Al Gore’s sequel to his 2006 movie is coming out today, and in his various promotions for it, he repeats basically the same standard message he’s had for years to whoever is listening, such as what we see in this weeks-old video. But one of his repetitions is not merely something he created for this current promotional tour. It is far older than that.
From the immediate start of that video:
Anything that’s painful to think about or seems like it’s going to be painful to think about triggers a defensive reaction in many of us, we want to push it away. Psychologists sometimes call that denial. …
… There has been an enormous amount of money spent by large carbon polluters and their ideological allies to try to create false doubt. They took a page from the playbook of the tobacco companies … the same thing is going on now with some, not all, some of the large carbon polluters, putting out false information, hiring pseudo scientists to pretend that they have the lowdown on the science …
A determined minority—with active financial support from a few large carbon polluters—has held up progress for quite a while. They have used lobbying power and the threat of financing primary opponents, using the same techniques we saw in the past with Big Tobacco to falsely create doubt. All of us are vulnerable to what psychologists call denial: If something is uncomfortable, it’s easier to push it away, to not engage. …
Loyal followers of my work know exactly where I am going with Gore’s insinuations about corporate corruption ‘designed to ‘reposition global warming facts as something to doubt.’ In examining his other repeated talking point about the psychological denial of the issue, it’s hard to miss references to the ‘corrupted skeptic side.’
Powerful corporations with an interest in delaying action have lavished money on a cynical and dishonest public campaign to manipulate public opinion by sowing false doubts about the reality of the climate crisis. …
Many have described the climate crisis as “the issue from hell,” …. Because the solutions involve .. modifying long-standing patterns, it triggers our natural reluctance to change …
“Denial” is a psychological tendency to which we all are vulnerable … “An unconscious defense mechanism characterized by a refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings.”
Certainly the prospect of a catastrophic threat to the future of all global civilization qualifies as “an unpleasant thought.”
In a much bigger spread of words in Gore’s epic-length 2011 Rolling Stone magazine “Climate of Denial” article, we see that his bits about corporate corruption and public denial as a setup for his new movie aren’t new at all:
… a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters spelled out their principal strategy: “Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact.” Ever since, they have been sowing doubt even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them. …
… since human nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable, it naturally seems difficult to accept. Moreover, since this new reality is painful to contemplate, and requires big changes in policy and behavior that are at the outer limit of our ability, it is all too easy to fall into the psychological state of denial.
(As I described at that time, regarding Gore’s reference to the “reposition global warming” phrase, there was a really odd problem with it. But it’s a whole other story.)
Who else is seen in connection with the ‘crooked skeptics’ and the ‘psychological denial’ concepts? Of course, the hint was in Gore’s oddly veiled reference to the “reposition global warming” phrase in that Rolling Stone piece.
From the guest author’s Chapter One of Herbert Girardet’s 2007 “Surviving the Century: Facing Climate Chaos and Other Global Challenges” anthology, here is that same narrative:
When people are confronted with an apparently overwhelming problem and they don’t see an intellectually persuasive remedy it leaves them mired in feelings of impotence. That is an extremely uncomfortable feeling. So a very natural reaction in the face of such a situation is not to want to acknowledge the problem. Denial, after all, can serve as a means of protecting one’s emotional equilibrium. Parenthetically, that is the reason I wrote the book Boiling Point. …
Much of the failure of the press to address this problem originated with a sustained and very effective campaign of deception and disinformation by the coal and oil lobby within the US. … The response of those industries was to mount a very successful campaign of disinformation, using a tiny handful of greenhouse sceptics, most of whom failed to voluntarily disclose the fact that they were funded by fossil fuel interests.
Who wrote Girardet’s Chapter One? Ross Gelbspan.
Seems this was a popular thing in early 2007. From the Boston Globe‘s February 9, 2007 “No change in political climate” piece by Ellen Goodman (yes, the same Ellen Goodman who infamously equated skeptics of man-caused global warming with Holocaust deniers), we have this:
…Speaking of corruption of science, the American Enterprise Institute, which has gotten $1.6 million over the years from Exxon Mobil …
… there are psychological as well as political reasons why global warming remains in the cool basement of priorities. It may be, paradoxically, that framing this issue in catastrophic terms ends up paralyzing instead of motivating us.
… As Ross Gelbspan, author of “The Heat is On,” says, “when people are confronted with an overwhelming threat and don’t see a solution, it makes them feel impotent. So they shrug it off or go into deliberate denial.”
RG: When people are confronted with an overwhelming problem, and they don’t see an intellectually honest solution, that just makes them feel impotent, and that’s a really terrible feeling to sit with. So they just turn away.
… The oil and coal industries do more than a trillion dollars a year in commerce, and that’s what this is about … there is no difference between the kind of corruption we’re seeing in this story and the kind of corruption we’ve seen before that leads to looted pension funds and defective products.
Going back to June 2000, Gelbspan’s presentation at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, for the Climate Change Communication Conference, he offered the following in his “The Mismatch Between the Cultures of Journalism and Science” speech (pg 512 here; click the “continue to PDF” there if needed):
… I’d like to talk briefly to the issue of psychological denial. Separate and apart from the disinformation campaign engineered by the industry, there is a very natural human reaction to look away. Confronting an insurmountable problem leaves one with a profound feeling of impotence — which is extremely uncomfortable. And it is a very understandable and human reaction simply to not want to know abut it.
See the pattern? No matter where you go with the ‘public is reluctant to accept catastrophic man-caused global warming’ talking point, there is the ‘industry-corrupted skeptics’ accusation — Gelbspan’s accusation about leaked fossil fuel industry memos. One of which Gore’s 2006 movie compared straight to the Tobacco industry’s infamous “Doubt is our Product” leaked memo, saying Gelbspan discovered the fossil fuel industry one. Even though Gore seems to have possessed that particular memo pile years before Gelbspan first mentioned them.
See the fatal problem for Gore? Critical, objective thinking adults won’t buy the idea that they ‘deny the reality of settled science climate change’ because they know there is a plausible counterargument to Gore’s one-sided version of the science, and they know guilt-by-association is not enough to indict anyone of being corrupted by corporate interests. Add to that, Gore’s and Gelbspan’s portrayal of the “reposition global warming” leaked memo phrase as smoking gun corruption evidence has a gigantic problem.
The longer anyone looks into Al Gore’s version of the issue, the more it looks Gore and his friends felt a long ago necessity to construct ancillary narratives accompanying the ‘crooked scientists’ accusation. A total marketing package, in other words, for the notion of man-caused global warming as a ‘settled science.’
What’s wrong with that picture?