Will You Be Our Echo Chamber?

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Will you be our echo chamber?

If I asked that of any scientist or doctor I know, and there are a lot, the answers would be as individualistic as they are; some would just ignore me as a courtesy rather than insult me, some would say something like, 'ummm, if you are right, I will say you are right, but echo chamber...?', some will make goat noises at me for asking them to engage in what is obviously public relations.

Yet in the anti-science community, it is such a given that it will happen, that sort of technique is so common, that they just blatantly ask each other to parrot their work. It doesn't matter how flawed it is, it doesn't matter if there is any evidence-basis to it, if it is libel or smear or speculation, no one even reads it, they just echo chamber it.

Here's one example. I don't mean to pick on Friends of the Earth, this is just the email I took a screenshot of - well, we should pick on them for being deniers for hire against all of biology - but I mean this email is nothing exceptional. Every single one of these groups does it and I just happened to pick FoE.

Why do they do it? Because it works, obviously. These are not scientists, they are cultural spokespeople, some of them are quasi-religious firebrands possessed with the spark of true conviction about their food process, so they truly think they are in a holy war against Evil Corporations who control science, but for the most part these are just corporate toadies doing the work of the companies and trade groups giving them dark money. (1) They sound crazy paranoid, especially to those of us who are supposedly part of this cabal on the science side, but if your marketplace is zealots you have to feed them ideological red meat. Sorry, I mean red organic veggie burgers.

Obviously if you have read the first page of Google about us, or the Wikipedia page on us that is being constantly hijacked by these contractors for environmental groups, you know they have mastered the echo chamber really well. The Internet is chock full of propaganda about us but we are also not the only ones who have been smeared. We are instead victims of a well-orchestrated denial conspiracy that claims to be combating a conspiracy among scientists - but it is one that elites in environmental groups invented.

I have quite literally never had anyone on the pro-science side - not a scientist, not a journalist, not a blogger, no one - ask me to be their echo chamber. It would be bad form, downright unthinkable, because it suggests we are too stupid to be able to decide for ourselves what is worth sending around to our friends.

What does that say about how Friends of the Earth regards its donors and fellow anti-science activists? Nothing good.

Still, we are in a culture war against people who have no ethics and will do anything for money, and history is only written by the winners. So given that reality, why don't we do it too? I suppose we never thought of it. It also probably wouldn't work. Trying to control scientists is like herding butterflies, except really mean ones with Internet access who will lambaste you if you try to manipulate them - it's a big waste of time and a lot will probably go wrong and it will end up in lost friendships.

Plus, a big disadvantage we have is that our supporters are usually working at their jobs; sane, employed people don't have time to get email alerts about their hatchet pieces on Wikipedia being edited to not be crank screeds, or scour the Internet to shout down scientists and doctors. But Friends of the Earth and Sourcewatch and U.S Right To Know and some 300 other organizations either created or funded by organic company trade reps count those kinds of evangelists as their most prized possessions; it provides the veneer of validity even though the world of science knows they are just astroturfing an issue they are being paid to rant about.

So please read what we write, comment if you'd like. It's why we're here.

But don't be my echo chamber. Because if we all think the same way, there isn't any need for more than one of us.


(1) So as not to look like I am only highlighting Friends of the Earth, here is the PR group run by anti-science activist Gary Ruskin, which they ironically named U.S. Right To Know. Only 1.5% of their funding does not come from a corporation.