From what he writes, it appears the conference is indeed both radical, revolutionary, highly subversive and, most of, massively manipulated by...ta dah!..Big Oil! (sarcasm: its not).
But from the outside looking in, the gross characterization given above is all too common place whenever somebody dares question the prevailing environmental orthodoxy. Somewhere on the web, there is a blog(or blogs, plural) characterizing the Heartland conference with the self-same inflammatory invective I employed as sarcasm.
What Briggs describes sounds like a typical academic conference: good key note address, hopefully good food and coffee to sustain attendance and too many concurrent sessions forcing you to choose which speaker to hear first hand and which to by-pass. (If in doubt, apply the Mae West maxim: when faced by the choice of two vices, choose the one you haven't yet experienced!).
Sadly, the politics of climate change often act to obscure meaningful debate. Too frequently anyone who takes a stand against the petty, miserly and coercive politics of environmentalism can be written off as a mouthpiece for Big Oil, regardless of the facts.
The media play a large role, seeking to slot people and their perspectives into pre-defined categories and stereotypes lest their framing of the issue be exposed as inaccurate or irrelevant. As Briggs comments, his response to a TV reporter was not inflammatory but nuanced and Briggs was left with the impression that he had disappointed him by not being dogmatic on any of the questions he asked me.
Climate change is like most environmental issues: as complex and textured, as it is dynamic and layered. Climate realists are not denying change, neither are they blind nor deaf to scientific data. What they do have, however, is the absence of a pre-determined, proscribed, dogmatic, ideology that frames the problem so as to preclude the consideration of alternative explanations.
In many situations, the AGW thesis is so entrenched that it is presumptive within all discussion. In these areas of enquiry, all questions are framed with the existence of AGW as an embedded construct: it is simply not possible to posit any other explanation.
Disciplinary paradigms do undergo periodic revision and change. Eventually, AGW will cease to be the prevailing paradigm. The only question is, at what cost and over what time period.
The Heartland Conference should act to draw a line in the sand in climate discussions: either protagonists pick up the gauntlet and seek to examine the problems with the underlying science, explore alternative explanations and develop adaptive strategies, or they can revert to hiding behind ideological invective as a cover for their intransigence and close-mindedness.
Postscript: here is the conference summary from William Briggs -- concise, eloquent and a useful editorial that I hope has wide distribution