Cyber Abuse

From time to time I read comments by Denialists on climate change articles.  Many of these comments use threatening language, or include personal attacks, and often make no attempt to rebut statements in the article.

I have often wondered:  are these persons cyber-bullies working off their anger by their incendiary commentary?  Or are they aiming to intimidate writers of climate change articles into avoiding forceful statements?

A recent research article suggests that the loudest voices of dissent might trigger a cautious approach on the part of writers who warn of climate change risks.  The researchers identified three psychological mechanisms:

  • “stereotype threat”,
  • “pluralistic ignorance” and
  • “third-person effect”.

Stereotype threat acts as a behaviour response: stereotyping climate scientists as alarmist triggers a natural reaction to avoid the stereotype by downplaying the risks, or perhaps not highlighting them.

Pluralistic ignorance follows when a noisy minority opinion gets disproportionate play in public debate ? that is, when people who thought they were in a majority begin to feel inhibited.

The third-person effect is the assumption that persuasive communications might persuade other people, but not the experts. In fact, there is evidence that even experts can be subtly affected by such talk.

4RG has received veiled threats via email.  We assumed that the authors intended to create anxiety, causing us to avoid contentious issues, or express our conclusions more moderately.

We wish to re-assure our supporters that our blogs will always be independent, and we are indifferent to such threats.

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