It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Liljegren and McIntyre

Lucia Liljegren has been coming at me in her ever-so-tedious way this week. She really has been demonstrating the denialist modus operandi so clearly in the process that I thought it might be worth your attention in a surprising way.

This just came up in conversation with Willard. We're discussing Michael Mann and I asserted that while he doesn't always handle things in the way I would prefer, he is a competent and serious scientist. Willard replied " i'm really not sure about his stats skills, though" and while I was explaining why that was unfair, a light bulb went off.

McIntyre is, you see, full of crap. Not wrong, just full of crap. He does in numbers what Liljegren does in words, which is to say, nitpicking with an obnoxious attitude.
If you answer McIntyre in McIntyre's terms, he does what Lucia does and denies that you defeated him and picks another nit. His audience is ever-so-impressed with him, and reinforced in their attitude that whoever is in the cross-hairs this week is contemptible,

Now Lucia's attempts to make me look bad seem transparent enough that I think they don't really work with most people. But when the conversation happens in an obscure branch of statistics rather than in plain language, the visibility of the trickery is much lower. Few people can follow the conversation. And supposing you do make the effort, spending days parsing the argument, days studying the detail, and days engaging in the argument. What do you get for it?

Nothing, if you are lucky. A bunch of enemies if you are not. You will convince nobody because nobody is really following the argument in detail. It is the tone, the contempt, the snark that is the purpose of the whole thing.

It is in the nature of natural language and in the nature of statistics about real world phenomena that anything, no matter how sincere and well-thought-out, can be nitpicked to the point where a third party has doubts raised. That's the modus operandi. If you want to understand what McIntyre does to what he and his followers call "the team", watch Liljegren at work against me here and here, and on another tack here.

She tries too hard on this stuff; her target is too modest and her effort is too transparent. But that's why it's worthy of examination. There was a rather more complex incident, with a tiny bit of substantive content, a couple of months ago in which the same pattern was evident.

(PS - On that latest one, a comment was posted, by lazar if I recall correctly, that explained my meaning clearly enough with reference to its context. That comment seems to be missing. A glitch, perhaps? McIntyre also has been suspected of quietly disappearing inconvenient comments.)

(PPS - No nitpicking zone in comments to this article.)


Lazar said...


I don't think it was me.
Normally I'd check but at reading down to the sixth sentence of Lucia's first reply I've already lost the will to live.

Lazar said...

Incidentally, Lucia and Steve were the two who lead the charge in obtuseness at CA over the basic, boneheaded, clear-as-day mistakes in Douglass Spencer Pearson Singer 2007. In a recent paper, and in a very non-specific way, Steve conceded DSPS is flawed. I don't think Lucia ever has.

Funny kinda business, this auditing.

Adam said...

Jeebus leaping christ, they must actually enjoy this unbearably tedious whinging. That makes the game un-winnable for anyone with a living human spirit.

Get away from them, MT, before they suck out your soul.

EliRabett said...

As Arthur said

Oh, what a mind-bending thread of discussion. Lucia is as usual trying to persuade all and sundry to believe her and not their lying eyes or brains which just happened to read something that seems to directly contradict what she is claiming. How do you manage to engage there and stay sane?"

and as MT added
Oh Lord save us. It's spreading.

Michael Tobis said...

It somehow all reminds me of this science fiction classic by Asimov.

rumleyfips said...

I read some Lucia, mostly because Zeke can do the math, but I can't be bothered anymore. The disinformation hurts my head.

What I don't see is how she gets the term lukewarmer. Denialist is the correct term.

John McManus

Michael Tobis said...

I asked Zeke via email why he still hangs out there. He suggests he can reach a wider audience than he could on his own blog. I think he is wrong and I have seen evidence that his own reputation is suffering.

I admit to being disappointed here. A year ago I thought Lucia reasonable, just a bit confused. But she now has me cast among her villains and is impervious to anything I say.

(Which, you'll all note, I try not to do.)

seamus said...

MT, in case you don't notice it in the comments over at Eli's, I think this is worth reading: communication and offensive denial

Paul Daniel Ash said...

For whatever reason, Lucia as well as Keith Kloor appear to have developed a really strong distaste for mt, though they can't seem to decide if he's malicious or a laughable Cassandra.

It's interesting that both are more or less in the lukewarmer/pox-on-both-their-houses camp, along with one Mr. Tom Fuller, though I don't know if it's more than a coincidence.

Michael Tobis said...

Keith and I have a short but eventful history. I think we have patched it up for now.

But Lucia simply can't concentrate on what I am saying, instead looking for the wrongest thing I might possibly be saying and attacking that. It's boring.

EliRabett said...

The Rhetoric of Rejection explains it all

Paul Daniel Ash said...

I don't mean flog a dead horse, or prolong a thread that deserves to rest in peace. But anyone tempted to engage the nitpickers might - just might - want to read the denouement of that thread to see how such efforts generally end.

mt, when I joked about FOIA requests I was really joking; Mosh is clearly just playing to the groundlings here, but he's essentially saying, in all seriousness, something I thought was such self-evident foolishness that it couldn't be read as anything other than sarcasm.

Yes, someone is wrong on the internet. Someone was wrong yesterday and someone will be wrong tomorrow. As willard might say, the question of who to engage deserves due diligence.

Arthur said...

Paul and all - I think I've diverted the utterly pathetic "denouement" there a bit successfully, don't you think? :)

FreewheelinFrank said...

"It somehow all reminds me of this science fiction classic by Asimov."

"The position was well put
indeed in a famous speech by Jzbl to the graduates of the Central Saturnian
University, when he said that it was a source of great pride to him that
although hardly anybody knew anything any longer, everybody now knew how
to find out everything."

Ha ha. Asimov foresaw professor Google.

nigguraths said...

You guys are fretting over a climate gambling and gossip website.