‘Propaganda’ in election campaigns and ‘climate change’

A correspondent alerted me to a concise summary of the essence of propaganda, a lot of which we can see in our present situation, both in election campaign mode and with respect to the unending business of the supposed ‘climate change’ crisis. The summary comes from a book, Europe: a History, by the eminent historian Norman Davies. Before I spell it out, another recent theme — the discarding of eminent academics who don’t suit the prevailing orthodoxy — is also illustrated by Norman Davies.

His own website reports the ‘the prospective offer of an endowed chair [to him] ended when the offer was mysteriously cancelled before it could be formalised by Board of Trustees. Stanford’s decision, which contradicted the unanimous recommendation of its own Search Committee, remained unsubstantiated for months, and since all grievance procedures were refused, became the subject of a lengthy but inconclusive law suit. It eventually emerged that an unnamed group of critics had taken offense at one chapter in Davies’ prize-winning history of Poland, God’s Playground (1981). Davies remembers the episode stoically — as evidence of academic small-mindedness and of the fate awaiting anyone who confronts entrenched opinions and prejudices.’

Without having read everything I cannot say what the problem was, but it is certainly true that some Jewish historians have complained that Davies does not emphasise enough the anti-semitism in Poland — Davies’s fame as a historian is built around his authority as a historian of Poland. Incidentally, Davies asserts the contrary: that he has made the the depth of anti-Semitism in Poland  very clear. For those interested in what goes on in universities, the court that dealt with the case ruled  ‘that because of California’s right of privacy “even if we assume that…… a candidate may be denied tenure for improper” [e.g., defamatory] reasons”, we are of the opinion that the right of a faculty member to discuss with his colleagues the candidate’s qualifications thoroughly and candidly, in confidence and without fear of compelled disclosure, is of such paramount value that it ought not to be impaired.’  The court then upheld the university’s right to decide on faculty appointments on the basis of any criteria.

The last quotation is from the Wikipedia entry for Davies. His own website asks us not to take any notice of Wikipedia, advice to which I am sympathetic, especially in anything to do with global warming, but what I have quoted seems factual. And indeed universities do go out of their way to maintain confidence in appointment processes, and have done so at least my first acquaintance with them. As in the Davies case, and the Carter case, and the Salby case, the outsider is left wondering, and the person in question frustrated. Where, you ask, is freedom of information? What is natural justice here?

Back to propaganda, which incidentally comes to us from the Latin verb propagare = to multiply: propaganda means the things to be multiplied or spread. The Catholic Church possesses a Congregation of the Propaganda, which oversees the work of foreign missions. More generically now, ‘propaganda’ means the insistent proclamation of a view of some kind, and Davies says that it follows five Rules, which I now set out.

1.  The Rule of Simplification — in which everything is reduced to a simple confrontation between ‘Good and Bad’, or ‘Friend and Foe’, or ‘Truth and Falsity’, or Problem and Solution’ — in each case, you are either one thing or the other.

2. The Rule of Disfiguration — in which opponents are discredited by crude smears and parodies.

3. The Rule of Transfusion — in which the consensus values of of the target audience are manipulated for one’s own end.

4. The Rule of Unanimity — in which one’s viewpoint is presented as though it were the unanimous opinion of all right-thinking people, thereby training the doubting individual into agreement by the appeal of star performers, by social pressure, and by ‘psychological contagion’.

5. The Rule of Orchestration — in which the same messages are endlessly repeated in different variations and combinations.

I wish I had known of these five rules before, though as soon as I set them out you will say ‘Of course!’, as I did. The mindless repetition of slogans is coming from both sides in the election campaign, as though eventually we will nod our heads and pronounce them as though they were ours. Mr Rudd says ‘Australia needs a new way’, and Mr Abbott says ‘I will stop the boats’. You can see all five rules in operation every day in this theatrical political world.

But they are also evident in ‘climate change’. The ABC came out the other evening with a news story on ocean acidification near the South Pole, without any suggestion that the ‘science’ in it might have been more modestly and circumspectly discussed (Rule 4). Having been labelled a ‘denier’ many times myself, I am personally well aware of Rule 2. I am sure you can find examples of the other Rules!


Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Peter Bobroff says:

    Seeing how these rules might be translated into “rules of evidence” for a “constructive conversation”.

    1. The Rule of Simplification —>> No exaggeration. Honest treatment of uncertainty.
    2. The Rule of Disfiguration —>> No abuse, politeness must prevail.
    3. The Rule of Transfusion —>> Plain statements of fact. No appeals to authority or consensus.
    4. The Rule of Unanimity —>> Plain statements of fact. No appeals to authority or consensus.
    5. The Rule of Orchestration —>> No repetition. A point once made can be referenced but repeated in detail.

  • John Morland says:

    The AGW readily start off with rule 1. The basis for their view is that John Tyndell found that CO2 absorbs infrared (IR) radiation and therefore CO2 warms the lower atmosphere, denoting as a “greenhouse gas” (which, despite page 11 of the Cilmate Commission’ s “Critical Decade” asserts, has nothing to do with how a greenhouse works (a greenhouse works through convection, not radiation). End of story, how dare you question settled science.

    What they don’t tell you is that John Tyndell’s noted CO2 is the weakest absorber of the “calorific rays”, water vapour being the highest absorber of the gases he experimented with. They also don’t tell you that CO2’s IR absorption is not broadly spead across the IR range and, not in the range of Earth’s IR emission into space.

    CO2 has 3 IR absorption wavelengths; these are 2.8, 4.2 and 15 microns wavelength (1micron is 10^-6 metres and the IR range is from 0.7 to 1000 microns i.e 1mm). The Earth’s radiation into space is nearly all in the 8 to 13 micron range. True, the 15 micron absorption has a width of up to +/- 2 microns but over 60% of the 15 micron absorption is within +/-1 micron bandwidth. So the first two absorptions are irrelevant as they are way out of Earth’s IR emission band (and under Wien’s Displacement Law equate to temperature of 762 C and 417 C – Venus temperature and higher). The 15 micron with its +/-2micron bandwidth is right at the edge of Earth’s IR radiation spectra and is centred at a temperature of -80 C (ranging between -50 C and -103 C), that’s right slightly colder than dry ice and comparable chilly winter’s night at Vostock, Antartica. A lot of warming in that one!

    Never let the physics facts get in the way of a good doomsday propoganda!

  • Don Aitkin says:

    These Rules are good instruments to play with, aren’t they!

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