Hey! It’s me, your old friend, the climate change denying crackpot you love to hate, Tony Heller. It’s been a while since I’ve written, I know. Maniacally rehashing the same bogus climate change talking points on social media is all-consuming. But I’m pleased to report everything is going swimmingly despite hitting a few bumps in the road from time to time. More on this in a bit.
So people always come up to me and ask, “Hey Tony, what’s it’s like fighting in the trenches against the evil liberal scientists seeking to destroy our way of life?” If I’m honest (just pretend), I tell them that while my lifestyle may look glamorous, it isn’t without its hazards. People are always trying to expose me for the intellectual fraud that I am. Usually it’s not a problem. When adversaries start embarrassing me with solid science, I call them a moron and immediately block their Twitter account. And even if they land a few hard blows, it doesn’t matter. Like Trump, my loyal followers are blind to my sociopathy because they share my hatred for progressives and liberals. Always remember that irrational thinking beats logic every time with the morons. It’s been one of the keys to my success.
Recently, however, I screwed up. It started late last year when a once-famous cartoonist issued a challenge to his Twitter followers and asked them to provide a link to the most persuasive links “arguing that CO2 is raising temperatures at a dangerous pace.” One of the responses linked to a video called “Climate Change — the scientific debate,” by a YouTuber named “potholer54” (aka Peter Hadfield).
Always looking for opportunities to expand my audience and get exposure, I produced a rebuttal video to potholer54 entitled, “Debunking the Debunker” (so clever!). True to form, I acted like an asshole, saying stuff like, “He speaks very quickly and sounds very convincing like he knows what he’s talking about. Now I’m going to show you, that he doesn’t.” I also lied about what was in his video by saying he made claims that he didn’t and that he didn’t say things he actually did. As you’ll see, making the rebuttal video is a decision I would soon come to regret.
It turns out potholer54 has over 176,000 subscribers on YouTube alone, which is 3.5x more than my Twitter and YouTube followers combined. And, just like me, he has a science degree in geology. He also has decades of experience as a science journalist and does work for the BBC which means he knows how to research and cite legitimate scientific papers. And so unfortunately for me, some of his followers saw my video and encouraged him to respond to my “Debunkers” video. Dammit!
Now usually, a knowledgeable person with better things to do would take a look at my body of work and immediately write me off as someone not worth his or her time. But no, not potholer54. The guy makes science explainer videos as a hobby. He’s almost as maniacal as me except he actually knows climate science and isn’t a dishonest schmuck. Plus he’s on YouTube, so there’s no way for me to block him. Godammit!
Sure enough, potholer54 eviscerated me with a video response. My whiny, annoying nasal tone was no match for his polished, British accent that made it possible for him to sound condescending without actually being condescending. Even worse, he was polite in the face of my obvious misrepresentations of his video. I couldn’t just yell at him and call him a moron or I’d look like a total dick. Shit!
Unfortunately, I had to respond or else I’d lose serious face. I immediately released a second video, “Potholer Vs. Real Science”. At this point, my strategy was to basically ignore the lies of mine he uncovered and distract everyone by starting with a basic lesson on Milankovitch Cycles. This makes me look like a good guy for teaching people what they might not know (even though it’s climate science 101) and it reinforces the idea I’m a knowledgeable person, even though I’m not. After that segment, I attack potholer54 as a charlatan by claiming he uses “appeals to authority” to deceive viewers. I know my audience hates authority figures so this is my ace in the hole. No matter what potholer54 comes back with, painting him as a liberal sheep blindly eating up whatever scientists tell him to believe will discredit him with my followers. In the video, I lay it on thick by saying the phrase “professional researcher” with dripping sarcasm. I also get super condescending, saying things like, “I’m going to explain this again very simply and hopefully this time even potholer will be able to understand.” Finally, I do lots of hand waving and dismiss his claims as “junk science.” These kinds of techniques work with my followers because they are not interested in a legitimate scientific debate. They are looking for a political boxing match. They want to see me smash this smug Brit in the face.
I knew potholer54 probably wasn’t going away and I was right. He came back with another strong point-by-point rebuttal to my attacks. Once again, he was impeccably British and thorough while I came across as a dismissive, American asshat. Even worse, he didn’t take my suggestion that we should stop making videos. So I was stuck making another video. Fuck!
Not being able to defeat him with facts, I repeated my bogus claim that potholer54 relied on appeals to authority by naming my video “Science Vs. Appeal To Authority.” I then ate up some time with a useless lesson about amplifier feedback and related it back to Milankovitch Cycles. It was total bullshit, but my audience wouldn’t know any better. I wrapped things up with another attack on his “appeals to authority” and threw in some quotes from Feynman and Galileo to sound like I was in the rational thinking camp. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Finally, I told my viewers that he wimped out of a real-time debate with me. I knew that would make me look like the fearless one even though I desperately wanted the YouTube debate to a close. A careful, thoughtful exchange was clearly not giving me an advantage over someone who actually had their shit together as one of the commenters rightly pointed out:
“You believe you can point out potholers fallacies in real time in a live debate but you’ve repeatedly demonstrated you are unable to effectively counter his arguments when you have all the time in the world to research your videos. You want a live debate because you are more interested in winning a rhetoric battle than a genuinely intellectual one.”
Ouch! Unfortunately, it didn’t end there.
As I expected, potholer54 finished me off with a knockout blow that punched a gaping hole in my “appeals to authority” attack by carefully pointing out that citing research papers isn’t an appeal to authority but is, in fact, the very basis for conducting modern science. He also shot my feedback analogy in an audio amplification system full of holes and explained why it was relevant. And so there I was, completely, utterly flattened by potholer.
The YouTube stats give the blow-by-blow account:
Heller Rebuttal Video #1 stats:
45,122 Views, 2.2K Likes, 901 Dislikes
potholer54 Rebuttal Video #1 stats
69,397 View, 4.9K Likes, 177 Dislikes
Heller Rebuttal Video #2 stats:
34,033 Views, 1.7K Likes, 755 Dislikes
potholer54 Rebuttal Video #2 stats:
49,859 Views, 3.8K Likes, 72 Dislikes
Heller Rebuttal Video #3 stats:
15,718 Views, 1K Likes, 407 Dislikes
potholer54 Rebuttal Video #3 stats:
44,278 Views, 3.1K Likes, 91 Dislikes
As you can see, his videos enjoyed more viewers and his like/dislike ratio is far better than mine.
And so I learned by my lesson. It was dumb mistake to challenge someone who is a clearer thinker, a better researcher, and far more knowledgeable. But that’s OK. I have lived to fight another day.