Friday, 1 January 2010

The Denial Industry

People don’t take too kindly to injustice. They react against attempts to exploit their weakness, and are more than willing to press for fairer outcomes if their concerns were persistently ignored. But this can only happen, or happen with the correct consequences, if people knew what was really going on. Sadly, this means that those in powerful positions can protect themselves by covering up the truth. And the more they need to cover up, the more deception they have to spread.

The Denial Industry is now one of the most formidable businesses – with its hired agents to manufacture false and misleading information, its legion of public relations specialists and lobbyists, funded by corporations who have the most to gain by undermining the credibility of their critics. Climate change is the most obvious example – to spin out stories to cast doubt on the scientific evidence on the correlation between industrial increase in CO2 emission and global warming. Why? So that companies can go on making their profits while causing more and more long term problems which the poorest in the world will have to bear disproportionately. The same trend has been going on for decades with the arms trade – the denial of the utter destructive futility of increasing the military capability of oppressive governments and ruthless rebel groups all over the world. Millions of people are injured, killed or displaced. We read about the refugees who need to be turned back, and not the weapons sold to the people who make lives hell for them back at home.

The way to counter the workings of the Denial Industry is for those who are engaged in genuine scientific research, investigative examination and objective reporting to pursue their activities, with the support of public funding untainted by private interests. The battle against the tobacco business and its deployment of the Denial Industry has demonstrated that even the most heavily invested lies can be exposed.

However, the fact that cigarette companies have maintained their growth and profits by increasing their export sales has shown that cutting off a few heads of this Hydra of deception is not enough. The lies must be contested and extinguished everywhere.

In the midst of all this, watch out for the most insidious tactic of all of the Denial Industry – namely, to undermine science itself. Creation myths about who created what are harmless enough in themselves. But the reason why significant finance is given to support the teaching of creationism in schools, to discredit Darwinist ideas which are paradigmatic in scientific reasoning, and to conflate empirical hypotheses with groundless assertions, is to attack the basis of legitimate reasoning itself. If scientific reasoning and evidential assessment were lumped with myths, and their distinct role in validating beliefs could be denied, then happily for the sponsors of the Denial Industry, every criticism of their actions could be dismissed as unfounded.

No comments: