Saturday, 20 December 2014

(Ab)using libertarians as useful idiots

Suppose you're a tobacco lobbyist and you want to attack new anti-smoking laws. How to reach your goal ?

Being a lobbyist for the tobacco industry, it would be a bad idea trying to reach the public by directly contacting the media, as you'll quickly be outed as nothing but an industry's spokesman. Lobbyists need other ways to spread their message. By the late 1970's tobacco lobbyists had a problem though: even though the industry created lots of pseudoscientific documents trying to spread doubt tobacco really causes cancer, the public started to be well aware smoking causes lung-cancer. Trying to attack the science wasn't enough to undermine anti-tobacco laws.

A new strategy was needed. 

The industry wrote:
The only way that the right to smoke can be preserved is to link it up with the freedom of lifestyle position, and with the broader libertarian critique of 'health fascism' and the paternalism and authoritarianism of the medical establishment. Our 'special interest' can only be viably defended as part and parcel of broader coalition. We have to shift the focus of the debate from the enemy's strong ground--health--to our strong ground--freedom of choice and individual liberty.

The only thing tobacco lobbyists needed to do to spread this message was redirecting the bias of libertarians, and changing the libertarian hatred against "regulations" into a hatred against "regulations against smoking". Try opening any random libertarian website and the word 'freedom' will pop up everywhere. To kill anti-smoking laws, tobacco lobbyists started spreading the message in libertarian circles that laws against tobacco were undermining personal freedom. 

To spread the tobacco lobby's message of anti-tobacco laws being an attack on personal freedom, lobbyists needed to get in contact with libertarians stupid enough to buy this message. Using their bias, tobacco lobbyists' objective was turning libertarians into useful idiots, lobbying for the tobacco industry. Without the libertarians even realizing.

This document in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library illustrates how lobbyists selected their targets:

Private & Confidential
ACADEMIC CONTACT LIST

Professor DAVID MARSLAND
(...)
An ex-member of the Labour Party, a founder member of the S .D .P., and the recipient of the first Thatcher Award, David Marsland is now an out-standing free market sociologist at the West London Institute.
Author of many books, covering issues as diverse as education, health, business and the welfare state, Marsland is a hard-core rebel against the 'health-fascist' establishment. A keen smoker with a hatred of the welfare state, Marsland is an affable and well respected academic who is open to private work and easy to approach.
Have no hesitation mentioning my name.

Professor ANTHONY FLEW
EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, READING UNIVERSITY
(...)
One of the most prolific and controversial philosophers of his generation, Professor Anthony Flew will go down in history as one of the most outstanding Conservative thinkers of the twentieth century.
Hated by the left, Flew is an avowed anti-statist who is totally opposed to the welfare establishment with all its "modern trendy ideas". Aware that life, and the act of being human, inevitably involves risk, Flew would be a sound friend in the battle against the anti-smoking lobby.
He knows Chris.

Dr.  BILL THOMPSON
SOCIOLOGY LECTURER, READING UNIVERSITY
(...)
An ex-Anarcho-Socialist turned Free Market Libertarian, Bill is a fascinating, young and dynamic lecturer who teaches the Sociology of Morality.
Specialising in such subjects as Society and Pornography, Moral Panics and the Sociology of Belief Systems, Bill is a radical thinker opposed to state intervention - especially on issues of personal morality . A smoker himself, he is ideologically sympathetic to the defence of smoker's rights. Mention my name.

Dr. CHRISTIE DAVIES
HEAD OF SOCIOLOGY, READING UNIVERSITY
(...)
Christie Davis is one of the most senior and well respected right-wing sociologists in the UK. Although he has a broad range of academic interests, he specialises in the sociology of humour and contemporary criminology.
A radical free marketeer he carries sound ideological baggage when it comes issues of risk and personal freedom.

Dr . NIGEL ASHFORD 
SENIOR LECTURER IN POLITICS, STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY
(...)
Although a hard-core Libertarian activist since his days in Conservative Students, Ashford is nevertheless an eclectic thinker. An ardent free marketeer, he is also unusually an overt proEuropean.
A member of the British Political Science Association, he is a well connected politics lecturer, who is sympathetic to the paradigm of personal liberty.

