We Have Ways of Making You Walk

by | Aug 14, 2008

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.

[youtube VcWn3b3h3sQ&hl]

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.


  1. Robert Wood

    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.

    Translation: “Psychologists want a piece of Al Gore’s $300 million”.

  2. Timo van Druten

    The videolink is not working anymore. Please feel free to delete this comment.

  3. jnicklin

    Only “Right Thinking” people should be allowed to be free in society. Those who do not conform need to be re-educated. Why don’t these psychologists get back to helping people with real problems. Oh wait, its their job to create new problems to treat.

    All we can hope for is that temperatures continue to fall and CO2 continues to rise so that we can finally put global warming in its grave. Then maybe we can have those trials that Hansen wanted, except he and Gore will be defendants instead of judge and jury. And after AGW is put out of our misery, we can re-educate the psychologists, so they can be productive members of society.

    — RANT ENDS —

  4. Alex Cull

    Psychiatry as a political tool… Hmm, where have I heard of this before? Ah yes, a common practice in the late Soviet Union. Perhaps the Moscow Serbsky Institute could assist the APA to prove that global warming denial is a form of “politically defined madness” or “sluggishly progressing schizophrenia”.

    All crimes begin with a thought. So, if you control thought, you can control crime. Global warming denial is a thoughtcrime.

  5. Editors

    Timo. The link should be working now. Thanks for letting us know about the problem.

  6. Kaboom

    But what about our children??

    How can you sleep at night, knowing that what you are propagating is the biggest lie ever against humanity?

    Professor Hansen was correct – we need to have trials and convictions of denialist criminals!!!1!!

  7. Editors

    Jon has written in to point out that Stanford is not an Ivy-League University, as we beleived it to be at the time of writing.

    Our defence is a late night post at the end of a long, boring day.

  8. Daryl

    Psychologists have been working with marketing and advertising for years. Thsi is not news but I think that this really is a cash grab on this basis, plus are they seriously contemplating editing News by the Government(Ministry of Information) to convey the proper message? Next did you notice they had to ADD a dissenting viewpoint to the test media? This would contridict the entire basis for the need of their intervention.

    I will keep on eye on this but it seems that we have a case of a left-over sect of Eugenecists roaming around our mental health care profession.

  9. wrash001

    Their was a book written in the 60s about Psychologist and Lawyers running the country. I believe a lady named Caldwell wrote it. So I see that they proclame global change is mentally unhealthy and we are all required to go through brain washing to correct our views. The lawyers will create the laws. We will all be working for the State and will walk to work. Our income will be taxed to maintain all the beautiful parks in the world, which only our saviours the elite liberals, Psycologists,and Lawyers may enjoy. Sounds like Communism to me. All based on a computer model and very little science. The Bible says beware of science so called.

  10. jnicklin

    Keen Undergaduate,

    Yes, climate change is real, it changes all the time, always has, always will. Its been changing for some 4.5 billion years. If you had been alive at the end of the last ice age, would you try to stop that? And, yes, our activities do have some effect, a very small effect, probably insignificant.

    The belief that we control or drive the climate is just plain human arrogance. Look around, make observations, real world observations, not computer model outputs. Read the literature on both sides of the arguement. If you want to believe that humans control the climate and that we are getting to a tipping point, please feel free to do so. James Hansen laid out three scenarios in the 1980’s. The most realistic one, the one that matches what we are actually seeing is the one scenario that required massive cutbacks in emmissions. Gore claimed that several island nations are being flooded by rising seas, its not happening, unless you call 3 or 4 milliletres as drastic rise.

    The average global temperature has risen about 0.7 + or – 0.2 degrees C in the last hundred years, after we came out of a mini ice age. You can’t even detect that amount of delta when it happens immediately.

    But, like I said, its up to you to decide what you believe. Its all opinion anyway.

  11. Alex Cull

    It’s very interesting to see how far the global-warming-will-destroy-us idea has permeated society. There seems to be an almost total disconnect from history.

    Yesterday I was in a bookshop and glanced at a book called Going Green, in which the author stated: “Modern civilisations have built their lives around a more or less predictable climate over the past centuries.”

    Reading up on the history of the Little Ice Age, the exact opposite becomes clear. From roughly the mid-19th century onwards (in the northern hemisphere at least) climatic conditions became generally milder, with fewer harsh winters.

