Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 4 of Diamonds, “Consumer Freedom”

i-fdadf3f4eafaf88a43c4ba0f2ec49117-4d.jpg Given that there is consumer education, any attempt to limit the practices in questions threaten consumer freedom. Denialists will assume that people are perfectly rational and in possession of all relevant information. Thus, individuals choose the problem being addressed, and to limit it frustrates consumer freedom, because they like the problem or harm at issue.

Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The Second Hand, Consumer Education

Okay, you’ve tried denying that the problem exists, you’ve tried to trivialize the problem, and you’ve even argued that the problem causes so harm, so it isn’t a problem. Obviously, this no harm thing begins to have diminishing returns. What’s next?
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Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 3 of Spades, “Dolittle and DeLay”


At this point, the denalist engages in delay. The problem that doesn’t exist, and the harms that do not occur will continue not occur in the future, if we just wait.

A great “wait and see” tactic is to “shift the goal posts.” The denialist does by stating, “we don’t know that there is a problem until X is demonstrated.” The denialist will set unrealistic expectations for X, and if X is shown, it can easily be changed to Y. In the climate change debate, denialists claimed that we did not have enough historical information to make determinations about global temperatures. In 1998, Michael Mann’s research allowed scientists to view 1,000 years of temperature data. That wasn’t enough for the denialists. New advances enable a far deeper knowledge of global temperature, but with each new advance, denialists say it does not go far enough.

Another is to delay by calling for a study of the non-existent problem. I call this the Mustapha Mond option. In the California RFID debate, industry lobbyists argued against setting security and privacy standards, and instead suggested that a “study committee” be formed. This committee would produce a non-binding report with recommendations, some time in the future. The buys the industry time, and then allows a completely new debate over whether the study was proper.

Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 3 of Hearts, “No Harm”

Okay, my industry lobbyists in training. You’ve said “no problem” over and over. You’ve dismissed problems as attributable to bad apples, or diminished the problem as a “mere inconvenience.” But people still seem to think that the problem that doesn’t exist still exists. You’re getting more and more press calls on the non-existent problem. What next?

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Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 2 of Spades, “Mere Inconvenience”

Are you practicing the “no problem” hand? You know how it goes–“there’s no problem” (damn persnickety do gooders)! And even if people sometimes think that there is a problem, the problem that isn’t a problem is caused by bad apples. But it really isn’t even a problem.

i-73e8da0bce0cebef8eca34b7b2dc4657-2s.jpg It’s just a mere inconvenience! Therefore, there’s no problem! Remember this argument from the do-not-call debate on telemarketing? i-6c50acac1780b0bca2ca26938b76a298-3c.jpg

Denialists’ Deck of Cards: The 2 of Clubs, “No Problem”

I’m very proud to be on Scienceblogs with Mark, and for my first posts, I’m going to be introducing the Denialists’ Deck of Cards, a humorous way to think about rhetorical techniques that are used in public debate. Those who pay attention to consumer protection issues, especially in product safety (especially tobacco, food, drugs), will recognize these techniques. The goal of classifying them in this way is to advance public understanding of how these techniques can be used to stifle reform in consumer protection or on other issues. So, the Denialists’ Deck is extremely cynical. But it is a reflection of and reaction to how poor the public policy debates in Washington have become.
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