Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Denialists' Deck of Cards

The Denialists' Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts

Chris Jay Hoofnagle details the public relations methodology of CATO and other anti-consumer, business-funded organizations. Count how many of these you've heard on your favorite topic: global warming, for example.

I think the cards angle is a bit lame (and disliked the Bush Iraq application), but the large number of strategies needs to be organized somehow.

In the Discussion, Environmental, and CATO indexes.

Tip of the hat to David Fetter, who suggested it.


John said...

Mike, one thing I do admire is your persistence in trying to formulate some kind of "grand unified theory," if you will, that would purport undermine libertarian-oriented ideology before its argument -- as applied to any given issue -- has even been put forth.

As the quality of this piece suggests, your objective continues to elude you. But its pretty well-settled that particular groups with a specific ideological or political aims would adopt repetitive and predictable patterns of argument. Why do the "large number of strategies" employed by CATO or AEI "need to be organized" -- where those utilized by Public Citizen, for instance, do not?

Mike Huben said...

John, I don't think it would be possible to make such a "grand unified theory": if only because there are so many different, contradictory libertarianisms.

Even if I restricted myself to one well-defined libertarian position (and I doubt that really exists.) based on good reasoning, some libertarian holding that position might make an argument whose assumptions, reasoning, or result I agree with.

CATO and AEI are fundamentally organizations which apply public relations techniques to promote viewpoints in ways that are essentially fraudulent or subrational. See my index So You Want To Discuss Libertarianism....

Of course these ideas could be applied to criticize Public Citizen and other consumerist, populist, or liberal groups IF they were applying public relations techniques instead of straightforward rational advocacy.

But what we see from CATO and AEI is truly grotesque.

John said...

straitforward rational Nader's lies about the Corvair for instance.

Mike Huben said...

Remarkable that you had to go back 42 years to find an example: that is if we agree with you.

But what about the rest of Nader's book, Unsafe At Any Speed? Was he right that auto safety could be improved?

John said...

Well, the Corvair example is important because "Unsafe at Any Speed," is the really the ideological birthplace of modern-day "consumer protection" racket.

And, sure, auto safety can always be improved. The real question is the whether the correlative costs and benefits that accompany the means of improvement preferred by guys like Nader (lawyers, legislators, & judges) are superior to those which are market driven. Generally speaking, the answer is no.

Zarquon said...

Cato and AEI tells lies, Public Citizen tells lies, therefore Cato and AEI are right? That's some great reasoning isn't it?

John, I wonder if you aren't trying to pull off another "Clinton did it too!" ( ). The objective isn't to defend your own position, but to attack the opposing positions with, "Your Side Did It Too!" (Whether the other side actually did that isn't important. After all, who needs facts?) So you use fallacies, and they use fallacies, then -- bam! -- suddenly that means you're right! Magic!

-- bi,

John said...

Only a dim reader would take my points as either a defense (or criticism) AEI or CATO.

I'm certainly more ideologically alligned with those entities that I am with Public Citizen, but I believe the incentive structure that dominates any of these organizations will cause its members to compromise themselves on facts that don't comport with the dominant groupthink. (Milton Friedman didn't like "think-tanks" for just that reason.) Public Citizen and CATO are pursuing agendas that are in conflict -- but each have their own strategems and predictable set of arguments.

Zarquon said...

"Only a dim reader would take my points as either a defense (or criticism) AEI or CATO."

So, what kind of bright reader sees a blog titled "Critiques of Libertarianism" and expects it to be equally hard on all political ideologies?

Since this blog and this blog post is about libertarian rhetoric, let's focus on that; there's no need to try and derail it. Either CATO and AEI's arguments are sound, or they are not. And if they're not sound, then Huben is basically right.

-- bi,