Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Propaganda Justified in a Good Cause

Awash With Fallacious Deceit

Liar, liar pants on fire.  It seems we live in a world when parsimonious truthfulness is the norm.  Whether it's zealots pushing the global warming apocalypse or partisans pushing "public health" causes, the order of the day is dissembling and lies.  A lot of this sort of stuff comes spewing forth from overpaid academics who could not identify a fallacious argument if it came up and introduced itself.

Thus, as an exemplar of the genre, consider a "scientist" from Otago University who claimed that new, groundbreaking research "proved" that alcohol consumption led to cancer.  Well, actually, the proof rested on the fallacy of co-incidence being confused with causation, otherwise known as the "fallacy of false cause".
Professor Jennie Connor, of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand, reviewed recent studies and found alcohol is estimated to have caused 500,000 deaths since 2012, which is 5.8 per cent of all cancer deaths.  She said: "There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites, and probably others." She added the risks are reduced for some cancers when people stop drinking altogether.  The supposed health benefits of drinking - such as red wine being good for the heart - were "seen increasingly as disingenuous or irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers."  [NZ Herald]
Here is an academic in search of a sensational headline probably with the intent to generate more funding for her activities.  Meanwhile, another academic, equally in search of headlines and funding, put forward the argument that ninety percent of  males who died from cancer wore trousers.  Ergo, male attire was carcinogenic. The research and data are infallible.

Then there are those who claim that one in four women have been subject to sexual abuse.  Or that one in four women have been assaulted in their homes.  In these cases, "sexual abuse" and "assault" have been given such broad definitions, and the categories are so inclusive, we are surprised that it is only one in four who have allegedly suffered.

Even government departments and bureaucrats can lie, deceive, and dissemble when they have the bit of a noble cause between their teeth.  Work Safe--that part of the bureaucracy dedicated to making all places of work zones of saaaafety--has led the way down this dubious descent into propaganda.
Government safety agency WorkSafe NZ has taken television advertisements off-air after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled they exaggerated the impact of workplace accidents.  The ASA said the adverts, which were designed to draw attention to the impact of workplace accidents on families, were misleading.  [Stuff]
In short, the TV ads were lies.  They were deceptive and misleading.
The embarrassing admonishment stemmed from WorkSafe's claim that more than 23,000 people were severely injured or killed in New Zealand workplaces last year.  WorkSafe explained – but not in the broadcasts – that the injuries were ones that required people to have more than a week off work.  WorkSafe NZ chief executive Gordon MacDonald said the government agency made no apology for "challenging New Zealand to do better when it comes to keeping everyone healthy and safe at work".
In other words, Mr MacDonald is a zealot who has not let the facts get in the way of his cause.  The end very definitely justifies the means, in his world, even if he and his organisation were engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct.
Wellington economist Ian Harrison, who brought the original complaint, said WorkSafe had been clipped around the ears and he expected it would be "spewing".  He had taken issue with the adverts because of a matter of principle, he said.  "People can advocate for what they like, but being clear about facts is absolutely essential for government departments. They shouldn't play fast and loose."
No, they should not.
MacDonald said the complaint about the adverts had been a distraction.
So, the chappie running WorkSafe  is unrepentant, then.

One of the claims read out in the ad was that NZ's work accident death rate was double that of Australia's.  But it was all apples versus oranges.  Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
Harrison said that while the death rate was 60 per cent higher in New Zealand last year, that reflected the fact that its labour force was more heavily concentrated in hazardous occupations, and the injury rate was not higher. [Emphasis, ours.]
But some continue to believe that lying for a good cause is just fine.
The Commercial Approvals Bureau, set up by media companies to vet television advertisements, stood up for the WorkSafe adverts.  It told the ASA that "the goal of reducing the number of serious injuries and deaths in New Zealand is a justifiable reason to play on fear".
So make-believe fear is fine if it's all in the name of a "good cause".  Lying is justified in such cases.  Regrettably this "ethic" is now endemic in New Zealand.  We are awash with "good causes" being sustained by untruths, lies, and deception.  Even government agencies believe the end justifies using deceptive and misleading means.  Mendacity rules.

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