    Before that, there were centuries with many extreme climatic events – freezing winters, scorching summers, monstrous storms.

    The last few decades have generally seemed pleasant, stable and mild by comparison.

    I’m wondering how many more years of non-catastrophe we need to go through before the message starts to sink in.

  12. Editors

    It is interesting to read comments such as those of Keen Undergraduate. Regardless of whether or not he or she is right, the triumphalism is premature; global warming has not yet bought about the doomsday. It almost seems as though, were it not to happen, KU would be disappointed.

    KU should stick around, and is welcome to post comments. We started the blog in order to provide debate in an area we felt was lacking. There are other blogs where the pure science is debated, and others have their own perspective on the politics of climate change. We don’t want people to come here just to agree.

    KU’s comments relate to a post which was not about whether or not claims about the future of the climate had any foundation. Instead, it was about whether or not it was legitimate for psychologists to engage with the agenda in the way that they have; by theorising about people who fail to observe the diktats of the environmental movement.

    As we say often, it is perfectly possible to believe that humans have influenced the climate, and that this influence will cause problems, while remaining sceptical of the political actions to try and stop it. Expressions such as ‘climate change is real’, as others here have pointed out, means absolutely nothing, yet from it are supposed to flow moral imperatives. Some of these are relatively harmless, we should ‘recycle’, we ought to think about how often we use our cars, &c &c.

    But what these psychologists seem to be saying is that because ‘climate change is real’, they have a responsibility to begin to dehumanise dissent, and to pathologise it, and to make it an illness that needs to be treated. Disagreement with ‘the consensus’ is not explained as the expression of a rational engagement with the issues, but in mechanistic terms.

    Even if ‘climate change is real’, it does not follow from it that it is right to treat people in this way. Increasingly, the environmental movement makes moral, political and economic claims which seem less about ‘saving the planet’, and much more to do with exerting control over society for the sake of it. The reasons for that desire, we would argue, are not in the atmosphere.

    KU should take more care to understand what the arguments being made actually are. Like many of his comrades, he misses the point. This epitomises the environmental movement, which is high in moral tone, but lacks intellectual power.

  13. Alex Cull

    “We know how to change behavior and attitudes. That is what we do.” It’s interesting to look at Alan Kazdin’s background. According to the APA’s Monitor on Psychology web page, his “research focuses on the development, treatment and clinical course of aggressive and antisocial child behavior”, and he has specialised in treating “at-risk behavior”, such as teenage delinquency.

    In his book Evidence-Based Psychotherapies for Children and Adolescents (co-edited with John R Weisz) there is a distinction between therapy in an adult context and in a child/adolescent context. “In the context of adult therapy, psychotherapy is defined as a special interaction between two (or more) individuals in which one person (the patient or client) has sought help for a particular problem and in which another person (the therapist) provides conditions to alleviate that person’s distress and to improve functioning in everyday life (Garfield, 1980; Walrond-Skinner, 1986). A more recent definition in the context of evaluating child and adolescent treatment defines therapy as any intervention that is designed to alleviate distress, reduce maladaptive behavior, or enhance adaptive functioning and that uses means that include counseling and structured or planned interventions (Weisz, Weiss, Han, Granger, & Morton, 1995).”

    And in the next paragraph, after describing adult therapy, which involves the therapist giving support, encouragement, etc., directly to the adult client: “The definition is modified slightly in relation to children and adolescents. For example, children usually do not seek help but someone responsible for them seeks treatment and in some cases the therapist may work more directly with responsible others (i.e., parents) than with the child.”

    Do you see where I’m going with this? In my opinion, Dr Kazdin’s “We know how to change behavior” statement seems to flow directly from his work with delinquent children. In his view, it seems that we are not responsible adults, capable of evaluating evidence and making up our own minds. We are children, whose delinquent and antisocial behaviour needs to be curbed and modified by wise, authoritative parent figures. It is as if “children [sceptical members of the public] usually do not seek help but someone responsible for them seeks treatment and in some cases the therapist may work more directly with responsible others (i.e., parents [governments and the media]) than with the child [sceptic].”

    Some interesting reading can also be found here: http://www.alankazdin.com/index.htm



  1. Alex Jones’ Prison Planet.com We Have Ways of Making You Walk - [...] Climate-resistance.org Friday, Aug 15, 2008 [...]

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