Nik Butler: Community is no longer so pliable to propaganda

JPCT 120314 S14110969x Nik Butler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141203-095917001
JPCT 120314 S14110969x Nik Butler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141203-095917001

Statistics show that teenage pregnancy drops dramatically after 19.

Which is the wonderful thing about statistics. They can, with enough manipulation, help to deliver the ‘facts’ which are sought by those needing proof.

Such thoughts continually came to mind whilst attending the ‘Oil and Gas exploration and fracking’ presentation. It left me feeling there was a desire to seek safety, and public approval, in numbers. I was flooded with numbers, inundated with images, cossetted in conversations, and were I a willing recipient of sales and public relation speak I might have have simply accepted everything. Instead I felt a continued level of frustration at the presentation and the arguments put forward both by proponents, and opponents, who attended the event. As an example of this ‘safety in numbers’ approach to public consultation the December 2013 document ‘Developing Onshore Shale Gas and Oil - Facts about Fracking’ published by The Department of Energy and Climate Change has a paragraph on page 8 which informs us that 2000 wells have been drilled onshore. When asked how many of those were fracking wells? The answer was 200. I cannot find a record of those 200 wells anywhere. The confidence of the department employee in telling me that they were constrained to tell me only the truth left me feeling that those numbers needed clarification.

Further there was much repetition of the phrase ‘regulation’ and how ‘regulation’ will protect the environment and the county. It strikes me that if a word is being frequently repeated, in an almost reflexive fashion, then behind the veneer of the concept of regulation lies very little in the way of safety.

I do wonder though; how is it the oil industry has merited a strong presence in public relations and media ‘facting’ events. Where were the departments when the case for Wind or Solar energy could be made?

Decades of exposure to advertising and a growing consumer awareness in how the media can be used to manipulate opinion have created a community who are no longer pliable to propaganda as once they were.

The information presented failed to stand up to questioning and some inquiries were rebuked with anger. I overheard a few murmurs of intolerance towards those who asked questions.

I felt that in making an effort to be informative the administration have highlighted a bias towards a preferred strategy and a possible intolerance towards clear thinking.