May 5, 2012

Short-Lived Ad Campaign Stokes Fires Of Climate Change Debate

A Chicago-based, conservative and libertarian think tank has told the Washington Post that they are going to abandon a brief but controversial advertising campaign which claimed that "the most prominent advocates of global warming aren´t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

According to reporter Jason Samenow's original report, the Heartland Institute, a group which promotes climate skepticism, launched a digital billboard campaign featuring Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber.

The billboard, which was first publicly displayed on Thursday, was to be the first featuring a rogue's gallery of terrorists, murderers, and cult leaders who also happened to be supporters of global climate change theory. Future billboards would have featured the likes of Charles Mason, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden, and James J. Lee, the man who took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters two years ago.

Members of the media were overwhelmingly damning in their criticism of the campaign.

Samenow called it "offensive" and in "poor taste," adding that it was "highly regrettable the Heartland Institute, which has sought balance at its own global warming conferences by opening the doors to global warming believers, has chosen to demonize this point of view."

Leo Hickman of the Guardian called it "quite possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns."

Mike Lemonick of OPB News dubbed it "a breathtaking tour de force in logic: if a murderous lunatic believes something -- anything at all -- then everyone else who believes it is a murderous lunatic“¦ According to them, anyone who considers anthropogenic climate change to be a serious threat would do anything -- send mail bombs to strangers, send his disciples out to murder people or impose a politically repressive regime on a Caribbean Island."

Brad Johnson of Forecast the Facts, a new campaign recently launched to spread information on global warming and help meteorologists better understand and explain climate change science, told USA Today's Wendy Koch that the billboard was "outrageous and disgusting."

Despite, or perhaps because of, the backlash, Samenow updated his report Friday afternoon to reflect Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast's announcement that the campaign would be ending at 4:00pm CST.

"This provocative billboard was always intended to be an experiment. And after just 24 hours the results are in: It got people´s attention," Bast said in a statement. "This billboard was deliberately provocative, an attempt to turn the tables on the climate alarmists by using their own tactics but with the opposite message. We found it interesting that the ad seemed to evoke reactions more passionate than when leading alarmists compare climate realists to Nazis or declare they are imposing on our children a mass death sentence. We leave it to others to determine why that is so."

"The Heartland Institute doesn´t often do ℠provocative´ communication. In fact, we´ve spent 15 years presenting the economic and scientific arguments that counter global warming alarmism," he added. "Heartland has spent millions of dollars contributing to the real debate over climate change“¦ In return, we´ve been subjected to the most uncivil name-calling and disparagement you can possibly imagine from climate alarmists. The other side of the climate debate seems to be playing by different rules. This experiment produced further proof of that."

"We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland´s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment. We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ℠realist´ message on the climate," Bast concluded.


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