The six main plays in the denialist’s playbook
Doubt the Science
Question Scientists’ Motives and Integrity
Magnify Disagreements among Scientists and Cite Gadflies as Authorities
Exaggerate Potential Harm
Appeal to Personal Freedom
Reject Whatever Would Repudiate A Key Philosophy
Do those look familiar? They should. They’re being used now during this pandemic. They’ve been used to deny climate change, and earlier, the harm caused by tobacco. They’ve been used for over 150 years to attack the reality of evolution. Since the 1950s, tragically, they’ve been used to attack the polio vaccines. While we’ve managed to bring the number of annual cases of polio down to near zero in spite of it, we could have done it sooner and more easily without the intense opposition. Many more people could have been spared. You can’t tell that to the deniers, though. They’re still clinging to their beliefs, and using the same playbook.
The purpose of the denialism playbook is to advance rhetorical arguments that give the appearance of legitimate debate when there is none. My purpose here is to penetrate that rhetorical fog, and to show that these are the predictable tactics of those clinging to an untenable position. If we hope to find any cure for (or vaccine against) science denialism, scientists, journalists and the public need to be able recognize, understand and anticipate these plays.
The denialist playbook is now erupting around the coronavirus. Although COVID-19 is new, the reactions to public health measures, scientific claims, and expert advice are not. Attitudes and behaviors concerning the threat posed by the coronavirus (doubting the science), the efficacy of lockdowns and mask wearing (freedoms being eroded) and alternative treatments (gadflies over experts) are being driven as much or more by rhetoric than by evidence.
Go check out the article for the full picture.