A substantial number of people don’t understand what “deceit” is, or think that what constitutes deceit isn’t a lie. Deceit, which I used to joke was the official language of Washington, D.C. until it was changed officially to Blatant Mendacity, is when a statement is literally true, but stated in such a way or in a context intended to make the reader or listener believe something that is not true at all. The fact that the statement may have been factual in a pure sense does not diminish its unethical character as a lie. Its intent is to deceive. It is a lie, just a particularly insidious one, aimed at the trusting, unwary, undiscerning and gullible.
I am always looking for a good example of this peculiar form of deception, and they don’t come much better than this.
Drexel University professor Robert Brulle performed a study he eventually called “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” and it was subsequently published in Climatic Change. Brulle identified 91 organizations that oppose anti-climate change policies, and added up the annual operating budgets of these groups, many of which are active in many issues and that devote a small percentage of their funding to climate change matters at all. He then characterized the resulting total of about $900 million per year from 2003 to 2010 as representing the resources dedicated to blocking the regulation of greenhouse gas production. Brulle’s study also treats foundation grants to these organizations if every dollar given is earmarked for climate policy opposition. Taking the hand-off from the study’s framing, The Guardian headlined its findings, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.” Notice the “up to,” which would apply if every cent given to organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, The Reason Foundation, The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Hudson Institute and many others were only expended or intended to be spent on anti-climate change position papers and advocacy. This isn’t just a gross exaggeration: it’s a lie, intended to be misleading. Continue reading