May 03 2009

Putting a smiley face on carbon taxes

As most of us know, half the battle is controlling the terms of the debate. And sometimes, it seems, if you want to sell something that few are buying, you need to consult a thesaurus.

Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. “We know why it’s lowest,” said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. “When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”

The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. “Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.” In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.”

“Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,” said the e-mail account of the group’s study.

Are Americans really this stupid?

Well, yes.  They elected Obama hoping for unspecified change.  Any old direction will do, it would seem.  They bought Clinton’s “contributions” for taxes, radical feminism’s “pro-choice” for anti-unborn child and pro-abortion, “gun control” for “guns for criminals only”, and “hate speech” for telling the truth, or at least exercising your First Amendment right to speak your mind.

One of the best ways to lie is just to pretend not to hear anyone who’s telling the truth, and keep right on as if they never spoke.  That’s exactly what’s happening in our national conversation, as the Left rules all the media but talk radio, and is gunning for that, too.  So “global warming” has morphed into “climate change” and “carbon taxes” is going to be “anti-pollution fees”, and so on.

In the meantime, if you had to bet, the smart money is that the earth is cooling, overall.  And the smarter money knows that even if it isn’t, the change is very gradual, probably has little to do with human activity, and it isn’t even clear that it will be a bad thing.

And by the way:  there were polar bears around when the earth was so warm that Greenland was verdant farm land, with nary a glacier in sight.  (That’s why it’s called GREENLAND.)   Somehow, the bears survived.

I suspect they will again.

5 Responses to “Putting a smiley face on carbon taxes”

  1. dave says:

    “hate speech” for telling the truth,

    Wow… really? Telling the truth? Very interesting…

    Of course… we can say the same things about the right and “truth” telling. The Right has gotten people to buy “death tax” for estate tax. “Pro-life” for anti-abortion and pro-death penalty. “Religious Right” with Republican ideology cloaked with religious language.

    Both sides distort language and meanings to get public buy-in.

  2. harmonicminer says:

    “Death tax” is not a distortion that obscures meaning. Nor is “pro-life”, which means “anti-unjust taking of life”, which applies to abortion, but not the death penalty. On the other hand, “pro-choice” removes all choices from the father or the soon-to-be-dead baby. It is a clear obfuscation, and its rhetoric NOT applied to any other situation where the left wants choices removed.

    You missed the most obvious “right side” distortion, though. The “fair tax” is anything but “fair”, and is a term of art designed to convey no meaning at all, but to create a vague sense of good will and “how can anyone be against THIS?” Sort of like “pro-choice”.

  3. dave says:

    “Death tax” is not a distortion that obscures meaning.

    What? It very clearly does. You don’t get taxed because you die, and you know it.

    Nor is “pro-life”, which means “anti-unjust taking of life”, which applies to abortion, but not the death penalty.

    Right… so pro-life only means some life. Which is exactly my point. When people are pro-war and pro-death penalty, that is clearly not pro-life. It is a perfect example of what you are talking about.

    The “fair tax” is anything but “fair”

    Ooh… good point. You are right, the fair tax isn’t fair. Thanks for pointing out another example.

  4. harmonicminer says:

    Come on Dave, when you die, and not until then, your property is taxed if you’re too rich by somebody’s standards. That’s a “death tax”

    The “pro-life” label is good, in the way that “pro-choice” is not, because it is a life or death issue, not a generic “choice” issue. Again, it makes no more sense to call a pro-abortion person “prochoice” than to call a person who thinks we have the right to own guns “pro-choice.” It is a label calculated to obscure.

    Of course, all labels are incomplete. It isn’t possible for ANY label to be otherwise, and we could have no discussions without them. Generalizations are necessary.

    But labels that don’t reveal ANYTHING about the actual content of the position are calculated merely to obscure, like “fair tax” and “pro-choice”, unlike “death tax” and “pro-life” which reveal in shorthand the essence of the situation, admittedly incompletely.

    “Climate change” is a perfect example. It is calculated to obscure two facts. 1) The climate is always changing, so it’s a meaningless thing to say. 2) It isn’t changing in the direction that people who use the term thought it would.

  5. Mike C says:

    Sorry guys but you have both been misled. Yes, this kind of charged
    rhetoric is used, along with card stacking and all the other means to
    socially control an unopposed argument. But, the real straw-man is
    that there are only two sides, hence, only two choices. No such luck.
    But, as you both clearly intend, the reader must pick one of two sides.
    The problem with this is that most people are capable of holding completely
    incompatible ideas with themselves and not be aware of, or, care about
    the incongruity. Is it any wonder that there is an entire science built
    around exploiting this fact.

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