Sunday, August 19, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #17 - Deception Formula

Ever seen the movie Mars Attacks? One of its more memorable lines was:
Yak Yak. Don't run. We are your Friends.
That's the line repeated by the Martians as they blow earthlings to bits. It's part of a formula that should be familiar to residents of San Juan County because it has been used against us so often. It's the formula for the CAOs, and it's the formula used by the Friends.

Let's look at the deception formula in action by examining some recent articles by Janet Alderton, Board member of the Friends. Janet has deceptive editorials recently published here and here (same editorial in two places, neither of which mentions she is with the Friends). Her editorial starts out with the premise that CAO concerns are overblown. For example, here is the opening:
Some organizations have spread fear about what you will be able to do with your property under the proposed critical areas ordinance. In reality, the proposed buffers will generally be the same or smaller than current wetland buffers.
That is followed by a list of cherry-picked half-truths from the text of the CAOs, all meant to persuade us that we'll be much more free under the new restrictive CAOs than now. If you survive Janet's stream-of-consciousness prose, you arrive at the real message at the end:
Buffers should be undisturbed areas with native vegetation. But the numerous activities permitted in buffers by the proposed CAO update interfere with buffer function and fail to protect our valuable critical areas.
If you're suffering from cognitive dissonance after reading her article completely, you're not alone. Janet starts out by implying we have nothing to fear; then lauds the flexibility of the new CAOs; then she concludes by saying that the new CAOs are not strict enough. The final bit is the real message. She doesn't feel we should have any choices or freedoms under the CAOs, no matter how illusory, and she's upset at even the prospect that we might have any.

In summary, here's the three-step deceptive communication formula:
  1. Say that we have nothing to worry about.
  2. Blather on about how good we have it ... blah blah blah ... choice choice choice ... shiny object ... blah blah blah.
  3. Conclude with a threat, stating that we're getting off easy, and scold us that the prospective CAOs could be, and should be, even more restrictive than they already are.
Fundamentally, it is an incoherent message, like the CAOs themselves. And considering the entire message in context, it sounds like we have a lot to worry about.

With Friends (and CAOs) like these, who needs Martians?


  1. Most of the articles and statements promoting the more authoritarian versions of the proposed new CAO Regime (yes there are version that are not authoritarian and are respectful of civil rights and real science) can be deconstructed this way. First, sooth and say everything is fine. Second, chat about the weather or some other non-sequitur. Then wag finger and scold that you're getting off real easy, the CAO doesn't go near as far as it should, and you should consider yourself fortunate.

    You find this narrative construction in most statements of Dept of Ecology, SJC CDPP, the Friends of the San Juans, The Planning Commission Gang of Five and so forth.

    They all must go to the same propaganda workshops. What is most insulting -- dare we say "incivil" is how blatant and crude this is. This strategy assumes the public to be pretty stupid. And, that's not so smart.

  2. Yes. cognitive dissonance, circular arguments, strange new definitions to common words, feigned indignation, etc., seem to be the progressive badges, worn with pride, for making the world a better place. How wonderful!

  3. On any given day, a read through leftist/progressive/liberal blogs yields the same reality we are experiencing here with the CAO. In short, people must not be allowed to exercise the freedoms which were accidently guaranteed in the Constitution, because free people produce incorrect results.
    I'm waiting for a proposal for a light rail system on San Juan Island so that we can ban cars. Why not just ban any new construction at all, and do a reverse-Pol-Pot and force everyone back into the "human habitation zones"? Why not must make the County a Biodiversity RESTORATION PRESERVE and move all the people to inner city Cleveland?

  4. You may ask, why do freedom-loving people recoil so sharply when reading Agenda 21?

    Think about our own Washington State Constitution. Article I, Section I reads, “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

    Here at the Freedom Foundation, we believe that environmental stewardship begins with individual landowners—that individuals are better stewards of the environment than any government regulation. We believe that individuals have the right to do with their property as they wish provided they don’t negatively impact their neighbors under a rule of law. And we believe that when conflicts occur between neighbors, they should seek to work them out neighbor-to-neighbor before asking government to help. And we further believe that property rights are fundamental to prosperity.

    Contrast those ideas with Agenda 21.

    When a local government subscribes to ICLEI, they subscribe to an uber-top-down approach to governance and planning. ICLEI subscribers accept that we should first consider the United Nation’s ideas when planning—not individual rights.

    ICLEI subscribers believe that we should plan for the collective and that individual rights are secondary to the United Nation’s global ideas.

    ICLEI subscribers use climate change, carbon emissions, biodiversity, habitat conservation and more as excuses to implement strident land use policy. The underlying goal of the policy is to force people into high density urban cores, change consumption patterns, change economies, change social behaviors, change populations and change our financial structure.

    ICLEI subscribers empower regional government planning agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), and special interests. Think about how your local government has connected with People for Puget Sound, Puget Sound Partnership, Puget Sound Regional Council, Futurewise, Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy and others. Individual rights aren’t even on their radar.

    We shouldn’t continue giving up our rights to these regional and state planning councils made up of people who don’t care about your property ownership.

  5. Lordy, that reminds me of our COuncilmembers talking repeatedly about CAO being a "bottoms-up" process--little did we know that meant drinking as much as we can as fast as we can to numb the pain. I thought I also heard that the CAO is intended to reflect our local values. Can you imagine anything so distant from them? An outsider comes in and shoots for the moon in terms of writing the biggest, baddest, most indecipherable regulatory scheme known to man--even Ecology is taken aback.