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environmental spin memo
March 4, 2003 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Spinning the Environment
One section of the memorandum, "Winning the Global Warming Debate," asserts that many voters believe there is a lack of consensus about global warming among scientists. "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly," it says. "Therefore you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue." Among the ways to "challenge the science," the memorandum says, is to "be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view and much more active in making them part of your message" because "people are more willing to trust scientists than politicians."

So much for science based decisions regarding the fouling of our nest. Sounds Green = Is Green in the bizarro world of spin.
posted by nofundy (35 comments total)

 
Spinning an article that puts a spin on spin.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 AM on March 4, 2003


It is sad that the American public is so easily duped by the Republicans' strategy to make elephants look good on environmental issues. The problem: we want to hear something that sounds 'good enough' -- we don't really give a damn about what actually happens. We don't check into what happens to forests when we cut them all down to save them; we just give a politician points for mentioning the issue. And we love it when they mention studies that people in the know laugh at. Maybe even more sad is the Democratic party. When Bush tries to chop down all our national forests and roll back the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, the donkeys just nod in approval. I want to see some strong ads during the next presidential election that call Bush on being an environmental bullshitter and show the effects of his callousness. I guess when we get the CEO president we get corporate-style greenwashing and image-conscious lip-service. Corporations have done this for years. Only during this administration has lying about environmental policy risen to an artform.
posted by cholstro at 9:39 AM on March 4, 2003


I've said it before: A presidential candidate who runs on teh platform of promising to undo all the crap that GW Bush has put this country through over the last four years will win in a landslide.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:56 AM on March 4, 2003


Also from the same article "the Democrats have been expert at constructing a narrative in which Republicans and conservatives are the bad guys."

Since when is counterspin a crime in politics?
posted by cyclopz at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2003


Exxon-Mobil funds "skeptics"

I've read so much on this crap over the last four years, I could summarize the specific "talking points" they are going to use in this campaign.

1) Emphasize that taking action on Global Warming, given the "uncertainties" is foolish and irresponsible because it will destroy the economy: (demonstrably false - the US economy grew for almost one whole decade, late 70's through the mid - eighties, while energy consumption stayed virtually flat. Secret? - more efficient use of energy)

2) Hire more scientific "experts". Send them to PR seminars to be trained in effective public relations skills: this is getting really hard for this crowd, given how far the science on Global Warming has advanced since George Bush Sr. warded off action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by committing the US gov. to billions in spending on research about the problem. Now the research has panned out - Global warming is both real, and mostly bad - so the petrochemical industry's stable of kept scientists is shrinking yearly. I suppose they can always dredge up some people from unrelated fields though.

3) Stress that those who call for reductions in Greenhouse gas emissions - for cleaner cars, etc., are extremists, luddistic terrorists like the Unabomber who are afraid of technology, and that they want to stop progress and take freedoms away - just like the Taliban

4) Impugn the integrity of the leading scientific experts on Global Warming. Call them biased because they work for the government and we KNOW the government is biased, unlike private industry which is impartial, altruistic and truly patriotic. (emphasize and implicate the Clinton-Gore administration in creating gov. bias on this but don't mention that George Bush Sr. began federal research on Global warming as a major government research effort. If anyone points this out, deny it and call them a liar.)

5) Emphasize and promote any and all possible objections to Global Warming science (whether real, false, or previously disproven - most people won't know the difference, but they'll remember that "the scientists aren't really sure" or "it's Junk Science" ) and claim that these show that is all a load of goverment hooey driven by some sneaky, totalitarian one-world-government agenda.

6) Attach the term "Junk Science" to "Global Warming" at all possible opportunities. Your audience - those you hope to sway - are not scientists. They won't be offended by the term or be equipped to discriminate junk science from real science. But the association will stick in their minds and they will repeat the slogan "Global warming is Junk Science" to others.

......Alas, the only way will have "certainty" about the effects of elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions will be if the Earth becomes a turns into a Venutian inferno, or lurches into a new Ice Age. Except that, in that case, religious fundamentalists will then write it off as a "Divinely mandated apocalypse".
posted by troutfishing at 10:00 AM on March 4, 2003


A presidential candidate who runs on the platform of promising to undo all the crap that GW Bush has put this country through over the last four years will win in a landslide.

