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Met Office Are Censoring Critical Comments — NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

By Paul Homewood https://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2020/05/07/coronavirus-will-impact-the-atmospheric-co2-record-but-not-enough-to-slow-global-heating/ The Met Office has obviously decided to join the BBC/Guardian, and have changed it from GLOBAL WARMING to GLOBAL HEATING, in a deliberate attempt to rack up the hysteria. Yesterday, I objected to this, the Met Office don’t appreciate criticism and still have not released my comment […]

über Met Office Are Censoring Critical Comments — NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT

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Climate Change Fueled Witch Hunts…Then And Now – ‘Witches were thought to be responsible for epidemics and crop failures’ during the Little Ice Age — Climate Depot | RSS Link Feed

The European witch hunts of the 15th to 17th centuries targeted witches that were thought to be responsible for epidemics and crop failures as the Earth descended into the horrific cold of the Little Ice Age. 68 weitere Wörter

über Climate Change Fueled Witch Hunts…Then And Now – ‘Witches were thought to be responsible for epidemics and crop failures’ during the Little Ice Age — Climate Depot | RSS Link Feed

Bloomberg : 100 Degree Weather In Phoenix Is Climate Change

Bloomberg : 100 Degree Weather In Phoenix Is Climate Change

Bloomberg : 100 Degree Weather In Phoenix Is Climate Change

Bloomberg thinks Phoenix is dying like New York.  It is actually the fastest growing city in the US.

Deaths from natural disasters are down 90% across the globe over the past century.

Natural Disasters – Our World in Data

Now let’s look at Bloomberg’s understanding of climate. The closest USHCN station to Phoenix is at Buckeye.

They average 105 days above 100F per year, and had 138 days above 100F in 1934 – the hottest year on record in the US.

Parker holds Arizona’s record with 142 days above 100F in 1958.

And in 1978, Parker had 102 consecutive days over 100 degrees. They averaged 108 degrees during that stretch.

Excellent timing by Bloomberg though.  This date in 1936 may have been the hottest day in US history. The average temperature across the US was 96 degrees.

Almost 40% of the US was 100 degrees that day, and a large section of the Midwest was above 110 degrees. Wisconsin set their all-time record of 114 degrees, and Michigan set their all-time record of 112 degrees.

The heat of July 14, 1936 likened to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed fifty million people. Detroit had one death every ten minutes.

14 Jul 1936, 9 – The Leader-Post at Newspapers.com

Bloomberg got every single thing wrong, because he believes fake news from the Washington Post.

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July 14, 2020 at 05:04PM

Siberia on fire – every summer

Siberia on fire – every summer

Quest essay by Pasi Autio 14.7.2020

Wildfire, Siberia: 123rf.com

Figure: Natural forest fire in Russia.

Northern hemisphere summer – the season when forest fires in Siberia are on the loop. And usually every single new article about the Siberian forest fires somehow links them to climate change. Therefore it is good time to see how the forest fires has changed during the years. Is there really an increasing trend of Siberia forest fires as the news suggests and what is continuously predicted based on climate models?

With an area of 13.1 million square kilometres (5,100,000 sq mi), Siberia accounts for 77% of Russia’s land area. Majority of the Siberia is sparsely inhabited wilderness with little or no roads. Therefore, what sets on fire, usually burns until rain or other natural factor ends the fire. Southern Siberia also has extensive logging.

Getting reliable fire area data based on available literature seems to be problematic. According to the literature (1) USSR-era fire area data is unreliable and was consistently and severely underreporting fires on sparsely populated areas due to incomplete reporting structure that left most of the country unmonitored (6). The situation was improved only after western satellite data was taken in use by post-USSR Russia. But considering the size of Siberia and the fact that it is very sparsely populated, it is not wonder that no reliable data can be generated without the help of satellites. But even on satellite era some smaller fires goes undetected due to cloud cover or sensor detection limits (6).

