Saturday, February 13, 2010

Monckton the Saviour?

My husband debated Christopher Monckton at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney yesterday. It was two hours and in that time I noticed some of the debating tricks the Viscount used. I thought it would be fun to pass these on.

How to Debate Climate Change Monckton Style

When it is your turn to speak, walk forward to center stage in a deliberate manner, plant your feet far apart and thrust out your belly, leaning forward as much as possible. This will give you the air of pomposity that will remind people that you are nobility and your views should not be challenged. Further this by using an internationally recognized symbol on all your work to impress people:

Start your presentation with something emotional- starving people in Africa is a good topic. Makes it look like you are doing it for them, not for your own bank account and the attention you crave.

Next relate the problem to how it affects your audience. Scare tactics work well here. People will believe anything you say.and won't notice that you are using your right to free speech to tell people they don't have any. Global conspiracy? Sure! Show them they will be the victims and that they need a lord to be their saviour.

Then go to the topic of the discussion. Here you are at a terrible disadvantage because any graph you put up is going to show, even to the least scientific member of the audience that temperatures are rising. So use distractions and big words and terms the audience has never heard of before. It will reinforce that you are a genius and they couldn't ever hope to understand the topic let alone trust what their own eyes are telling them. They will feel dumb and helpless and dependent on you.

Know facts and figures, be well read and have a photographic memory so you can pull any figure out of the air that you need. If you don't know, guess, but say it promptly with authority so no one will know.

Always make it sound like you've spoken with the experts or that you know them personally and that they are on your side.

Answer a question, but let the other side answer first. That makes you look gracious. Then, say “Well no, that's not quite right”. People won't notice when the rest of what you say agrees with the opponent- all they will remember is that you said it was wrong.

Take every opportunity to answer questions. Use these questions to slide right into a speech of a related topic that you have already prepared.

Always compliment the question, even if just to say it is interesting. They'll be thrilled to hear that from someone who is as important as you.

If the opponent makes a good point, give the shortest possible answer to it and go directly into a question and topic that is as far related to it as possible. That will confuse he opponent and kill the impact of your opponent's argument.

When you are making your concluding remarks, remember that the audience is there so you can comfort them. They don't want global warming to be true- who does? What they want is someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about to reassure them that everything's going to be all right and they will fight anyone who says otherwise.

In the end that's all you have to do.

I photoshopped the Jughead picture which comes from here, and joined it to another picture I photoshopped using one of Monckton's slides and his publicity shot from here.

The top photo comes from here.


Jody said...

Thanks for posting this.

It's what enraged me about the debate. To me, Tim won on the science but Monckton won on "rhetorical skill." For trivia and incidentals, he almost had me believing he was right when he could name some sundry bit of fluff from a conspiracy website.

I love your husband for debating Monckton, but I'm divided about the effort being beneficial in the grand scheme of things.

Grim said...

Yes, it's a real problem, isn't it. On the one hand, to leave Monckton unchallenged is just to give him total liebensraum to say anything he wants. But to debate him is to give him credibility - as someone worthy of serious attention - that he just doesn't warrant.

It reminds me of a report by George Bernard Shaw on a public 'debate' he attended on 'The Flat Earth'. The audience, so GBS reported, were almost all against the Flat Earth idea (no elephants or turtles here), but the Flat Earth proponent, who'd debated the issue many times, knew all of the simple arguments that the public was likely to raise, and had a rehearsed and practiced refutation for all of them.

The upshot was that, if I remember rightly, GBS got up and declared that the argument had convinced him that the Earth wasn't round, but that it was, in fact, hexagonal. The Flat Earthist was flabbergasted, but the 'public' went berserk (GBS even got death threats, apparently. Plus c'est la meme chose, it seems).

But at least I guess 'the public' were on the right side, they just didn't really know why.

And they still don't.

Jody said...

Grim, I see your point. We're trying to convince a group that could walk away believing anything they want, no matter how clearly the data is explained -- and we'd still blame ourselves.

The tough part, for me, is that I know how hard it is to debate someone like Monckton (and there are a lot of Monckton's in the world.) To really counter well, you have to be a showman and an intellectual, thinking both strategically and tactically. I could see that Tim had done some of that, but not enough.

