We Have Ways of Making You Walk

Recently, we have discussed how Green is the colour of reinventing yourself, to make your washed out perspective seem fresh and relevant to today’s world. Gay rights activist and Green Party Parliamentary Candidate, Peter Tatchell, clothes himself in alarmist pseudo-science. Jean-Fancois Mouhot reinvents history itself by rewriting slavery in order to be able to make a moral equivalence of contemporary lifestyles and slave-owning. Arthur Scargill emerges from his tomb to make clean coal the answer to our climate problems. Oh, and Al Gore, who uses anxieties about global warming to make Kennedy-esque speeches.

Enter the psychologists. (Again).

“We know how to change behavior and attitudes. That is what we do. We know what messages will work and what will not.”

So says Yale University psychologist Alan Kazdin, president of the American Psychological Association to USA Today.

The group are convening for their annual convention, and are set to discuss a number of topics relating to the environment.

The article continues, to discuss a presentation of some research at the meeing:

News stories that provided a balanced view of climate change reduced people’s beliefs that humans are at fault and also reduced the number of people who thought climate change would be bad, according to research by Stanford social psychologist Jon Krosnick.

His presentation will detail a decade of American attitudes about climate change. His new experiment, conducted in May, illustrates what he says is a publicmisperception about global warming. He says there is scientific consensus among experts that climate change is occurring, but the nationwide online poll of 2,600 adults asked whether they believe scientists agree or disagree about it.

Interesting, isn’t it, that Krosnick has conducted a poll amongst the public, to see if their beliefs match those of the scientists, but neglected to poll scientists to establish their views. He takes for granted the magnitude of the consensus, and fails to actually define it. What is the point of agreement, against which he wishes to measure the public’s error? For a professor at an Ivy-League university, specialising in survey methodology, this ommission is stark, and very unscientific. What is more, it exhibits some considerable arrogance and contempt for the public. He assumes to know the truth, and beleives that the difference between his view and the public’s can be explained by some kind of psychological mechanism. They are so stupid and irrational that being exposed to balanced media risks people thinking the wrong things. Call the psycho-cops, democracy is on the loose.

Liberals and Democrats who attach themselves to the global warming issue (as Krosnick says they do more than their conservative counterparts), take note: this is neither liberal, nor democratic.

Krosnick invents a consensus position: climate change is occurring. But this is a meaningless assertion, devoid of any scientific value. Climate changes. Nobody disputes that. The question is about whether human influence (which again, nobody doubts) on the climate is significant enough to legitimise the politics in response to fears about it.Krosnick, who is, after all, an academic with expertise in political science really ought to know this.

The thing which is routinely mistaken as evidence of a scientific consensus – the IPCC reports – is not a product of a consensus. It is the product of 3 working groups, split into dozens of chapters, each of, at most, dozens of scientists, in a confused and non transparent process. There is no poll taken to see how many scientists agree with any particular point. There are few opportunities for scientists to challenge the interpretation of the report. And the IPCC is not made up of just climate scientists, but also social scientists and economists.

Again, we see the IPCC used by others to mean and to say whatever it is they feel like saying, with no regard for what it actually says, nor the process through which it was achieved. But who cares about facts?

By editing CNN and PBS news stories so that some saw a skeptic included in the report, others saw a story in which the skeptic was edited out and another group saw no video, Krosnick found that adding 45 seconds of a skeptic to one news story caused 11% of Americans to shift their opinions about the scientific consensus. Rather than 58% believing a perceived scientific agreement, inclusion of the skeptic caused the perceived amount of agreement to drop to 47%.

There doesn’t appear to be any mention of what the sceptic actually said, by which we ought to be able to establish whether or not the viewers were foolish to believe what they were seeing. The implication is that the sceptic must have been wrong, and the counterpart argument right.

In other words, by closing down debate, you can influence public opinion. You don’t need to be Goebbels to understand that. If there is any psychology to study here, it is not the public’s. It is the twisted psychology of the psychologists who think this kind of exercise is legitimate that needs scrutiny.

American Psychological Association leaders say they want to launch a national initiative specifically targeting behavior changes, including developing media messages that will help people reduce their carbon footprint and pay more attention to ways they can conserve.

In other words, the public can expect psychologists to be engaged in brainwashing them into accepting political propaganda. The APA are not the first to propose this. Last year, we reported on this video.

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Back to the USA Today article. It explains what the APA hope to achieve.

They want to work with other organizations and enlist congressional support to help fund the effort.

Academics wrap themselves in environmentalism in order to reinvent themselves and demonstrate the relevance of their research to public policy. What is at issue is not an interest in the public’s understanding of the science, but their attachment to sides in the political ‘debate’. Social scientists and humanities academics who promise to influence public opinion in this way create their own legitimacy.

The scope of disciplines is broadened by tenuous logic such as Moffic’s, who, on the basis that global warming is a ‘public health issue’, crowbars a way to the table for psychiatrists. All disciplines begin to converge on global warming in this way, and reorganise themselves around environmentalism’s tenets. It has been said before that ‘global warming is the defining issue of our time’. Indeed it is. But climate change is less about society’s vulnerability to the climate, and much much more about various parts of the establishment’s struggle to define themselves. Cynics argue that environmentalism serves to help academics secure research grants. The truth is far darker. Academics are using the climate issue to provide them with direction, not merely cash. The direction is now less towards understanding things such as the mind, and more towards controlling it. On no more than the basis that ‘climate change is occurring’, moral philosophers tell us what is right, social historians invent lessons from history to make climate criminals in the present, science historians invent conspiracy theorists, and psychologists tell us how to apply distress to change public opinion, and why debate is just too risky to trust to the public. Only experts can save the world.

Alan Kazdin claims that he understands people sufficiently to “change behavior and attitudes” and that he knows “what messages will work and what will not.” The truth is that he and his colleagues only believe that they understand people, because they hold such a very low opinion of them. It is this low opinion which has been used in the past to influence the public, not through sophisticated reasoning, but by reducing members of society to creatures not deserving of democratic expression. Once you have convinced yourself of your rightness, and have diminished your view of the public to unthinking masses, things like democracy, debate, and genuine legitimacy cease to matter. You are no longer concerned with winning the debate, but controlling it for the higher purpose you believe you are engaged in.