You've made my favorite quote for the week.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:32 AM on March 4, 2003


Obviously, if the Republicans believe that the science supporting global warming is good and yet are pursuing a strategy of discrediting that science, their actions are morally indefensible. Of course, political consultants aren't exactly known for either their policy expertise or their scruples so it doesn't surprise me at all that they'd recommend such a strategy even if they had no clue about the science. But who knows? Maybe they really believe it is a liberal conspiracy.

Ultimately though, I guess I don't really understand it politically either. The environment is really something that the GOP wins elections in spite of rather than because of. The public is solidly pro-environment and even moderate Republicans are willing to stand up to Bush on some issues (see, e.g., the opposition of moderate Republicans to Alaskan oil drilling). While I don't buy the whole liberal media bias thesis generally, they do tend to give negative coverage to people that question global warming (as they should, since the evidence is pretty overwhelming). So, I don't see how the GOP is going to win over swing voters with this kind of talk, especially given the skeptical media coverage that is likely to follow. All they'll do is solidify their base, who are gonna vote for them anyway. If I were a morally bankrupt political consultant, I'd tell them to exaggerate and lie about what they're doing to fix global warming rather than question the overwhelming consensus that it actually exists.
posted by boltman at 10:41 AM on March 4, 2003


Boltman: your appraisal is too conservative. I'm waiting with baited breath for the coming "global warming is good" campaign.

After all, more carbon dioxide and higher temperatures are good for plant growth.
posted by Ptrin at 10:48 AM on March 4, 2003


What I find interesting about these type debates is that both sides are arguing over the "axiom" to be accepted, that is, "that global warming is a fact", instead of arguing the main point, "so what do we do about it?"

Because, you see, the latter debate is a lot trickier than the simple "yes" or "no" of the former. In the latter category you have the following advocated options:

1) Do nothing/nothing can be done/economically devastating.

2) Technology made the mess, let technology clean it up.

3) The US should ruin its economy, but everyone else should be free to pollute.

4) The "first world" nations should go "green", then give the third and fourth world countries the resources and technology to do the same, no matter what the costs.

5) (My faves) That only socialist policies about the environment will make everything better, and if not, it's only because enough money is not being devoted to them/political power equals environmental "justice"/reparations to third and fourth world countries for ruining "their" environment.
posted by kablam at 10:57 AM on March 4, 2003


Cholstro, while I agree with most of what you were saying this line: We don't check into what happens to forests when we cut them all down to save them seemed to perplex me. The Forest Service has been monitoring forests since 1905 regardless of administration and before that a myriad of scientists, naturalists, Indians and woodsmen were recording and experimenting with forest growth and development since humanity began to walk upright. I'm pretty sure no one, not even Dubya in all his infinite wisdom has proposed cutting down all the forests. The Forest Service often cuts down or burns down underbrush and swaths of trees to prevent future fires and to encourage forests to move towards the type of woods you'd see in an old growth stand. Often times certain kinds of trees are removed in order to encourage the growth of another species. Those are the only examples of "cutting down to save" forests I can come up with, unless there is something else you are thinking of, but those aren't Bush administration concepts or ideas, they would be far from smart enough to come up with something like that.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:01 AM on March 4, 2003


Solidifying your base in a down economy is a political necessity, boltman.

If part of your base is inclined to vote against you due to hard economic times, any other issue that you can use to associate fear, uncertainty, and doubt with your opponent is highly desirable.
posted by dglynn at 11:14 AM on March 4, 2003


A presidential candidate who runs on the platform of promising to undo all the crap that GW Bush has put this country through over the last four years will win in a landslide.

yeah brotha. john kerry looks good. wesley clark for VP?
posted by specialk420 at 11:44 AM on March 4, 2003


A presidential candidate who runs on the platform of promising to undo all the crap that GW Bush has put this country through over the last four years will win in a landslide.

