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Category: Assertion

Nutrition: the role that propaganda played in picking the wrong villain

Nutrition: the role that propaganda played in picking the wrong villain

Yudkin argued that excess sugar was causing health problems. Keys argued that sugar was not the problem – the consumption of fat was causing health problems. Keys was effective at loudly denouncing anyone who criticized his fat hypothesis. For 40 years, we were told to avoid all fats and that sugar consumption was not a problem. Propaganda messaging played a major role in persuading the public that any fat in the diet was bad while simultaneously asserting that sugar consumption was not a problem for most people.

Journalism: “Fears of economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season – MarketWatch”

Journalism: “Fears of economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season – MarketWatch”

The headline comes from a survey finding consumers are concerned about a future recession. Public opinion polls, particularly when asking people to express an opinion on subjects of which they have neither expert nor first hand knowledge, are primarily measuring the effectiveness of prior propaganda messaging. In this example, 2019 has been filled with a stream of news reports predicting a recession. In fact, these predictions have been underway for years. And they have been wrong – particularly since no one has demonstrated any skill in accurately forecasting future recessions. But they are effective at shaping public opinion, which could result in consumers changing their behavior in ways that reduce economic activity.


The headline story is itself followed by a sequence of upbeat economic news. In fact, 2019 holiday sales are running 15% above the prior year, to date.

Climate communications: Time Magazine changes headline three times, uses false headline “How Asthma Inhalers are Choking the Planet”

Climate communications: Time Magazine changes headline three times, uses false headline “How Asthma Inhalers are Choking the Planet”

Time Magazine engaged in deliberate, and false, propaganda messaging to influence readers to take action. After contacting the magazine, they did, at least, revise the headline (for the 3rd time). They began with the accurate headline “How Asthma Inhalers are Contributing to Climate Change” but immediately changed it and promoted this rude and 100% false headline: “How Asthma Inhalers are Choking the Planet”.

First, making crude humor of asthmatics “choking” is not funny and is rude and insensitive. Second, it is physically impossible for inhalers to be “choking the planet”. In homes where someone uses an inhaler, annual inhaler usage produces about 1% of the total CO2-equivalent gases emitted by the home and life activities during the course of a year. If all inhalers were eliminated tomorrow, there would be no measurable impact on weather or climate over the next 100 years. A worst case inhaler, using data cited by Time and BMJ, produces about half the CO2-equivalent GHC as does a person breathing and exhaling CO2. Seriously. Just breathing is a bigger threat than using inhalers.

Time eventually changed the headline to the better, but still misleading “How One Commonly Used Asthma Inhaler is Damaging the Planet”. Their fiction story also referenced the wrong gas used as a propellant, cited an exaggerated greenhouse gas effect multiplier from an environmental activist group rather than the more modest IPCC AR5 science-based estimate, and then omitted many article changes from their Corrections List. The text itself continues to climate shame asthmatics with the false “Choking the Planet” claim.

This is an example of garbage journalism and how not to do do climate communications.

Propaganda method: Recycle old stories that are years out of date-“The American Dream Is Killing Us”

Propaganda method: Recycle old stories that are years out of date-“The American Dream Is Killing Us”

Recycling an old opinion column by an author who focuses on persuading you that life is miserable, not fair and getting worse – is an interesting twist on propaganda. The date – its old -is not presented until a footnote at the very end of the very long column; the column was written during the recovery from The Great Recession, immediately after significant economic turmoil. This is the media’s usual focus on negativity by an author who makes his living on negativity.

Climate communications: “Windfarms kill 10-20 times more than previously thought”

Climate communications: “Windfarms kill 10-20 times more than previously thought”

“Windfarms kill 10-20 times more birds” sounds really scary – until you discover it is less than 1/1000th the number of bird kills caused by cats, crashing into buildings, vehicles and power lines each year. Seems that this item may be advocating against taking steps to reduce CO2-equivalent outputs, but like much propaganda, uses the method of cherry picking to give the target an incomplete picture.