The Heartland Institute strikes back in the latest installment of the Climate Change Wars. Coming soon to a billboard near you.
While you consider the image, recall the backstory with Heartland. As a sworn enemy of Global Warming advocates, the Heartland Institute runs a professional persuasion shop aimed at persuasion and lobbying with the Other Guys who really count: members of Congress, for example. You are not surprised to learn that GW advocates take a dim view of Heartland, so much so that one masqueraded as a Heartland director to obtain unethically, and maybe even illegally, Heartland documents which he then doctored and put up on advocacy websites to discredit Heartland. The advocate confessed his theft and resigned from a post at a Global Warming advocacy institute.
Heartland runs an annual conference on Global Warming from their point of view and this billboard is running right now in Chicago, IL where the next meeting will occur later in May, 2012. Motorists there get the early treat of seeing this billboard . . . and then trying to figure out what it means.
Frankly my first take on it missed. I did not recognize the man in the image. That’s Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber. I thought the image ripped off the play with those ubiquitous Internet ads with goofy looking people that sells insurance.
I then read the text about global warming and got confused. After thinking about it for a couple of seconds, I thought that it was a warning from a Global Warming advocate, just badly done. Then I saw the Heartland.org source on the bottom, remembered who Heartland is, then, finally, got the point. Ohhhh! This is an anti-Global Warming ad. And, ha-ha-ha, they are mocking the Consensus Authority play we’ve seen from Global Warming advocates before.
Put another way, this ad failed for me. You need to get it in about 2 seconds because you are driving on the Eisenhower expressway around Chicago with nine thousand of your closest friends all going 75 miles per hour. I get the point Heartland is trying to make, but the execution is awful.
You can tell these guys use persuasion as lobbyists and not as public persuasion mavens. Even sitting comfortably in my house with limited traffic around me, I didn’t get the ad on my first, second, or third attempt. Imagine how little impact it’s having on the Interstate.
I applaud Heartland’s attempt to mock that foolish Consensus Authority play. Heartland is apparently reading the Persuasion Blog because they criticize the bad peer review research that I’ve mocked here. While presented as science, it is not. A couple of different research teams did about a bad a job you can do trying to measure opinion and attitudes in a population and invented numbers that could reasonably qualify as Consensus if there was any kind of science behind the data collection. That bad research then gets passed around as some kind of truth when it is nothing but error. You’d flunk a grad student who wrote a paper doing what these guys did . . . unless you were an advocate.
So, it’s smart for Heartland to attack GW advocates on this case because their published work is so bad. Yet, the attack ad from Heartland is just awful.
This is free advice to Heartland. One quote from one guy, even a mad bomber, misses the Consensus Cue. You need to have pictures and quotes from several odious guys to visually depict Consensus. Why not mock up a petition with a Heading of “I Believe In Global Warming” then the actual signatures along with pictures of the odious ones? The collection of many bad guys communicates both the Consensus and the failure.
Better still . . . why not a billboard with something like: Consensus? Then pictures and signatures of people who’ve publicly disputed the Climate Change hypothesis.
Best . . . Follow the Herd to Global Warming.
P.S. Man, that was quick. While I composed this post, Heartland dropped the ad from the Chicago billboard with an apology.
“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” the institute said late Friday afternoon said in a statement. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”
No one, it seems, in the Climate Change wars knows anything about persuasion.