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Manufactroversy

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A manufactroversy,[1] also known as a nontroversy,[2] is a manufactured controversy.

A manufactroversy can be a form of denialism: pretending that a controversy exists over something which is, in fact, not in debate by anyone who has the slightest grasp of the facts, but which a number of people wish to deny for religious, political, or other reasons. The usual motive for this is to attempt to give the appearance that the facts are still up for debate, à la anti-environmentalism. Another kind is the manufactured "scandal": blowing a non-issue out of proportion.

Often related to the "tell both sides" method of reporting, where only one side has any evidence, so the reporter searches out a crank just so they can tell another side.

This concept is also illustrated through what one editor would describe as "fill-in-the-blank outrage" by Christian fundamentalists in the United States. Examples of this include fundie leaders suddenly declaring things as diverse as environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, universal health care, etc. to be threats to Christianity, unscriptural, unholy, or some other version of "wahhh" when there is no indication that Christians as a whole considered these things threatening over the nearly 2000 years of the religion's existence. Until just now, of course.[3]

The term "swiftboating" is often used in American media due to the bullshit smear campaign against John Kerry launched by the organization "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."[4] Despite the name, it has nothing to do with Phil Swift sawing a boat in half (or truth, for that matter).

Common examples[edit]

Most damaging[edit]

  • Climategate: climate change deniers make various unhinged claims to sow doubt on the legitimacy of human-caused climate change, which have extremely damaging consequences, but one particularly publicized one involved leaked emails ostensibly showing climate scientist agreeing that global warming is a hoax
  • CDC whistleblower controversy: mainstream media behaved and stayed out of this one. Anti vaxxers do throw a lot of smokescreen as well, with also dangerous consequences as with climate change, but the CDC whistleblower "controversy" is a uniting story for them.
  • Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime supposedly having WMDs. Was a factor for the largely disastrous Iraq War where hundreds of thousands of people, largely Iraqi civilians died for a manufactroversy.
  • Racialism. One would've expected this one to die in the 20th century, but thanks to the alt-right, even phrenology is on the rise again. Racialism is a hop and skip away from eugenics.
  • Intelligent design and other aspects of the creation-evolution debates.
  • Gamergate: When women get involved with the gaming community in ways other than "booth babes" or sexy cosplaying, it means that western civilization is on the brink! You'll often hear them say that Zoe Quinn/Anita Sarkeesian weren't a big part of their manifesto. (Just like Darth Vader wasn't a big part of the Star Wars movies.) Though the movement is pretty much dead (though the many people it has seriously harmed are still alive) don't expect the ideas and legacy to die anytime soon; too many people have launched their careers thanks to Gamergate and as long as sexism and Internet harassment remains easy and acceptable .
  • Vince Foster/Pizzagate: The Clintons have murdered 40 people, but couldn't manage to take out Anthony Weiner before his laptop caused campaign hiccups. The "incompetent dictator" theory, in other words.
  • The IRS supposedly targeting tax-exempt groups associated with the Tea Party
  • No-go zones and the Ground Zero Mosque
  • GMOs and Monsanto[5]

Half-assed stunts[edit]

  • Obama citizenship denial. He produced his birth certificate, so they demanded his long-form certificate. When he coughed that one up, it was deemed to be fake. A double false flag operation, oldest trick in the Kenyan book.
  • Benghazi, which while a real and terrible event, was vaguely-gestured at as a scandal without much attention to what the exact wrongdoing was.
  • Chemtrails
  • The War on Christmas and other claims that Christians are a persecuted minority in the Christian West[6]
  • Wind Turbine Syndrome
  • Piggate, a rumor about David Cameron that lots of people wanted to be true but there was no evidence for
  • Jeremy Corbyn's "treasonous behaviour" such as a tabloid scandal over his bowing technique (only in deferential Britain!)[7] which mirrored the earlier Michael Foot donkey-jacket-that-wasn't non-scandal of 1981[8]
  • Non-issue yawners or other non-events being turned into the scandal of the week (see Ward Churchill, ACORN, Dick Duck Dynasty), particularly by 24-hour rolling news coverage needing to fill time when there's no real news from your locale and no desire to pay attention to the rest of the world.
  • Any of many other moral panics, too numerous to list.

To take the first few examples: evolution (together with common descent) is one of the best-tested and most successful scientific theories. There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism[9] or any other harm, and overwhelming evidence that they save lives. Global warming is happening and can be measured, and the cause has consistently been proven to be human. However, how to mitigate it remains up for debate; denialists tend to ignore this part.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Ceccarelli, Leah. "Manufactroversy, The Art of Creating Controversy Where None Existed", Science Progress. Spring/Summer 2008: 82-84.
  2. Peters, Mark (January 18, 2010). "The Age of the Nontroversy". GOOD.
  3. Were one cynical, one might posit that these fundies are being manipulated by their leaders and by political opportunists in order to further ideological goals or to sucker money out of the masses. But when has that ever been an issue?
  4. Swiftboating, Taegan Goddard's Political Dictionary
  5. Some examples
  6. A good question: Are Christians persecuted in Britain?, Reform Magazine, Oct 2013
  7. Jeremy Corbyn's bow: what really happened, The Guardian, 9 Nov 2015
  8. Michael Foot and the donkey jacket that wasn't, The Telegraph, 3 Mar 2010
  9. The only scientific paper ever to be published to this effect was of very low quality and has since been retracted. Its author has been "struck off," i.e. prohibited from practising medicine.