My understanding is that this was Tim's first public debate, so I was impressed he did as well as he did. The whole Pinker thing was utterly brilliant. At the same time, like becoming a scientist or a computer programmer, learning to debate is a skill and it takes a while to learn how to do it well. Monckton's been doing it for a while and he's polished.

I'm hoping that Tim gets more polished, too. We could really use more expert climatologists and expert debaters.

(None of the above should be seen as a slam against Tim. I've learned so much from his blog and his demolishing of anti-AGW writing.)

Grim said...


Aye, there's the rub. Many years ago when I did a bit of presenting/debating myself, I learned some ancient wisdom. That you are always talking to different groups of people:

* Supporters
* The uncommitted
* Enemies

And you had to tailor your presentation according to who you were 'presenting' to (I use the word 'presenting' here because to me, anything with Monckton in it will never be a 'debate' as I used to know and love such).

* to supporters: a simple, straightforward affirmation of the shared 'truth'.
* to the uncommitted: be even handed, present 'both sides' (on those few occasions there are only two sides) fairly, and come down firmly, but not arrogantly, on the side of right. Lead them to think they have fairly and reasonably considered the matter.
* to enemies: say anything you like any way you like, they aren't going to believe you anyway.

But what do you do when you have an audience composed of all three groups and Monckton - the classical 'ringmaster showman' - to debate ?

So far as I can ascertain, Tim did well, and slaughtered Monckton on the science, but did it mean diddlysquat to 'the uncommitted' ? Well, maybe, but we'll probably never know.

Nonetheless, my thanks to Tim for genuinely trying, and for presenting 'our side' well. At least it wasn't just the sound of one hand clapping.

PG said...

Just an aside, I think an alternative way to 'debate' Monckton is to call him on his conspiracy claims.

1) What evidence can he provide to support his claims of a global conspiracy?
2) What form will this world government take?
3) What role would the UN, World Bank, IMF etc play in this new global government? Would these institutions be replaced by new ones answering to Al Gore and the IPCC?

...and so on.

You can't have a rational debate with an irrational I think it might more amusing to follow Monckton down his little conspiracy rabbit hole and see where he goes.

Who knows..he may have 'A Few Good Men' moment and start frothing at the mouth about aliens and the moon landing.

Jody said...

Not to throw a lot of "America Pride" into this discussion, but the reason why I was so impressed with President Obama's recent Q&A with the Republicans was that he obviously knew their arguments as well as he knew his own and was able to refute them / disagree / counter them directly. It was impressive and exactly what is required in these situations.

Not that I want Tim to be Obama, but the kind of performance that Obama gave was both accurate (mostly) and direct. It's a kind of skill that can be developed, but it takes a while. It's also what it takes to win these kind of events on both the content and the presentation.

Carmen said...


I got a comment about the use of the word "liebensraum" but I accidentally erased it. The writer was basically correcting you by saying lieben means love, leben means living, and raum means room. So you probably meant "room to live" not "room to love" in your quote.

Also someone posted with a huge rant containing one conspiracy after another. I deleted that because I didn't understand it and it was off topic.



Carmen said...

Further to what Grim said:

Tim's basic strategy was to see everyone as friendly and wanting to hear both sides of the story, even though most people there were Monckton supporters. In a way he had a huge advantage over Monckton.He was a beginner, Monckton was a veteran. He was just Tim Lambert of Maroubra, vs this member of the nobility. Australians tend side with the underdog, and and with the Aussie rather than the Pom and they hate tall poppies, which is exactly what Monckton is. So although they were Monckton supporters, the people in the audience had to fight their natural instincts to be on Tim's side. By being himself they couldn't help but like him. When he made a devastating point he was gracious. People respect that. No one likes a bully.

After the debate Monckton supporters came over and told us how much they appreciated that the debaters were respectful towards each other. They said they wished all debates were like this. They also liked the way Tim explained things and was respectful enough to the audience to give them the information they needed to make up their own mind. So because he didn't see them as the enemy, they were willing to listen to what he had to say.

So that, I think is the way to go. Be respectful and don't write anyone off.This isn't about good vs bad, it's about changing people's minds. Treating them respectfully can let them do that.


Grim said...