After extensive literature study, I found no actual study providing satellite-based dataset for Siberian forest fires for post-USSR era either, which is strange considering how much coverage the Siberian forest fires have got lately. There seem to be an effort going on to create such a dataset for USSR-era years, however, by digitizing old satellite images taken since 1979, but let’s discuss that later a bit more.

Annual burned area in Siberia 1997-2016

Earlier essay I published (topic was Australian bushfires) made use of satellite data based on Giglio et al 2013. Giglio’s paper describes a fourth generation Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED4). This data set combines satellite records like the 500m MODIS burned area maps with active fire data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) and the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) family of sensors. This is excellent source to create a dataset also for Siberian fires.

The data is available at globalfiredata.org. Site provides a great analysis tool and of course the data itself, if you want to analyze it further. Currently the dataset provides burned area data for the years 1997-2016. It’s possible to select a region or country and choose several options about the source data from emissions to burned area (among others). The Analysis tools section also gives ability to use custom area shape definition. And that’s what I use to create my Siberia forest fire area dataset.

Figure: Definition of Siberia in use with the presented dataset

The area shapefile used tries to mimic greatest extent of Siberia area definition as closely as possible.

Figure: Siberia annual burned area km2

Figure provides the total burned area in Siberia for each year between 1997 and 2016 in km2. We can see that for last 20 years the burned area trend for Siberia is slightly downwards. No evidence whatsoever can be seen for fires getting any worse. The average burned area annually during that period was ~ 91181 km– about the size of Maine.

Years 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2012 were the four most severe fire seasons during this period. In general the inter-annual variability is great (3) with up to 4x differences between years. Forest fires during 2003 were ~ 203288 km2.

USSR-era burned area data

While studying the available literature I found that Stocks and Cahoon had started (ca 2010) a project (3) to digitize old AVHRR satellite images from the period 1979-2000 to build a satellite-based fire-area product for Siberia. This seems to have taken a while since the results of this work has nowhere to be found. The former student of Cahoon, Soja A.J., seems to have continued with this work (4) with Cahoon and Stocks and has presented the results in several conferences during 2018 and 2019. I asked the author whether the data is available for public consumption, but the according to the answer the data is still under validation.

The data is based on different (less sophisticated) instruments, algorithms and methods than GFED4 dataset presented above. Therefore it makes no sense to compare these datasets directly. But for purposes of finding out whether the Siberia forest fires have been getting worse, comparing the trends is interesting. Also, the datasets contain four overlapping years (1997-2000) and using these as a reference we can conclude that burned area on years 1985 and 1987 exceed 1998 and are among the most severe seasons during the satellite era.

The data presented in the conference (4) shows no increasing trend for Siberia burned area either.

In summary when we combine the AVHRR and GFED4 datasets we have 37 years (1979-2016) of burned area data for Siberia. During that time no increasing trend for the forest fires and no detectable signal for “climate change” can be found.

2020 Season fires

As usual, the news outlets are providing worrying stories about the forest fires in Siberia for this season. Greenpeace Russia has provided this piece of information (7):

Greenpeace Russia’s forest programme, which analyses satellite data, said Saturday that a total of 9.26 million hectares—greater than the size of Portugal—have been impacted by wildfires since the beginning of 2020.”

Sounds bad. But how does this 9.26 million hectares (92600 km2) compare to earlier years? Once again, globalfiredata.org Analysis tool provides us this information. Cumulative burned area for Siberia from January to the end of June for selected years in the past:

  • 2003: 15.4 Mha (154205 km2)
  • 2008: 15.5 Mha (155114 km2)

If data provided by Greenpeace is correct (no source to verify it), the start of the 2020 fire season in Siberia has been one of the worst since 1997, but in no means the record.

