The Heartland Billboard

Apparently the climate change deniers are getting really desparate.  As reported in the New York Times on Sunday May 6, the Heartland Institute, an organization whose goal is to discredit global warming claims, recently put up a billboard with a photograph of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski with the caption, “I still believe in global warming.  Do you?”   The intention, of course, to associate the scientists and ordinary people who accept the science on global warming with a serial killer who happened to choose environmental issues as his rationale for murder.  Because of protests and ridicule from both believers and deniers of global warming, the billboard has been taken down, but the Heartland Institute remains unapologetic about its deployment of this guilt by association strategy.

One could elaborate on the shoddiness of the technique and even point out that it works as well from the other side; we could, for example, discredit the right by holding up the example of one Jason Todd Ready, a right-wing extremist in Arizona who recently killed himself and four other people, including a small child, as proof the conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are racists.  To do so, however, would likely backfire in the same way as the Heartland Institute billboard.

So it is more interesting to speculate as to why Heartland resorted to such a low-life strategy at this time.  Could it have anything to do with the fact that a recent survey of registered voters showed that a big majority of all voters believe in global warming and that human activities are the major cause?  Could it have anything to do with the fact that the survey showed that even a majority of Republicans hold that view, and that only 10% of registered voters are climate change deniers?  In other words, is the Heartland Institute Billboard an act of desperation of an untenable position finding itself cornered?  Is it the kind of thing extremists do when they realize that no one believes their lies?

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