Science ignored in age of unreason

January 11, 2019

A couple of centuries since the Enlightenment when reason ought to rule, Dave Hansford says the denial agenda is  endangering the environment and economy:

The greatest threats to our native wildlife – and our rural economy – may yet be science denial and conspiracy belief.

Early in December, the Court of Appeal issued a final, frustrated rejection of the legal challenges of the Brook Valley Community Group (BVCG), ending a dismal and costly charade of junk science and delirious zealotry.

Or has it? . . 

Anti-1080 sentiment is now an indentured article of faith in the New Zealand conspiracy community, where facts hold no currency. There is no tool in the policy box to deal with wilful, determined ignorance, . . 

People might be entitled to their beliefs, but that confers no implicit right to be taken seriously.

It’s not just anti-1080 movement where junk science and delirious zealotry rule and facts hold no currency.

It’s sadly ironic that some of those so vehemently opposed to 1080 are as vehemently opposed to genetic modification even though it could hold the key to an alternative form of pest eradication.

But most opposition to genetic modification is based on emotion not facts, sentiment rather than science.

So too is a lot of the anti-farming rhetoric that is voiced by people who either don’t know, or won’t accept, the facts.

They are the ones who pat themselves on the backs for doing what they think is green but is only greenwash, blame all farmers for the poor performance of a few and give no credit at all to the majority who follow best environmental practices, based on science.


Fake news grows when gatekeepers go

September 18, 2018

Mainstream news outlets have gatekeepers.

They’re the people who decide what is real news and what is not.

They’re human and so not perfect.

They can let their bias colour decisions and, not knowing what they don’t know, let the wrong story through without at least some balance from the right one.

But they are still there to draft off deliberate and dangerous fake news.

Social media doesn’t have gatekeepers and without them fake news grows and spreads.

Lies, defamatory comments and accusations and false statements not only get published they go viral, infecting the world with untruths and fiction purporting to be facts.

In when anti-1080 activism grew  noisy and got uglyHayden Donnell  shows how it’s done:

. . .What caused the sudden escalation? Part of the answer can perhaps be traced back to October last year, when anti-1080 leaders held a think-tank near Nelson. There the lawyer Sue Grey gave a presentation on how to mainstream the movement. Grey has been a leading spokesperson in the medicinal cannabis movement, which has gained political traction and overwhelming public support in recent months, and she drew on her experience with that cause to outline a new anti-1080 strategy. Activists couldn’t rely on getting mainstream media coverage, she said. She proposed taking a different tack – co-opting stories about issues completely unrelated to 1080 to spread the anti-1080 message.

“You don’t have to wait for a story about 1080 to put a comment about 1080,” she said. “You know – here’s [a story on the fact] the prime minister’s in Vietnam – well put a comment ‘what’s the prime minister telling them about putting 1080 in our food?’. And you can actually sort of divert the whole story.

“There’s all sorts of things you can do to pick up on momentum and people are going ‘hang on, where’s all this 1080 stuff coming from’.” . . 

This sort of thread-jack happens on blogs too. An activist sees a post on x and uses it as an opportunity to write a comment that sides tracks with but what about y.

The tactics she outlined almost perfectly match a sea change in how anti-1080 activism is practised online, and particularly on Facebook.

I had my first encounter with the online anti-1080 movement last month after watching a live news video where Phil Twyford and Kris Faafoi glumly announced new rules governing wheel clamping. When I looked at the video’s comments section, almost no-one was interested in clamping. Nearly every comment was the same message, repeated over and over: Ban 1080.

I found out the comments had their roots in a single Facebook page: Operation Ban 1080. The 60,000-member group  was encouraging members to take advantage of Facebook’s easily evaded moderation tools to get their message heard on unrelated videos.

It was like Grey said in her seminar: they weren’t waiting for stories about 1080 to post a comment on 1080. They were diverting news stories on unrelated topics. They were being more noisy, and creating more trouble. . .

