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Entry 278, on 2006-02-01 at 14:44:54 (Rating 4, Politics)
A story has recently risen to prominence regarding the harassment of Dr James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan. He has been speaking out against the Bush administration's failure to take global climate change seriously, but he has been threatened with "dire consequences" if he fails to feed public information through NASA's public relations system in future.
We know that practically all large organisation have a PR department today. I once corresponded with an American graduate who told me she was going to work in "corporate public relations". I responded "so you are going to be a professional liar, are you?". She was initially somewhat offended by this, but later agreed it was a fair appraisal.
There's no doubt about it, modern public relations is all about telling lies and presenting propaganda to the public. Of course this includes NASA, who's current PR staff have an obvious political bias. This has always been the case, but its far worse with the current government than it has been in the past.
On the other hand, is it right that scientists should present their opinions in public, when public relations experts can present this information in a way more suitable for non-scientists? Aren't more academic outlets, such as scientific journals, the method they should use to publish information?
Well yes, that's partly true, but very few non-scientists read scientific journals, and the PR people can't be trusted to portray the truth; first because they probably don't understand the science involved, and second because their primary interest is a positive spin for the organisation they work for, not the unbiased truth.
So I support free speech. As long as a person isn't presenting an opinion in the time he's being paid by an organisation, why should that organisation have any right to control what he can say? They shouldn't have that right, of course. If an expert presents an opinion in public which is untrue or biased, he will quickly be corrected by his colleagues. So let's allow the flow of free information to occur, uncensored by professional liars!
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