A Quote about Alarmism

Alarmist is defined as a person who alarms others needlessly.

Yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no such fire is clearly alarmist.

Pointing out an actual plume of smoke is not.”

RealClimate

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12 thoughts on “A Quote about Alarmism

    • Wow, that’s a great way of looking at denialism. Showing how it’s always present, in any situation of potential threat, how it’s a very natural human response for at least part of the population to exhibit. However, as I’m Canadian I don’t quite get all the connotations – who’s Paul Revere? I assume he’s some sort of revolutionary leader that every American child learns about in school whereas here in Canada we spend our time on Louis Riel, Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Trudeau.

      And it’s also sort of weird to look at history in the American perspective. As 1) the US attempted to invade Canada several times in colonial periods, 2) Canada is still part of the British Commonwealth, and 3) a good part of our population began with Loyalists, who were the direct enemies of revolutionaries like George Washington, Canadian history from the time period of around 1750-1850 is often sort of “Americans vs Canadians”. Seeing the revolutionaries framed as the good guys is really quite novel….

      But just a few years before that it was “British vs Canadians” (as at that time the Canadians were French). And before that it was “French vs Canadians” (as the Canadians were aboriginal). I guess it always sort of frames “Canadians” as “people who were already there”, and that automatically makes us sympathetic to them as we now call ourselves Canadians. It really sheds some light on our national ideals, as the invading side with all the military power is generally seen as less desirable than the “Canadians” (whoever that may be at that time) who were just sitting there minding their own business and being polite.

      Wow, I really went off on a tangent there. I wonder if my history teacher is reading this….

  1. Thank you, and you think I’m from where, eh?

    Trouble is, while some may not recognize Revere, fewer would know who Laura Secord was (and what’s with all of the white males in your history? Canada’s had women and other ethnic groups too ;) )

    re: US invasions (1750s, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and they were thinking about it in 1865), many of us got a HUGE laugh when apropos of Canada’s lack of interest in Iraq, the US ambassador admonished us that “if Canada got invaded, US troops would be here” … of course, every time we get invaded US troops are here, s’new?

    • We have a fair few ethnic historical figures, especially Aboriginals – Riel, Tecumseh, the Cree chiefs from the Northwest Rebellion.

      That invasion joke is great. Everyone who invaded Canada either succeeded and made up part of our population (French, British) or….was American.

  2. Regarding Paul Revere, see his Wiki page for a detailed summary. He wasn’t a leader so much as a messenger, but it’s a good story.

    One of the things I was most startled with when I was speaking with my US-raised friends was how glorified American history is for them, especially everything relating to the Revolution. Canadian social studies curricula tend to teach early Canadian history once, spending a bit of time on a few of the more colourful instances in our history (i.e. the Riel Rebellion or possibly the much more recent FLQ crisis), but not romanticizing any one person. The various US systems, as I’ve gathered it, tends to practically deify the founding fathers and spends inordinately long times on the minutae of the revolution and the civil war. It would be interesting to see how this compares to history as it’s taught in, say, England, which has a longer and more colourful history than either of us.

    (By the way, try getting an American to acknowledge the outcome of the War of 1812. It’s usually just shuffled under the rug. Exhibit A: Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.)

    As someone descended from one of the original Québec colonists (i.e. French Canadian as long as they have existed; I probably have some native blood in me a fair ways back too), I had personal reasons to pay attention to houw our history is taught. It may seem strange, but I think it’s because we didn’t have any particular heroes. We obtained our sovereignty through diplomacy (in multiple stages rather than one singular event; the process is still sort of ongoing today). People tend to lock on to strong personalities and dramatic events as worth recording or understanding – this has actually been going on for quite some time, which is part of the reason why archaeologists and anthropologists are so interested in how “the common people” lived “everyday lives” in ancient cultures (i.e. all the historians paid attention to the bigwigs and big days). You’ll note that many of our larger-than-life figures during troubling times (Riel and Trudeau come to mind immediately) *do* get substantial time in the classroom by comparison – the Canadian equivalent to spending lots of time talking about Lincoln or Kennedy. (And, presumably, Obama several years from now, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be as successful as is hoped.)

    The underlying mechanism behind all this may be the same reason we don’t pay much attention to climate change, by the way. Consider the work of Dan Gilbert on the psychology of alarm. He delivers a short talk on the subject here; part 2 is in the related videos. He also wrote If Only Gay Sex Caused Global Warming, on the same subject.

    (*phew*. Didn’t think I’d be able to link that train of thought back to not only climate change but the subject of this thread as well! Booyah!)

    My earlier HTML problems were due to adding an image tag, instead of linking the source. Everything’s better with a source.

    Finally, apologies if any of this seems disjointed. I’m a little drunk at the moment. (After spending two days out in shade-free 30-degree weather working on an uncooperative engineering project, I underestimated how much water I’ve lost and subsequently replaced with cider.)

    • Canada, in some ways, glorifies its history as well. Our “one Jew is too many” immigration policy during World War II is swept under the rug, as well as many other examples of astonishing racism – the Komagata ship, the Chinese head tax, etc. The difference in education about Riel and the Red River Resistance between provinces is also very interesting – in Manitoba he’s a hero, in Ontario he’s a traitor.

      But it seems to me that it’s much more acceptable to disgrace your country’s history in Canada than it is in the States. For example, John A Macdonald was our “founding father”, but he’s not very well liked these days, between his alcoholism and his treatment of the Metis. A great book that questions our history and identity as Canadians, but didn’t offend me at all, is “Why I Hate Canadians” by Will Ferguson. Fascinating stuff.

      Thanks for all the links. I read Gilbert’s article way back when I first watched Manpollo, and absolutely loved it, it’s great to see something else by him, even if it’s basically the same argument. Rick Mercer never fails to make me laugh, that clip especially, with Bush’s appearance and all.

      And oh my goodness, that cartoon, I may have to put it up in a new post.

  3. After all that, I forgot to provide one extra reference. Figures.

    The brouhaha unfolding right now over MacLane, de Freitas, and Carter’s recent paper is a perfect example of what it means when a denier says they act in accordance with the science. MT (In It For The Gold) and Tamino (Open Mind) did a good job dissecting the paper (the first on logical grounds, the second on statistical); after seeing what condition it’s in, check out Watts to lose all hope in humanity.

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