We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us

Summary: Powerful interest groups provide a mirror in which we can see our true selves. Their well-funded expert opinion manipulators know our real hopes and fears, and manipulate them to mold public opinion. This is one of a long series of posts showing how both Left and Right have drawn the same conclusion, both sides basing their propaganda on our dominant emotion: fear. So long as we passively accept being lied to and manipulated, they will continue to do so.

A child with oddly clean clothes playing in the mud; from The Guardian, 13 May 2013


  1. A well-written article in The Guardian
  2. Conclusion
  3. For More Information

See the follow-up post Loki helps us to see our true selves.

(1)  A well-written article in The Guardian

America’s first climate refugees“, Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, 13 May 2013 — “Newtok, Alaska is losing ground to the sea at a dangerous rate and for its residents, exile is inevitable.”

Goldenberg is the Guardian’s US environment correspondent, and a skilled propagandist. The article is quite misleading. Excerpt:

The people of Newtok, on the west coast of Alaska and about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the state from Russia, are living a slow-motion disaster that will end, very possibly within the next five years, with the entire village being washed away.

The Ninglick River coils around Newtok on three sides before emptying into the Bering Sea. It has steadily been eating away at the land, carrying off 100ft or more some years, in a process moving at unusual speed because of climate change. Eventually all of the villagers will have to leave, becoming America’s first climate change refugees.

Let’s examine the key points of the article.

(a) Setting the background: rising sea levels

Sea levels have been rising for millenia since the end of the last ice age, while the planet has had both warming and cooling cycles. It’s not clear that the rate of rise has substantially accelerated recently, although most scientists expect it to do so in the future). See the posts at the end for provide ample references to the work of the IPCC and relevant peer-reviewed literature.

(b) Evidence from a government report!

The article twice cites a March 2009 Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) report as evidence. But it mentions neither the 2017 date nor the role of climate change. It does discuss erosion, an omnipresent natural process.

The forecast of flooding Newtok by 2017 comes from a July 2008 ACE report: “Revised Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact: Newton Evacuation Center”. I can find no online copy, so we do not know what it says about the causes of the flooding (if in fact it does discusses the causes).

(c) More scary evidence from the government!

She says: “A federal government report found more than 180 other native Alaskan villages – or 86% of all native communities – were at risk because of climate change.” That exaggerates the report’s finding:

While flooding and erosion is a long-standing problem that has been documented in Alaska for decades, various studies and reports indicate that coastal villages in Alaska are becoming more susceptible. This increasing susceptibility is due in part to rising temperatures that cause protective shore ice to form later in the year, leaving the villages vulnerable to storms.

Dramatic but photoshopped, Science, 7 May 2010


(d) Flooded by 2017!

She says “A study by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the effects of climate change on native Alaskan villages, the one that predicted the school would be underwater by 2017, found no remedies for the loss of land in Newtok.”

That’s false. The report cited is not about “the effects of climate change”, and says no such thing. It does not mention the 2017 date. Perhaps she means the July 2008 ACE report mentioned above, which does give the 2017 forecast — but title shows it is not about “the effects of climate change”.

(e) Erosion is a natural force, and long a hazard to Newtok

See this history from “A Brief History of the Settlement of Newtok and Village Relocation Efforts“, Newtok Planning Group, Department of Community Affairs, Alaska Department of Community Affairs. From part two, Early Efforts to Control Erosion:

{Newton was settled in 1949} Over the next three decades, residents of Newtok became increasingly aware that the north bank of the Ninglick River was rapidly losing ground. Concerned with the future well-being of the community, the (then) City of Newtok requested and received funding through the Alaska Legislature for an assessment of the erosion problem as well as an evaluation of alternatives for erosion control to protect several miles of the Ninglick River bank. In 1983, Woodward-Clyde Consultants was hired to prepare the Ninglick River Erosion Assessment.

As part of the erosion assessment, historical bank erosion rates were evaluated from aerial photographs dated 1957, 1974 and 1977 and fr om a site visit prior to ice breakup in May 1983. This evaluation determined that between June 1957 and May 1983, the north bank of the Ninglick River had eroded at an average annual rate of 19 to 88 feet and that if this process could not be slowed, community structures would be endangered within 25 to 30 years (2008-2013).

The atmosphere has been warming for two centuries, until the pause of the recent decade. But this was a natural cycle for most of that time, with human-caused warming becoming dominant only after the rapid industrialization following WWII. This is consensus science. For evidence see this post, citing reports by the IPCC, major climate-related agencies, and the peer-reviewed literature.

(f) About that warming

The Alaska Climate Research Center says:

“since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska”

For details and citations see this post. What about the recent history? “The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska“, G. Wendler, L. Chen and B. Moore, Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2012 — Abstract:

During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift, modifying the long-term warming trend, which has been about twice the global change up to this time. All of Alaska cooled with the exception of Northern Regions. This trend was caused by a change in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which became dominantly negative, weakening the Aleutian Low. This weakening results in less relatively warm air being advected from the Northern Pacific.

This transport is especially important in winter when the solar radiation is weak. It is during this period that the strongest cooling was observed. In addition, the cooling was especially pronounced in Western Alaska, closest to the area of the center of the Aleutian Low. The changes seen in the reanalyzed data were confirmed from surface observations, both in the decrease of the North-South atmospheric pressure gradient, as well as the decrease in the mean wind speeds for stations located in the Bering Sea area.