I hope someone tries this... It would make re-election of GWB much easier. Here's what your candidate would have to go on record in favor of:

- Increase Taxes
- Reduce Military, Education and Healthcare Spending
- Back off from anyone wanting to attack us
- Encourage partial birth abortions, and abortions in general
- Increase govenrment spending
- Encourage corporate corruption
- Encourage foreign dependency on oil
- Take rights away from private clubs and organizations
- Eliminate Pledge of Alliegence from schools
- Don't allow parents to make choices about where to send their kids to school
- Government should control decision making, not states
- Allow the UN to dictate the future of the USA even when it's not in our best interest
- Don't enforce the laws on the books
- Encourage teenage smoking, drugs and sex
- Encourage government dependency; need more entitlements
- More HMO's, less patient choice
- Weaken our borders; allow more illegal aliens in

Yeah, I think the candidate with that "vision" is a sure thing ;)

As for the main topic here - the environment - I believe the reality is that most people care about it, but not so much that they are willing to give up or pay more to do anything about it. I mean it's like asking people if they're for "free luxury cars and homes for all citizens". I'm sure that most people would be for it, but when it came time to really figure out how to implement it, most would back off. Just because 85% of the people (or whatever it is) are "for the environment" doesn't really mean anything when you get right down to it. I'm all for clean air, but not if it means my car is going to cost twice as much or my heating/AC bills are going to be twice as much next year.
posted by stormy at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2003


Pollomacho: We're both for smart forest management. The difference between us is that you trust the forest service and I don't. Their mission is not to preserve forests -- it is to maintain them for human benefit. I think they are often shortsighted with their perception of human benefit. When I was saying that we don't check what happens, I meant that very few regular-Joe-type people go out to the forests to see what is really happening....and then clear cuts and the like go relatively unnoticed under the guise of "salvage," "fire protection," etc. We don't realize that our tax money supports logging projects on our lands. The Bush administration is taking advantage of citizens' lack of involvement in forest management and citizens' misunderstanding of forest fires to push a logging agenda....and not just in National Forests....in paces like the Sequoia National Monument. The administration is pushing for larger and larger diameter trees (and as many as possible for the biggest lumber company profit possible) to be eligible for "thinning." These trees are up to 30 inches in diameter. They are the huge trees that prevent the catastrophic fires that rip through recently "thinned" (logged) forests. When it comes to forest management, I don't think that we should put all of our trust in the forest service -- and we should put none in the Bush Administration.
posted by cholstro at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2003


I mean it's like asking people if they're for "free luxury cars and homes for all citizens". I'm sure that most people would be for it, but when it came time to really figure out how to implement it, most would back off.

Bad analogy, stormy. A clean environment is not a luxury. It is a necessity for continued life on this planet. And (this if for kablam too) the continued assertion that sound environmental policy hurts the economy is an archaic debate that was resolved years ago when people realized that a good environment and a good economy coexist. Catch up with the times. It is lazy and thoughtless to assert that you are for the environment unless it costs you money.

And the rest of your post was indefensible and in many cases inaccurate.
posted by cholstro at 12:06 PM on March 4, 2003


Stormy your joking right?
posted by SweetIceT at 12:06 PM on March 4, 2003


For one thing....isnt GW pushing HMO's for Seniors on Medicare at this very moment? Had to clean my screen when screen when I read that one.....
posted by SweetIceT at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2003


Stormy I'd dispute about half of what you listed as "Bush's accomplishments".

On the environment I believe your short sighted approach is part of the problem. Global Warming will cost most of us Billions if not Trillions of dollars to adapt, adjust and deal with. If you don't believe me check in with your local Insurance Company
posted by aaronscool at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2003


The opposite of Bush would do:

- Reduce Military, Education and Healthcare Spending
- Increase govenrment spending
- Encourage corporate corruption
- Encourage foreign dependency on oil
- Government should control decision making, not states
- Encourage government dependency; need more entitlements
- More HMO's, less patient choice


[blink, blink]

stormy, are you from Bizzarro world? I really wanna know. You do realize that the first two I list contradict each other don't you?
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:18 PM on March 4, 2003


For reference: The memo that inspired the NY Times piece we're all talking about - Posted by proxy for a member of the Environmental Working Group who sadly doesn't have a MeFi membership yet.
posted by cholstro at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2003


I'm all for clean air, but not if it means my car is going to cost twice as much or my heating/AC bills are going to be twice as much next year.

False dichotomy, following the rest of your little list made of straw.

But hey, if that's the kind of logic Bush supporters are gonna use in 2004....more power to ya!

