After looking at the readings assigned this week, and reflecting back on the Facebook “news” that circled around Facebook during the election, I decided to hunt for my own example of such a phenomenon. And I think I may have found something. While not as obviously faked (there’s no gotcha moment at the end where the authors tell you you’ve been had), I think there is definitely some manipulation going on here.
Imagine you, a climate change skeptic, were to Google “truth about climate change”. The first 5 results are of course the scientific consensus on the topic (which is of course an elaborate fabrication), but ho! What’s this 6th result here?
Climate change is NATURAL? Well of course it is! Let’s see what this article is all about:
Would you look at that? Turns out those foolish scientists at NASA have been using outdated information! Of course their results would be skewed if their heads are still stuck in the past like that. Well, this report should put all that nonsense to bed.
However, as a discerning and rational consumer of information, you of course look up the Express since as an American you’ve never seen them before. Here’s the front page of their website:
Well this all seems on the up and up. Perhaps it’s more of a right-wing website – seems like they’re anti-Labour and EU – but if you’re a climate change denier you probably are too so that’s not setting off any alarm bells. –On a side note, Express certainly is fond of all caps in their titles, aren’t they?
Of course your next step is to look up the paper – primary sources are king after all. Wouldn’t want to be fooled by a cherry-picking journalist, would you? This would be what you’d find: Jennifer Marohasy Paper
Wow! Look at that! This paper shows in simple terms exactly what you’d known all along. Climate change was never a real problem. It’s just those alarmist academic types trying to seize control again. Something something Chinese competition. It even has nice, clean, and informative graphs! Everyone knows that graphs mean scientific legitimacy. But you don’t just take this at face value. Who is this Jennifer Marohasy? She could be anybody! You’d better check her out just to be extra thorough.
Wow! A BSC AND a PhD? Finally one of those eggheads realizes the truth that you’ve known all along! The University of Queensland is a internationally recognized institution too. Looks like all of your research paid off. This is definitely a legitimate source. You’ve found the truth buried beneath all those phony climate reports. Let’s not focus too much on that last bit there about her colleague working for the Caltex oil refinery, which is owned by Chevron. Definitely nothing suspicious there.
Heading back over to the paper, let’s just take a look at those sources, shall we?
Huh. That’s weird. She sure likes to use her own research a lot. But maybe that’s totally legitimate. Her computer modeling may be so revolutionary that other academics haven’t caught up yet. Let’s look at number 8, shall we?
This is a blog post. An honest to god blog post about an issue that surfaced in 2011. Why is it being used as a source for an academic paper? Here is the Portion of Marohasy’s paper that cites Judith Curry’s blog:
That’s a pretty unusual claim. Marohasy attempts to kind of slide around it, but she just accused vast swatches of the scientific community of a massive conspiracy based off of a six year old blog post. Here is what Curry infers in her personal blog that might lead Marohasy to such a conclusion:
This is hardly reasonably evidence for the existence of a global conspiracy attempting to hide the truth that Earth’s average temperature has been declining since 1980. RealClimate, a source included in Curry’s post, has a different interpretation of the events:
In addition to this, “hide the decline” and “ClimateGate” have been debunked since 2011. Here are a couple links from 2011 refuting the claim:
I find it highly unethical and a little ridiculous to leverage a claim that the entire climate science community has been concealing a systematic decline in Earth’s temperature based on hacked (and possibly doctored) emails that have emerged in 2009 and have been definitively disproven since 2011. It’s alarming that such misinformation can be sourced with an air of legitimacy in 2017. The Express article came out only a few weeks ago!
There’s definitely more stuff that could be looked into here, but I’m tired and sick and there’s already far too much here for one blog post. Maybe something like this could be involved in my final project?