November 5, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Science Reporters Promote Communism by "Framing" Arguments

What on earth are science reporters doing promoting communism by “framing” the language of redistributive tax policy?

One might hope that science should steer clear of political ideology.  But look at this headline that appeared on both Science Daily and PhysOrg: “Want to influence support for redistributive tax policies?  Choose your words carefully.”  This sounds like naked advocacy for income redistribution, a key element of communism.  The articles are unmodified echoes of a press release from the Association for Psychological Science, making these two leading science media sites complicit in advocating a communist principle.

The article described supposed experiments that showed conservatives less likely to oppose income redistribution if the questions were phrased in terms of how much the rich made over the poor, versus how much less the poor made with respect to the rich.  The pseudo-empiricism of this “experiment” was undermined by a clear goal of figuring out how to soften the opposition to redistribution.

Redistribution of wealth is a core concept of communism.  Perceiving the distance between poor and rich, Marx built his system as a means of taking from the rich and giving to the poor (income redistribution), with the revolutionary government taxed with punishing the bourgeousie to reward the proletariat, to achieve a utopia of equality of outcome.  Capitalists, instead, believe in equality of opportunity.  They believe that the free market motivates the entrepreneur to take risks with the hope of reward.  The capitalist is further incentivized to please customers by lowering prices and creating better products.  Wealth is not seen as a zero-sum game.   Instead, the economy grows, the pie enlarges, and everyone benefits when free market competition creates wealth.  Capitalism is built on initiative, responsibility and reward rather than class envy.

The psychologists at Carnegie Mellon employed the euphemism “income inequality,” a phrase conjuring up class warfare.  That the researchers were interested in softening opposition to the communist principle of redistribution of wealth is seen in the statement that the research suggested “a simple manipulation of language might be able to influence support for policies aimed at addressing income inequality.” But should scientists create tools of psychological manipulation to enable the efforts of political idealogues?  (See 9/27/2012, “Will elitist science lead to mind control?“)

One can conceive the experiment being framed in an opposite way.  Anti-communist psychologists (if such a species exists) might frame their questions in terms of “equality of opportunity” and “personal responsibility” or freedom.  They might use liberal subjects to measure how much the “framing” of the presentation changed their views.  That the Carnegie Mellon psychologists did not do this is further evidence of a pro-communist bias in their construction of experiment.  It undermines any pretense of objectivity.  An objective experiment (assuming experiments on humans are valid in the first place) should have used equal numbers of conservative and liberal subjects (assuming such categories could be reliably identified), and had a control group.  Even so, experiments on psychological manipulation raise serious ethical issues.  This appears to be an experiment for identifying the most effective psychopolitical propaganda, not a scientific experiment.

In another example of trying to influence the election, Live Science used scare tactics to suggest, “Could Romney Overturn Roe v. Wade?”  If this were a simple neutral question answered with facts and probabilities, it might claim to be scientific.  The language, however, described Roe v. Wade as “the Supreme Court decision that protected a woman’s right to have an abortion” instead of “the decision that denied an unborn baby’s right to life” (life being one of the inalienable rights deemed self-evident in the Declaration of Independence).  In other words, the article scares the reader that Romney could reduce an alleged right, not that Obama is reducing a more fundamental right.  Further evidence of advocacy is seen at the end of the article: “Pass it on: It’s possible Roe vs. Wade could be overturned if a new Supreme Court judge is appointed who takes a stance against abortion rights.”  Should a science report tell its readers to pass it on?  Should it use the phrase “abortion rights” instead of “right to life”?

It’s pretty shocking that so-called scientists and science news outlets would promote leftist ideology, using leftist terms, just a few days before America’s presidential election where tax policy issues revolve around the validity of redistribution of wealth.  This press release plays into the Obama campaign that employs class envy to promote taxing the “rich” more in the belief it will somehow help the middle class.  The idea is that the rich (the job creators) should “pay their fair share,” a euphemism that overlooks the truth that they already pay the lion’s share of federal taxes, whereas many of the “poor” pay no taxes.  A subjective term like “fair share” begs the question of what is fair.  Is 75% fair?  Is 90% fair?  Taken literally, one could argue that the poor who pay no taxes are not paying their fair share.  Paying a “fair share” could be a slogan for a flat tax, but instead is often used to make the tax system more progressive than it already is.

