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GREENWALT, Dustin A. and HALLSBY, Atilla

Summer 2021, 51.4, pages: 293-308

Graphed into the Conversation: Conspiracy, Controversy, and Climategate’s Visual Style


This essay reads the 2009 Climategate blogosphere through the rubric of visual style. We argue that Climategate bloggers used the stolen e-mails between prominent climate scientists to leverage claims about the proper perspective for seeing data, imitate institutional forms of climatological inquiry, and posit transparency as a moral imperative in many online forums. Rather than attacking science tout court, these appeals to visibility operated on the grounds of visuality and proof established by institutional forms of scientific inquiry, thus alleging climate change-denying bloggers were the “actual” scientists. By forwarding alternative visualizations of global temperature data and characterizing institutional climatology as secretive, Climategate bloggers significantly shaped public understandings of global warming. Ultimately, our purpose is to show how a visual style is an ambivalent form of rhetoric that scientific experts may also deploy in public science communication.

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