Relevant facts aren’t ‘smears’

RELEVANT FACTS AREN’T ‘SMEARS’…. The far-right’s obsession with Alan Carlin continues. Today, the Wall Street Journal ran this wildly unpersuasive piece from Kimberley Strassel on the subject.

[Carlin is] a senior analyst in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics and a 35-year veteran of the agency…. [Earlier this year], Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend.

Now, for the relevant details. When Strassel describes Carlin as a “senior analyst,” she neglects to mention that he’s an economist, not a scientist. When Strassel describes Carlin’s work as “a 98-page analysis,” she neglects to mention that Carlin’s work was actually a hobbyist memo, which wasn’t requested by anyone at the EPA. The “analysis” has accurately been described as “a hodgepodge of widely discredited pseudoscience,” and “a ragbag collection of un-peer reviewed web pages, an unhealthy dose of sunstroke, a dash of astrology and more cherries than you can poke a cocktail stick at.”

Better yet, Strassel insists that Carlin is now being subjected to a “smear campaign.”

Unable to defend the EPA’s actions, the climate-change crew — led by anonymous EPA officials — is doing what it does best: trashing Mr. Carlin as a “denier.” He is, we are told, “only” an economist (he in fact holds a degree in physics from CalTech). It wasn’t his “job” to look at this issue (he in fact works in an office tasked with “informing important policy decisions with sound economics and other sciences.”) His study was full of sham science. (The majority of it in fact references peer-reviewed studies.)

Strassel doesn’t have any evidence to bolster the argument that EPA officials are “smearing” Carlin, but she says it anyway. Given her rejection of scientific evidence on global warming, evidence probably doesn’t matter much to her anyway.

More important, though, notice that what Strassel calls “smears” might also be described as “facts.” Carlin really is an economist. Carlin’s undergraduate degree in physics really doesn’t have any relevance to his anti-climate change hobby. Carlin’s memo really was looked over by scientists. The EPA’s actions really are easy to defend. It really wasn’t Carlin’s job to attack the available scientific evidence on global warming. Carlin really did put his memo together in his free time. His hobby really is full of discredited pseudoscience.

Strassel seems to believe putting scare quotes around words she doesn’t like somehow makes her argument more compelling. It doesn’t change the reality that relevant facts aren’t smears, and Strassel’s argument doesn’t make any sense at all.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.