“Climate change is intangible and complicated, which makes it an easy target for our era of fake news.” – Amy Harder, Axios
Science Fact v. Science Fiction
It has become popular to confound science fact with science fiction. This maelstrom of propaganda fabricated from half truths littered with ambiguous data, now referred to as fake news, is showing up everywhere. If you follow climate news, you would have likely heard the stunningly opposing assertions about it. It has some asking is it a “hoax created by the Chinese” and others asking is it “the most urgent issue confronting the world” today?
How is it possible for such contradictory claims to coexist? How do we uncover the truth? The former POTUS called climate change a hoax and stepped out of the Paris Agreement against the people’s wishes. Behind him are many sophisticated denial campaigns with fraudulent science claims made by mercenary or paid scientists funded by dark money. Groups like the Heartland Institute (video) and many others are dark money funded. The Heartland Institute is now introducing their anti-Greta propaganda campaign. Desmog Blog provides an extensive database of individual climate deniers involved in the global warming denial industry. In the following video Dhar Jamail introduce these and related topics.
Unfortunately, research shows that most people lack the skills for differentiating predatory misinformation from factual information. This has real-world consequences. For example, U.S. adults believed 75 percent of fake news stories. The more often someone sees a piece of misinformation, the more likely they are to believe it.
To make matters worse, we all suffer from thinking errors (video) that result in confirmation bias. That is, we tend to seek out sources of information that confirm our own (often flawed) belief systems. Subsequently, the Internet has become an ideal resource for this, because it allows us to insulate our own views and ignore contrary facts.
Many Internet sources are neither critically examined, nor reviewed by accepted experts. So, it’s not surprising that we are seeing large, troubling gaps between what scientists and the public believe about issues like climate change, evolution, genetically modified organisms, vaccination, and so on. Additionally, advertisers and corporate interests often prey upon people’s gullibility with greenwashing. In the following video from Just Have A Think this is discussed further.
Coronavirus and Climate Denial Campaign Strategies
Fake news is not only dangerously reshaping and obscuring our views; it is destroying our ability to trust the very facts that we need to follow in order to save lives in a pandemic situation and the related climate crisis underway.
This pervasive denial of physical reality is increasingly creating a delusional populace state. In the following educational episode of Last Week With John Oliver, John Oliver with his usual razor sharp wit, implores people to get out of their usual media-induced filter bubbles in order to deconstruct the conspiracies and rhetoric now constantly being pushed out in the post-truth virtual reality we are living in by way of our favorite addictive devices.
Further, John Oliver defines the “Four Pillars of the ClimateGate Hoax“ in the fundamentalist, alt-right strategy to destroy and discredit any objective sources in the discourse. This is a minute-by-minute feeding frenzy of sociopathic media and other entities and personalities intertwined with corporate agendas that asserts a constant ritual line of propaganda to the most uneducated and the most vulnerable among us; and in liberal society we are all underestimating the power of this sphere of influence now an empire in itself.
Sadly most of the populace — never trained to be fact-checkers or critical-thinkers — is easily manipulated by the trauma bonding and word salad tactics of this propaganda-based war machine of manufactured consent comprised of a new world order of narcissists, psyops, trolls, agent provocateurs and hidden saboteurs. Their goal is to marginalize and discredit all objective science and scientists, government entities, academics, and any news organizations attempting to actually shout the objective truth over the noise. We have to learn to see these gaslighters and pathological liars for what they are. Critical thinking skills are essential now more than ever.
Manufactured Consent in the Century of the Self
Another significant factor contributing to this state of denial and confusion, is the mendacity and subterfuge that mass media, publishers, governments, political leaders, think-tanks, NGO’s and even sell-out science are capable of. In this seminal work, Manufacturing Consent (video), Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky expose these age-old tactics. These authors show how the credibility and motives of our most trusted information sources become highly suspect when combined with power structures, market demands, and other social pressures. In this way they are driven to defend and represent powerful interests.
