The denial machine

CBC logoThere’s been much talk in my workplace lunchroom today about last night’s the fifth estate program The Denial Machine. (The synopsis plus whole video is available online.)  The program was on the well-financed and organized attempts to throw doubt on global warming.

What seemed to shock people the most is that it’s not just the same groups that used to deny the dangers of smoking.  It’s the very same “expert” talking heads.

4 responses to “The denial machine”

  1. Tom Harris writes:

    Comments on Fifth Estate show:

    The CBC doctored the list of signatories on the open letter to PM Harper – Professor Singer was actually down around #50, while they show him as the third. They also show the letter as being on the front page of the FP when in fact it was the second to last page in the comment section – see Note also the incorrect info on the program about all those other than the 19 Canadians being Americans. Many other mistakes as well but that alone should make you question how much of the show was correct.

  2. Charlie Halpern-Hamu writes:

    I’ll have to watch the video again, but my assumption here is that in both cases of “misplacement”, what we’re talking about is a visual representation of an idea that’s missing the ellipsis dots. In other words it should have been “Title of Letter […] signature”, and “Financial Post […] letter to editor”. Tom Harris suggests that he thinks this is significant. I don’t think it’s significant. Of course the letters to the editor are in the letters to the editor section of the paper.

    [I have now watched the video again. It’s all in a single sequence: “Financial Post” across the top of a paper, a letter at the very top of the page as if it’s the headline, the signatures over to the right with Tom Harris near the top. I would have been happier if they showed the real paper, turning the page if necessary, rather than this mockup. But the whole sequence there is to illustrate the idea, so I still don’t think it is significant.]

    Readers should note that Tom Harris is the Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, described by some as an Astroturf (fake grassroots) organization. The other half of the NRSP executive is Tim Ball, revealed in the CBC program to have an apparently exaggerated CV.

    For me, the most effective aspect of the program was to recognize the commonality with the there’s-no-proven-link-between-smoking-and-cancer campaign. That similarity was obvious to me and many others long before this program. But this program was the first time I saw the very same personalities, on camera, moving from one disinformation campaign to the other. And saying that he doesn’t know where the money comes from; he just cashes the cheques.

  3. Tom Harris writes:

    This might enlighten people — it is just a small sample of the many mistakes in the Fifth Estate piece:

    Fred Singer corrects the record

    If you would like more on their errors, let me know.

  4. Charlie Halpern-Hamu writes:

    I watched the Denial Machine video again. It’s on the right hand side of the page. Click on the little movie-camera icon.

    I still stand by the fact that the EPA has cooked the data in order to show that second-hand smoke causes lung cancer.

    Fred Singer

    To be fair, that doesn’t mean he’s denying the connection. Mendel, it is now agreed, cooked the data to prove how genetic inheritance worked. His experiments didn’t come out as clean as he wished for them to be, so he tidied them up. A bad approach to science, I agree.

    They don’t carry a note on a dollar bill and say “this comes from the tobacco industry”. In any case I was not aware of it. And I didn’t ask Tocqueville where they get their money. That’s not my business.

    Fred Singer

    And later:

    It came in over the transom. I cashed a cheque. Wouldn’t you?

    According the the article written by Dr Singer and referenced above, Dr Singer sits on the board of an anti-smoking group. The Wikipedia entry on Fred Singer clarifies that the American Council on Science and Health does oppose smoking, but also usually backs industry positions on health issues. Note that even tobacco giant Philip Morris says they’re against smoking.

    Again according the the Wikipedia, he founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project, a group that doubts the connection

    • between human activity and global warming,
    • between CFCs and the hole in the ozone layer,
    • between smoking and lung cancer,
    • and between ultraviolet light and skin cancer.

    It can be good to be a skeptic, but people should know that Dr Singer seems to have made a business out of it.

    He’s obviously the kind of guy who asks a lot of questions — though curiously not about where the money comes from.

    This article by George Monbiot addresses many of the specific claims of global warming deniers, including the Vikings in Greenland story.

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