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Author Topic: Fossil Fuel Propaganda Modus Operandi  (Read 17146 times)

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Re: Fossil Fuel Propaganda Modus Operandi
« Reply #195 on: March 13, 2018, 10:37:41 pm »
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March 13, 2018

Lamar Smith 🐉 in Fox and Oren Cass 🦖 in WSJ: Not RickRolling, but Still Trolling

It’s already a weird month for climate op-eds. While powerful pieces like Alison Spodek Keimowitz’s reckoning with leukemia and climate change or 16-year-old climate activist Jamie Margolin’s story can find good homes in online outlets like Slate and Refinery29, some newspapers appear to be more concerned with driving hate clicks than thoughtful, original, and, most importantly, honest commentary.  :(

Some might say the trolls of the modern op-ed page are doing an amazing job, and getting recognized more and more. But as Virginia Heffernan describes in a recent piece in Wired, modern trolls’ approach is hardly new or unique: present a transparently ridiculous argument as though it’s being made in good faith, wait for people to get mad about it, then enjoy how little effort it took to trigger a much larger reaction.

Though Heffernan doesn’t mention climate, climate deniers are typical trolls. But instead of engaging just for laughs (“for the lulz”), like other bad-faith online actors, professional deniers 😈 go on the offensive to not only rile people up, but to push a viewpoint that benefits their fossil benefactors. Two recent op-eds make this clear.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal 🐍published an op-ed by Oren Cass that describes a new report he’s written for the Manhattan Institute. Given that the Manhattan Institute has been funded by the Kochs 🦕 (in addition to big tobacco) and has Rebekah Mercer 🦀 on its board, you can expect nothing but the best from Cass’s 🐲 report.

And of course, he delivers. The report is an “analysis” of a bunch of peer-reviewed and government reports on the relationship between the economic impacts of rising temperatures and the increase in deaths from rising temperatures. At fewer than 20 pages of actual material, the report is hardly a match for the peer-reviewed studies it seeks to rebut. The central thesis can be summed up as: warming won’t kill people or cost much money in the future because warming in the 20th century was mitigated by air conditioning. So we can just adapt to future warming the same way.

At least Cass provides a relatively new troll. At Fox News Rep. Lamar Smith 🐊 chose to dredge up some ancient trolls on Monday, including one particularly risibile and decades-since debunked distortion of a quote about the need for scientists to be both honest and effective. In his op-ed, Smith, who as Chair of the House Science, Space and Technology committee no doubt has the staff available to fact check and make sure he’s not lying, takes a quote from climatologist Dr. Stephen Schneider out of context, clips the conclusion, and reverses its meaning.

The full quote, of course, provides far more nuance and insight than Smith or other deniers care to convey. In a 1988 interview, Schneider originally spoke about the “double ethical blind” scientists face when communicating about climate change. Scientists, Schneider elaborated, need to stay honest to the science, with "all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts.” But, he cautioned, the media doesn’t tend to appreciate those types of quotes instead preferring “simplified, dramatic statements.” A climate scientist, Schneider concludes, “has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

Smith’s gross misrepresentation that Schneider advocated that scientists only “make little mention of any doubts we might have” is in no way new or unique. The Detroit News took the same approach in a 1989 editorial, which Schneider debunked. Julian Simon followed up in a similar fashion in 1996, which Schneider debunked, again. Various internet trolls in comment boards kept up the attack, which Schneider addressed again in 2009. We can’t say we’re surprised Smith chose to ignore nearly thirty years of Schneider correcting the misuse of his quote.

The rest of his op-ed is no better. Smith claims climate models overestimate warming we’ll see (this is false, and has been debunked). He downplays hurricane frequency and damages, which is a brave stance for a politician from Texas, which is looking at $180 billion in damages from Harvey in 2017. Smith downplays wildfires, despite 2017 breaking multiple records. And he cites MIT researchers to claim the impact of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will be minimal. (Those researchers have debunked the misuse of their research and called that portrayal of their work “misleading.”)

None of these facts are hidden, complex, or hard to look up online. If Smith were even remotely interested in having a factual, honest, and good-faith debate, he wouldn’t be making any of these points.

But Smith is not interested in honesty: he’s interested in trolling. As long as the public is engaging with trolls, we’re not discussing the solutions that would hurt his fossil fuel benefactor’s bottom line.
Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Pr. 22:22-23


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