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Example: Manipulating Audience Perceptions

Alan Forrester wrote an article, Mental illness as a strategy – the Michael Sandford case. I comment on one sentence:

At about 8:20 [in the video] Sandford is quoted as writing that the sun will destroy the Earth in five billion years, but he thinks humans will destroy the world before then.

That humans are "destroying the planet" is quite a popular opinion. Yet Sandford is presented as being a freak, an outcast, a mentally ill person, for having this opinion. How? (BTW I'm just going by the blog post text, not the video.)

Thinking of the sun destroying the earth is weird unless its an astrophysics context, which this isn't. Normal people don't think about the distant future, and certainly not in order to fantasize about a giant explosion killing everyone. Presented in that light, which Alan's summary hints at, it sounds creepy. They purposely choose quotes they can distort or which come off wrong to people.

This sets the stage for falsely making the idea of humans destroying the world sound abnormal instead of normal. And using the word "world" instead of "planet" makes it sound different than the environmentalist slogan and helps people fail to consider how common this view is. Many readers who believe this themselves will view Sandford as a mentally-deranged freak who hates humanity and wants us all to die and is overly prone to loathsome thinking, and so on. They won't stop to think about how his views compare to their own, they will just assume his are bad.

This kind of hypocrisy is typical everywhere, e.g. people text while driving but think it's bad to text while driving and are outraged that other people text while driving. While complaining about others, they're often able to forget (or just not think about) the fact that they do it.

Relevantly, Alan also wrote:

Nor did anyone think it might be a good idea to look critically at environmentalists’ prophecies of the end of the world. The idea that we’re going to destroy the world depends on the assumption that we’re not going to solve problems caused by our actions. Since nobody can know whether or how we’ll solve these problems before we make the relevant choices, such prophecies are irrational. Taking environmentalist prophecies seriously was interpreted as a problem with Michael, not a problem with the prophecies.


Elliot Temple on January 2, 2019

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