Now, the debate starts to get fun. This group of Denialists’ cards are all about spreading confusion. The more that one muddies the waters, the harder it is for anyone to do anything.

And so, the place to start is with the Red Herring.

i-26ed759fce51bf8557d3101e51532b9a-8c.jpg The “red herring” argument is a frequently-employed and efficacious tool to confuse everyone. A red herring is a specious argument–one that sounds cogent, but isn’t really responsive to the issue at hand. Just make something up that sounds good.

My favorite example of this is in the financial privacy sector. A few years ago, when California was trying to establish opt-in (affirmative consent) requirements before a bank could share personal information, banking industry officials claimed that it would cause the ATM network to break. Why? Because the complex process of dispensing cash would be interrupted by having to ask the consumer for her consent! This was a bogus argument because the legislation in question clearly allowed information to be shared in any circumstance where a consumer requested a specific service.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephen
    May 17, 2007

    Maybe you’ve covered this, but why isn’t the Red Herring card a red card, like a diamond or a heart? I’m just trying to come up with a way of remembering what cards are what. I’m not very good at remembering names, but pretty good at remembering stories. So, i’m likely to remember the ATM story, but probably not the eight of clubs.

  2. #2 Aaron
    May 17, 2007

    Stephen, there’s a simple explanation as to why the Red Herring card is not red. Red is the color of communism.

  3. #3 Jane Fonda
    May 17, 2007

    I’m loving your card series. Have you done one on the hypocritical game of “my experts are better than your experts”? I’ve been thinking of it today in relation to this statement from the Inhofe part of the Senate Commitee on Environment:
    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=927b9303-802a-23ad-494b-dccb00b51a12
    The statement says, in brief, that there are 13 scientists who have “reversed” their tune on global warming from having been “believers” to becoming sceptics.

    This is a classic statement because it combines so many denialist tactics.

    First, these scientists have hardly “reversed” their position; they’re simply painted as such.

    Second, the deniers are doing this to appropriate OUR frame of “conversion”. At a time when the momentum surely is towards climate change as a serious and urgent problem, this is a neat trick that already has many wingnuts babbling on about the “wave” “turning.”

    Third, I thought consensus science proved nothing, yet when it suits deniers to count up scientists, they show a convenient forgetfulness about their past arguments about paradigm shifts.

  4. #4 Jane Fonda
    May 17, 2007

    Hmm. I just read over my comment, and realised that my third point doesn’t really stand up. If there truly were a paradigm shift away from the IPCC view and towards the sceptics’ view, then it would be logical to assume there would be a trickle which would gradually build up into a “wave.” In that sense, signs of the consensus turning would be valid evidence of a paradigm shift.

    Trouble is, the evidence that the minority chair for the Senate Committee for the Environment advances doesn’t fit that criterion. As I pointed out, many of the scientists have held their positions for a while now. De Freitas was largely reponsible for approving a Soon & Balliunas article for publication, which was subsequently ripped to shreds. Shaviv’s work on cosmic rays and temperature has been knocked for its shoddy methodology. Etc.

    (BTW, of course I’m not Jane Fonda.)

  5. #5 Chris H
    May 17, 2007

    @Stephen, that’s a good point. Maybe shuffling is in order!

    @Jane, I had no idea you were a fan of denialism blog. I’m a fan of you and appreciate your comment. No, the deck has no “our experts are better than yours” card. In part, I think this is the case because the industry’s experts can be pretty bad.

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