Internet silos become ideological ghettos

By Ken Perrott 13/09/2012

Just six days ago the NZ High Court released its judgement on the attempt by local climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics/crackpots to get a judicial overthrow of the NZ temperature record managed by NIWA scientists (see New Zealand climate change denial defeated).

This seemed to precipitate a frenzy of internet activity by these deniers/contrarians/sceptics/crackpots to discredit the judgement, smear Justice Venning, and repeat to themselves their comfort mantras like “global warming has stopped,” “there has been no temperature increase in 10, or 15, years,” etc., etc. Perhaps these people are just attempting to divert their own attention away from the fact that they must now find the money to pay for the costs of this little episode.

But I have found the exercise quite fascinating from a psychological viewpoint. It seems to me to brilliantly illustrate one of the main problems with internet discussion and information. That while the internet provides the technology for increased communication of ideas and opening of minds, in many areas it seems to work in the opposite direction.

Peter Jackson commented on this problem in his The Telegram article, Global warming real: attack on scientists, surreal – Columns – The Telegram. In this he mentioned a talk given by Harris/Decima pollster Allan Gregg at Carleton University in Ottawa last week.

“Among Gregg’s most interesting remarks were those on how the Internet, once seen as the great democratizer and educator, has instead become a useful tool to harness ignorance.”

Jackson gave Gregg the final words with this quote:

“If I believe the Earth is flat, (the Internet) puts me in touch with legions of fellow flat-Earthers and reams of pseudo-science to support that belief. As importantly, I never have to be exposed to any contrary views and can find total refuge in my community of flat-Earthers.

“The Internet, therefore, offers me the opportunity to have a completely closed mind and, at one and the same time, fill it full of nonsense disguised as fact. In a brand new way, therefore, the Internet democratizes not just individual opinion, but legitimizes collective ignorance and spreads a bizarro world of alternative reason. When this occurs, prejudice and bias is reinforced and the authority of real science and evidence is undermined, or even more likely, never presented.”

This seem to be happening in a number of important areas related to science and its relevance to education or public policy. Avenues of communication are being cut. The walls are being erected.

The internet silos are becoming ideological ghettos!

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0 Responses to “Internet silos become ideological ghettos”

  • I think people don’t want another tax, that BP, Shell, Chervon and greed inc should be paying

    • Derek – do you rely on your attitude towards taxes to judge scientific truth? I think some people do ( or more correctly rely on their ideological prejudices). Hence ideological ghettoes.

  • I see this on a global warming post “With the world aspiring to hold warming to 2°C, there is time enough to stop really bad things happening.” yeah right like we can stop nature. All these court cases do not mean much when it comes to science, Because when there is this much money being put into an argument by the government it usually means one thing.

    • Derek – where has anyone proposed that “we stop nature”? Move the sun, change the declination of the earth? Come off it.

      Mitigation procedures are aimed at things like reducing burning of fossil fuel, release of methane etc. in other words modifying human activity – possible if we can just get ourselves sorted politically.