This episode is a sad sad sad comment on the state of blogging and news reporting. Three reasons.
First, for legal reasons, I’d like to think that no news organization should be allowed to report on the content of that mail. This is the equivalent of someone breaking into your mailbox in front of your house, opening your mail, then publishing it. Seriously, how would you feel if the NY Times wrote about a private letter you mailed to a colleague or friend being stolen and tacked to lampposts all over town? Would you sue? Do you think it should be admissible in court? Is the lesson here that we can never consider e-mail or any communication to be private so we should go back to using the postal service?
Second, even if you ignore the legality, there’s ample reason to consider the contents of the mail with caution. It is private communication so people for whom that communication were not intended are not qualified to interpret that communication. I barely am able to follow some messages that I receive without looking over past correspondence for context. So, no, I will not defend anything that the scientists wrote. Nor will I condemn any of it either. For one reason: I have no idea what exactly those words meant. Neither do you. Every single thing in those messages could be misinterpreted because we are missing the context.
Finally, even if you ignore the legality, and ignore the lack of context, this episode is full of the same “post first, ask questions later” approach that usually destroys whatever good the blogosphere might accomplish. The vast majority of the bloggers, reporters and comment-ers are reacting to snippets pulled out private conversations, and done so by people whose objective is to question climate science. Stop it.
This episode is not a window into how climate science works. It’s a window into how electronic communication has altered our standards and the way we work. Nobody looks good here. We should all be embarrassed.
This is the last you’ll hear of it on Maribo.