Through subtle psychological manipulation, they influence people to adopt these duplicitous interests as their own. This is is how the big business of war and limitless growth economy profit despite omnidirectionally harmful intentions. Another good example of this is what Slavoj Žižek (video) calls the paradox of coke. Naomi Klein also discusses these issues in her ground breaking book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
Additionally, Chris Hedges is discussing the problem of corporate totalitarianism in his latest book, America the Farewell Tour (video). Finally, Adam Curtis discusses this further in the documentary Century of the Self (video). Therefore, it’s only to be expected that the perennially revolving complexities of socioeconomic political agendas continue to shape truth to their own ends. For many, climate change is and always will be an unacceptable conclusion and inconvenient truth that must be denied at all costs. Even the planet upon which we live is considered an externality in this milieu.
What Happens When Democracy is For Sale?
Voting becomes meaningless without movements that can pressure those in power and without serious campaign finance reform. We live in what Sheldon Wolin called a system of “inverted totalitarianism.” This is what Chris Hedges refers to as “corporate totalitarianism” (video) and what many are describing as global neoliberalism or business as usual (BAU). It is why we likely cannot vote our way out of the climate crisis or humanitarian predicament we now face as a global species. Eminent scientists like James Lovelock says global warming is irreversible – and over 6 billion people will perish by the end of the century in the sixth mass extinction. This will be the result of the current global elite fascist neoliberal power structure and it’s not going away by itself. This means revolution could become necessary.
“We are in a very serious moment in American history where there is no way out through the electoral system.” – Chris Hedges
What Does “One Dollar One Vote” Mean?
The popular concept, one dollar one vote, suggests applying the way shareholders vote in a company to the political setting of democracy: each citizen will have as many votes as his/her monetized wealth. So the rich will have officially “more say” in what gets decided or who gets elected in public office. Certainly, the general consensus is that economic power does play a role in affecting political outcomes anyway. This approach makes that an official, institutional rule that would make one person one vote an endangered concept.
If you will recall, Trump didn’t win in 2016. The Democrats actually won that election. However, we got Trump for these reasons and many more: oil oligarchy, the Electoal College (E.C.), super delegates, gerrymandering, hacking and shadow apps (video), psyops, game theory. potential Russian funding, and franken-monster voting machines and a franken-monster system, according to a Vox article. Arguments have been made that the real reason we have an Electoral College is actually to protect slavery by neoliberal elite power structure. The slavery bias is preserved. Anyone who is “poor” in this regime is a potential slave. Of course, you still have to go out to the poles to show you are going to exercise your Democratic rights, but go armed with the knowledge that the system is broken.
Understanding Global Power and Terror with Noam Chomsky
It’s not just in the US either. The people (workers) have lost control of the vote and electorates globally. From Trump in USA, to Boris Johnson in UK (video), to Bozonaro in Brazil, to Scott Morrison in AU, to Xi Jinping in China, to Ram Kovind in India. As Chris Hedges said, “we the people will not vote our way out of this.”Thinking that the people have any control via elections is a collective psychosis now. We are in corporate totalitarianism globally. Chomsky explains more in Understanding Power and Terror (video). This is global neoliberal structure. It is really important to understand that any power you think you have as a citizen is forfeit to the state at all times.
Arguing With Zombies
The problem with arguing with zombies is they just keep coming back from the dead. Arguing with Zombies by Paul Krugman and Zombie Capitalism (video) by Henry Giroux are already discussing this problem. We are pleading with zombies to be fair, to be just, and to take care of our biosphere. But zombies just don’t care about these things. It is time we understood and faced this as a global society being run on gaslighting.
When Facts Are Not Enough
According to George Marshall, in Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change “the bottom line is that we do not accept climate change because we wish to avoid the anxiety it generates and the deep changes it requires. In this regard, it is not unlike any other major threat. However, because it carries none of the clear markers that would normally lead our brains to overrule our short-term interests, we actively conspire with each other, and mobilize our own biases to keep it perpetually in the background.”
Honest Government Ads by JuiceMedia
The Honest Government Ads by JuiceMedia have garnered a lot of attention this past year for telling the truth by combining entertainment, humor, and facts in what some have dubbed “edutainment”. The project is administered by “Giordano” (video) often starring “Zoe.” Here’s just one of their hard hitting, truth-exposing videos. It’s a great example of how citizen journalists can use social media to tell the truth and push back on all the denial campaigns.
