Megan McArdle, on Gleick
February 22, 2012 - 11:18 am
Megan has done good work on this from the first, probably better because she’s actually a believer in the CO2AGW hypothesis. Here’s my favorite quote from today:
There’s been a bit of back and forth with some correspondents, asking why I was not outraged about the East Anglia hack? Interestingly, no one has asked me why I wasn’t outraged by the Buffalo reporter who called Scott Walker pretending to be David Koch–which seems to me to be a closer parallel.
There are a lot of answers to that, but the largest is that I am not surprised by leaks–but I was very surprised that a man of Gleick’s stature would take this sort of risk, on such flimsy evidence.
Scientists and journalists are held to higher standards than, say, your average computer hacker. Trust in our work product is dependent on our personal integrity, because it can’t always be verified independently.
Impersonating an actual person is well over the line that any reputable journalist needs to maintain. I might try to get a job at a Food Lion to expose unsafe food handling. I would not represent myself as a health inspector, or the regional VP. I don’t do things that are illegal–at least, not things that are illegal in the stable western democracy in which I live.
Nor would I ever, ever claim that a document came from Heartland unless I had personally received it from them, gotten them to confirm its provenance, or authenticated it with multiple independent sources.
And ethics aside, what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position–so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn’t have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment. The reason he did it was even crazier. I would probably have thrown that memo away. I might have spent a few hours idly checking it out. I would definitely not have risked jail or personal ruin over something so questionable, and which provided evidence of . . . what? That Heartland exists? That it has a budget? That it spends that budget promoting views which Gleick finds reprehensible?
I think Megan’s one missing step is this: he knew he was doing it In A Noble Cause. Humans seem to be capable of nearly any foolishness in a noble cause.