The point is not the validity of either economic ideology.  The issue is whether science reporters should be dallying in political advocacy at all.  A survey of our entries in the Politics & Ethics Category shows that leftist ideology predominates in science reporting.  “Science” (a term so broad it borders on the meaningless) has been co-opted as a tool to promote leftist ideology.  Since PhysOrg and Science Daily acted blatantly as willing accomplices in a communist propaganda proposal, readers are tasked with remembering another free-market proverb, caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

 

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Comments

  • James Healton says:

    I frequently visit this website and very much enjoy its information and analysis. With this article, however, I am not entirely happy. I agree that Science Daily and PhysOrg are mixing their political and social bias with science reporting and that this is unfortunate. Where I disagree with your criticism of them is your use of the words “communism” and “communist principle”. I doubt very much that the editorial staff or contributors to this article are communists in the proper sense of that term. Nor is their favor for certain tax policies at all indicative or diagnostic of adherence to any form of Marxism. This is a bad habit with conservatives. They lump everyone who is not sufficiently doctrinaire on free market captialism as at least “socialists” if not “communists.”

    As for “income redistribution”, every economic system distributes wealth and income based on its rules. When the rules favor certain players in the system over others and those rules are not based on fairness or promote a large concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, this is not good for society. God, in the law He gave to Israel, recognized this problem and laid down a number of fairly radical provisions to redress the tendency for wealth to accumulate disproportionately with those who already have an abundance. Among these were the laws regarding freeing slaves and absolving debts every seven years. The most radical was the redistribution of land every fifty years. In this way, people at the bottom whose parents or grandparents had lost in the economic game could be given a fresh start, a new opportunity.

    Equality of opportunity is not just a slogan owned by conservatives but also by liberals who, while they also believe that free market captialism provides legitimate incentives for wealth creation and is the premier way to grow the economy also believe that measures to protect against the narrowing of opportunity must be in place. In fact, there is actually a broad-based agreement among both conservatives and liberals on this. The difference is one of degree, not principle, except in the case of the most extreme advocates of laissez-faire captialism on the one hand and with those who actually are communists, on the other.

    So I ask that you reconsider your characterization of the writers of these articles as promoters of communism. It dilutes the real meaning of this term and reduces what is actually a complex and wide spectrum of approaches to a stark, and I think, false dichotomy.

    • Editor says:

      James, Thank you for sharing your views (although I’ve never heard of “captialism” before). Would you prefer the word socialism instead? The main point of this article is not the labeling but whether a science site should be advocating a political position by “framing” arguments–a type of propaganda.

      As for God’s plan in politics, I see a big difference between a governmental “redistributive tax policy” and Biblical principles, even those you cited. The Bible had a flat tax — the tithe; everyone was supposed to offer sacrifice, even the poor (if they couldn’t afford a lamb, they could bring doves). Paul said that if a man doesn’t work he shouldn’t eat. The Bible stresses personal responsibility and charity by individuals rather than by government redistribution. It does not teach that the role of government is to take from those who achieved success by hard work and give to the poor to try to achieve equality of outcome, or even to reduce the gap between rich and poor. The king’s minions did not come to private property, take the gleanings, and give it to the poor; property owners were allowed the freedom to show their charity by leaving the leftovers, and the poor had to go work to gather them. The jubilee system was very much tied to the Jewish inheritance in the land of Israel; whether it was intended as a model for all governments is highly questionable. Even the so-called “Christian communism” of Acts 4:32-37 was strictly voluntary–it was not a government policy, and furthermore, it seems to have been short-lived, as it was never mentioned again or advocated by the apostles thereafter. “Redistribution” (if it can be called that) in the NT is always voluntary, not governmental. Paul, James, and Jesus Himself warned the rich and strongly urged them to be generous for the poor, but they did not advocate for Rome to take their wealth and redistribute it.

      In America today, it is one party, the Democrats, who use the language of “income redistribution.” The Republicans deplore that language, remembering the horrors of the communist collectives. So even if we avoid the term communism, here was a supposed “science” site advocating one party’s politics over the other. Nevertheless, this discussion is off track for the article, so let’s stick with the main point, “What on earth are science reporters doing promoting [whatever political term you want to call it] by ‘framing’ the language of redistributive tax policy?”

  • James Healton says:

    Yes, I quite agree that it is better that science reporters stick to science and try to avoid injecting political ideology into their reporting. I would say that would hold also for those who support Intelligent Design and Biblical young earth creationism – except to oppose the use of political or judicial measures by evolutionists to discriminate against advocates for creation and indoctrinate children with regard to origins. As for the question of the Bible’s guidance on governmental policy, I do disagree that the Old Testament measures for the poor were purely personal and voluntary. They were clearly a part of the civil law. The fact that they were mostly ignored by judges and kings was a major part of why God brought judgment down upon Israel. But I will leave it at that.

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