Professor DAVID GLADSTONE
PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL POLICY, BRISTOL UNIVERSITY
(...)
An outstanding, charismatic and charming public speaker, Davids Gladstone's primary interest is the growth of the welfare state) during the twentieth century . A socially well connected direct descendant of Prime Minister Gladstone, he is sound on the subject of the nanny state, and at one with the Libertarian right on issues of personal freedom.
A very much under used asset on our side - mention, me on introduction.

JIM BOURLET 
LECTURER IN ECONOMICS, LONDON GUILDHALL UNIVERSITY
(...)
A classical liberal in economic and political outlook, Bourlet is a rather quiet and largely unknown academic who has all the right political instincts .
He would be perfect as a 'name' to front projects. Mention me on introduction.


Dr. DENIS O'KEEFFE 
SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION LECTURER, UNIVERSITY OF WORTH LONDON
(...)
Although O'Keeffe claims he is a Libertarian, he is more accurately described as a liberal-Conservative . Primarily interested in education and the welfare state, he is a superb writer always willing to undertake projects for private business interests.
With a number of close political contacts in parliament, and particularly the House of Lords, O'Keeffe is a well placed academic with an air of authority . From time to time he appears on TV and always performs well Mention me.

Dr. STEVEN DAVIES
SENIOR LECTURER IN HISTORY, MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY .
(...)
A young, but already prolific writer with a superb style, Davies is best described as Britain's foremost Libertarian Historian.
Sound on all economic, social and political issues, his only weakness is that his manner is not particularly well suited for the media . Nevertheless, is a charming man who is always approachable. Mention my name on introduction.
.
SEAN GABB
PART-TIME LECTURER AT A NUMBER OF LONDON UNIVERSITIES SPECIALISING IN HISTORY, LAW, ECONOMIC HISTORY AND POLITICS 
(...)
An academic genius, Gabb is a Libertarian Conservative who has accidentally ended up being born 200 hundred too years latet A character best suited for the Reform Club around 1780 he has an eccentric and endearing manner - and a rapier brain.
A former member of the Lord Chancellor's Department at the Home Office and a special adviser to the Slovak Prime Minister, Gabb is totally sound on matters of personal freedom and is an outstanding candidate to ghost academic material. Mention me.

WALTER ALLAN 
EX-EDITOR OF ECONOMICS AT MACMILLAN, EX-EDITOR AT THE INSTITUTE OF ECONOMIC AFFAIRS AND CURRENTLY A LECTURER AT A NUMBER OF LONDON UNIVERSITIES
(...)
With a sound political outlook and a superb knowledge of economics, Allan is always interested in private commissions which demand a robust defence of the principles of liberty.
A man who "loves to lunch", he is a great networker and has a truly unbelievable range of useful contacts for almost every occasion and operation imaginable.
Mention me.

A quick check learns how succesful the tactic of the industry was: 
Anthony Flew, Bill Thompson, Dennis O'Keeffe, Sean Gabb, Christie Davies & Steven Davies all became active in the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, a fake grassroots organisation set up by the tobacco industry.

Sean Gabb describes how he became interested in the subject tobacco:
My interest in tobacco, and in all the news regarding it, stems almost entirely from libertarian principle. I believe that people should have the right to do with themselves as they will, regardless of any possible harm to them.

Feeding their bias, the tobacco industry managed to turn no less than 6 of the 11 libertarians above into useful idiots.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

De rol van de media

Naar aanleiding van de publicatie van een barslecht, en foutief, breed uitgesmeerd opiniestuk in de Nederlandse krant "De Volkskrant" schreven de bloggers van Klimaatverandering het bijzonder relevante stuk: De rol van de media bij het communiceren over (klimaat)wetenschap

De redacteuren van De Volkskrant lijken te vergeten dat er een onderscheid bestaat tussen "een mening" en "aperte onjuistheden". M.i. is er slechts ruimte voor meningen als de feiten waarop die meningen gebaseerd zijn kloppen. Aan compleet feitenvrije opiniestukken heeft immers niemand iets.

