[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]
Magicians, con men, and intelligence operatives use a wide range of deception techniques– camouflage, concealment, “barnum statements,” and countless other methods that have tricked people since the dawn of time.
We’re now seeing the emergence of a new school of deception called “science communication,” or, more narrowly, “climate change communication.”
It takes a big threat to get people, especially Americans, to give up their freedom and their economic futures. People on the Left see Global Warming as that threat. (Previous such threats, each supported by a fake “scientific consensus” and each discredited long ago, have ranged from Nuclear Winter to the Population Bomb to miscegenation.) Today, leftists fantasize about flooded cities and a Great Extinction, about famine and pestilence and war caused by this Warming—whatever it takes to get people to shut down their higher reasoning process, and panic.
Last week, the Washington Post published a guide to this new field of deception, headlined “Arguments to give a climate-change denier” in the print edition and, in the online edition, “How to convince your friends to believe in climate change. It’s not as hard as you think.” (The link is http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/how-to-convince-your-friends-to-believe-in-climate-change-its-not-as-hard-as-you-think/2014/02/03/3a9a1fa8-8828-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html .) I assume that the author did not intend it as a guide to deception—the tone suggests that he’s a true believer—but it’s a useful guide to the arguments that you might encounter in the faculty lounge, at a Georgetown cocktail party, or any other place where airheads gather.
The author is Brian Palmer, presumably the Brian Palmer who’s the “chief explainer” for the leftwing online magazine Slate. Palmer wrote that “Environmentalists have a reputation for being self-righteous and a little naggy, which makes them ripe for parody. . . . But if you’re serious about the environment and want others to share your passion, don’t be intimidated by the potential mockery or resistance. There’s an extensive body of research on how to persuade those who view science with suspicion—it’s called the science of science communication. Much of the work centers on climate change.”
Put aside the silly reference to “those who view science with suspicion.” (Warmers usually freak out when people bring science into the argument.) Palmer was referring to the techniques that have been developed at great effort over the years to recruit people like you to the cause.
Palmer noted the recommendation by George Marshall, founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, “tweaking your language slightly to make yourself sound less judgmental.” Get that: “less judgmental.” Like when, as in the headline in the Post, a person who is skeptical about Global Warming theory gets called a “denier” analogous to a neo-Nazi denier of the Holocaust. No, nothing judgmental about that!
Marshall is certainly an expert in the field, having written a book claiming that people’s brains are wired to ignore “climate change.” As for Marshall’s group, COIN, the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media claims, on its website, that “COIN’s clients have included large trade unions in the U.K. such as the Communication Workers Union and the Public and Commercial services Union.”
Said Marshall, quoted by Palmer, “Say, ‘This is what’s important to me, and this is why.’ Don’t get caught up in the scientific discussion. You’re not a scientist, and evidence doesn’t persuade people who reject climate change. What carries power is your personal conviction as a friend, colleague or neighbor.” In other words, argue from emotion, ’cause science is really, really hard.
Unnoted by Palmer or Marshall is the fact that scientist-activists have been wrong about virtually every matter of public policy on which they’ve taken a position—ever. That’s because appealing to the authority of scientists, on matters of which they have no particular knowledge, is something one does only when legitimate arguments fail. Most scientists are experts in extremely narrow fields, and profoundly ignorant about anything having to do with politics or policy. In addition, as a magician will tell you, a scientist is the easiest type of person for a deception artist to fool.
Back to Palmer’s article. He noted that, “When a climate change rejectionist finds that he is surrounded by believers, it eases the path toward changing his mind. Say that you, too, were once reluctant to accept the idea of climate change. It helps your audience identify with you.” Then pivot to “a compelling argument to explain why you came around.”
Four types of argument of argument that, according to Stephen Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol (where he “studies this issue”):
Make it “a risk management issue,” that, “Even if there’s only a 20 percent chance of rising sea levels, intensifying storm systems and crop failure, we ought to take steps to mitigate that risk.” This is known as the Precautionary Principle, and it’s one of the most dangerous arguments that people have made throughout history. It has a benign form known as Pascal’s Wager: that a person unsure of the existence of God should live as if God exists, because, if He does, one gains everything, and, if He doesn’t, one hasn’t lost much. But Pascal’s Wager doesn’t require you to oppress people and impoverish them; the Warmers’ Wager does. Even leftists understand, in a certain context, why the Precautionary Principle is dangerous. Just ask them their reaction to this statement: “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq might be planning to use WMDs against us, so we must attack Iraq as a precaution.”
“Next, talk about nuclear power.” Do so “[e]ven if you’re personally opposed to nuclear power.” (Honest is not the best policy, apparently.) Then “expand the discussion into other business opportunities that would arise from managing climate change, like hydrogen-powered cars or possibly solar panels.” In other words, appeal to greed, or to the targeted individual’s lack of understanding of how free markets work. (If a new technology for producing energy is feasible, it doesn’t need politicians and bureaucrats to use taxpayer subsidies and coercion to get businesses to pursue it. If an imagined technology must be justified by an appeal to Warmism, it’s a scam.)
“Illness terrifies people of all stripes,” so blame the spread of diseases like malaria and dengue fever on Global Warming. Never mind that changes have been occurring in disease distribution patterns for billions of years; the Black Death that wiped out perhaps a third of Europe in the 14th Century was probably caused by climate change that occurred centuries before the Industrial Revolution or the invention of the SUV.
“If all else fails, bring up the Pentagon,” which is “extremely concerned about climate change.” As I’ve often noted, “change” is a necessary feature of climate; such natural change is why the Sahara turned from grassland to desert and why there are boulders, borne once upon a time by glaciers, in Central Park. (That’s why I don’t let the Warmers get away with using the weasel-words “climate change” to mean Global Warming theory, which is not just about whether the earth is warming but about the extent, the causes, and the things that might be done to prevent it or mitigate the supposed harm.) The Pentagon is rightly concerned about how climate might affect migration, but there’s a factor that should bring into question any comments on Global Warming that emerge from the military bureaucracy: It is the policy of the Obama administration that, as the President said in the State of the Union address, “climate change is real.” To be clear: Every government agency has been ordered to promote Global Warming theory. When Progressive icon Woodrow Wilson, a white supremacist, ordered the segregation of the federal government based on his absurd, disgusting acceptance of the “scientific consensus” on the matter of “race,” the Armed Forces and every other part of the government went along without question. So what’s new about government employees following orders? … Another note: The expert, Lewandowsky, warned: “Large areas of the world will be submerged.” Yes, and, as I’ve reported before, the Warmers said that Washington and New York would be under water by the year 2000. [See http://capitalresearch.org/2012/11/moynihan-new-york-washington-to-be-under-water-by-the-year-2000 .] Don’t buy that beachfront property just yet!
“Finally,” Palmer wrote, “don’t get your hopes up.” You won’t change someone’s mind on the spot. “Your obstinate uncle, neighbor or colleague” won’t be instantly converted. “All you can do is plant a seed. So go do it.”
I’d note, though, that you might want to hurry. In the time I’ve been following this issue, Global Warming turned to Global Cooling which turned back into Global Warming which became Climate Change, then Extreme Weather, then something-or-other about the Polar Vortex (which Time magazine in 1974 blamed on Global Cooling). So the theory (which, of course, is settled science!) morphs into something completely different every few years. It means whatever it needs to mean, which makes it perfect for bamboozling that idiot uncle of yours. Do it for the cause, man!
[By the way, Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller has responded to the Palmer piece at http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/06/enviros-use-emotion-not-science-to-convince-others-of-global-warming/ ]