Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 2 of Hearts, “Bad Apples”

Yesterday, I discussed how “no problem” is a chorus in denialist rhetoric. But sometimes, something bad has happened, and it’s more or less impossible say “no problem” with a straight face. What can a denialist do?

i-3a98e902c2d2451ed6523a0e819bb2f7-2h.jpg The 2 of Hearts, Bad apples! Yes, to the extent that something bad may have happened, blame it on “bad apples.” You know the type. The barrel isn’t rotten. Therefore, there’s no problem! Remember, “no problem” is a chorus. Get used to saying or hearing it. i-26d3e2de9d40c67587ac1379dd0de514-2d.jpg

Watch for this important technique–a spokesperson from a trade group will make some guarantee that an industry won’t engage in some practice. This promise is illusory and cannot be enforced. Accordingly, it allows the industry to promise never to do what the bad apples are doing, while really not promising anything.

An example–a year ago, the DC attorney general brought suit against a company for not processing rebates. The lawsuit was based upon 2,000 complaints! Still, it was just bad apples! “‘We respectfully disagree with the Attorney General’s assertion…,’ Greg S. Cole, senior vice president and corporate treasurer (of InPhonic), said in a written statement. ‘Any time you’re dealing with millions of customers, as we are, there are going to be occasional concerns.'” Annys Shin, D.C. Sues InPhonic Over Rebate Restrictions, Washington Post, Jun. 9, 2006.

A variation on the “bad apples” argument is to say that a regulation should not be promulgated because bad apples won’t comply: “‘The irony is that do-not-call lists are not going to stop the bad apples in the industry,’ [Lou] Mastria [of the Direct Marketing Association] said. ‘They are not going to use the lists. The states would be better off targeting illegitimate telemarketing firms for enforcement.'” Direct Marketers Grappling with Proliferation of State No-Call Laws, BNA Privacy & Security Law Report, Sept. 23, 2002.