Becoming Discerning Researchers, Investigators, and Whistle Blowers
As a society, we must learn to quickly identify these experts at creating a mirage of knowledge. We need to be able to constantly separate science from opinion and propaganda. In addition, researchers must become tenacious investigators, infinitely quizzical, and even whistle blowers at times. They must constantly work to uncover the hidden agendas and paid relationships of representatives and institutions presenting content for public consumption. When incorrectly interpreted or manipulated data skew facts enough to inform bad policies and worse decisions, it can be a matter of life and death. Science must be constantly separated from sociopolitical and economic agendas as well as popular beliefs. Therefore, a high level of objectivity is required by science workers.
Science requires us to refrain from drawing quick conclusions about things that only become apparent upon deep, methodical and lengthy inquiries. This is why scientists participate in rigorous empirical study and data collection. They must ultimately provide reports with reproducible results. Real science also requires peer review at the highest level by recognized scholars. In short, science cannot be a matter of subjective pondering. If we are to be an informed society, or just informed individuals, we must be very dedicated to the constant pursuit of objectivity and rational thinking.
Further we must seek to become thoroughly educated on the scientific consensus regarding important matters. This is crucial for wise decision-making. We must consult with multiple experts, revisit our sources and confirm the facts at hand to avoid being misinformed and confused.
How to Fact Check and Spot Fake News
According to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), critical thinking is a key skill in media and information literacy, and the mission of libraries is to educate and advocate its importance. Discussions about fake news has led to a new focus on media literacy more broadly, and the role of libraries and other research and education institutions in providing this. This downloadable infographic poster from IFLA provides an excellent overview on steps in fact checking.
Research Tools and Resources for Skeptics and Citizen Scientists
Everyone can become a self-educated skeptic. Here is a list of tools and resources, used at Scientists’ Warning, which you can also use to do your own debunking, data analysis, trends tracking and more. These are just some of the publicly available tools that the scientists themselves are using to do this much needed research and analysis. See especially Skeptical Science Resources & Debunking Handbook to get started.
- Desmog Blog
- Earth’s CO2 & Keeling Curve Watch
- Google Climate Change Charts & Graphs
- Have Zombies Eaten Bloomberg’s Brains?
- NASA Worldview
- NOAA Climate Data
- NOAA Arctic Report Card
- NOAA Space Weather DashBoard
- Skeptical Science Resources
- YouTube Public Science Education with Paul Beckwith
Climate change denial remains a serious detractor for educators, scientists, and humanity. It continues to persist with strong influence. It spurs inaction, dissent, controversy, and doubt. Climate change denial does an extreme disservice to our ability to act on what we are facing in the coming extinction. Additionally, this denial is causing significant cognitive dissonance at sociopolitical levels that have left us unable to respond to it as a global security threat. The gaming of science we are seeing in these denier campaigns is wreaking havoc on our crucial understanding of these issues.
Political science and climate science are clashing in a war of words. The overwhelming desire to jump to simple conclusions, defend positions, and provide quick answers to complex issues is a crucible for our times. Human societies across the globe are failing to come to terms with the science of climate change. In fact, most have no idea how bad it is (video).
Moreover, we aren’t listening to the scholars and scientists we employ to instruct and advise us on these matters, even though they are often working for the good of all. In many cases, these scientists don’t even get paid (video) for this work despite the contrarian claim that they are in it for the profit. It’s as if we have plunged into a new dark age of irrational and magical thinking. It is quite simply depraved at this point. We are losing 200 species a day. The oceans are acidifying. The insects are disappearing. Radiation is leaking from melting glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic. Air pollution is causing numerous deaths annually. Millions more are becoming climate refugees daily. Drought and wildfires have become common headlines. This is an emergency and nothing less. Anyone denying this now is committing a crime against humanity and all life on the planet.
Further, we have lost sight of the big picture. We have become entangled in linear, overly simplistic thought processes based on outdated ideas and politics. We are increasingly unable to grasp the exponential challenges of a world moving faster than we can adapt. The only solution to this predicament is to arm ourselves with credible, independent sources (video). It will also be necessary to better comprehend the complexities of objective science, to begin to deconstruct (video) these false narratives and finally, to take action.
“No matter how high the mountains of the great dharma are, no matter how deep the sea of ignorance is, they will be as nothing before a boundless spirit of determination.” – Koun Yamada, “Great Faith, Great Doubt, Great Determination”
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- Schellenhuber, H.J. (2018). Actual Expert tells audience, we won’t have an Ice Age again! Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyWSMovZLVY&t=1418s
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