The dark side to that is familiar to anyone who’s watched fringe groups flourish on social media in recent years. Where Operation Ban 1080 would previously have had to go through gatekeepers to get their message heard – opening themselves up to scrutiny and countering opinion – on Facebook they were allowed to run wild. Emotive posts accusing 1080 of wholesale environmental destruction were actually rewarded by Facebook’s algorithm due to their high engagement. False posts or doctored photos showing native birds or deer “poisoned by 1080” went semi-viral. Lies could be posted without counterargument, and any objections were confined to other parts of the site.

“You get this snowballing crescendo of hysteria and conspiracy and science denial and hyperbole where, in order to keep on getting the likes on Facebook, each statement has to be more fantastical, more hyperbolic than the last,” said Dave Hansford, the author of Protecting Paradise: 1080 and the Fight to Save New Zealand’s Wildlife. “This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. Now they’re happy to just make shit up.” . .

That nails it and deserves repeating:

This is the whole fake news phenomenon. They used to be happy with simply misrepresenting studies or cherry-picking research or just denigrating scientists … but more recently that clown car has just like careered off this on-ramp to crazy town. People are no longer concerned with keeping even one fingertip still on a fact anymore. . . 

In crazy town, facts don’t matter, conspiracy theories grow and emotion trumps science.

Facebook and Twitter are particularly good seed-beds for growing fake news making it too, too easy for its proponents to spill their venom from their echo chambers to infect a wide network.

They go too far on-line which encourages followers to go too far in real life, as the anti-1080 protesters did last week.

But what happened next showed the downside of that increasing radicalisation. Fake 1080 pellets were thrown onto the steps of parliament, prompting a debate between environment minister David Parker and anti-1080 protesters. Then dead birds were laid outside parliament. Though protesters originally claimed the animals were killed by 1080, tests later showed they appeared to have died from blunt force trauma. A police complaint was laid. Public tolerance for the anti-1080 protests quickly waned.

To Hansford, that shows how the same forces behind the rise of the anti-1080 movement also contain the DNA for its demise. While the increasingly radical online activism has won supporters to the cause, it also increases the chance of someone taking the violent online rhetoric literally and doing something so harmful it ensures the anti-1080 movement is booted out of the limelight and back into the fringe conspiracy dustbin, he said. “It could end in tragedy and if it keeps going there’s a good chance it’s going to. And on that day, public support for the anti-1080 movement evaporates.”

They have already gone too far:

Department of Conservation staff are facing a torrent of online threats and abuse following a recent spike in anti-1080 protests. . .

Last year they went even further, loosening wheel nuts on DoC cars and making threats to staff safety.

But still the lies travel further and faster than the truth without the gatekeepers to stop the infection.

In the face of that we have to vaccinate ourselves against the fake news virus with sceptisism and science, and follow Edgar Allan Poe’s advice to believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.

 


Rural round-up

June 10, 2014

More qualifications needed in future:

A new report released by the Ministry for Primary Industries indicates a lot more people in the sector are going to have to have a tertiary qualification if they hope to take advantage of a predicted 15 percent increase in jobs by 2025.

MPI manager of science and skills policy Naomi Parker said even roles that traditionally did not require post secondary school qualifications would do so in future because of the increasing reliance on technology. . . .

Eradicating TB from Rangitoto enhances biodiversity:

TBfree New Zealand is working with environmental groups to stamp out pests in the Rangitoto Range to control bovine tuberculosis (TB) and bring the birds back.

The Hauhungaroa and Rangitoto ranges make up a part of New Zealand’s 10 million hectare TB risk area in which TB-infected wild animals have been found.

The objective of the national pest management plan is to eradicate the disease from at least 2.5 million hectares of the country’s total TB risk area by 2026. TBfree New Zealand aims to eradicate the disease from the Rangitoto Range as part of this plan. . . .