Your accidentally deleted commenter is, of course, quite right about 'lieben' vs 'leben' - a 'momentary aberration' on my part (possibly due to the proximity of Valentine's Day :-).

It's good to hear that Tim was able to generate goodwill in the audience, but whether anybody actually changed their mind or not is another matter - maybe next time somebody should organise entry and exit surveys to see if there was any measurable change. I would say it's a certainty that Monckton didn't change his mind.

Unfortunately, Monckton, and many of his fellow-travellers and supporters, drag a lot of 'good vs bad' into the 'debate' when they insist on introducing their fantasy conspiracies (as per PG's comment) into the issue. I'm not sure that wildly accusing people of extreme conspiracies shows much goodwill on their part. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth or otherwise of Global Warming either, it's simply a device to muddy the waters and blacken their opponents.

But in any case, it seems that Tim was just enough like Obama (to pick up on Jody's point) to carry the day, regardless.

Jody said...

So that, I think is the way to go. Be respectful and don't write anyone off.This isn't about good vs bad, it's about changing people's minds. Treating them respectfully can let them do that.

Carmen, that's good to know and he did come off looking good and respectful -- though there were a couple of times when he really had to try. :-)

If he does this again, my biggest suggestion would be "more Pinker moments." Monckton must have a list of such, um, "mistakes" that would make for non-threatening retorts to his claim.

Carmen said...

Hi Jody

Hey that's a good idea. It would be a good thing to research. If we took the stuff he most relied upon and chased it up and fed it to whoever is about to debate him next it would crumble his confidence and also it cut into his credibility. I think that just revealing that he didn't know Pinker was a woman hurt the confidence people had in him. Later, at the coffee, both him and his supporters looked shaken.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was there and went to the debate with an open mind, unconvinced one way or another about global warming, I was severely embarrassed for Dr. Lambert. He was clearly out of his depth and unable to address basic questions asked of him by the audience.

Lord Monckton was completely gracious to your husband. Your ad hominem attacks on him don't detract from how badly he schooled your husband. Has he ever been told he looks like Vizzini from the Princess Bride?

Your husband did not address the basic premise of the question whatsoever. Lord Monckton did so, especially with his opening remarks about Africa. Hang your head in shame over that pathetic post.

Tim Lambert said...

Dear Anonymous,

The topic we agreed to debate was on the science: "Is anthopogenic global warming a threat?" You should be criticizing Monckton for not sticking to the topic.

Carmen said...

I agree that Monckton was civil to Tim in the debate. Monckton isn't always that civil.

As for the point about Africa- he shows how life expectancy increases with CO2 levels, but he could have just has well have said it increased with the population of whales in the Pacific Ocean. Just because two things increase during the same amount of time doesn't mean they are related.

In fact, developing nations would be allowed to increase the amount of CO2 they produce, while developed nations would have to cut back. That was the whole point of Monckton's complaint that factories would be moved from Britain to India. See, he was against that, meaning he in fact felt that a British person's job was more important than an Indian's job, when in fact an unemployed Brit would have social security to fall back on , whereas an Indian would just starve to death.

Anonymous said...

Well, you started really well. First two paragraphs was enough to understand how low and primitive you are.

Carmen said...

Thanks! I know my status is well below that of a Lord Viscount. Us mere mortals should stick to bowing and grovelling before England's finest. Thank you for pointing that out. I won't write a post like this again.

Carmen said...

I'd respect Monckton way more if only he'd stop waving his title around. I believe all people are born equal. If you earned your title for bravery say, that's fine. That's different. But hereditary titles mean you grow up thinking you're better than everyone else. He thinks he's better than YOU! So I felt I should show that he's human too.

Anonymous said...

People have claimed that MMGW is a crime against humanity. It is. Biofuel is a direct result of this scam. This will cause death and suffering. And everyone else on the planet will suffer except for the very rich and a few smart (or lucky) investors.

Anyone who continues to support this con now that the lies have been exposed. It is worse than supporting any tyrant in the past because today, with the internet, there is no excuse.

Tim Lambert said...

Anonymous, calling the scientific evidence "lies" does not refute it. If you watched the debate you will know that Rachel Pinker, the scientist that Monckton based his case on, said that he got it wrong.