Summary

  • Siberian forest fires are extensive every summer with up to ~4x variations between the years
  • Average burned area for the Siberia is ~ 91000 km2 / 9.1 Mha / 35200 sq miles – about the size of Portugal
  • Contrary to the climate model predictions, no increased burned area can be found during 1979-2016 for Siberia

Further reading

Russia’s Forests Dominating Forest Types and Their Canopy Density:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272680068_Russia%27s_Forests_Dominating_Forest_Types_and_Their_Canopy_Density

REFERENCES

  1. Giglio, L., J. T. Randerson, and G. R. van der Werf (2013), Analysis of daily, monthly, and annual burned area using the fourth-generation global fire emissions database (GFED4),J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci.,118, 317–328, doi:10.1002/jgrg.20042.
  2. Giglio, L., Boschetti, L., Roy, D.P., Humber, M.L., Justice, C.O., 2018. The collection 6 MODIS burned area mapping algorithm and product. Remote Sens. Environ. 217,72–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.08.005.
  3. Stocks, Cahoon 2010; Reconstructing Post-1979 Forest Fire Activity and Area Burned in Russia: NOAA AVHRR Analysis https://www.researchgate.net/publication/253580597_Reconstructing_Post1979_Forest_Fire_Activity_and_Area_Burned_in_Russia_NOAA_AVHRR_Analysis_Invited
  4. Historic AVHRR-derived Burned Area product and validation for Siberia (1979 – 2000) https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2019AGUFMGC24C..07S/abstract
  5. Vegetation fires and global change; White paper directed to UN
  6. https://eecentre.org/Modules/EECResources/UploadFile/Attachment/Vegetation-Fires-Global-Change-UN-White-Paper-GFMC-2013.pdf#page=52
  7. Nearly 300 wildfires in Siberia amid record warm weather https://phys.org/news/2020-07-wildfires-siberia-weather.html

Siberia burned area dataset generated from globalfiredata.org:

Annual Burned Area: Area 1 (units: km^2)
area, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Area 1, 72515.49, 156759.94, 64566.03, 71509.61, 81478.54, 91947.5, 203288.34, 48805.25, 60614.74, 102303.24, 53793.62, 183118.31, 61870.23, 67793.46, 76604.99, 124019.83, 48602.92, 95504.16, 74647.34, 83883.75

Siberia shapefile used the generate the dataset above:

{"type":"Feature","properties":{"name":"Area 1"},"geometry":{"type":"MultiPolygon","coordinates":[[[[65.126953125,69.59589006237648],[69.697265625,73.50346063726599],[78.3984375,73.77577986189993],[100.986328125,77.29320180280092],[90.263671875,79.63987399850707],[90,80.7323485464832],[93.955078125,81.55707352166368],[138.25195312499997,76.9007089258869],[180,72.39825525029977],[180,61.683092710640715],[174.90234375,60.50052541051131],[156.181640625,49.38237278700955],[144.755859375,45.82879925192134],[142.91015625,45.583289756006316],[140.2734375,45.89000815866184],[134.736328125,40.97989806962013],[129.0234375,40.245991504199026],[128.14453125,41.83682786072714],[131.044921875,43.004647127794435],[130.95703125,44.96479793033101],[132.978515625,45.213003555993964],[134.6484375,48.45835188280866],[131.044921875,47.81315451752768],[130.4296875,48.922499263758255],[127.705078125,49.61070993807422],[125.94726562499999,52.96187505907603],[123.74999999999999,53.38332836757156],[121.201171875,53.4357192066942],[119.61914062499999,50.233151832472245],[117.7734375,49.61070993807422],[114.60937499999999,50.233151832472245],[112.5,49.32512199104001],[108.720703125,49.38237278700955],[105.46875,50.45750402042058],[102.83203125,50.28933925329178],[102.48046875,51.45400691005982],[98.525390625,51.998410382390325],[97.734375,51.01375465718821],[98.173828125,50.3454604086048],[97.03125,49.724479188712984],[94.833984375,49.95121990866204],[92.28515625,50.736455137010665],[87.71484375,49.03786794532644],[83.232421875,50.90303283111257],[80.33203125,50.792047064406866],[76.46484375,54.213861000644926],[74.1796875,53.54030739150022],[70.83984375,55.07836723201515],[68.818359375,55.429013452407396],[61.34765625,53.904338156274704],[60.55664062499999,51.998410382390325],[58.71093750000001,52.3755991766591],[59.4140625,56.07203547180089],[57.39257812499999,56.07203547180089],[57.48046875,56.84897198026975],[59.23828124999999,58.6769376725869],[58.447265625,59.57885104663186],[59.150390625,60.23981116999893],[59.765625,64.88626540914477],[65.91796875,67.47492238478702],[65.126953125,69.59589006237648]]],[[[-179.99,61.685412536149016],[-179.99,72.3971767678287],[-178.2421875,72.20867825343294],[-168.57421875,66.8265202749748],[-169.453125,64.1297836764257],[-179.99,61.685412536149016]]]]}}
You can upload this shapefile to globalfiredata.org analysis tool to replicate the results in this essay.

