Civic Engagement
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Civic Engagement

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Lance Bennett, PhD, Professor, Communications and Political Science

Lance Bennett, PhD, Professor, Communications and Political Science

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  • 1. Center for Communication & Civic Engagement
    Lance Bennett, Director
    Information ~ Technology ~ Community
  • 2. Manufacturing Doubts about Science
    How Media Spin Undermines Engagement with Public Problems
    (smoking, AIDS, global warming etc.)
  • 3.
  • 4. The Case of Climate Change
  • 5. 19
    % who believe what corporations say about climate change
  • 6. 18
    % who believe that climate change is real, human caused
    and harmful (ie, who believe what most scientists say)
  • 7. …only 18 percent strongly believe that climate change is REAL, HUMAN CAUSED, and HARMFUL…
    Survey by Nature Conservancy
    & EcoAmerica (Oct 2008)
  • 8. Why is science not winning the battle against climate change denial?
  • 9. The News: What to Believe?
  • 10.
  • 11. typical US news report
  • 12. the part of the story that gets buried
  • 13. who is stirring up the controversy?
    since publics are skeptical of direct corporate propaganda….
    corporations hire PR firms
    support think tanks (which support “experts”)
    influence politicians and parties
    all to create public doubt about science
    (to support political inaction)
  • 14. Round 1: (1980s - 1990s) use PR to turn climate change and its advocates into a joke
    Western Fuels Assn, National Coal Assn & Edison Electric created front org Info Council on Environment (ICE) ~ hired PR firms and scientists to create misinformation campaigns
    “If the earth is getting warmer why is Minneapolis getting colder?”
    ‘Some say the earth is warming. Some also said the earth is flat”
    but scientific consensus on human causes grew
    and ICE was exposed as direct corporate front
  • 15. Round 2: (1990s-now)broaden the interest coalition ~ create better front organizations (fund more think tanks) ~ attack the science
    Broad industry coalition (energy, chemical, cigarette, auto, food processing, biotechnology) + bigger PR firms create:
    The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
    which created
    Global Climate Science Communication Action Plan
    • attack inconvenient findings as “unsound”
    • 16. brand political actions based on science (Kyoto-Copenhagen) as out of touch with reality
  • this becomes news only in partisan press
    Mother Jones Special Report 2005
  • 17. Partisan press in other countries
    more central in public discussion
    - e.g. UK report
    on who funds the skeptics
    Independent, Feb 7, 2010
  • 18. creating plausible deniability
    Independent, Feb 7, 2010
  • 19. a look at the propaganda machine
    • 1972-2005 141 books (in English) denied seriousness of environmental problems
    • 20. 130 were published by conservative think tanks or authors working for them
    • 21. websites of 50 major conservative think tanks
    • 22. 45 promote environmentally skeptical policies
    • 23. 28 received money from Exxon alone
    Sources: Jacques & Freeman, Environmental Politics (2008); HogganClimate Cover-Up (2009)
  • 24. and so, expert news sources multiply
    Christopher Horner: uncovers
    socialist communist green conspiracy
  • 25. Who is Christopher Horner?
    • Legal Counsel, Cooler Heads Coalition
    • 26. Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
    • 27. Represented CEI in lawsuits against the government to stop distribution of reports on effects of climate change in the US
    • 28. Funding: ExxonMobil
  • Round 3: (late 1990s – present) rebrand the Republicans
    • Frank Luntz prepares vulnerability assessment for Republicans
    environment was main vulnerability
    but voters not convinced that science is settled
    • Com Strategy: rebrand the Republicans
    from climate deniers to science skeptics
    • Stop denying – act concerned – and start asking for greater scientific certainty
    “make lack of scientific certainty” the issue
  • 29. WAIT!
    Science is not about certainty!!
    How to respond to opposition demands for certainty?
    Scientists not good at PR or performing in news dramas (think: Flock of Dodos)
    Besides, scientists often think that deniers do not merit a response
  • 30. Result –> Manufactured Controversy“Manufactroversy”
    Cases where
    “scientific controversy does not exist inside the scientific community but is successfully constructed for a public audience in order to achieve specific political ends”
    ~Leah Ceccarelli
    UW rhetoric scholar
    Think: Smoking, AIDS, Intelligent Design, WMDs in Iraq
    Global warming (human causes, tipping points)
  • 31. politicians align with the Interests
  • 32. politicians defending science appear partisan
