From HIV to climate change: how to spot denialists in action

From HIV to climate change: how to spot denialists in action


Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto By Sean O’Neill and Debora MacKenzie US president Donald Trump has sparked anxiety in the scientific community by denying climate change, casting doubt on the use of vaccines, and generally decrying experts who don’t toe the Trump administration’s line. Virtually everything Trump disagrees with is dismissed as “fake news”. Denialism is inevitable whenever powerful financial, governmental, cultural or religious interests come into conflict with scientific reality. HIV researcher Glenda Gray saw this first hand at the turn of the millennium, when South African president Thabo Mbeki refused to accept the link between HIV and AIDS. This prevented vital research and treatment, leading to the avoidable deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Today’s professional deniers, with their deep pockets and sophisticated use of media, are better than ever at convincing the general public that black is white and vice versa. So in these challenging times, it pays to remind ourselves of the cunning moves in the denialists’ playbook, with this excerpt from our special report “Living in denial”. Martin McKee, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also studies denial, has identified six tactics that all denialist movements use. “I’m not suggesting there is a manual somewhere, but one can see these elements, to varying degrees, in many settings,” he says. More on these topics:
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