Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change
Summary: A trick of propagandists is giving rebuttals to theories held only by a few extremists, and ignoring the far stronger theories held by thoughtful opponents. That gives the illusion of strength while marginalizing opponents. It works only when your side dominate the media. Which neither Left or Right does in America today. Here we see how this works for climate change propaganda.
- Epistemic closure on the Right
- Epistemic closure on the Left
- For More Information about Climate Change Propaganda
(1) Epistemic closure on the Right
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. … This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile.
… If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely— maybe even when it comes from the New York Times. And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.
(2) Epistemic closure on the Left
Sanchez’s description appears true of the Right, IMO. But also true to some degree of the Left as well. In, for example, many of their writings about climate change. As in these two articles.
- “Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart“, James Lawrence Powell, Desmogblog, 15 November 2012
- “Why Climate Change Denial Is Just Hot Air“, Phil Plait, Slate, 11 December 2012
Powell tests this hypothesis (red emphasis added):
Polls show that many members of the public believe that scientists substantially disagree about human-caused global warming.
… I read whatever combination of titles, abstracts, and entire articles was necessary to identify articles that “reject” human-caused global warming. To be classified as rejecting, an article had to clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or, as happened in a few cases, that some other process better explains the observed warming.
Does this make sense as anything but propaganda? An attorney would object that Powell assumes facts not in evidence. He assumes “deniers” — called skeptics in other circles — “reject human-cuased warming” but provides no evidence no evidence of this. More specifically …
(a) Powell cites no people or articles that “reject human-caused warming”. For good reason, as that would mock his procedure. In fact most of the people writing at the best-known “skeptic” websites (eg, Watts up with that, Climate Audit) frequently and clearly state that they do believe that the world has warmed during the past two centuries, and that our emissions of CO2 have been the major cause during the past 60 years. Skeptics question the magnitude and relative causes of past warming, its effects on other aspects of climate, and future climate trends. All of these things are subjects of active debate in the professional literature.
(b) Powell cites no polls showing how many people “reject human-caused warming”. The polls I’ve seen don’t clearly ask that question. For example, consider this March 2012 Gallup poll.
The world has been warming during the past two centuries, and in the past century. But the IPCC says — confirmed by ample peer-reviewed research — that only after WWII did anthropogenic CO2 become the largest cause of warming. Are the people answering this question insufficiently educated about the state of climate science — or too well-educated for Powell?
For details see:
Gallup asks a second, related question: if “global warming is occurring”?
But the question does not specify a time horizon. Over what horizon? Thousands of years (ie, since the last ice age)? Yes. Two centuries? Yes. Fifteen years? No. The past year? That’s complex, given the many different was to measure global temperatures of the stratosphere, surface, and ocean. Again we see the illusion of simplicity fail for complex scientific questions. For some details about this see:
- Still good news: global temperatures remain stable, at least for now., 14 October 2012.
Powell and Plait provide little basis for their arrogant rebuttals, which combine strawman attacks and imprecise reasoning. However sloppy, they draw conclusions pleasing to those sharing their Left-ish bubble — and will be endlessly repeated until they become regarded as immune to criticism.
This is the same process that so dominates thinking on the Right, and which led them into a deep intellectual hole into which no light reaches. The same dynamic has crippled the “peak oil” commuity, where any outlandish forecast gets respectful applause. This should give Left reason for self-examination, and to criticise articles like these by Powell and Plait. Some criticism of people in their own community might pay large dividends in terms of increased public credibility, even if it means giving up some opportunities for lurid propaganda.
(4) For More Information about climate change propaganda
- More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
- The facts about the 1970′s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009
- Quote of the day – hidden history for people who rely on the mainstream media for information, 12 February 2010
- The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
- A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010
- Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world, 30 July 2010
- We see the world in terms of facts (mostly numbers). Our world changes rapidly, including the past’s numbers, 2 August 2010
- Shaping your view of the world with well-constructed propaganda, 21 June 2012 — About rising sea levels.
- Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare), 27 June 2012
- Ignorance and propaganda about extreme climate change, 10 July 2012