Denialism on the Radio
The programme invited Patrick Barrow of the Public Relations Consultants on to discuss 'denialism'. He made frequent use of the two and nine of hearts. Interested readers can listen for themselves. I particularly liked the bit where he said that, unlike in the US, British consumers and media were too sophisticated to be taken in by PR trickery. If you believe that ...
Anyway, he gave one bad apple argument that ought to be challenged. On air he denied that the tobacco industry was representative of other businesses - 'I am not sure anyone would be using them as a model'.
Let's compare these two statements. the first is an internal document from Brown and Williamson, the tobacco company. It was written in 1969:
Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with a "body of fact" that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy. Within the business we recognize that a controversy exists. However, with the general public the consensus is that cigarettes are in some way harmful to health. If we are successful in establishing a controversy at the public level, then there is an opportunity to put across the real facts about smoking and health.
The second comes from the Republican strategist Fred Luntz. Speaking of global warming (or climate change, a term he prefers) Luntz noted that:
Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.
I think Mr Barrow underestimates the sophistication and historical awareness of his profession. Doubtless an innocent mistake.