Meet the scientific storytellers who can make the public afraid of anything—for a price


#1

[Read the post]


#2

The book is also wonderful, in an agonizing, frustrating way.

http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

I didn’t know they had made a movie as well - it might be more approachable for some.


#3

Silent Spring changed the world all right. It made corporations decide to spend more money on disinformation.


#4

Spring sure isn’t silent out our way. 4:30am those little guys start up. And you know what? It’s delightful.


#5

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.


#6

Silent Spring was 95 Theses nailed to a frickin’ door.

Corporations can spend that money, nearly every University has an Environmental Science department now.

World Changed.


#7

For those that don’t know, the same people who ran the tobacco companies’ disinformation campaign and who are running the current pro-pollution, brown energy campaign are also the people pushing nuclear power.

They push memes. Like, “only God can effect climate” or “computer models can’t be trusted”. The best memes contain at least a seed of truth - but these people don’t care about the actual realities, they care about manipulating peoples’ perceptions, about seeding doubt, about discrediting sources of information. They want you to talk about “global warming” or “dirty hippies” and not about “climate change” or “pollution” or “resource depletion” or “environmental justice”. It’s neuro-linguistic programming.


#8

So why is it effective? :wink:


#9

I don’t understand that. The nuclear camp are generally anti-coal, anti-oil, pro-wind and pro-EV in the UK. And supporters of nuclear energy are anxious to talk about carbon footprints and minimising AGW.


#10

We avoid pesticides wherever possible. This year the robins have produced offspring, as have the blue tits, the starling and the blackbirds. Yes, I was being perhaps overly negative, but the sheer volume of PR lies nowadays is surely beyond our conception at the time Carson was writing.


#11

Completely agree. There is an argument that much human suffering and death has arisen as a direct result of the reduction in pesticide use (as a consequence of “Silent Spring”, perhaps), but what Carson did was get the debate into the public sphere. But now the hijacking of any rational discourse by the PR hacks of vested interests is occurring at a level that simply could not have been contemplated.


#12

That argument is false, though. DDT has never been banned for disease vector control, in the US or anywhere. Overuse of DDT in agriculture did cause mosquitoes to develop resistance, which in some places made spraying DDT less effective. Which happens to be what just Carson predicted.

The whole “Rachel Carson killed millions” claim is itself a smear from the merchants of doubt. It first came to prominence as a way to discredit the World Health Organization in advance of a conference on tobacco regulation back in the 90s.


#13

Fair enough.

I found this book to be an entertaining read on the theme of punditry Vs rational analysis


#14

Good question. I think it’s a preference of centralized vs decentralized energy production. If they can centralize it, they control the spigot and have more control over the price. Also nuclear plant construction is hugely lucrative.


#15
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. - Plato

#16

I’ve yet to meet a person anyone born since the 70’s who has smoked tobacco who actually thought it wasn’t terribly bad for them at any point. It seems the argument is that the non-scientific argument is a red herring, but that science can never be the red herring.


#17

I’m not so sure about that.

In a country like the UK, where everywhere is close to everything else, centralised electrical generation makes a lot of sense because it uses relatively little land. Wind also makes a lot of sense but we have a serious NIMBY problem (people who claim the turbines give them headaches due to flickering but live in houses where trees cast flickering shadows over the windows - go figure.)


#18

Also the anti-wind astroturfers wailing about how wind turbines are ruining the nations watersheds compared to strip mining I guess


#19

@kupfernigk, in the USA the major doubt merchants are relics of the Cold War, at least politically and intellectually if not literally. (In Fred Singer’s case, quite literally.) They have a Randite mindset that worships destructive power, and they see the commercial nuclear industry as the enabling infrastructure for nuclear bombs. They push the “power too cheap to meter” and “nuclear is greener than solar” memes because they believe that they are true patriots, and that America needs H-bombs. To them, any lie that serves their vision of America is justified.


#20

Because framing issues affects how people tend to think of them. If what people said did not have demonstrable effects upon the brains of others, why would they say anything?