To see this at work in real time: “Alaska Endures Record Cold While Still Buried Under Snow“, Accuweather, 12 May 2013.

(2)  Conclusion

The evidence is not correctly summarized. Important background is omitted. The overall message is misleading — or false, depending on your standards. Modern news for the undiscriminating consumer.

(3)  For More Information

(a)  See this article by Anthony Watts with additional information about The Guardian story.

(b)  Another articles  about climate propaganda: Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole., 10 December 2012

(c)  About propaganda shaping a New America: Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.

(d)  About rising sea levels:

  1. An example of important climate change research hidden, lest it spoil the media’s narrative, 22 May 2009 — About rising sea levels
  2. About that melting arctic ice cap, 17 April 2010
  3. Fear or Fail: about the melting Greenland ice sheet, 24 May 2010
  4. Today’s good news, about rising sea levels, 3 June 2010 — Esp note the links to articles and studies!
  5. It’s time to worry (again) about disappearing arctic ice, 8 June 2010
  6. Climate Armageddon postponed (again): the melting polar ice, 9 October 2010
  7. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century, 16 October 2010
  8. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010 — Two of James Hanson’s past predictions
  9. About the coming sea ice Armageddon!, 19 June 2012
  10. Shaping your view of the world with well-constructed propaganda, 21 June 2012 — About rising sea levels.
  11. Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare), 27 June 2012
  12. The seas are rising, and have been over ten thousand years. What comes next?, 27 December 2012



12 thoughts on “We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us”

  1. probably true. here is why alienation from liberalism fuels the reactionary elements of right and left: “The Unholy Marriage of Authoritarian, Traditional, and Modern Levels of Development in American Culture and Society“, Joe Corbett, 2 January 2012 — Editor’s smmary:

    This article by Joe Corbett analyzes US politics across levels of development, an element of integral theory. For those interested in some background, check out David Ronfeldt’s interesting societal evolution model–what in integral terms would be labeled the Lower Right Quadrant. Joe’s piece also helps bring up the cultural values of those societies–their cultural interiors or in integral language, the Lower Left Quadrant. This piece has a certain overarching quality to it but is also very timely given the upcoming Republican primary (the Iowa caucus is tomorrow), where we can see the alliances Joe is talking about in real time.

    About the author:

    Joe Corbett has spent the last ten years living in Shanghai and Beijing, China. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and he did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California

    1. Not so. The report cited by the Guardian was “Alaska Baseline Erosion Assessment – Study Findings and Technical Report“, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District, March 2009. Section 2.4.2 reads in full:

      2.4.2. Immediate Action Working Group

      Most recently, a collaborative effort, a component of which is examining erosion issues, has developed to address climate change and erosion resulting from climate change within Alaska. The IAWG consists of senior leaders from several Stat e and Federal agencies and is co-chaired by the DCCED Deputy Commissioner and the Chief of Engineering Division of the Corps Alaska District.

      Primarily focusing on Kivalina, Koyukuk, Newtok, Shaktoolik, Shishmaref, and Unalakleet, IAWG is recommending a series of actions to assist communities with managing the effects of climate change. IAWG will publish a report in April 2009 that will explain its accomplishments and discuss the need for future actions. The report will include accomplishments and plans of ADOT&PF, DHS, DCCED, NOAA, the Corps, and others.

      My guess is that the Guardian was, in a confused fact-checking-free way, pointing to the 2008 ACE report mentioned in this post. Since there does not appear to be an online copy easily available, we don’t know what it says about the causes of the flooding by 2017. Probably it is consistent with the other reports cited, attibuting this to mostly natural factors — plus the 2 centuries long warming (e.g., causing permafrost melting) — with a larger effect from future climate change (as forecasted).

    2. I replied to Ritholz that the cited US ACE report did not, in fact, say such a thing. And gave the full quotation of section 2.4.2. Plus some brief notes showing that the Guardian article was incorrect in almost all key aspects, including citation of the Alaska government report explaining the long history of erosion from the river on this site.

      His reaction was the usual one. Americans are heavily indoctrinated, and react to facts as vampires do to holy water. It is one of the key aspects of our broken OODA loop, our difficulty learning from experience.


      1. A follow-up to the above comment — The FM website has thousands of followers on the various social media (most on WordPress), which I’ve tracked since December 2011 (after joining Twitter). Unfollowers come in waves after posting non-consensus views. But I don’t recall this ever happening after a debate. It shows, I think, a rare greatness of spirit.


  2. Interesting, to say the least.
    It really is almost diabolical to see people who are paid to write and still cannot balance their output.
    This is an important subject (Among many) and many sane things can be said….why this weak reporting?

    1. My guess about this — which is all we do when grappling with these “why” questions is quite different. As Chet Richards says, seeing a person’s actions as odd usually results from a failure of Orientation in the OODA loop — an inability to see the world as the other person does.

      “It really is almost diabolical to see people who are paid to write and still cannot balance their output”

      She can do so. That’s not what she’s being paid to do.

      “why this weak reporting?”

      It’s not weak reporting. It is skillful propaganda.

  3. Got it, got your (Chet’s) point.
    Re-reading your Post I see early on you say she is a skillful propagandist.
    Shift change required by moi!
    So these days one needs a Filter of assuming most is skillfully constructed Prop!

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