When academics turn lobbyists

A new lobbying technique uses academic research to expose other ‘lobbying’.

A fascinatingly novel political move is hijacking academic research formats to question the validity of the democratic process.

An Australian study claims that the proposition of “unsubstantiated” views in presentations to formal Parliamentary proceedings delayed the introduction of alcohol labeling.

The study by the Society for the Study of Addiction says arguments by the alcohol industry delayed the introduction of mandatory alcohol health warning labels in Australia by

questioning the rationale and evidence base for labels; arguing that they will cause damage to public health and the economy; lobbying and seeking to influence government and political representatives including through monetary donations; and introducing its own voluntary labelling scheme. 

In other words, the alcohol industry did the things they’re allowed to do in a democracy. The politicians listened to those, along with opposing  opinions, and made their own decision.

The use of the “research” format co-opts the rigour and independence expected of research, to use it for a very political end. It’s a great tactic.

It’s powerful because not only does it question the argument of your opposition, it infers that they have less right to use the democratic process. It undermines your opposition more than you could if you only offered up your own counter evidence through the democratic system.

The approach follows in the recent footsteps of those using academic research to undermine political opponents by labeling them as psychologically troubled. See ideologically-motivated academics claiming climate deniers are likely to be conspiracy theorists, less able to be fearful of non-immediate threats than others, ill-equipped for moral judgements.

h/t: @cjsnowdon

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