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1983 research fire, McCorkhill, Western Australia. Australian government photo.

The horrifying Australian wildfires have (finally) gotten worldwide attention, and vividly illustrate the environmental catastrophes that are becoming increasingly common with climate change. Hotter temperatures dry out ecosystems, resulting in more stuff that's likely to burn, leading to hotter, faster-spreading fires. And people fleeing their homes and tweeting photos of Martian-looking skies with the hashtag #apocalypse. Twenty-six people have died and Australia's rural firefighting force, largely made up of volunteers, is exhausted but still going, because what else are they going to do?

Or maybe it's all a HOAX! That's the conclusion of a whole bunch of rightwing assholes who have taken to Twitter to insist that the record wildfires are really evidence of a wave of arson. There's no actual wave of arson, but why bother with mere facts? Monday, police in New South Wales released statistics on arrests relating to the fire season, noting that 183 people are facing legal penalties for various infractions. Forty-seven were accused of "discarding a lighted cigarette or match," 53 for "failing to comply with a total fire ban," and 24 with setting fires deliberately. The Sydney Morning Herald notes that, of those arson cases, "None of those fires are threatening the South Coast," where the worst, headline-grabbing fires are. That would be zero.


So of course, Rupert Murdoch's Australian newspaper ran a headline that just plain lied about the number of actual arson cases, and Donald Trump Jr. joined the legion of idiots claiming Australia is threatened not by a warming climate, but by evil arsonists.

Let's repeat the facts: Just 24 people have been charged with setting fires, and those aren't the fires that are of the greatest concern. Several were in urban areas. The rest of the arrests are for carelessness. And the premier of next-door Victoria state, Daniel Andrews, said none of the bush fires in his state have been confirmed to be set by humans either.

Other liars on Twitter are claiming that liberals, environmentalists, and/or Muslims have been setting bushfires to take away everyone's freedom through climate legislation, or just because they're that evil. To add an air of credibility, some tweets link to news stories about the fires that say nothing about arson. Other crazies claim the fires are being set to clear land for a high-speed railroad. This too is bullshit.

And as with the bullshit rightwing belief that environmental protection measures make droughts worse and contribute to wildfires, Australian and American climate deniers claim -- again, THEY ARE LYING -- that environmentalists have blocked fire prevention efforts like controlled burns. Again, that's bullshit, as Australian environmental scientist Cormac Farrell, who works in bushfire prevention, explains in detail here. Here's a sample:

As you'd expect with any outburst of rightwing enthusiasm and 4chan-assisted misinformation, a huge number of tweets using the "#ArsonEmergency" hashtags are "bot-like" or "troll-like accounts"; Dr. Timothy Graham of Queensland University of Technology is "'at least confident' that it represents a disinformation campaign of some kind."

At the very least, he says, the bullshit claims of arson and evil "greenies" conspiring to commit widespread science "does have all the hallmarks of broader conspiratorial-style thinking [and] far-right populist, extremist discussions online."

But if you want to see some justified outrage, check out this Washington Post op-ed by Jennifer Mills, a writer and volunteer rural firefighter in southern Australia. She's pretty pissed at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and with good reason:

Like many volunteer firefighters, I am furious. Six months before the fires, and then again in September, Morrison declined to meet with a group of former fire chiefs who wanted to warn him that an emergency like this was on the horizon. Rural firefighting services in Australia are state-based and largely voluntary. They are often woefully underresourced, and some have been subject to recent budget cuts. Volunteer firefighters like me watched this season approach — the deadly combination of intense heat and Australia's worst drought in decades — with dread. Where were the extra resources we needed? And why was Australia still refusing to act on the climate emergency?

Silly firefighter, she seems to think a warming climate means the fires this year "are occurring at an intensity, duration and scale we have not seen before." Maybe she'd feel better if the "president's" son tweeted some lies at her.

[Guardian / Jason Wilson on Twitter / ZDNet / 10Daily / WaPo / WaPo / Photo: 1983 experimental bushland fire, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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