ran for 24 hours. In a statement to the press, Heartland President Joseph Bast did not apologize for the billboard, and said it was deliberately designed to stir up strong reactions. “This provocative billboard was always intended to be an experiment. And after just 24 hours the results are in: It got people’s attention,” Bast stated. “This billboard was deliberately provocative, an attempt to turn the tables on the climate alarmists by using their own tactics but with the opposite message. We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence. We leave it to others to determine why that is so.”

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”