~wink~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:05 PM on March 4, 2003


By the way, the main post reminds me of the despicable tactics tobacco companies used for years in trying to muddle the issue of the health effects of smoking. Same ol', same ol'.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2003


When it comes to forest management, I don't think that we should put all of our trust in the forest service -- and we should put none in the Bush Administration.

I'm actually in total agreement with you actually, I just needed some clarity. I was afraid you were one of the proponents of no forest management at all and well, we both know that those folks end up homeless after a brush fire sweeps through their unmanaged new growth timber. I am in total agreement that the Forest Service is an organization devoted to managing forest lands for the preservation of commercial reserves. I think they are good on one hand, they do prevent morons and sloppy lumber companies (when admin policy dictates) from balding hillsides from coast to coast and they do prevent a heck of a lot of devastation through smart management. Certainly they aren't perfect (I'd rather not put ALL my trust in any agency) and may often be a group of morons, but at least they do something.

By the way, my girlfriend's dad is an old school Forest Service mucky muck. My dad has a piece of virgin natural prairie on our land in Indiana that he's been monitoring and protecting that he's considering turning over to an agency to better care for it. Her dad said to give it to the state Forestry Dept. They have more resources and skilled employees than a Non-profit (like the Nature Conservancy, no offense, but let's face it, they do) does and a lot better policies, personnel and brains than the Forest Service or the Park Service and this is from a long term loyal employee!

I'm so confused by Stormy's post, are you talking about the opposite of President Bush? Surely not. Can't be.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2003


- Increase Taxes

For the richest maybe, everyone else gets a break.

- Reduce Military, Education and Healthcare Spending

Military sure, education and healthcare? Are you sure you are talking about Democrats?

- Back off from anyone wanting to attack us

We engage more enemies under Democratic administrations than GOP, show me where we would "back down"

- Encourage partial birth abortions, and abortions in general

Yeah, Democrats LOVE abortions they want everyone to have one! That's just silly, no body encourages abortions, they just want women to be ABLE to have them safely.

- Increase government spending

"Tax and spend" So? I'd like to get something for my tax dollars instead of a pork project in Texas or a Stealth bomber, how about you?

- Encourage corporate corruption

Yeah, you know that DNC always hanging with their Enron, AA and Haliburten buddies, oh, wait that's BUSH!

- Encourage foreign dependency on oil

Like how? Like by taking over an OPEC nation maybe or encouraging the purchase of SUVs?

- Take rights away from private clubs and organizations

Like which ones? I've never heard of this one, unless you're talking about criminal organizations?

- Eliminate Pledge of allegiance from schools

Yeah, all those Pinkos have been chewing on that one for decades now!

- Don't allow parents to make choices about where to send their kids to school

Yeah, I'm sure a lot of inner city kids will be heading off to Andover like dubya did next fall.

- Government should control decision making, not states

Yeah, who needs that pesky constitution anyway, certainly not Ashcroft.

- Allow the UN to dictate the future of the USA even when it's not in our best interest

Damn you New World Order! We can't just fuck up whomever we want?!?

- Don't enforce the laws on the books

Like corporate fraud there's a good one, let's enforce that one!

- Encourage teenage smoking, drugs and sex

Damn hippies always crimping Big tobacco's attempts to end teen smoking, and that "Just Say No!" campaign was such a rousing success!

- Encourage government dependency; need more entitlements

If this is the opposite of leaving the sick, poor, oppressed and hungry out to die then fine, after all WWJD?

- More HMO's, less patient choice

The insurance companies must be right! Giving poor people access to healthcare will give the rest of us so much less choice!

- Weaken our borders; allow more illegal aliens in

You mean like the ones the Bush administration awarded the INS director for meritorious service despite the fact that they got visas AFTER they committed the 9-11 attacks?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:55 PM on March 4, 2003


Boltman: your appraisal is too conservative. I'm waiting with baited breath for the coming "global warming is good" campaign.

Liberals could only wish. Such a campaign would backfire horrifically for the GOP. As might this one, actually.
posted by boltman at 2:51 PM on March 4, 2003


cholstro: ...the continued assertion that sound environmental policy hurts the economy is an archaic debate that was resolved years ago when people realized that a good environment and a good economy coexist...