Wanneer journalisten stukken publiceren waarvan ogenblikkelijk duidelijk is dat ze bulken van de fouten, zijn ze niet meer met journalistiek bezig, maar met propaganda.

  facts free media

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Teh stoopid, it burns

Jon Stewart brilliantly illustrates the level of scientific understanding of the average pseudo-skeptic. Unfortunately, teh stoopid are the GOP-members of the US Congress House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Quite embarrasing.

Some quotes
Congresmann Larry Bucshon explains why doesn't believe the science on global warming:
there’s public comments out there that that question has been asked and answered saying "no".
Scientist John  Holdren answers politely
You should look at the scientific literature rather than the public comments
Stewart put's it a bit more direct
With all due respect, Rep. Bucshon, I suggest you get the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology as opposed to the YouTube comment feed of Obummerlies1776
Congresmann Larry Bucshon illustrates he's stuck in conspiracy-thoughts:
Of all the climatologists whose careers depend on the climate changing to keep themselves publishing articles — yes, I could read that, but I don't believe it.
Stewart summarizes the congresmman's words: 
I do not believe the scientists because it is their profession, not their hobby


Next: Congressman Steve Stockman on the melting of ice : 
I mean think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass it doesn't overflow, it's displacement This is the thing, some of the things they're talking about, mathematically and scientifically don't make sense.
John Stewart: 
How far back to the elementary school curriculum do we have to go to get someone on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology caught up?
The congressman misses the point of thermal expansion. And of course something illustrated by Stewart in the video. (Start at 2'50'').


And this is exactly why i haven't been blogging much lately. What's to say when confronted with such levels of willful ignorance ?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

global warming is a religion

Yet another embarrassing  petition by the Cornwall Alliance emerged:
As the product of infinitely wise design, omnipotent creation, and faithful sustaining (Genesis 1:1–31; 8:21–22), Earth is robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting. Although Earth and its subsystems, including the climate system, are susceptible to some damage by ignorant or malicious human action, God’s wise design and faithful sustaining make these natural systems more likely—as confirmed by widespread scientific observation—to respond in ways that suppress and correct that damage than magnify it catastrophically.

the ‘scientific’ part of the petition is nothing but a bunch of non sequiturs and red herrings.

The petition calls for :


  • We call on Christians to practice creation stewardship out of love for God and love for our neighbors—especially the poor.


  • We call on Christian leaders to study the issues and embrace sound scientific, economic, and ethical thinking on creation stewardship, particularly climate change.


  • We call on political leaders to abandon fruitless and harmful policies to control global temperature and instead adopt policies that simultaneously reflect responsible environmental stewardship, make energy and all its benefits more affordable, and so free the poor to rise out of poverty.


  • Signed by the usual suspects like Lord Monckton, Roy Spencer and a whole bunch of other familiar sounding names (webcited)

    These are the people crying global warming is a religion…

    Sunday, 29 September 2013

    A lesson in critical thinking

    The Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research of the Univsersity of Louvain-La-Neuve made a brilliant webpage on critical thinking (in French though) (UPDATE linkfix)

    They took a random presentation of a pseudoskeptic, and demonstrate what happens if you to take at least the following steps

    For every reference used in the presentation:critical-thinking
    • check if the cited article hasn’t been retracted/corrected
    • check if the ‘conclusion’ used in the presentation actually is the conclusion of the original author
    • check if the reference used is an op-ed or a peer review paper
    For every graph used in the presentation
    • check if the source is a scientific paper or not
    • check if the presentation uses the original legend of the graph
    • check if the axis are labelled correctly
    • check if the graph actually supports the message of the presentation
    • check if the graph is not taken out of context
    • when there are several graphs used:
      • check if all graphs use the same units and scale
      • check if all graphs represent the same time period
      • in case of doubt: look for the original data and replot the graph
    For every statement made in the presentation
    • check if that statement is referenced
    • check if the statement isn’t taken out of context

    For every time-period used in the presentation
    • check if the time-span used is long enough to be speaking about climate instead of noise (so, no conclusions of a one-year time span etc.)

    With just a little critical thinking, you stumble upon issues like this:
    critical thinking
    critical thinking2
    critical thinking3
    There’s some more slides on the TECLIM-page left as an exercise. Enjoy.