  • 33. news reports the political controversy
    Study of 928 articles on “global climate change” in peer reviewed science journals (1993-2003) found no major disagreement on human activity causing climate change
    Naomi Oreskes, Science (2005)
    Study of 4 leading US newspapers 1998 – 2002 found 53% of articles included a denial or challenge to scientific claims
    Boykoff & Boykoff.
    J Environ Change (2003)
  • 34. why does the mainstream news report two sides of a one sided story?
    US Journalism filters reality through power in Washington
    J norm of balance invites SPINNING another side
    Political Interests magnify claims with PR
    News feeds on drama and conflict
    Result: News resembles reality TV
  • 35. The Political Result
    Source: Pew Survey Oct 2009
    Public Confusion –> Cover for Political Inaction
  • 36. Dealing with Global Warming at bottom of US public priorities
    Pew American Priorities
    survey 2009
  • 37. No surprise: US opinion politically driven
    Source: Nature Conservancy - EcoAmerica Poll, Oct 2008
  • 38. US vs world opinion
    Source: PIPA – Univ MD Poll
    18,000 people, 19 nations July 2009
  • 39. ways to change thegame
    join online knowledge and actionnetworks
    • 60% already get news from combo of on and offline sources
    • 40. 28% of internet users customize news feeds
    • 41. 37% of internet users contribute to creation of news (commenting, distributing to others, posting on SN sites)
    Pew Internet & American Life Survey Mar 1, 2010
  • 42. news organizations fade in a changing Mediascape: top US websites (monthly visitors)
    1. Google
    (134 million)
    2. Yahoo (123)
    5. Wikipedia (76)
    7. Youtube (70)
    8. Myspace (67)
    10. Ebay (59)
    12. Facebook (45)
    15. blogspot (43)
    17. craigslist (40)
    26. CNN (29)
    30. blogger (24)
    31. flickr (22)…
    42. N Y Times (16)
    search, social networking, publishing
    source: Quantcast 11/20/08
  • 43. Future of News
    60% get news from combo of on and offline sources
    33% of cell phone owners get news on phones
    28% of internet users customize news feeds
    37% of internet users contribute to creation of news (commenting, distributing to others, posting on SN sites) – 75% of online news users do this
    70% feel it is overwhelming
    Pew Internet & American Life Survey Mar 1, 2010
  • 44. becoming a citizen expert
    using the power of digital media
  • 45. meet LiisaAntilla
  • 46. some questions I would like to ask Liisa
    What’s your day job?
    Tell us how you became interested in communication about climate change?
    What kinds of things have you done?
    What ideas do you have for people who are dissatisfied with mainstream media reporting?
  • 47. Liisa’s link list (Liisa’s blog) (UW Climate Impacts Group) (Yale climate/media research) (Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale expert on public opinion of climate change) (UN: climate change) (Reuters Environmental news hub) (Greenpeace database on anti-climate funding) (Greenpeace UK Stop Esso [Exxon] campaign – Liisa interned here 2003-4) (blog run by international climate experts) (Seattle based environmental online magazine.) (Earth Equity News from Climate Crisis Coalition – mainly climate news stories) (NYT enviro blog started by Andrew Revkin – who, as of 1/29/10 is still blogging) (nonprofit working on policymaking) (Local clean energy coalition) (climate news etc. by author/former journalist Ross Gelbspan) (Seattle based group working on regional climate technology solutions) (Stanford climate scientist/author with interest in media/communication) ( (NRDC Action Fund) (Energy Action Coalition/Powershift activist group) (Climate Action Network-CAN International) (European “Future International Action on Climate Change Network”) (Global Climate Campaign) (Canadians for Climate Action) (European Commission - Climate Action) (Climate
  • 48. Liisa’s network
  • 49. some tentative conclusions about developing more effective democratic communication
    • Stop looking to the news to clarify issues (use it to check on the political game)
    • 50. Join digital info-action networks
    • 51. Debate the validity of special interests buying the national conversation
    • 52. Develop new communication strategies
  • communicating more effectively
    with less propaganda and deception
    Lee Bodner, Director, EcoAmerica
  • 53. who would listen to this?
  • 54. promote a healthy values debate
    • Must jobs be pitted against the environment?
    • 55. Are there other ways to organize the economy?
    • 56. green tax incentives
    • 57. tax (and regulate) financial transactions
    • 58. change trade policies: to stop exploiting the environment & promote sustainable communities north and south
    • 59. examine the effects of quarterly profit pressures on our capacity to value the future
    • 60. What do we tell our children?
  • Lance Bennett, Director