Modern Propaganda: Creating and Selling “Truth”

Environment Unlimited | Climate change | The denial industry

Global warming and its putative cause were always controversial within the scientific community. Global warming was an outlandish thesis from its inception because it was difficult to conceive that the scale of human activity would ever account for a measurable fraction of nature’s output. A century later, however, the scale of human activity has multiplied by several orders of magnitude (more than several thousand times), and its effects on the composition of oceans, groundwater and the atmosphere are now measurable by modern methods. Consequently, the controversy surrounding the most fundamental basis for the greenhouse effect–that human output can be so prodigious as to disrupt the earth’s natural cycles–has largely subsided. (See evidence from the polar ice pack, for one example.)

As a result, the most strenuous objections to the greenhouse thesis no longer originate in the scientific community. Even though objections still exist in the scientific community, the objections are no longer focused on the veracity of the statistics as much as whether these statistically accurate models have enough predictive power to merit the changes that are proposed. The scientific debate–if it can be called that–is concerned with estimating the magnitude of the disaster. The imminence of disaster is assured, it is accepted. The only subject of discussion is the enormity of the coming disaster.

Unlike political debates, scientific debates ultimately end peacefully, no matter how bitter the journey to consensus is. To be sure, careers are ruined as experimental evidence demonstrates that the hypotheses on which scientists had staked their reputations were utterly false. Hence, it is completely misleading to intimate that the politics behind scientific debates are as inconsequential as political debates. The consensus on global warming, or climate change, must, therefore, be accepted as scientific fact for it is the destination at which decades of scientific exploration has arrived.

So, who is objecting to this finding? Modern propagandists. Industry, the oil industry in particular (read article cited above), is attempting to obscure, to weaken and outright to deny scientific findings that they could not contradict by funding research. And, how is industry doing it? They do it by funding propaganda machines. They fund politically connected institutes that advocate whatever position their patrons desire. The oil industry’s patronage with the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and other “think tanks” cited in the Guardian article above has paid off quite handsomely. For paltry sums of millions of dollars, oil companies (and power companies, of course) have managed to avoid upgrades that would have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, ostensibly.

Alas, few have the resources to recognize modern propaganda for what it is. Given the scale of modern global industries, the imprimatur of a scientist possessing a doctorate has never been cheaper. The surfeit of doctors of philosophy desperate for a job coupled with the coming of age of a generation so thoroughly indoctrinated by the conservatism propagated by the same organization over the past three decades has created the ideal conditions for big industry. For measly sums of money, they can have Ph.D. scientists untrained in atmospheric sciences proclaim that global warming is a myth in countless magazines and news programs. For mere pennies, industries put the veneer of scientific legitimacy on their propaganda.

Thus, companies have created a propaganda system that is much more sinister than traditional systems. The Nazis used remarkable force in quashing their opposition and to deny the truth. Modern propagandists crush their opposition and obscure the truth without firing a single shot, without imprisoning a single dissident and without presenting the specter of an organized power against which opposition may be raised. In the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany, it was clear whom one had to oppose: the state. In contrast, modern propaganda hides its perpetrators perfectly.

Naturally, were articles like the Guardian article cited above ever to get wide distribution in the mainstream media, no problems would exist. This limited distribution of the truth is also another sinister characteristic of modern propaganda. The Nazis spent considerable effort usurping the national media and creating their distribution system. In modern propaganda, corporations take control of the mainstream media with money alone. The profit motive that drives modern media conglomerates makes them willing participants in the scheme. They gladly accept the propaganda prepared by industry supplicants and supplant the news with it. Thus, unlike the Nazis, industry groups need not even build or usurp a distribution system. They simply employ the existing, vast network for a pittance.

Ultimately, what makes the modern propaganda system particularly petty is the fact that the onus of responding to global warming will not affect the profitability of large corporations. After all, public utilities will recover their costs through rate surcharges on consumers: their contracts with public utilities commissions guarantee profits. Similarly, oil companies will recover their costs through higher gasoline prices. Thus, the entire propaganda endeavor is undertaken for an extra 2-3% in profits. Performing the upgrades might reduce the profit margins of these companies from 10% to 8%. The fact that cleaner air will save billions of dollars to the aggregate economy is no matter. Industry is sacrificing the national economy for a measly 2% margin of profit.

Are we to believe that this is a sign of economic might?

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