Civic Engagement


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Lance Bennett, PhD, Professor, Communications and Political Science

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Civic Engagement

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