[Plura-list] A denialism taxonomy; Urban broadband deserts

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Jun 10 12:53:02 EDT 2021

Today's links

* A denialism taxonomy: FLICC (fake experts, logical fallacies,
impossible expectations, cherry picking, conspiracy theories).

* Urban broadband deserts: Digital redlining is a policy, not an accident.

* This day in history: 2011, 2016, 2020

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading


🛀🏾 A denialism taxonomy

The science denial industry has deep roots - tobacco-cancer denial, lead
paint/gas denial and other ancestral forms of commercial denial gave
birth to modern forms of denial: anti-vax, anti-mask, "stop the steal"
and, of course, climate denial.


The denial industry has a well-developed and constantly evolving
playbook. Wealthy interest seeking to sow doubt about reality - about
*whether reality can even be known* - can pay for skilled denialists to
plan and execute denial on their behalf.

Inspired by a call for a fleshed-out denial taxonomy, GMU Climate Change
Communications prof John Cook expanded on Hoofnagle's work, creating the
FLICC model: Fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations,
cherry-picking & conspiracies.


In a fascinating blog post, Cook enumerates all of the FLICC
subtechniques, describing their relationship to the Big Five FLICC
tactics, along with great, vector-based icons licensed CC BY-SA.


Here's the full taxonomy:

* Ad Hominem: Attacking a person/group instead of addressing their

“Climate science can’t be trusted because climate scientists are biased.”

* Ambiguity: Using ambiguous language in order to lead to a misleading

“Thermometer readings have uncertainty which means we don’t know whether
global warming is happening.”

* Anchoring: Depending too heavily on an initial piece of information
when making subsequent judgments.

“2.2 million people might have died from COVID-19 so keeping it down to
only 130,000 deaths is a good job.”

* Anecdote: Using personal experience or isolated examples instead of
sound arguments or compelling evidence.

“The weather is cold today—whatever happened to global warming?”

* Blowfish: Focusing on an inconsequential aspect of scientific
research, blowing it out of proportion in order to distract from or cast
doubt on the main conclusions of the research.

“The hockey stick graph is invalid because it contains statistical errors.”

* Bulk Fake Experts: Citing large numbers of seeming experts to argue
that there is no scientific consensus on a topic.

“There is no expert consensus because 31,487 Americans with a science
degree signed a petition saying humans aren’t disrupting climate.”

* Cherry Picking: Carefully selecting data that appear to confirm one
position while ignoring other data that contradicts that position.

“Global warming stopped in 1998.”

* Contradictory: Simultaneously believing in ideas that are mutually

“The temperature record is fabricated by scientists… the temperature
record shows cooling.”

* Conspiracy Theory: Proposing that a secret plan exists to implement a
nefarious scheme such as hiding a truth.

“The climategate emails prove that climate scientists have engaged in a
conspiracy to deceive the public.”

* Fake Debate (false balance): Presenting science and pseudoscience in
an adversarial format to give the false impression of an ongoing
scientific debate.

“Climate deniers should get equal coverage with climate scientists,
providing a more balanced presentation of views.”

* Fake Experts (appeal to false authority): Presenting an unqualified
person or institution as a source of credible information.

“A retired physicist argues against the climate consensus, claiming the
current weather change is just a natural occurrence.”

* False Analogy: Assuming that because two things are alike in some
ways, they are alike in some other respect.

“Climate skeptics are like Galileo who overturned the scientific
consensus about geocentrism.”

* False Choice: Presenting two options as the only possibilities, when
other possibilities exist.

“CO2 lags temperature in the ice core record, proving that temperature
drives CO2, not the other way around.”

* False Equivalence (apples vs. oranges): Incorrectly claiming that two
things are equivalent, despite the fact that there are notable
differences between them.

“Why all the fuss about COVID when thousands die from the flu every year.”

* Immune to evidence: Re-interpreting any evidence that counters a
conspiracy theory as originating from the conspiracy.

“Those investigations finding climate scientists aren’t conspiring were
part of the conspiracy.”

* Impossible Expectations: Demanding unrealistic standards of certainty
before acting on the science.

“Scientists can’t even predict the weather next week. How can they
predict the climate in 100 years?”

* Logical Fallacies: Arguments where the conclusion doesn’t logically
follow from the premises. Also known as a non sequitur.

“Climate has changed naturally in the past so what’s happening now must
be natural.”

* Lowered Expectations: Lowering the standard by which you grade a
performance or assess evidence.	

“Two snapshots of Mars show shrinking ice, so Mars is global warming.”

* Magnified Minority: Magnifying the significance of a handful of
dissenting scientists to cast doubt on an overwhelming scientific consensus.

“Sure, there’s 97% consensus but Professor Smith disagrees with the
consensus position.”

* Misrepresentation: Misrepresenting a situation or an opponent’s
position in such a way as to distort understanding.

“They changed the name from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’ because
global warming stopped happening.”

* Moving Goalposts: Demanding higher levels of evidence after receiving
requested evidence.

“Sea levels may be rising but they’re not accelerating.”

* Nefarious intent: Assuming that the motivations behind any presumed
conspiracy are nefarious.

“Climate scientists promote the climate hoax because they’re in it for
the money.”

* Overriding suspicion : Having a nihilistic degree of skepticism
towards the official account, preventing belief in anything that doesn’t
fit into the conspiracy theory.