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July 14, 2020 at 04:42PM

Siberia on fire – every summer

Wildfire, Siberia: 123rf.com

Figure: Natural forest fire in Russia.

Northern hemisphere summer – the season when forest fires in Siberia are on the loop. And usually every single new article about the Siberian forest fires somehow links them to climate change. Therefore it is good time to see how the forest fires has changed during the years. Is there really an increasing trend of Siberia forest fires as the news suggests and what is continuously predicted based on climate models?

With an area of 13.1 million square kilometres (5,100,000 sq mi), Siberia accounts for 77% of Russia’s land area. Majority of the Siberia is sparsely inhabited wilderness with little or no roads. Therefore, what sets on fire, usually burns until rain or other natural factor ends the fire. Southern Siberia also has extensive logging.

Getting reliable fire area data based on available literature seems to be problematic. According to the literature (1) USSR-era fire area data is unreliable and was consistently and severely underreporting fires on sparsely populated areas due to incomplete reporting structure that left most of the country unmonitored (6). The situation was improved only after western satellite data was taken in use by post-USSR Russia. But considering the size of Siberia and the fact that it is very sparsely populated, it is not wonder that no reliable data can be generated without the help of satellites. But even on satellite era some smaller fires goes undetected due to cloud cover or sensor detection limits (6).

After extensive literature study, I found no actual study providing satellite-based dataset for Siberian forest fires for post-USSR era either, which is strange considering how much coverage the Siberian forest fires have got lately. There seem to be an effort going on to create such a dataset for USSR-era years, however, by digitizing old satellite images taken since 1979, but let’s discuss that later a bit more.

Annual burned area in Siberia 1997-2016

Earlier essay I published (topic was Australian bushfires) made use of satellite data based on Giglio et al 2013. Giglio’s paper describes a fourth generation Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED4). This data set combines satellite records like the 500m MODIS burned area maps with active fire data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) and the Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) family of sensors. This is excellent source to create a dataset also for Siberian fires.

The data is available at globalfiredata.org. Site provides a great analysis tool and of course the data itself, if you want to analyze it further. Currently the dataset provides burned area data for the years 1997-2016. It’s possible to select a region or country and choose several options about the source data from emissions to burned area (among others). The Analysis tools section also gives ability to use custom area shape definition. And that’s what I use to create my Siberia forest fire area dataset.

Figure: Definition of Siberia in use with the presented dataset

The area shapefile used tries to mimic greatest extent of Siberia area definition as closely as possible.

Figure: Siberia annual burned area km2

Figure provides the total burned area in Siberia for each year between 1997 and 2016 in km2. We can see that for last 20 years the burned area trend for Siberia is slightly downwards. No evidence whatsoever can be seen for fires getting any worse. The average burned area annually during that period was ~ 91181 km– about the size of Maine.

Years 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2012 were the four most severe fire seasons during this period. In general the inter-annual variability is great (3) with up to 4x differences between years. Forest fires during 2003 were ~ 203288 km2.

USSR-era burned area data

While studying the available literature I found that Stocks and Cahoon had started (ca 2010) a project (3) to digitize old AVHRR satellite images from the period 1979-2000 to build a satellite-based fire-area product for Siberia. This seems to have taken a while since the results of this work has nowhere to be found. The former student of Cahoon, Soja A.J., seems to have continued with this work (4) with Cahoon and Stocks and has presented the results in several conferences during 2018 and 2019. I asked the author whether the data is available for public consumption, but the according to the answer the data is still under validation.

