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Spinning facts. Of spin, post-truth and the instrumentalisation of science. A case study from Denmark

Ottenberg, Paula Karoline LU (2019) In Master Thesis in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20191
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Connecting science to political agenda-setting is essential for a sustainable transition and acceptable politics. This task is complicated by phenomena like post-truth, for which facts are a non-issue. However, post-truth is not the only issue. The practice of political spin, in which the significance of facts is reconstructed according to specific interests poses another threat to scientific credibility and rational politics. Through spin, science runs the risk of being instrumentalised. It can render credibility to developments that are branded as sustainable while being the opposite.

In this study, I have conducted a qualitative case study, examining the discourse on the environmental sustainability performance of Denmark’s... (More)
Connecting science to political agenda-setting is essential for a sustainable transition and acceptable politics. This task is complicated by phenomena like post-truth, for which facts are a non-issue. However, post-truth is not the only issue. The practice of political spin, in which the significance of facts is reconstructed according to specific interests poses another threat to scientific credibility and rational politics. Through spin, science runs the risk of being instrumentalised. It can render credibility to developments that are branded as sustainable while being the opposite.

In this study, I have conducted a qualitative case study, examining the discourse on the environmental sustainability performance of Denmark’s agricultural sector, deployed by Denmark’s current government and Danish agriculture’s biggest interest organisation Landbrug & Fødevarer. Denmark’s agricultural sector is riddled with sustainability problems, even though the current government and L&F claim the opposite. I analysed a total of 26 texts through the lens of a Faircloughian critical discourse analysis (CDA), with the aim of identifying the role of facts and science in this discourse. Further, I conducted a fact-check on claims made, to assess whether the discourse is spun or post-truth.

I found that Denmark’s current government and L&F both view science and factual knowledge as cornerstone of sustainable development. At the same time, their use of facts is highly characterised by spin; or from a Faircloughian perspective, constructed around ideological convictions. These stakeholders indeed instrumentalise science, thus lending their unsustainable policies scientific credibility.

I argue, that science can be instrumentalised in both its production and communication processes. The former issue can be scaled up to a broader discussion on academic freedom under pressure. To counter the issue of political spin, I recommend the implementation of a ‘scientific watchdog’, through which misuse and excessive spin of science and facts can be traced and countered. (Less)
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author
Ottenberg, Paula Karoline LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20191
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
spin, post-truth, instrumentalisation of science, sustainability science, Denmark, agriculture
publication/series
Master Thesis in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2019:013
language
English
id
8978783
date added to LUP
2019-06-03 15:02:49
date last changed
2019-06-03 15:02:49
@misc{8978783,
  abstract     = {Connecting science to political agenda-setting is essential for a sustainable transition and acceptable politics. This task is complicated by phenomena like post-truth, for which facts are a non-issue. However, post-truth is not the only issue. The practice of political spin, in which the significance of facts is reconstructed according to specific interests poses another threat to scientific credibility and rational politics. Through spin, science runs the risk of being instrumentalised. It can render credibility to developments that are branded as sustainable while being the opposite.

In this study, I have conducted a qualitative case study, examining the discourse on the environmental sustainability performance of Denmark’s agricultural sector, deployed by Denmark’s current government and Danish agriculture’s biggest interest organisation Landbrug & Fødevarer. Denmark’s agricultural sector is riddled with sustainability problems, even though the current government and L&F claim the opposite. I analysed a total of 26 texts through the lens of a Faircloughian critical discourse analysis (CDA), with the aim of identifying the role of facts and science in this discourse. Further, I conducted a fact-check on claims made, to assess whether the discourse is spun or post-truth. 

I found that Denmark’s current government and L&F both view science and factual knowledge as cornerstone of sustainable development. At the same time, their use of facts is highly characterised by spin; or from a Faircloughian perspective, constructed around ideological convictions. These stakeholders indeed instrumentalise science, thus lending their unsustainable policies scientific credibility. 

I argue, that science can be instrumentalised in both its production and communication processes. The former issue can be scaled up to a broader discussion on academic freedom under pressure. To counter the issue of political spin, I recommend the implementation of a ‘scientific watchdog’, through which misuse and excessive spin of science and facts can be traced and countered.},
  author       = {Ottenberg, Paula Karoline},
  keyword      = {spin,post-truth,instrumentalisation of science,sustainability science,Denmark,agriculture},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Spinning facts. Of spin, post-truth and the instrumentalisation of science. A case study from Denmark},
  year         = {2019},
}