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An author and fossil fuel expert says he managed to blunt a Washington Post “hit story” against him with a series of tweets and videos defending his stance on oil and gas.
Alex Epstein, who wrote “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Fossil Future,” took to Twitter in a lengthy thread of tweets and videos. He said the ordeal began last week when he responded to a survey by the newspaper’s climate change reporter about whether his views were racist.
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“Victory,” he wrote to start the thread. “A week ago, @washingtonpost planned to release a hit designed to nullify me and my Fossil Future book as “racist”. Thanks to my *preemptive public rebuttal*, the Post delayed the article for a week and removed 90% of its unfair attacks, including all references to racism.”
Last week, Epstein posted an initial Twitter thread combating what he called the Post’s attempt to “smear” him and he followed up after the newspaper ran the story.
“The Washington Post published this, which I would consider and we will prove to be a success,” Epstein said in a video referencing the Post article published Wednesday titled “Lawyer Promotes fossil fuels for the poor countries he once denigrated”.
Epstein claimed the published article had “90% of the intended attacks removed, including all accusations of racism, which were at the heart of the attempt to cancel me and that attempt has now completely failed”. He said his efforts to combat cancel culture were helped by social media influencers who spread his message.
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“I think we’ve learned some crucial lessons about how to stop these unfair cancellations,” he said before explaining what he thought the Post had originally planned.
Epstein showed what he said was a letter from Washington Post reporter Maxine Joselow, who said the newspaper unearthed the comments he made when he was ‘straight out of high school’ and tried to call them racists.
“[The comments] were totally individualistic, but because they are collectivist, they misinterpreted it as racism. Namely my defense as Western culture, Western civilization, as pro-freedom and individualists, they interpreted them as white, which I explicitly disavowed in my college papers, it was easily noticeable, you didn’t have to read between the lines,” Epstein mentioned.”[The Post] I went through these documents, they misinterpreted them, they got these academics to call me a racist… you can nullify someone by calling them a racist.”
Epstein said the Post article was “meant to come out last Wednesday,” but the watered-down version was published a week later after he hit back publicly.
“They said, basically, they were reaching out out of courtesy and do I have a comment,” Epstein said. “What they wanted me to do was make a comment to this reporter who is obviously trying to do a hit story about me…it wasn’t an attempt to understand me, it was an attempt to destroy.”
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He thinks any direct response to the Post reporter would have been “mutilated or ignored” and not responding at all would have been taken as evidence that the accusations were legitimate, so he decided to publicly anticipate the effort instead by speaking to social media.
“I did a systematic rebuttal, I did an hour-long video…it was wildly successful, it got two million impressions,” he said. “If I hadn’t done that, it could have been an absolute disaster. They would have pressured my publisher to pull the book, they would have pressured the retailers to pull the book.”
The Post and Joselow did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Epstein said “influential individuals” including author Michael Shellenberger – who shared the story on Joe Rogan’s podcast – helped clear his name, but he is unhappy with the Post’s finished product, regardless of the paper cutting accusations of racism.
“The fact that they did this attempted cancellation and they failed doesn’t mean they have to get away with it,” Epstein said. “They didn’t apologize and, in fact, attacked me for standing up for myself, saying I was bullying online.”
The Post article argues that Epstein can’t really care about poor countries because of what he said in college.
“As countries around the world grapple with how to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels to fight climate change, conservatives are increasingly arguing that poorer nations should take the opposite path,” Joselow wrote. “One of the strategy’s most prominent proponents, Alex Epstein, has testified before Congress and delivered public lectures saying that the clean energy shift is ‘immoral’ because it deprives developing countries of electricity. necessary to lift people out of poverty.”
Joselow went on to report that critics “point to recently resurfaced articles he wrote in 1999 while at university that dismissed non-Western cultures as inferior, saying they raise other questions as to whether his argument was rooted in a ‘moral’ concern for developing countries or whether it was a cynical attempt to promote the use of oil, coal and natural gas.”
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Among the examples cited by the Post, Epstein “claimed that the achievements of Western culture far exceed those of other cultures,” which critics say “undermines his case for fossil fuels.”
The Post noted Epstein’s defense of his previous comments in the article, but the author of ‘Moral Case for Fossil Fuel’ insists the article would have been far more damaging had it not happened. not defended.
“Here’s lesson number 1 from my victory over The Washington Post. When you’re the victim of a hit, *don’t* 1. Comment privately – your words will be mutilated or ignored. 2. Omit commenting – you sound evasive,” he tweeted. “Instead, comment *publicly, preemptively and conclusively*.”