“Show me one line of evidence for climate change… oh, that evidence is

* Oversimplification: Simplifying a situation in such a way as to
distort understanding, leading to erroneous conclusions.

“CO2 is plant food so burning fossil fuels will be good for plants.”

* Persecuted victim: Perceiving and presenting themselves as the victim
of organized persecution

“Climate scientists are trying to take away our freedom.”

* Quote Mining: Taking a person’s words out-of-context in order to
misrepresent their position.

“Mike’s trick… to hide the decline.”

* Re-interpreting randomness: Believing that nothing occurs by accident,
so that random events are re-interpreted as being caused by the conspiracy.

“NASA’s satellite exploded? They must be trying to hide inconvenient data!”

* Red Herring: Deliberately diverting attention to an irrelevant point
to distract from a more important point.	

“CO2 is a trace gas so it’s warming effect is minimal.”

* Single Cause: Assuming a single cause or reason when there might be
multiple causes or reasons.

“Climate has changed naturally in the past so what’s happening now must
be natural.”

* Slippery Slope: Suggesting that taking a minor action will inevitably
lead to major consequences.

“If we implement even a modest climate policy, it will start us down the
slippery slope to socialism and taking away our freedom.”

* Slothful Induction: Ignoring relevant evidence when coming to a

“There is no empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming.”

* Something must be wrong: Maintaining that the official account is
based on deception, even when parts of a conspiracy theory become untenable.

“Ok, fine, 97% of climate scientists agree humans are causing global
warming, but that’s because they’re toeing the party line.”

* Straw Man: Misrepresenting or exaggerating an opponent’s position to
make it easier to attack.

“In the 1970s, climate scientists were predicting an ice age.”

* Wishful Thinking: Choosing to believe something is true because we
really want it to be true, instead of relying on scientific evidence.

“Forget climate model predictions of warming, I think we’re about to
experience global cooling.”

All of these are explained in depth in "The Conspiracy Theory Handbook,"
by Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky, available free in English, Czech,
French, German, Green, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian,
Spanish and Turkish.


Urban broadband deserts (permalink)

The Biden broadband plan set aside $100B to build out universal fiber;
that number was way too low (it was derived from the fraudulent
broadband maps the monopoly telcos produce).


The true figure is much higher ($240B!), and ::sad trombone:: the GOP
whittled Biden down to $65B. It's easy to see this as the GOP stabbing
its rural base in the back (and yup, that's what they're doing), but
there's a LOT of urban broadband deserts.


Apologists for shitty broadband - and Musk cultists who insist that we
can provide high speed broadband with satellites that all share the
same, contested spectrum, physics be damned - say the US's terrible
internet is due to its vast open spaces, too spread out to wire up.

City dwellers are *three times more likely* to lack broadband access
than their rural counterparts. This isn't due to the bad economics of
rural broadbandification, it's due to structural racism and monopoly.


Writing in Wired, Bhaskar Chakravorti calls our attention to Detroit,
Philadelphia, and Cleveland, racially segregated cities where redlining
- the US government's racist policy of excluding Black people from home
ownership - casts a long shadow.


These cities have 14-point gaps between Black and white broadband
access, part of a wider digital divide that includes gaps in
participation in high-paid tech jobs and in the impact of the pandemic


In Detroit, residents are "building their own internet...block by block"
- trying to fix a city where 40% of the residents have no broadband
options and the rest are on aging  AT&T copper clunker infrastructure,
sold at monopoly Cadillac prices.


It's great to see communities seizing the means of computation, but as
Karl Bode writes for Techdirt, The Hill's coverage has a glaring
omission: any mention of the abusive AT&T monopoly and its role in
starving Black communities of digital access.


Let's be clear: everyone's internet sucks because of America's greedy,
complacent telecoms monopolies, but minority communities suffer
disproportionately under this system. Digital Redlining is the successor
to real-estate redlining.


Digital Redlining is when your monopoly carrier won't upgrade your
service - or offer it at all - because you're too poor to complain
effectively. That's what's up when your internet costs more and is
slower than the service across the street:


As Bode writes: our broadband deserts and digital divide are an active
policy choice: "the direct result of 25 straight years of prioritizing
the interests of regional monopolies, and coddling giants like Verizon,
AT&T and Comcast. It's the direct result of signing off on mindless
consolidation and harmful megamergers. It's the direct result of
choosing not to embrace pro-competition policies. It's the direct result
of repeatedly neutering telecom regulatory oversight under the (false)
promise this somehow results in telecom Utopia (despite 25 years of
evidence this isn't true)."

America is a rich nation, but not a great one. A great nation would
secure for every resident the shelter, food, education, healthcare *and*
broadband that are needed to be a full participant in society.

America once found political will for universal electrification and
universal telephone service. Those were great moments in the nation's
history. Biden's timidity - a $100b commitment for a $240b hole - and
the GOP's miserliness stand in the way of finding that greatness again.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Lobbynomics: Canadian Chamber of Commerce manufactures fake
$30 billion counterfeiting loss

#5yrsago USA Swimming bans rapist Brock Turner for life

#5yrsago Reminder: Neal Stephenson predicted Donald Trump in 1994

#5yrsago UK startup offers landlords continuous, deep surveillance of
tenants’ social media

#5yrsago Donald Trump, deadbeat

#1yrago MMT in the NYT

#1yrago Appeals court rejects judge who wanted $65m for lost pants

#1yrago Time to retheme Splash Mountain

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/).

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