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.)