Fri, 2006-08-18 05:26Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

On Twisting Words and Dodging Responsibility

Two items have come up in the DeSmogBlog recently that deserve further analysis. The first is the conversion of Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz who, until very recently, has been directing governments in the U.S. and Canada on how to communicate about climate change. For example, in a 2002 strategy memo to the Republican Party, Luntz wrote:

The Scientific Debate Remains Open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.

To give Luntz the benefit of the doubt, maybe he really believed in 2002 that the debate over climate change science was legitimate and not the result of a concerted energy-industry campaign to confuse the public. He says now that he believes the advice was fair when he gave it and we would like to take him at his word.

That being the case, however, you would have expected that his recent conversion from “climate change skepticism” would have come with an apology, or perhaps a messaging update. Instead, when asked about the continuing Republican denial of the science, Luntz said:

That's up to the [them]. I'm not the administration. What they want to do is their business. And it's nothing to do with what I write. And it's nothing to do with what I believe.

The language is a powerful tool and Frank Luntz has a real gift in wielding that tool. With such a gift should come some sense of responsibility. Instead, Luntz offers a total abdication: “What they want to do is their business.”

Given the degree to which Luntz's advice has defined the Bush administration's position on climate change science, that response is analagous to saying, 'I just sold them the guns, officer. I had no idea what they planned to do with them.' Not good enough.

Thu, 2006-08-17 16:47Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Canadian Climate Change Censorship Revisited

The DeSmogBlog has reported the federal Conservative Party's revisionism on climate change before, but this piece by the InterPress News Service's Bill Berkowitz adds some interesting material. Look especially at the “I-was-only-giving-orders” defence offered by the king of linguistic manipulation, Frank Luntz:

“When asked about the advice about climate change that he had been giving for years, Luntz said it was fair when he gave it. He added that if the Bush administration is still questioning the science, “That's up to the [them]. I'm not the administration. What they want to do is their business. And it's nothing to do with what I write. And it's nothing to do with what I believe.””

Thu, 2006-08-17 14:18Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Climate Chill Settles Over Fictional Straw Man

Here's a weird piece that suggests wild-eyed environmentalists are lying in wait to do violence to Dr. Richard Lindzen, one of the few climate change denying scientists who has a shred of credibility in the science community.

In this fictional letter to Lindzen, the imaginary author claims that there is a worldwide conspiracy to silence any scientist who would challenge the climate change consensus. The letter paints a picture of scientists as sheep (and not very smart sheep, at that), who read tea leaves in order to find out what kind of grant applications to submit.

Thu, 2006-08-17 14:08Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

UK climate change video shows us how it's done

Check out this video (windows media version) produced as part of the UK's “Climate Change Communications Initiative.” They sure nail down all the elements of a successful climate change action campaign; they begin by first explaining in very simple terms what climate change actually is, they then highlight (but don't dwell on) the possible consequences of inaction and finally, they wrap up with the fact that there are available solutions and tailor that message with a call to action.

Great job. What do all the other PR pros out there think about this one?



Thu, 2006-08-17 10:11Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Hoover Institute and the art of slander

You know you're winning the PR battle when your adversary switches from attacking the message to attacking the messenger. Here's an example that also includes the common spin tactic of cherypicking: removing information from its context in an attempt to mislead. 

In a recent USA Today opinion piecePeter Schweizer, (a “Senior Fellow” at the oil money-laden Hoover Institute) tries to undermine Al Gore's efforts to enhance public education on climate change. Specifically, Schweizer pattacks Gore's personal committment to the reduction of green house gas - fair game as long as the accusation is accurate.

But Gore staff members criticize Schweizer's claims as either misleading or outright falsehoods.

For example:

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