How Big Oil is Manipulating the Way You Think About Climate Change

NB: To begin with, its global warming, not ‘climate change’, the term is itself an example of Orwellian manipulation. DS

By Kathleen Dean Moore / Salon

In medieval times, gamekeepers trained dogs to the hunt by setting them on the trail of a dead rabbit they had dragged through the forest. Once the dogs were baying along the rabbit’s scent, the gamekeeper ran across the trail ahead of them, dragging a gunny sack of red herrings. Red herrings are smoked fish that have been aged to a ruddy, stinking ripeness. If any dog veered off to follow the stench of the red herrings, the gamekeeper beat him with a stick. Thus did dogs learn not to be lured into barking up the wrong tree.

This practice became the namesake of one of the best-known types of fallacies, the red herring fallacy. As a philosophy professor, this is how I explain the fallacy to my students: If the argument is not going your opponent’s way, a common strategy — though a fallacious and dishonorable one — is to divert attention from the real issue by raising an issue that is only tangentially related to the first.

If our collective philosophical literacy were better, we might notice that this fallacy seems to be working spectacularly well for the fossil-fuel industry, the petrochemical industry, and a bunch of other bad actors who would like to throw us off the trail that would lead us fully to grasp their transgressions. We shouldn’t keep falling for it….