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Paid to?

Here’s a screenshot of part of an e-mail that I received today from the Niskanen Center.  (And here’s the link that you see there.)

My post here is not about climate science or about Jerry Taylor and the Niskanen Center.  Instead, my post is about this line in this Mother Jones report about Jerry Taylor: “He [Taylor] got paid to go on television to decry the science behind global warming ….”  Later in the Mother Jones story that is there linked, we read that “Taylor is the only known paid skeptic to change his tune.”

Mother Jones‘s writer Nathalie Baptiste here is highly misleading.  She gives the false impression that Jerry Taylor was a mercenary – that he expressed skepticism about climate science simply because he got paid to do so – that his appearances in the media were the results of arrangements in which someone paid him to express skepticism of climate science.

Yet elsewhere in her report, Baptiste acknowledges that Jerry Taylor really was a skeptic of climate science.  Taylor has since changed his mind, and of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so.  But the less-than-meticulous reader can easily and understandably come away from this report with the impression that Jerry Taylor once expressed skepticism of climate science only because he was paid to do so.  Indeed, it isn’t clear that Baptiste herself really grasps the fact that Tayler changed his mind and that he once really did believe what he said.

Obviously, during his ‘skeptic’ days Jerry Taylor had an income: he worked for, and was paid by, the Cato Institute.  But Cato did not pay him to express opinions that he did not hold.  Cato paid him to research and to share with the public his research and his summaries of that research.  (Leftists don’t understand that paying people to express opinions that those people really don’t hold is a bad investment; a much better investment is to support people who already hold opinions of the sort that you wish to see more widely prevail in society.)

I complain about this style of reporting by Mother Jones because it both reflects and furthers the juvenile narrative on the political left that people who fundamentally disagree with those on the political left are moronic, malevolent, or mercenary – with mercenary being the main go-to explanation for the stated positions of people who, like Jerry Taylor, are obviously not moronic.

With her wording, Baptiste reveals her childish assumption that Taylor said what he said (prior to his change of opinion) only because he was paid to do so.  She inadvertently and unjustly impugns Taylor’s character.

This leftist twitch to assume that eloquent people who disagree with leftists are likely venal mercenaries saying what they say is just that: a thoughtless intellectual twitch with no basis in reality.  (Notice also in her story Baptiste’s reference to the Heartland Institute as “Koch-funded.”)  It’s ironic that those who pride themselves on being especially objective, deep, and profound thinkers simply cannot fathom that the world has no shortage of smart, informed, and well-meaning people who actually and sincerely do disagree with many of the tenets of “Progressivism.”