The data is based on different (less sophisticated) instruments, algorithms and methods than GFED4 dataset presented above. Therefore it makes no sense to compare these datasets directly. But for purposes of finding out whether the Siberia forest fires have been getting worse, comparing the trends is interesting. Also, the datasets contain four overlapping years (1997-2000) and using these as a reference we can conclude that burned area on years 1985 and 1987 exceed 1998 and are among the most severe seasons during the satellite era.

The data presented in the conference (4) shows no increasing trend for Siberia burned area either.

In summary when we combine the AVHRR and GFED4 datasets we have 37 years (1979-2016) of burned area data for Siberia. During that time no increasing trend for the forest fires and no detectable signal for “climate change” can be found.

2020 Season fires

As usual, the news outlets are providing worrying stories about the forest fires in Siberia for this season. Greenpeace Russia has provided this piece of information (7):

Greenpeace Russia’s forest programme, which analyses satellite data, said Saturday that a total of 9.26 million hectares—greater than the size of Portugal—have been impacted by wildfires since the beginning of 2020.”

Sounds bad. But how does this 9.26 million hectares (92600 km2) compare to earlier years? Once again, globalfiredata.org Analysis tool provides us this information. Cumulative burned area for Siberia from January to the end of June for selected years in the past:

  • 2003: 15.4 Mha (154205 km2)
  • 2008: 15.5 Mha (155114 km2)

If data provided by Greenpeace is correct (no source to verify it), the start of the 2020 fire season in Siberia has been one of the worst since 1997, but in no means the record.

Summary

  • Siberian forest fires are extensive every summer with up to ~4x variations between the years
  • Average burned area for the Siberia is ~ 91000 km2 / 9.1 Mha / 35200 sq miles – about the size of Portugal
  • Contrary to the climate model predictions, no increased burned area can be found during 1979-2016 for Siberia

Further reading

Russia’s Forests Dominating Forest Types and Their Canopy Density:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272680068_Russia%27s_Forests_Dominating_Forest_Types_and_Their_Canopy_Density

REFERENCES

  1. Giglio, L., J. T. Randerson, and G. R. van der Werf (2013), Analysis of daily, monthly, and annual burned area using the fourth-generation global fire emissions database (GFED4),J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci.,118, 317–328, doi:10.1002/jgrg.20042.
  2. Giglio, L., Boschetti, L., Roy, D.P., Humber, M.L., Justice, C.O., 2018. The collection 6 MODIS burned area mapping algorithm and product. Remote Sens. Environ. 217,72–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2018.08.005.
  3. Stocks, Cahoon 2010; Reconstructing Post-1979 Forest Fire Activity and Area Burned in Russia: NOAA AVHRR Analysis https://www.researchgate.net/publication/253580597_Reconstructing_Post1979_Forest_Fire_Activity_and_Area_Burned_in_Russia_NOAA_AVHRR_Analysis_Invited
  4. Historic AVHRR-derived Burned Area product and validation for Siberia (1979 – 2000) https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2019AGUFMGC24C..07S/abstract
  5. Vegetation fires and global change; White paper directed to UN
  6. https://eecentre.org/Modules/EECResources/UploadFile/Attachment/Vegetation-Fires-Global-Change-UN-White-Paper-GFMC-2013.pdf#page=52
  7. Nearly 300 wildfires in Siberia amid record warm weather https://phys.org/news/2020-07-wildfires-siberia-weather.html

Siberia burned area dataset generated from globalfiredata.org:

Annual Burned Area: Area 1 (units: km^2)
area, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Area 1, 72515.49, 156759.94, 64566.03, 71509.61, 81478.54, 91947.5, 203288.34, 48805.25, 60614.74, 102303.24, 53793.62, 183118.31, 61870.23, 67793.46, 76604.99, 124019.83, 48602.92, 95504.16, 74647.34, 83883.75

Siberia shapefile used the generate the dataset above:

