When it comes to the most important existential threat of our time - climate change - we aren't just being green washed, we are being completely white washed. It's happening in plain sight and once you understand it, it's easy to spot. But if you aren't looking, it easily changes your world view without you even realising it.
While it's true that we have access to whatever we ever want to know in the world, the illusion is that we actually get to see it. Information has effectively been weaponised to reduce our breadth of vision. If you think this is a tad crazy, hang in there and see what you think in a couple of paragraphs.
Whatever our position on climate, the question of how many of our thoughts on the matter are original might surprise you. We have so much access to information and yet we take entrenched positions more than ever. We see more, but actually willingly observe less. And a large part of the reason is because our own ideas are spun, narrowed and redelivered back to us autonomously - paid for with an arsenal of high priced manipulation strategies.
It's not Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is manipulating us. AI is how we are found and segregated into ever tighter target markets, to be served 'the right' information. At it's core, we are being manipulated by those who choose to invest the time and money in developing the AI, to ensure that we look elsewhere, obsess minor details, focus on what is said, not what is left out. And that's why it's not so clear.
We aren't being lied to, just manipulated by targeted information. The good news is that it's very easy to spot manipulation, spin and diversion once you know what to look for - even the most sophisticated. It's not as if we don't have ample opportunity. From the products we are convinced we need, to ignoring the deadly chemicals in some of our favourite things and the avoidance of systemic solutions to climate change, there isn't an aspect of our lives that isn't being spun somehow.
How does it work? Here are three high level examples that give you the general (if not specific) idea.
The climate conspiracy game is clearly up, but if you want to understand how spin marketing works, Malcolm Turnbull did a fine job of explaining it when he tackled Newscorp's Paul Kelly on Q&A last year. Turnbull took Kelly to task on the issue of how some media has 'done enormous damage' to western democracies, in particular on the subject of global warming. Malcolm Turnbull told the Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly
"THE COMPANY YOU WORK FOR AND ITS FRIENDS IN POLITICS, LIKE TRUMP AND OTHERS, HAVE TURNED THIS ISSUE OF PHYSICS INTO AN ISSUE OF VALUES OR IDENTITY. SAYING YOU BELIEVE OR DISBELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING IS LIKE SAYING YOU BELIEVE OR DISBELIEVE IN GRAVITY."
The point of spin marketing is to spin your attention from one way of thinking to another, by putting forward misinformation or simply distracting your attention. By focusing a population's attention of whether climate change exists and creating argument, the business of getting on with doing something about it is ignored.
The BOM's reporting of weather isn't something you really think about, if you, like me, simply expects that it is part of their standard repertoire. Surely BOM is well positioned with their obvious expertise, to enlighten us all - even help us understand. The thing is that the BOM really don't report on climate change much at all. The silence is kind of deafening once you realise.
Michael West Media has a theory on why they don't. Recently obtained Freedom of Information documents revealed that gas giants such as Shell, Santos, Woodside and Chevron, some of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, are among the Bureau’s biggest customers, spending close to $5 million in the 18/19 financial year alone.
Documents obtained under FOI reveal how references to climate change have been edited out of reports and how in November 2019, just as the summer fires were beginning to unfold, the BOM even produced a video called, “Bushfires and Exceptional Heat: what’s driving our weather right now?” The video was a five-minute production and it explained all the drivers leading into the bushfires crisis except for one – climate change.
You can read Sandy Keane's story on the MW Media site and make up your own mind.
Michael Mann is someone who has been in the line of climate change fire for more than 20 years. Mann is the climatologist at Pennsylvania State University and is best known for the 'hockey stick graph', which was published in a 1998 scientific paper, illustrating the rise in global temperatures since the dawn of the industrial era. Since his work began and especially once he was associated with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Mann has experienced death threats, needless government investigations, and personal campaigns against him.
In an interview with Scientific American, Mann says that he believes climate deniers are shifted tracks, not least of all because the personal attacks on him have ceased, but more seriously because the evidence is undeniable now. Mann says:
"THE INITIAL WAR OF DISINFORMATION AGAINST CLIMATE SCIENCE IS NOW ESSENTIALLY OVER. THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE HAS BECOME IMPOSSIBLE TO DISPUTE IN LIGHT OF THE DRAMATIC INCREASES IN EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS, MEGAFIRES AND POLAR MELTING IN RECENT YEARS."
Mann believes that while the initial war of disinformation against climate science is now essentially over, but the deniers have not given up the battle. They are now spinning the overwhelming evidence of the impact of climate change into a different strategy. The new battle ground helplessness. Mann uses a bunch of “D” words to describe the strategy: deflection, delay, division, despair mongering, doomism.
It works on a few fronts. Firstly, there is an effort to deflect attention away from systemic problems and solutions - trying to convince people that climate change is not the result of the big end of town's heedless corporate policies but of our own individual actions. The marketing parley is similar to the gun lobby motto, "Guns don't kill people, people do." "Fossil fuels don't cause climate change, people do." Mann says:
"POWERFUL INTERESTS HAVE ENGINEERED THE MOST WELL-FUNDED AND ELABORATE PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN IN THE HISTORY OF EARTH TO BLOCK PROGRESS ON CLIMATE. WE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT THESE ARE NOT ACTORS WHO ARE GOING TO PLAY NICE WITH US."
Another play is to essentially acknowledge the mess and suggest that we are all doomed so we might as well just go party. (If you are an eco warrior, you probably won't even witness this one. It's targeted at climate deniers, who knew in their hearts it was all true.)
Our children. In the end, it seems our children are become our guiding light. Our children have everything to lose and whatever they can salvage before their parents trash the place, to gain. Climate change is fundamentally what it is, but what we do about it is going to impact our children - and they are finally demanding action.
There is also the issue of evidence coupled with most people's desire to sustain our planet. Much is changing and quickly. If you keep your eyes open, you will see right through the haze of misinformation and make your own fact based choices.