Siegfried Fred Singer is an Austrian-born scientist who oversaw research for the tobacco industry questioning the health risks of smoking and a consultant to the fossil fuel industry who denies peer-reviewed scientific evidence of climate change.

Despite the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is having a significant impact on climate change, only 50% of the general public holds the same view.

This disconnect between scientific consensus and public opinion is nothing new.

Businesses that oppose policy changes that threaten their interests have long used paid experts, faux public policy foundations and outright lies to create doubt in the minds of the public going back to the 1950s.

Numerous examples of these practices are exhaustively documented and analyzed in Merchants of Doubt, a book by Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes and CalTech science historian Erik Conway.

The book shows how a small number of politically conservative but academically respected scientists have been involved in campaigns to cast doubt on everything from the dangers of tobacco to evidence of an ozone hole to the debate over climate change, and how public relations executives used the now repealed Fairness Doctrine to convince media organizations give disproportionate attention to minority views in the interest of stirring up controversy.

documentary based on Merchants of Doubt is now in staged release and will be widely available this summer. Eric saw it and calls it the most important documentary he’s ever seen. Paul listened to the 13-hour audiobook and calls it “life-changing.”

Naomi Oreskes, an American historian of science who serves as Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard, joins us to discuss how commercial interests use doubt to block change and how to know when science is being manipulated in this way.

Merchants of Doubt has been praised – and attacked – for telling with “brutal clarity” the unsettling story of how a loose knit group of high-level scientists with political and industry ties ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny conclusive scientific evidence that had withstood critical review by a jury of scientific peers with nothing more than circumstantial allegations.

The book also identifies parallels between the climate change debate and earlier controversies over the adverse health impacts of smoking in which big tobacco funded research intended to delay regulatory and legislative action by spreading doubt and confusion on the scientific consensus that smoking is dangerous to your health.

Follow Naomi Oreskes on Twitter.

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About Your Hosts

Paul Gillin is a veteran technology journalist and a thought leader in new media. Since 2005, he has advised marketers and business executives on strategies to optimize their use of social media and online channels to reach buyers cost-effectively. He is the author or co-author of five books, including Social Marketing to the Business Customer (2011), the first book devoted entirely to B2B social media marketing. He is also a social media trainer and coach at Profitecture, a training firm for B2B companies and their channel partners.

Send Paul an email or connect with him on Twitter: @pgillin

Eric Schwartzman is a digital strategist with 15 years of experience selling and leading teams on the agency side in the development and delivery of innovative integrated marketing initiatives for multinational corporations, NGOs, federal government agencies and military commands. He is a frequent speaker at conferences all over the world on the topic of how technology is changing the way organizations communicate and the way people use media and information.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @ericschwartzman.

Categories: gov2.0, PR, PR podcast

If you’re curious if and how the Latin America and the Caribbean private sector uses social media, this post is for you.

My firm just completed a comprehensive study for the IDB Group on private sector discussions on social media among local companies, financial markets, multilatinas and peer multilaterals in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This post features a summary of our findings.  Let’s get into to the data.

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On social media, there’s the danger of other users — either “friends” or other brands — poisoning the medium through spam or just plain bad behavior. As marketers, and as users of social media, we need to demand more from the networks. In this piece, I’ll suggest a remedy that could make social networks much more hospitable places for all concerned.

Contrary to former Facebook CMO Randi Zuckerberg’s comment that “Anonymity on the internet has to go away,” the problem isn’t anonymous users, it is a lack of transparency from the social networks.

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Are politically correct social media policies that restrict lawful, free speech counterproductive to the organizations they’re supposed to serve?  Are they strategically unsound?

Is it time to reinvent the conventional approach to social media governance so as not to discourage thoughts and ideas that can lead to growth?  Paul Gillin didn’t think so when we discussed it on our last B2B social media podcast, but I’m not convinced.

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Morgan Stanley’s recent decision to loosen the reign for their financial advisers on Twitter is the latest in a long list financial services social media case studies. Last December, FINRA fined Barclays $3.75M for system is record keeping and email retention failure. And last June, the regulator warned investors against trading on “pump-and-dump” emails. The finance industry has their social media conferences and consultants.

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I had a chance to interview Dr. Marc Teerlink, Global Strategist & Data Scientist at IBM recently. He’s a fascinating guy, and we spoke about using social media monitoring tools to separate the signal from the noise, how to use past conversations to try and predict the future, why teens are the most difficult audience to monitor and the dangers of relying too heavily on sentiment when predicting outcomes.

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Social media marketing is no longer enough. You need a social media literate workforce, says Jeanne Meister, best-selling author of The 2020 Workplace.

Social media literacy is the understanding how to use social media both inside and outside the organization in a safe and secure way to improve their productivity and efficiency. More »