With 200,000 Americans already dead from coronavirus, it’s rarely been more obvious that disinformation is a threat to public health. And for better or for worse, climate change can offer some hard-won lessons on how to handle disinformation, as can be found in the forthcoming volume of the Annual Review of Public Health, where disinformation expert Stephan Lewandowsky lays out how disinformation has distorted the climate conversation, and what can be done about it.
It’s a great overview of the consensus and climate communications, and how they’ve been sabotaged by disinformation. By using creative and artistic approaches that make for good messaging, no matter the topic, while incorporating the lessons of social science on defanging disinformation, we can make otherwise unappealing physical science stories more robust and harder to attack.
Lewandwosky’s piece follows two others in the last volume of the Annual Review of Public Health, in which researchers explored how the internet has led to a blossoming of misinformation, and documented how the Trump administration has deregulated and de...um...science’d the EPA.
One thing these three — COVID disinformation, the spread of misinformation on the internet, and the de-sciencing of EPA — also have in common, though none of the three identify him by name, is Steven Milloy. In fact, Milloy's work can be used to illustrate basically every point they make about misinformation, and many of their points on deregulation.
We only mention Milloy, the man who has made it his life’s work to defend coal polluters and tobacco peddlers, those beleaguered engines of economic and cancerous growths that make their riches by convincing their customers that the product won’t kill you today so there’s no need to end your addiction tomorrow — because he’s got a new position from which he can defend death’s corporate subsidiaries.
Say hello, friends, to the newest member of the Heartland Institute’s Board of Directors. We’re honestly not sure how long the “junkman,” whose JunkScience website was a creation of Big Tobacco’s plan to cast doubt on the science of smoking and cancer, has been on Heartland’s board, but per their website he joined this year some time after June 14th, when he was still just a policy advisor.
We noticed when we saw that Heartland and CEI had a "press conference" about the California wildfires last Friday. (We use the air quotes here because we couldn’t find a single story that quoted any of the speakers.) The so-called press conference's failure is probably why they posted about it themselves, which is where Milloy was identified as being on Heartland’s board. (As for why it failed, well, judging by James Taylor’s opening statement it’s because they’re rehashing debunked disinformation like the wildfire claim that relies on explicitly unreliable data.)
Some people revel in playing devil’s advocate and defending ridiculous positions in a debate. Apparently Milloy thought the position was “Death’s Advocate,” and he's making a career out of it.
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