The goal of this website is to encourage people to be sceptical, to understand that even science can never give us a conclusive "proof" of what is true or false in the real world of our everday experience. Unlike " Skeptics ", many of whom start with a bias towards whatever is the status quo, and accumulate evidence to support it, D4T seeks to break down the claims on both sides of any controversy that concerns us, and link those claims with any evidence that seems to support them.
Why? We know that corporations, government bodies, non-government organisations (NGOs), and other powerful institutions work hard to shape public opinion, using a range of 'public relations' tactics, from mass media advertising, to cultivating relationships with journalists, to setting up proxy groups in communities where they operate, and operating sock puppets online. Nicky Hagar's book 'Secrets and Lies' describes a range of tactics used by state-owned logging company Timberlands in attempts to neutralise anti-logging protests, including setting up a pro-logging group which claimed to be a self-organised group of concerned locals. The underlying goal of all these tactics is to spread confusion, also known as disinformation, which makes it difficult, stressful and embarrassing for people to question the official story the elite has propagated, find out the truth, and share it with others.
In a world where wealthy and powerful elites have very different interests from the majority of the world's population, it is reasonable to assume they would spend some of their wealth influencing public opinion, attempting to defend and advance their elite interests without drawing attention to them. Tobacco companies couldn't openly say 'we want people to buy more cigarettes even though we know they are physically addictive and cause cancer", so first they denied the health effects of tobacco, and heaped scorn on anyone who brought them up in public, then they insisted that smoking was a personal choice, despite the proof that once hooked, it's takes a mammoth effort from smokers to quit.
The goal of these pages is to document the various claims and counter-claims made about controversial issues, and examine the available evidence to see how these claims hold up in the light of verifiable facts. By doing this, we can establish which facts are not contested, eliminate claims which are easily found to contradict obvious logic or available evidence, and focus our investigations on those claims for which we haven't yet found conclusive evidence. We also aim to steer around logical fallacies where the credentials or background of the claimant is cited as an argument for or against the claim.
The claim/counterclaim structure of the CounterClaim pages was inspired by the 9/11 Myths website (please note this is not an endorsement of the contents of that site, nor any bias it might contain). The method is to document each claim, who is making the claim, and what evidence they have presented to support it, using tables with numbered claims on the left-hand side, and a counter-claim for each number on the right-hand side. As each table grows, we can break it into multiple tables, each addressing a particular part of the topic. As we develop the page on each topic, we can link to pages which are a particularly rich in claims and references, but always with the eventual goal of integrating all those claims and references into the page itself. To make the pages easier to follow, there will be an evolving Page Template , which explains in detail how the pages are being laid out, and why.
Some helpful documents on the common tactics of disinformation:
Twenty-Five Ways to Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation
- H. Michael Sweeney