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For years now I’ve heard global warming deniers claim that scientists are compelled to endorse the position of anthropogenically caused climate change because the journals of “liberal academia” will not publish articles by climate change skeptics, and because scientists are unable to get grants unless they “tow the party line”. Well, this week Newsweek has an article showing how global warming deniars are in fact the ones making their claims based on monetary incentives, using tactics very similar to those the tobacco industry used to convince the public that the proposed link between cancer and smoking is “only a theory” (similar tactics being used in debates over evolution and intelligent design as well).

I am simply stunned that an article like this has been published in a mass popular media circulation in the United States. For those outside the United States, it might be difficult to comprehend just how bad the reporting the reporting is here. Every story on the news has to present “both sides”, assuming that there always are two sides to a story and that both of these sides have equal credibility. One suspects that were a discussion about Copernicus to emerge, our media outlets would feel compelled to insure that both the geocentric and the heliocentric hypothesis were given equal time and that it was emphasized that both positions were “theories” and that it was therefore up to personal judgment to decide which one is true. This is something I encounter in my students as well (i.e., the idea that everything is an opinion, interpretation, or belief and that all beliefs are on equal footing appears to be trickling down through all of American culture), that manifests itself in sentence structures that have the form “I think”, “I feel”, “I believe”, “It is Socrates’ opinion that…” In short, everything has to be expressed with a minimal subjective distance or skepticism, implicitly suggesting that any claim is already simply a matter of opinion that can then be summarily dismissed (the issue of whether some beliefs are superior to others or some interpretations better than others as a function of both the evidence the proffer and the extent of what their able to explain never even being entertained). No wonder the States are such a mess.

This article, by contrast, does everything that an article on climate deniers should do: it looks carefully at the money links between scientists that deny climate changes and big businesses such as oil and the automotive industry that stand to lose by legislative changes that would require reductions in greenhouse gases, it examines the founding of think tanks designed to wage PR battles of disinformation, and it looks at the climate science, debunking standard talking points as to why global warming should be doubted. All in all it is an excellent article and I wish there were more reporting of this sort in popular press. I’m truly astonished that it was published at all given the heat (pardon the pun) surrounding this issue, and the massive interests in maintaining public skepticism against global warming both at the governmental level and in the world of big business. As is so often the case, we live in a topsy turvy, upside down world, in which the accusations spouted by rightwing critics are in fact the very things that they themselves are guilty of, projected onto the group they wish to slime. This should come as no surprise, given that, due to the predominance of the imaginary in interpersonal relations, our thoughts about others tend to be analogical, we have a tendency to attribute our own motives to other people when attempting to understand why they act as they do. One need only invert the statements of reactionaries leveled against their opponents to get a fairly good idea of what they’re up to in their dark, back room meetings and the privacy of their own homes.

You can read the article here.

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