[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.