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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Richard Pauli on the immorality of paid climate denial comments, in response to the New Yorker article by Toobin

Richard Pauli's comment on the following article in the New Yorker:

Mr Toobin, thank you for this is an important post.

The intensity of the comment responses suggests you have been well targeted by the US version of China's "50-cent Army."  In China, this is the online propaganda operation that targets specific issues of public opinion.  A 50-cent Army is so named because of the fees paid to organizations that generate comments (paid per comment written to deflect criticism and dissent).  This has proved tremendously effective in moving opinions of China's 600 million Internet users.  

A few years ago, in the US, I saw an online recruitment for the formation of a domestic cadre to promote Clean Coal by making personal comments on domestic blogs and newspaper sites.  I declined to join their group. But it proved that widespread use of this tactic is as easy as paying "50 cents per posting," although I have no idea what they had budgeted.  

This leaves the readers here to be more distrusting of comments.  As they should be.  This is an easy public relations manipulation (see also the mass communications theory for the Spiral of Silence).  And for the serious message-manipulation campaign, spending a little cash to salt and sweeten comments is too cheap to pass up.   

Earnest readers will notice that the tone and intensity of comments will appear at different times and places on the Internet.  However, in this case, for this subject, their appearance only works to validate your point: there is big money influencing this very issue.  It translates into public opinion and legislative action, or inaction, that directly impacts the coal and oil industries.  Serious carbon investors might even demand this kind of PR move.  (Is there a fiduciary responsibility/liability there?)  

The difficulty of their task is made great and more expensive on this issue because the assigned 50-cent Army must fight both reality and science.  (For now, that differs on how commenting may be used in China - which may be for pure ideological purposes.)  As global warming climate destabilization increases, the comments will likely become more shrill and numerous.  Anxious readers will dig deeper, searching desperately for some message that says "this is not really happening," like a cancer patient desperate for a different diagnosis.  There will be plenty of comments that deliver on the desperate fantasy, and many readers eager to follow the false cure of alternative medicine.   

But your account is of the unified Republican machine - fully subcontracted out to the Koch  coal and oil interests.  We have full ethical contempt for the legislative response to global warming.  The abrogation of congressional responsibility to protect citizens is immorality amounting to treason against our future, a sabotage of human interests. This is horribly disappointing to learn that people can be so united in a sell-out of others. With this issue it applies globally, even affecting the future of the politicians who squabble over the garments they grab.

Such purchased ignorance comes easily to the very structure of our representative government.  Anyone charged with delivering a safe future to younger people would find this shocking. How do we fix this? Can we?

In facing such a 50-cent Army of Commenters, all we can do is leave the dreck and stick to the articles, and then personally collect the reality of climate and weather changes for ourselves.  And we should remember that for now, it appears the unified Republican Party only makes itself a larger opponent in any election.  We can vote them out, but since their ethical lapses translate into real pain for the future, it will be difficult to forgive. Our anger should not be bitter, but neither must we forget.

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