Quote notes (#35)

Does open acknowledgement of a firm commitment to deception count as honesty, or the opposite?

Ask the Cretans Germans:

German ministries insist that it is important not to detract from the effectiveness of climate change warnings by discussing the past 15 years’ lack of global warming. Doing so, they say, would result in a loss of the support necessary for pursuing rigorous climate policies. “Climate policy needs the element of fear,” Ott openly admits. “Otherwise, no politician would take on this topic.”

September 29, 2013admin 4 Comments »


4 Responses to this entry

  • tryptophan Says:

    Another classic example is the response by a harvard student group to the Richwine defenestration. The open letter, published by our future leaders, concludes

    “Even if such claims had merit, the Kennedy School cannot ethically stand by this dissertation whose end result can only be furthering discrimination under the guise of academic discourse. ”

    I’ve never heard totalitarian regimes claim that the truth is irrelevant like that. That paragraph is an interesting reversal of the normal leftist preference for intention over outcome as well.

    On a completely seperate point, the “15 years decline meme” is very successful, but why isn’t leaning so heavily on 1998 surface temperatures cherry-picking? We’re taking an anomaly and building a case around it.


    Alrenous Reply:

    Intentions? As Jehu would say, Who, Whom.

    As to the cherry picking, no. The salience of 1998 is that’s roughly when the climate models were built. Since they uniformly predicted higher temperatures than what we observed, they have been falsified. If science were being done, they would all be roundly condemned and discarded and their authors (wrongly) mocked and ridiculed.They’re not, so it isn’t.

    An honest, credible commitment to not-honesty. So I guess you can trust them to tell you when they’re untrustworthy?

    On counter-point, they’re never trustworthy, so it’s more like they’ve developed a guilt sore which is weeping apologetic truthiness.


    James A. Donald Reply:

    Try starting the graph from 1996. Then it is seventeen years of stable temperatures.


    Posted on September 29th, 2013 at 11:07 am Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    Well, this is just a general asymmetric-rhetoric problem isn’t it? A subset of ‘noble lie’. Just a weird overt variant of it, in some hope that the people to whom the rhetoric is applied aren’t also reading the interviews concerning the need to adjust the rhetoric. This is fully plausible.

    I was laying over in the Atlanta “CNN blaring everywhere all the time” airport a few days ago, and they were, naturally, giving the report the most generous ‘imminent-catastrophe’ interpretation possible (‘Key West will sink into the gulf!’) In a very big-brother-like manner, you can’t ignore the annoying volume without headphones, so most of my fellow travelers, who don’t have the time or inclination to read about the subject, just eat it up and go about their lives.

    But, being generous to the Germans, this applies just as well to individuals and it does to democracies. What if a dry, honest and sober presentation of the cold accounting of a real, long-term problem isn’t enough to convince the populace of the urgent need for immediate attentions? What if the weakest counterarguments are sufficient to derail necessary support?

    You see this in a Medical context all the time with regards to compliance. The doctor says, “If you don’t stop doing X, or if you stop taking pill Y according to the instructions, you’re condition will deteriorate.” The patient follows the advice for a while, gets better, and having gotten a little better, stops taking the advice. The doctor, knowing the human tendency in advance, seeing it occur every day in a large fraction of people, knows he has to up his rhetoric to scare the bejesus out of his patient to counteract tragic human nature. He white lies a little, moves a little beyond ‘informed consent’ (a complete fiction, at any rate) because, dammit, the people make him do it. Pick Up Artists make a similar justification about the way they … communicate with women. ‘They make us do it this way, it’s in their nature’.

    So, I’m with Lindzen and Motl and Friedman with regard to the notion that there is not a (1) certain climatological and (2) economic justification for anti-climate change policies, especially in a world with (3) free trade and (4) zero likelihood of participation by China and India.

    That being said, in the heady, illusory-prosperity days of the tech and housing bubbles, the political pressure, what little there was, to rationalize the long-term disaster of national finances, evaporated immediately. If you give any credence at all to the wisdom of countercyclical fiscal policy (like Michael Pettis recommends), then it’s during the good times that you are supposed to cut back and deleverage. But these are the times it’s hardest to convince anyone there’s any need to do so. A very structural problem.

    If you really believe, as the German government claims to believe, in all the climate alarmist nonsense, and you really believe the recent climate stability is merely some anomalous blip of good fortune, bound to reverse itself back towards catastrophe any day now, but tending to be powerfully corrosive of the public’s tolerance for short-term pain, then what are you to do?

    Another interpretation besides the ‘they’re not listening to the meta-public relations about our public relations” theory is that you can really have this kind of conversation in public – in a completely overt and widely disseminated manner – but because everyone erroneously thinks they’re above average and part of the paternalistic community having to manage the opinions of all the others, that is, inside the opinion circle, making it instead of receiving it – they all simultaneously go along with manipulating themselves.


    Posted on September 29th, 2013 at 12:40 pm Reply | Quote

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