I wrote this to Joe Bast this afternoon. I am pleased to report that he replied promptly and agreed to take the billboard down.
I just saw the billboards that Heartland is using to advertise the 7th ICCC:
I am absolutely dismayed. This kind of fallacious, juvenile and inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to enhance your reputation, hands your opponents a huge stick to beat you with, and sullies the reputation of the speakers you had recruited. Any public sympathy you had built up as a result of the Gleick fiasco will be lost–and more besides–as a result of such a campaign. I urge you to withdraw it at once.
Strike the tone in your advertisements that you want people to use when talking about you. The fact that you need a lengthy webpage to explain the thinking behind the billboards proves that your messaging failed. Nobody is going to read your explanation anyway. All they will take away is the message on the signs themselves, and it’s a truly objectionable message.
You cannot simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers. Once you have done such a thing you have lost the moral high ground and you can never again object if someone uses that kind of rhetoric on you.
I have just been cc’d on an email from someone who wrote to both my dean and university president, expressing his outrage that a UofG professor is party to such billboards. Had this simply been someone objecting to my speaking at Heartland I could easily have (and would have) defended myself. But notwithstanding that I have tenure and have the full right to speak wherever I want, the fact is that I have to agree with the person — I’m appalled.
I appreciate what Heartland does, and I know this year has been frustrating for you, and your staff may feel like venting. But I can’t be associated with those billboards. I had really been looking forward to participating in this year’s conference, but unless the billboard campaign is immediately suspended I have to cancel my participation.
Update: Donna Laframboise, a fellow Torontonian, withdrew from the conference today. I agree with her remarks here.