{"type":"Feature","properties":{"name":"Area 1"},"geometry":{"type":"MultiPolygon","coordinates":[[[[65.126953125,69.59589006237648],[69.697265625,73.50346063726599],[78.3984375,73.77577986189993],[100.986328125,77.29320180280092],[90.263671875,79.63987399850707],[90,80.7323485464832],[93.955078125,81.55707352166368],[138.25195312499997,76.9007089258869],[180,72.39825525029977],[180,61.683092710640715],[174.90234375,60.50052541051131],[156.181640625,49.38237278700955],[144.755859375,45.82879925192134],[142.91015625,45.583289756006316],[140.2734375,45.89000815866184],[134.736328125,40.97989806962013],[129.0234375,40.245991504199026],[128.14453125,41.83682786072714],[131.044921875,43.004647127794435],[130.95703125,44.96479793033101],[132.978515625,45.213003555993964],[134.6484375,48.45835188280866],[131.044921875,47.81315451752768],[130.4296875,48.922499263758255],[127.705078125,49.61070993807422],[125.94726562499999,52.96187505907603],[123.74999999999999,53.38332836757156],[121.201171875,53.4357192066942],[119.61914062499999,50.233151832472245],[117.7734375,49.61070993807422],[114.60937499999999,50.233151832472245],[112.5,49.32512199104001],[108.720703125,49.38237278700955],[105.46875,50.45750402042058],[102.83203125,50.28933925329178],[102.48046875,51.45400691005982],[98.525390625,51.998410382390325],[97.734375,51.01375465718821],[98.173828125,50.3454604086048],[97.03125,49.724479188712984],[94.833984375,49.95121990866204],[92.28515625,50.736455137010665],[87.71484375,49.03786794532644],[83.232421875,50.90303283111257],[80.33203125,50.792047064406866],[76.46484375,54.213861000644926],[74.1796875,53.54030739150022],[70.83984375,55.07836723201515],[68.818359375,55.429013452407396],[61.34765625,53.904338156274704],[60.55664062499999,51.998410382390325],[58.71093750000001,52.3755991766591],[59.4140625,56.07203547180089],[57.39257812499999,56.07203547180089],[57.48046875,56.84897198026975],[59.23828124999999,58.6769376725869],[58.447265625,59.57885104663186],[59.150390625,60.23981116999893],[59.765625,64.88626540914477],[65.91796875,67.47492238478702],[65.126953125,69.59589006237648]]],[[[-179.99,61.685412536149016],[-179.99,72.3971767678287],[-178.2421875,72.20867825343294],[-168.57421875,66.8265202749748],[-169.453125,64.1297836764257],[-179.99,61.685412536149016]]]]}}
You can upload this shapefile to globalfiredata.org analysis tool to replicate the results in this essay.

Guest Blogger / 43 mins ago July 14, 2020

Quest essay by Pasi Autio 14.7.2020

— Watts Up With That?

Bari Weiss Resigns from NYT

Bari Weiss Resigns from NYT

For a thorough understanding of what is wrong with US media, read this resignation letter by Bari Weiss. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Dear A.G.,

It is with sadness that I write to tell you that I am resigning from The New York Times.

I joined the paper with gratitude and optimism three years ago. I was hired with the goal of bringing in voices that would not otherwise appear in your pages: first-time writers, centrists, conservatives and others who would not naturally think of The Times as their home. The reason for this effort was clear: The paper’s failure to anticipate the outcome of the 2016 election meant that it didn’t have a firm grasp of the country it covers. Dean Baquet and others have admitted as much on various occasions. The priority in Opinion was to help redress that critical shortcoming.

I was honored to be part of that effort, led by James Bennet. I am proud of my work as a writer and as an editor. Among those I helped bring to our pages: the Venezuelan dissident Wuilly Arteaga; the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani; and the Hong Kong Christian democrat Derek Lam. Also: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad, Zaina Arafat, Elna Baker, Rachael Denhollander, Matti Friedman, Nick Gillespie, Heather Heying, Randall Kennedy, Julius Krein, Monica Lewinsky, Glenn Loury, Jesse Singal, Ali Soufan, Chloe Valdary, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Wesley Yang, and many others.

