Nothing is more Orwellian than quoting Orwell to attack freedom of thought and discussion. Today’s ClimateWire (subscription required) provides a case in point. “Scientists need to stop doublespeak on climate, [PR] experts say,” reports Christa Marshall. By doublespeak, Orwell meant a political orthodoxy so pervasively embraced as a party line that everybody sheepishly repeats and even believes manifest falsehoods: Ignorance Is Strength, Freedom Is Slavery, War Is Peace.
But to the PR experts cited by Marshall, “doublespeak” means that the world’s scientists, journalists, and government agencies do not all speak about climate change with one voice.
Because of this “doublespeak,” say the experts, “The dangers of global warming are not getting through to the public.” I have a better explanation. Blaming SUVs for hurricane Katrina sets off the public’s B.S. detector, as do implausible scenarios of sea levels rising 20 feet and the climate “tipping” into an Ice Age in our lifetimes or those of our children.
Be that as it may, when these PR experts (who presumably would be happy to have university departments, science journals, and government agencies pay them for their services) say that scientists must do a better job of communicating with the public, what they really mean is that scientists must do a better job of scaring people.
What Orwell would resent most is their demand that every scientist, scientific organization, and agency speak in unison. Although outrageous, this attempt to collectivize scientific discourse–this campaign to turn climate science into a party line–is hardly surprising or new. In fact, it is the arguably the very purpose for which the IPCC was established in the first place.