Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Good Study On The Age of Lies That Endangers Us With Two Criticisms

The interview Michael Enright did with Lee C. McIntyre about his most recent book, Post-Truth,  has a lot in it that is excellent.   Especially his tracing the practice of lying using PR principles and the mass media to move the campaign of the tobacco industry to sell denial of the fact that smoking causes fatal diseases and other industrial lie campaigns. 

He didn't go into extensive detail about how that was done.   He calls it "denial of science" but a big part of the campaign was and present day campaigns inevitably still involve them hiring scientists to either do research (writing articles for "refereed journals") or write articles or advertisements that look like articles. 

Science is only as good as scientists choose to make it and scientists have been given a pretty wide range of truthfulness within which they can operate and not get into trouble with their fellow scientists.  I think it's one of the most glaring mistakes in what we allow science to do.  Science which does nothing to prevent such liars for hire staying within the profession of science is an intrinsic part of it.   That isn't something that couldn't be fixed by changing the way scientists operate, entirely too much has been done on an especially lax honors system among people who consider their professions to be exempt from morality.  Honor doesn't exist where morality is excluded, ironically the biggest lapse of that honor is in the willingness to fudge truth or, in short, to lie.

I also think he misidentifies the skepticism against the GMO industry as something similar "from the left".   The quality of testing of organisms by manipulating their genes is not all one thing, one such altered line of organisms might be, in fact, innocuous and another one might be entirely not innocuous, even catastrophic.  A real question is whether or not the same science which has a financial interest in the GMO industry  can be trusted to be honest about that safety.   I would assume it is scientists who have such a monetary and professional interest who review the papers on the subject, claims of their products safe,  The review and pretend -review of papers is generally done by people who may well be too comfortably within the tight knit club of their specialty.   And it's a real issue if such organisms released in the wild will not have an undesired and unintended effect on naturally occuring lines of organisms, perhaps devastating effects.   One of those effects has been used by Monsanto to claim a proprietary right over seed crops which have become polluted with their GMO genomes, unbeknown to farmers.  And courts have agreed with Monsanto.  Such a regime of court rulings could create an effective monopoly of GMO corporations over our entire food industry, the stupidity or, more honestly, venality of that line of rulings couldn't be more obvious.  That corruption of the law is embedded in the culture of the law quite as fully as the propensity to fudge the truth is in the review habits of science.

People who believed the tobacco industry didn't believe the propaganda on the basis of a complex appreciation of the issues - no one who had a wider knowledge of that could possibly have really believed that tobacco is innocuous.   People who are skeptical of the GMO industry are likely to know more about the issues and possible risks of that.   That makes the one very unlike the other.


But I think, overall, that McIntyre's long interview is worth listening to.

Most of what he talks about, though, isn't in any way ambiguous, it is about intentional lying and the exploitation of some of the widely spread weaknesses of people, believing what they want to be true, believing things that appeal to their bigotry or prejudices or even their unconsidered habits, things that appeal to a prejudice in favor of pretty people over homely people, sex appeal, etc.

A lot of what he says is wrong really is founded on nothing more complex than judges and justices, as a group have biases that favor the people who can lie most effectively, who have the resources to hire scientists to tell them how to deceive the public most effectively.   McIntyre doesn't want to draw bright lines as to what is true and what is a lie, though we can't allow those kinds of ambiguities to maintain this age of lies we are in because the belief in lies will destroy egalitarian democracy and government of, by and for The People. 

A generalized acceptance of lies isn't just a danger to democracy and justice it is what destroys them as certainly as lies are the stock and trad of all con men and criminals.   I've written a bit, recently as to how identifying anti-democratic government, not with their pretended ideologies but with the practices of criminals is the way to clarity and I think it is.   If for no other reason McIntyre's citation of the murderous mendacity of  corporate crime, the tobacco industry, is an excellent way to start and a far more honest and effective means of understanding the problem.   In protecting ourselves and our democracy, one of the things we have to do is differentiate between corporations that don't possess natural rights and people corporations prey on.  And that there is all the world between lies and truth, and that courts can't be allowed to pretend not to be able to tell the difference. 

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