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Propaganda 101

Entry 1163, on 2010-02-21 at 18:19:23 (Rating 4, Comments)

What is it about our political and business leaders which has allowed them to get to the "top"? Are they intelligent or knowledgeable or innovative? Well that might be a factor for some of them but it seems to me that a more significant factor is their ability to spout bullshit! Yes, the ability to lie, to exaggerate, to spin, or to lead a debate in the direction they want.

This is probably no surprise to anyone I guess, especially in regard to politicians, but I notice exactly the same thing with leaders in almost every area. For example, I listened to an interview with Telecom CEO, Paul Reynolds, and it was obvious at all times that he wasn't being very honest and was really just repeating a series of almost meaningless sound bites about how Telecom was doing such a great job. Then he would cherry pick some numbers intending to make the company look a lot more innovative and dedicated to good service than it actually is. Sure, he's a whole order of magnitude better than his evil predecessor, Theresa Gattung, but Joseph Stalin would have been an improvement after her!

Its hard to remember any occasion recently where a leader has been both honest and accurate on any issue. The government are naturally enthusiastically into using misleading propaganda and meaningless phrases. I have noticed this a lot recently in relation to the current conflict regarding national standards. To be fair I would have to say that the government's opponents haven't exactly been 100% forthcoming with information which doesn't support their cause either!

You would think that people would understand that this process is widespread and wouldn't get too upset when they see it happening but apparently some groups are held to a higher standard of behaviour than others. I'm talking about the errors of judgement and fact recently uncovered in relation to climate science. If problems of this sort had been demonstrated by any other group people would have barely commented, but because they originated from a science group its like the world has ended - or the world isn't going to end if you believe the deniers!

I think its fair that science is held to a higher standard than other areas and that just shows how much esteem science is (or was) held in. The fact that the problems which were uncovered had practically nothing to do with the pure science and had more to do with the crossover between science and politics has been ignored by many.

For example, the IPCC has several smaller groups within it and many of their members aren't climate scientists. So if a report from the IPCC said that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 that wasn't really an error in the science, it was an administrative error on the fringe of the science.

Unfortunately real scientists do increasingly rely on people from other professions, such as journalists, managers, and social scientists to distribute their findings and that distribution process is rarely accurate. That's fair enough because the raw scientific papers are too technical for most people but when errors are found no one should suggest that affects the underlying science.

Scientists are trained to avoid the bullshit that is the most important skill of politicians and managers. Anyone who has a reasonable understanding of science will appreciate that but it amounts to poor communications skills when it comes to distributing information to the public. Maybe some new papers should be added to the science curriculum: propaganda 101, disinformation 102, and most important of all bullshit 103!


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