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December 5, 2006

Organized Crime: Diffusing Facts with Pseudo-Science

Category: Editorial – Tom Harrison – 11:58 pm

If one person has one opinion and another has a different opinion things can come out two ways:

  1. The two can accept one opinion over the other, whether through logic, rhetoric, judgment, law, or force, or
  2. The two can arrive at a stale-mate, leaving the disagreement unresolved.

Disagreements happen at all levels: personal, corporate, tribal, national. Many of our institutions have arisen to find ways to settle, that is to resolve the dispute. Some are elegant, like science. Public discourse resolves some issues. Some are civil but not always correct, such as law. Then, there’s war. But resolving the differences between two opinions is always a lot of work.

If you’re losing, and don’t want resolution, obstruction is a simple and effective tactic. But when it’s our elected officers obstructing in a calculated, determined way, it’s just organized crime.

As I have been reading R.F. Kennedy Jr.s book Crimes Against Nature I have come to understand a simple idea: the best strategy for the losing side is to obstruct the process of reaching a conclusion by making reaching a resolution more difficult. If I had paid more attention in my Economics classes at college, I would have realized that this was one of the conclusions of Game Theory.

As all the issues of the recent election were aired publicly, I heard various foundations, organizations, think tanks putting forth counter-arguments. On their faces, these foundations seem reputable. They have important sounding names. They are well funded. They have scientists. They do studies. Consider, for example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of whose staff asserts in a rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth that “Global warming… is nothing to be afraid of.” The author of this paper asserted this today on the Oprah Winfrey show.

What he said was just not correct — it’s not a tenable position under any rational though process. While it’s possible that an uninformed person could reach this conclusion; it is not possible (as far as I can see) that someone intelligent, with access to data, and command of their faculties would make such an assertion. There is another motive. Crimes Against Nature does a great deal of work to show, over and over, and over what’s behind these organizations; I don’t know about CEI, but many of the “don’t believe global warming” crowd are rich people and businesses that are just on the losing side of this argument. They know it and have known it for years. So their best strategy is to diffuse the facts with pseudo-science, or just seemingly coherent but fact-free positions. And it is still working, even to this day.

And one of our other institutions, the news media, hear arguments from one side, then from the other and present “balanced” reporting, giving some weight to each side. Lawmakers are faced with the same thing, and even more from lobbies who pay to promote one side or the other of an argument. The guy from CEI was on Oprah, even if in a shill position; Oprah may not be “hard news” but she’s certainly providing a lot of information, and she’s a great force of good. yet still, we heard the counter argument. When it all comes out in the wash, us regular citizens are faced with sound bites from conflicting positions — mixed messages; nothing gets resolved, and we’re left scratching our heads. Hell, it takes a country long enough to act when there’s a clear and unambiguous problem; adding uncertainty to a complex problem is all that’s needed.

But in a civil society, this obstruction tactic is wrong — it is criminal. It is wrong to willfully and knowingly create organizations for the sole purpose of presenting a false counter-argument under the guise of science and academics. I sound and feel like a conspiracy-theory person when I say this stuff; could it really be true? I don’t fully understand how people can live with themselves, or how they can deceive themselves or be deceived by others. But what Crimes Against nature shows is that this is precisely what the Bush administration is doing: they planned it, and have executed it, and are still executing it. It’s not just politics. It’s not “another viewpoint”. It’s willful deceit of people, using our institutions against us.

It’s organized crime.

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