But the lessons that ought to have followed the election—lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned.

Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.

Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing molded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

My own forays into Wrongthink have made me the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree with my views. They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.

There are terms for all of this: unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge. I’m no legal expert. But I know that this is wrong.

I do not understand how you have allowed this kind of behavior to go on inside your company in full view of the paper’s entire staff and the public. And I certainly can’t square how you and other Times leaders have stood by while simultaneously praising me in private for my courage.

Showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.

Part of me wishes I could say that my experience was unique. But the truth is that intellectual curiosity—let alone risk-taking—is now a liability at The Times. Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world? And so self-censorship has become the norm.

What rules that remain at The Times are applied with extreme selectivity. If a person’s ideology is in keeping with the new orthodoxy, they and their work remain unscrutinized. Everyone else lives in fear of the digital thunderdome. Online venom is excused so long as it is directed at the proper targets.

Op-eds that would have easily been published just two years ago would now get an editor or a writer in serious trouble, if not fired. If a piece is perceived as likely to inspire backlash internally or on social media, the editor or writer avoids pitching it. If she feels strongly enough to suggest it, she is quickly steered to safer ground. And if, every now and then, she succeeds in getting a piece published that does not explicitly promote progressive causes, it happens only after every line is carefully massaged, negotiated and caveated.

It took the paper two days and two jobs to say that the Tom Cotton op-ed “fell short of our standards.” We attached an editor’s note on a travel story about Jaffa shortly after it was published because it “failed to touch on important aspects of Jaffa’s makeup and its history.” But there is still none appended to Cheryl Strayed’s fawning interview with the writer Alice Walker, a proud anti-Semite who believes in lizard Illuminati.

The paper of record is, more and more, the record of those living in a distant galaxy, one whose concerns are profoundly removed from the lives of most people. This is a galaxy in which, to choose just a few recent examples, the Soviet space program is lauded for its “diversity”; the doxxing of teenagers in the name of justice is condoned; and the worst caste systems in human history includes the United States alongside Nazi Germany.

Even now, I am confident that most people at The Times do not hold these views. Yet they are cowed by those who do. Why? Perhaps because they believe the ultimate goal is righteous. Perhaps because they believe that they will be granted protection if they nod along as the coin of our realm—language—is degraded in service to an ever-shifting laundry list of right causes. Perhaps because there are millions of unemployed people in this country and they feel lucky to have a job in a contracting industry.

Or perhaps it is because they know that, nowadays, standing up for principle at the paper does not win plaudits. It puts a target on your back. Too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the “new McCarthyism” that has taken root at the paper of record.

All this bodes ill, especially for independent-minded young writers and editors paying close attention to what they’ll have to do to advance in their careers. Rule One: Speak your mind at your own peril. Rule Two: Never risk commissioning a story that goes against the narrative. Rule Three: Never believe an editor or publisher who urges you to go against the grain. Eventually, the publisher will cave to the mob, the editor will get fired or reassigned, and you’ll be hung out to dry.

For these young writers and editors, there is one consolation. As places like The Times and other once-great journalistic institutions betray their standards and lose sight of their principles, Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital, and debate that is sincere. I hear from these people every day. “An independent press is not a liberal ideal or a progressive ideal or a democratic ideal. It’s an American ideal,” you said a few years ago. I couldn’t agree more. America is a great country that deserves a great newspaper.

None of this means that some of the most talented journalists in the world don’t still labor for this newspaper. They do, which is what makes the illiberal environment especially heartbreaking. I will be, as ever, a dedicated reader of their work. But I can no longer do the work that you brought me here to do—the work that Adolph Ochs described in that famous 1896 statement: “to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”

Ochs’s idea is one of the best I’ve encountered. And I’ve always comforted myself with the notion that the best ideas win out. But ideas cannot win on their own. They need a voice. They need a hearing. Above all, they must be backed by people willing to live by them.

Sincerely,

Bari

via Science Matters

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July 14, 2020 at 01:45PM

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