Water and governance under scrutiny at Massey:

Framing new ways for organisations to collaborate over controversial decisions, such as water use, is the focus of a Massey University symposium involving some of New Zealand’s key leaders in governance.

The July 8 symposium, Redefining Governance for the new New Zealand, brings together a diverse range of experts and thought leaders with experience in governance.

Speakers and panellists include Alastair Bisley (chair of the Land and Water
orum), Suzanne Snivelly (economic strategist), David Shand (public sector reformer and a member of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance), Grant Taylor (Auckland Council’s governance director), and Dave Hansford (award-winning photographer and environmental journalist). . . .

Fonterra Appoints MD Global Operations:

Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited announced today the appointment of Robert Spurway to the role of Managing Director Global Operations, a newly-created position on Fonterra’s management team.

Chief Executive Theo Spierings said Mr Spurway was uniquely qualified for the position.

“Robert is currently Acting Director New Zealand Operations in NZ Milk Products, responsible for overseeing milk collection, manufacturing and logistics for the Co-operative’s New Zealand milk supply.

“One of our top business priorities is to optimise our global ingredients sales and operations footprint, so we can better manage price volatility and increase value, while ensuring a total focus on food safety and quality, and our customers’ needs. . .

 

 Technology to top farmers’ shopping list:

Agricultural Fieldays 2014 will be a measure of how the agribusiness sector is gearing up to capitalise on growing export opportunities, according to New Zealand’s largest agricultural lender, ANZ New Zealand.

“With an economic recovery in full swing and growing export demand for New Zealand agricultural products, the scene is set for farmers to again invest in the technology that will drive productivity,” said Graham Turley, ANZ’s Managing Director Commercial & Agri.

“Agri-business is New Zealand’s most productive and successful business sector and it achieves this through ongoing investment in market leading technology. Agri businesses are only as successful as they are because they constantly innovate. . .

 

Hottest new dairy technology designed in New Zealand:

Technology designed to bring the power of intelligent communication and unprecedented future proofing to dairy farmers’ milking systems will be highlighted at National Fieldays.

The product in the spotlight at this year’s show (11-14 June) on the Waikato Milking Systems stand is a newly designed product known as the Bail Marshal.

The New Zealand owned company’s Chief Executive Dean Bell says the innovative product has been designed to enable all technology devices on a milking system to work together seamlessly and continually communicate with each other. . . .

Sharp Blacks Get Ready for the Tri-Nations:

 

Pure South Sharp Blacks

Our national butchery team diced up their final practice yesterday proving they have got what it takes to defend their title against Australia and England next month.
This year our team of six top butchers, the Pure South Sharp Blacks, travel to Yorkshire, England to compete in the Tri-Nations Butchers’ Challenge.

After many months of refining their skill, the Pure South Sharp Blacks performance at their last practice, held at Wilson Hellaby in Auckland, has confirmed just how promising our national team is. . .

Ambitious Butchers Make the Cut:

The Alto Young Butcher and Competenz Butcher Apprentice of the Year is well underway with the Lower North Island Regional held yesterday in Palmerston North.

The Alto Young Butcher winner Alex Harper of The Village Butcher in Frimley, Hastings and Competenz Butcher Apprentice winner Amy Jones of New World Taumarunui have successfully secured their place to challenge some of the finest butchery talent in the country at the Grand Final in September.

Alex and Amy’s motivations are high with a study tour around Europe up for grabs if they are successful in the next stage of the competition. . . .

A taste of New Zealand in Dubai, Taiwan and Singapore:

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been giving the world a taste of New Zealand.

In Dubai, New Zealand was centre stage for the 2014 Taste New Zealand chef competition. Targeted at professional chefs, the competition aims to raise awareness of the diversity and quality of New Zealand food and drink products available in the United Arab Emirates amongst chefs, buyers, and food service and retail industry leaders. Last year, the competition helped NZTE customers secure $4 million in new deals. . . .


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