In his talk yesterday, Zuckerman quoted a helpful—if frankly, somewhat jarring—analogy for thinking about political and scientific misinformation. It’s one that has been used before in this context: You can think of the dissemination of misinformation as someone akin to someone being shot. Once the bullet has been fired and the victim hit, you can try to run to the rescue and stanch the bleeding—by correcting the “facts,” usually several days later. But, psychology tells us that that approach has limited use–and to continue the analogy, it might be a lot better to try to secure a flak jacket for future victims.
Or, better still, stop people from shooting. (I’m paraphrasing Zuckerman here; I did not take exact notes.)
From an MIT engineer’s perspective, Zuckerman noted, the key question is: Where is the “tractable problem” in this, uh, shootout, and what kind of “small experiments” might help us to address it? Do we reach the victim sooner? Is a flak jacket feasible? And so on.
The experimenters have already begun attacking this design problem: I was fascinated yesterday by a number of canny widgets and technologies that folks have come up with to try to defeat all manner of truthiness.
The provocation? A comment by a conservative media watcher, Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center, on the Fox Business Channel—accusing the new Muppets movie of being “liberal” since the bad guy in the film turns out to be an oil tycoon. It was just part of Fox Business host Eric Bolling going on about whether liberals, through the flick, are “trying to brainwash your kids against capitalism.”
In the press conference, Kermit responds to the charge by noting that in the movie, the Muppets are actually riding in a “gas guzzling Rolls Royce.”
Miss Piggy then goes one better, calling the accusation “almost as laughable as accusing Fox News as being, you know, news.”
Now even Bill O’Reilly has weighed in, telling the Muppets to “watch it.” I think he may have been joking. I think.
I wouldn’t make so much of this, were it not for the fact that this kind of thing happens all the time. I mean, it was just last year that Fox picked a fight with SpongeBob Squarepants—because SpongeBob dared to be accurate about global warming.
Talisman Terry, the Friendly Fracosaurus, has been officially suspended from his duties as an unconventional gas mascot. The cartoon dinosaur was used to narrate Talisman Energy’s company coloring book which described the dangerous process of unconventional gas extraction as safe, clean and patriotic.
Talisman Energy decided to shelve the promotional material after numerous reports criticized the company for engaging in child-directed propaganda. The coloring book, called “Talisman Terry’s Energy Adventures,” portrays gas drilling processes in simplistic and euphoric terms, giving the impression that these controversial drilling techniques, which are connected to numerous instances of air pollution and water contamination, are environmentally beneficial. The 24-page book features images of drilling sites with smiling wildlife and overarching rainbows.
Colbert’s team certainly had fun mocking Talisman’s “Friendly Fracosaurus” character, revealing some “bonus pages” of the dinosaur facing his “violated ancestors” and committing suicide - frackicide? - by lighting a cigarette in the shower. These references were surely amusing to viewers of Gasland and other followers of the fracking controversy.
Tom Ridge, on the Thursday, June 9 edition of the Colbert Report, claimed he is “not a lobbyist.” A quick glance at his resume shows that nothing could be further from the truth.
Ridge, now 65 years-old, has worn multiple hats throughout his extensive political career. Among them: first ever head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Bush Administration from 2003-2005, former Governor of Pennsylvania from 1995-2001, and former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from from 1983-1995.
As part of our commitment to keeping Fridays a little lighter here at the DeSmogBlog, check out this bit by Stephen Colbert and his hilarious show the Colbert Report . Now please keep in mind where Colbert is coming from in his show, for those not in the loop, Colbert uses satire to highlight how ridiculous US media (read: Fox News) has become. Enjoy, and please don't take this seriously, it's Friday!
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.