Thursday, November 27, 2008

Framing and Publicity

Matt Nisbet, keeper of the Framing Science blog, seems to be staking his career on the adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity so long as they spell the names right. Behold the magic of framing or whatever:

  • Begin with a post that foretells a bold new line of argument soon to be loosed upon the enduring political and social struggles over science:
    My heads up on a forthcoming segment at Public Radio International's The World has generated a discussion about the communication misfires that science advocates create when they use terms such as "denier" and "anti-science."
  • When the radio segment airs, make the even bolder claim that the case presented against the scare-words has achieved such broad and deep acclaim that merely listening to the segment will convince you never to use the scare-words again:
    Correspondent Jason Margolis does a terrific job in synthesizing research and comments from various experts on why the use of the label by science advocates is likely to be a major blunder. My comments come at about 7 minutes and 15 seconds into the archived audio.

    What do readers think? Convinced yet that "denier" should be dropped from our lexicon?
    Note the rhetoric: the powerful argument won over Jason Margolis and "various experts" and derives from an awesome synthesis of research, but readers may yet be unconvinced. Such reprobates!

    Note that as of this stage in the publicity gambit, very little in the way of actual argument has been advanced. Nor have the assertions that constitute the "argument" actually won any converts, either Jason Margolis or anyone else. Worry not! This is the root of the gambit's sexy frisson -- this is what will get replies from people who don't agree ...
  • ... which, like clockwork, appear from Mark Hoofnagle, Orac, and Mike the Mad Biologist. And certainly don't fret over the fact that their responses take the form of actual arguments that deploy exotic things like reason, evidence, logic, experience, and so on.
  • Why fret, after all, when your ploy has played out to perfection -- you've generated buzz for an upcoming talk you're going to give about these topics, which you make sure to mention in your slightly self-pitying but argumentatively non-responsive response to your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad critics who remain obdurately unconvinced by your assertions. And don't worry -- you still don't need to argue for your assertions since pimping your various works, not making an effective argument, has been your goal from the start:
    Two video segments from the Big Think interview explain the basics of the research and the arguments I have published in recent articles and book chapters. The first segment is on communication and framing generally. The second segment on climate change specifically.

    These topics and more will be the focus of my talk next Thursday at the New York Academy of Sciences. The event is free to the public. Already more than a 100 attendees have signed up. It should prove an interesting discussion with reception to follow.
No doubt that talk, with its more-than-100 attendees, will be a humdinger of a hootenanny.

Those links again to the rebuttals of Nisbet's latest nonsense: Mark Hoofnagle, Orac, and Mike the Mad Biologist.

My response: truth in labeling is good. People who deny things despite evidence are legitimately labeled "deniers." People who are anti-science are legitimately labeled as "anti-science."

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