Archive for September, 2011

Tactics: recent examples from NPR

Mark Browning provides a list of Techniques for Untruth using NPR as the goat.

“Two recent NPR stories display some techniques available to journalist-activists, allowing them to misrepresent truth while at the same time maintaining an appearance of objectivity. One of these stories, ironically enough, presented itself as a fact check of the recent Republican presidential candidate debate; the other dealt with conservative critiques of government funding for birth control services.”

The list includes ignoring context, selecting facts, appeal to authority, misrepresentation, setting the stage, and avoiding legal or other implications.

The awareness of these tactics is a first step to avoiding them. That would be progress towards intellectual integrity in political debate.

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Tactics: pining for reasoned debate is futile

The Five Biggest Reasons Republicans Keep Losing the Propaganda War.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you freely discussed any conservative or even moderate political view with friends at work, or on campus, or in public, or at a large social gathering — without hedging your every word? When? Can you identify a single recent instance when you felt your conservative or even moderate views would be tolerated without provoking name-calling or public shaming into the nearest corner of societal oblivion?

Kyle-Anne Shiver notes the tactics in modern political debate and suggests fixing this requires, first, fully identifying the problem. She is not the only one to highlight the problem. The recent debate among GOP presidential contenders also raised the awareness by having the question become the issue rather than the response.

Shaver’s list of five tactics include: (5) perception over reality in media; (4) inability to swallow the dishonesty of ridicule; (3) inability to grasp the values gap implications; (2) conflict avoidance; (1) undiagnosed Stockholm Syndrome.

It is like the civility issue where Palin was castigated for using crosshairs to target a market yet a union boss’s comments about “take them out” is ignored. These sorts of things must be made visible to, perhaps, obtain a better integrity in discussing ideas.

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The fundamental problem: data doesn’t matter

There is distress as some people find that reality just doesn’t matter to much of the public. Professor Kengor relates his experiences with this as The Democrats’ Invincible Ignorance.

I’ve only recently come to realize the nature of the hurdle this country faces in trying to turn around a stalled economy and horrendous deficit. Here it is: liberal Democrat politicians have completely convinced huge numbers of their followers that our economic/fiscal mess is the result of two principal demons: 1) “the rich,” and 2) the Tea Party. The former, of course, has been a longtime liberal scapegoat; the latter is a new one.

It is not just the data that is at issue. Kengor provides links for that side of things but there is also the basic issue of considering the implications of one’s ideas. For instance, there are those who think that the federal budget problems can be solved by taxing the rich. There is more to that than just looking at the share the ‘rich’ are currently paying. How does the federal deficit and debt compare to the cash flow and assets of the rich? If you take all they have, you won’t come near to clearing the books for the government but you will eliminate one of the major sources of government income.

This is very similar to what is going on in the climate change debate. There is a significant effort to explain away or ignore unpleasant data and to silence those who raise questions.

My fear, however, is that the data just doesn’t matter to a huge number of blind followers. And that’s a very serious problem for this country, a giant propaganda hurdle that may be insurmountable.

This fear is solidly based. If people make decisions based on what they want reality to be rather than what it actually is, those decisions are likely to have very unpleasant consequences. This has been shown time and again and we see it now in front of us.

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Making a farce of peer review

It took just six weeks to write a paper, get it through ‘peer review’ and then accepted for publication to rebut the Spencer and Braswell paper that caused a journal editor to resign. Watts notes the unusual aspects of this process.

This paper appears to have been made ready in record time, with a turnaround from submission to acceptance and publication of about six weeks based on the July 26th publication date of the original Spencer and Braswell paper. We should all be so lucky to have expedited peer review service. PeerEx maybe, something like FedEx? Compare that to the two years it took to get Lindzen and Choi out the door. Or how about the WUWT story: “Science has been sitting on his [Spencer’s] critique of Dessler’s paper for months”.

Motl (Andrew Dessler: clouds don’t reflect light) notes that the rebuttal asserts that clouds can only influence global temperatures by trapping heat and that their color, as a matter of albedo, is of no consequence.

The only thing that Dessler has managed to do in his paper – aside from idiotic proclamations that reflection violates the energy conservation – was to reproduce the main claim by Spencer and Braswell that models are incompatible with the observations. Here is the final figure, Dessler’s Figure 2, which confirms that models heavily disagree with the observations.

Normally, a dispute with a paper would start off with letters to the editor in the journal that published the paper. Normal process does not seem to agree with those holding with human caused climate catastrophic change.

This is much like the brouhaha about Palin using targets and crosshairs in political campaigns getting much condemnation but Hoffa talking about ‘taking them out’ with his army being brushed under the carpet. Integrity seems to be missing somewhere.

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Nature of the debate: climate example

What happens when you publish a climatology paper that isn’t PC? Anthony Watts has the story.

Apparently, it is impossible for them to consider observational evidence supporting a lower climate sensitivity, and thus they’ve scuttled the scientific process of correcting and building on new knowledge in favor of a tabloid style attack.

There is an opinion article at Daily Climate that perpetuates serious misunderstandings regarding the research of Roy Spencer and John Christy. It also is an inappropriate (and unwarranted) person attack on their professional integrity. Since I have first hand information on this issue, I am using my weblog to document the lack of professional decorum by Keven Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick.

What is disturbing, however, in the Trenberth et al article is its tone and disparagement of two outstanding scientists. Instead of addressing the science issues, they resort to statements such as Spencer and Christy making “serial mistakes”. This is truly a hatchet job and will only further polarize the climate science debate

When a journal editor resigns for no specific established job-related reason and then apologizes to one of the parties in a dispute, the implication is that empirical reasoning and science are not on the table. When opinions are provided that attack authors and not the topic, the implication is that science is not on the table. When the process of continual improvement and correction is used as a hatchet, intellectual integrity is obviously not ready to hand. That, though, appears to be the state of the climate change debate.

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