When I hit “publish” on the previous post “Our house is in order: reframe the debate guys, don’t make a mountain out of mole dung” I did pause. No really I did.
I fully appreciate that not everyone agrees with the style and tone of my blog, and that in fact some would consider its approach (“deniers” is the mantle of this blog!) confrontational and off-putting to segments of a broader audience.
A politician or scientist can’t speak with the same folksy bluntness that I do. I write as I speak and think.
But I suspect I’m voicing what’s on many people’s minds.
As the hacked emails from the CRU demonstrated, scientists will happily share blunt views on the “sceptics” in private. However I agree my approach is not the only approach, nor necessarily the right approach: I happily admit my amateur status and naivety.
But I have come to think that for over twenty years – the span of a generation – the denial machine has had a free run. It’s tactics and personalities have not been directly challenged. And when I say challenge, I don’t mean that we engage in formal debates with them.
We all know how that ends up: witness how Not-really-a-member-of the-House-of-Lords Christopher Monckton performs on stage. He is a powerhouse speaker, even if his liberal use of latin aphorisms smacks of pompousness.
We don’t give them massive platforms to inject their disinformation into the public debate like the deeply flawed “I can change your mind on climate” which quite frankly was – even if well-intentioned – a massive own goal.
I believe there is merit in taking them head on, exposing and repudiating them. There are countless examples in history when this has happened. We should observe, forensically dissect, expose and repudiate. That members of the denial machine – who are paid to do what they do – shed some crocodile tears along the way should be of minor concern.
And what about the contested middle, the ordinary mums and dads so to speak.
What about the contested middle?
Hey guys – I am the contested middle.
I’m a father and work outside media and science. I grew up in the suburbs, went to a public school. I struggle to pay bills, raise a kid and manage a career. I share the values of many “ordinary” folks. I only got interested in climate change a few years back and what I read both amazed and horrified me.
My reaction was “What can I do?”
My teachers have been the countless scientists, bloggers and activists such as Tamino and Michael Tobis.
Guys, thanks – you educated and inspired me to act, to speak up and to fight.
But pause for a moment – the thing about us people in the “contested middle” is that we are deeply cynical of spin, messaging and framing. You might think we’re dumb and easily manipulated but “we” smell spin a mile off.
The collapse in public trust in the media, politicians and other social institutions may very well be due the fact that they all speak with the same bland, monochromatic tone of the well massaged press release and uninspired speechs that have been worked over and sanitized.
We in the contested middle can read the code words…
We know “restructuring” in business means job losses.
We know “work place flexibility” means pushing wages down and cutting benefits.
What we in the contested middle crave is honesty, plain speaking and truth.
The deniers have been successful because they have read the mood of the contested middle and exploit it, stealing the mantle of underdog and plain spoken truth-tellers.
On crocodile tears
If there is one thing I learnt in life, is that bullies have glass jaws: when you stand up to them and say “No more! You will stop!” they often dissolve into histrionics and claims of being victimized.
There are two things they hate: laughter directed and them and the word “no”.
Repudiation example one: “Have you no decency?”
Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyer’s Guild…Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
It’s the 1950s – the height of the McCarthy era when America was in the thrall of a conspiracy craze about reds-under-the mattress. During the Army-McCarthy hearings lawyer Joseph Welch stood up to rabid fear monger, Joseph McCarthy:
Many have come to see this as the beginning of McCarthy’s fall.
Repudiation example two: Barney Frank strikes back
“On what planet do you spend most of your time?”
During the acrimonious debate over the introduction of Obama’s health care act, Tea-Party activists claimed the President’s policies were the same as Hitlers. Yeah, I know – nuts.
Democrat Senator Barney Frank responded to such claims during a town-hall style meeting:
The woman making those claims felt the sharp sting of social repudiation in the audience’s response: and rightly so.
Deniers, have you no decency? I would get no further talking to a dining room table then I would with you.