You might know this, and I might know this, but seriously, do *policy* makers know this? Hah! Or the general public? Hah hah! Mankinds is a history of repeatedly destroying their local ecology and screwing themselves over. The very notion that such a thing as an "environment" even exists has only been around in the developed world since the 1960s. For the other 3/4ths of the world, the "environment" is the enemy to be subdued, ala early industrial revolution thought.

Only the intelligentsia in underdeveloped countries grasp that "once it's gone, unless it's replenished, it's gone." The typical man on the street, even in the US, is only aware of his "hood", his next meal, and his personal materialistic lusts. And I mean this in the ugliest way possible. The vast majority of humanity are ignorant, destructive and greedy "swines."

When and if anything good happens to the environment, it will only be because it is either snuck past or forced down the throat of the unwashed.
posted by kablam at 3:36 PM on March 4, 2003


The reason that environmentalists have people skeptical is that they've been harping on "the great ecological disaster" problem for centuries.

Malthus says we'll die cuz there's not enough food. In the 60's, not enough food. In the 70's, not enough oil. In the 80's, greenhouse gases are about to cause rapid climate change. Rachel Carson turned out to have exaggerated in her reports of DDT effects on humans. LA turned out to be able to clean its air far faster than expected. Chernobyl is now a thriving nature reserve.

I personally don't doubt that Global Warming is happening. But will the effects be as serious or dire as is said in these predictions? The track record of the environmental movement is not good on this issue.
posted by Kevs at 4:14 PM on March 4, 2003


It's a two-way street. Anyone who dares question what is seen as evidence of global warming will quickly find him/herself blackballed by the "mainstream" scientific community.

I don't know about you folks, but when I wake up on a Monday morning in the month of March in New York and it's 10 degrees outside, I find myself wishing that the temperature would in fact get warmer.
posted by clevershark at 5:02 PM on March 4, 2003


Nice derailment job, stormy.


Back on topic, it is not surprising or even mildly outraging to see a planned rhetorical strategy like this. It's how the world works. See Alan Gross' thesis on rhetoric and the sciences. Great link, interesting read, but where is the debate?
posted by lazaruslong at 5:13 PM on March 4, 2003


Boltman: your appraisal is too conservative. I'm waiting with baited breath for the coming "global warming is good" campaign.

Actually, Ptrin, it's bated breath. Unless you had sushi for lunch . . .
posted by palancik at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2003


Kevs - Cassandra's cry of abrupt climate change

Also, Und So Weiter ("USW") fallacy.
posted by troutfishing at 9:28 PM on March 4, 2003


Chernobyl is a thriving nature reserve.

That is really desperate. You can still walk around with a lot of tumors, lesions and reproductive damage, but that's not "thriving". The place is "thriving" with mutated plants; the animals look better because the ones with cancer and lethal mutations all die. The presence of living animals is no indication of the number who die or cannot reproduce successfully. And they're so cesium contaminated it's not like you could eat them. All fish, berries and wildlife in affected parts of the former Soviet Union and beyond are off-limits for at least the next fifty years. You have a strange definition of thriving.

Thirty thousand people killed, the health of seven million directly affected. And the effects linger on, all over Europe. And you take the fact that there are living animals nearby as evidence of environmentalist alarmism.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:15 PM on March 4, 2003


This only works if you don't believe greenpeace is a corporation.

Some of us do. And those of us who hate corporations telling us things are sitting on the fence. Which means I neither think global warming is bad or good, it simply means that I don't believe anythig coming from any of the corporations. The issue is bought out on both sides.

You can think of me as being agnostic towards the idea of global warming.
posted by shepd at 1:32 AM on March 5, 2003


Global warming? WTF is everyone talking about? In case you hadn't heard, we're on the verge of another ICE AGE.

You say warming, he says cooling...who's right? Actually, neither: humans are *not* affecting the environment in such a manner as to make the planet uninhabitable or perpetually hot or perpetually cold. If a large-scale climate change does occur, it will be part of "nature's course."
posted by davidmsc at 6:35 AM on March 5, 2003


Davidmsc are you being sarcastic?

If humans are affecting the climate how is this "Nature's Course"?

Certainly we will not "Destroy the Earth". We can make it very uncomfortable or economically difficult to live here anymore though.

P.S. your link about an Ice Age in Europe is a direct result of "Global Warming". Scientest don't call it global warming too much either as in some places really strange things might happen.
posted by aaronscool at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2003


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