Between Scientists & Citizens

Morano Analysis #1: Civility

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Let’s start by examining how the two debaters interact with each other–how they address each other and how they characterize each other’s speech.  The moral of the story:  Morano, and not Maslin, manages to maintain the appearance of civility necessary for a debate.

Case:  Morano v. Maslin

Mutual address

The two men are supposed to be addressing the Sky TV interviewer, not each other;  and in fact Maslin is in the studio in the UK, while Morano is on the street in Copenhagen.  Through much of the debate, both comply.  But while Maslin speaks as if no one else is present, Morano repeatedly refers to things “Professor Maslin” has said.  This is conventionally respectful (although it is likely that Morano’s base will hear “Professor” as “Egghead” or worse).

At several points, however, the debate becomes what the moderator at the end characterizes as “robust,” and the two men address each other directly.  The first time Maslin does this, he focuses on not Morano but on “your argument” (1:42;  note also the assumption that “we” all disagree with it).  The second time (4:00), Maslin becomes more aggressive, and directly protests to “you”:  “Why do you not believe, why do you not believe the science?”–the first of a series of direct “you”s that carry through the remainder of Maslin’s turns.

By contrast, when Morano shifts from addressing the moderator to addressing Maslin, he fairly consistently couples his “you”s with tokens of respect:  “You can’t get away with this professor“;  “You gave it away sir“.  He’s aggressive, but maintains the formalities of civil debate.  Morano’s one lapse:  when he directly demands an apology from “you” for the “five thousand scientists” claim (4:36).

Mutual characterization

Morano, again, stays respectful when he characterizes what we could call the speech acts Maslin is using, even as he rejects them strongly.  Using a standard debate vocabulary, he names what Maslin is doing “arguing” and making “appeals” and a “claim.”  Even at his most aggressive point, Morano pulls back and corrects himself right as he’s about to give Maslin the lie, saying “That is a bald-faced, unh, error” (5:25).

Maslin is unable to maintain a similar civility.  He does start by characterizing Morano’s point as “your argument”, and somewhat later, as “this debate”.  But he quickly slips into calling what Morano is saying “spin,” “absolute rubbish,” and “completely false.”

Final thoughts

Do I need to mention that Morano looks like he’s having fun, while Maslin appears increasingly irritated–shaking his head “no” possibly incredulous that Morano could be saying such things?  (Or so his apparent surprise that Morano, former aide to Sen. Inhofe, is “actually spinning!” suggests.) Even the visuals in this exchange show Morano is engaging his opponent, where Maslin is dismissive of his.

Debating is not fighting–a point that was likely better understood when gentlemen used to have both options, arguing and duelling, available to them.  Debaters can think of each other as scum, but they need to address each other as “the honorable” and act as if what’s being said is being said in good faith.  This preserves their ability to keep talking to each other while still going at it full force.

Why does Maslin fail?  Probably in part just from inexperience.  After a while, it turns out to be easy to call anyone “sir,” as I found out when I was practicing in the courtroom of a doddering excuse for a judge who used to call me “sweetie.”

But another factor may be at work, one suggested by Maslin’s remarkable question:  “Why do you not believe, why do you not believe the science?  Why suddenly are scientists lying to you?” This exclamation is noteworthy for Maslin’s apparent amazement that anyone could “not believe the science.”  And it also reveals the stance that Maslin is projecting onto Morano.  Maslin’s “Morano”–the Morano-in-Maslin’s-head–is giving Maslin the lie.  It is “Morano” who has violated civility (Maslin may think);  Maslin himself is just a victim, and is justified in responding in kind.

I take up further linguistic indicators of Maslin’s victimhood in the next post.

Written by jeangoodwin

March 7, 2010 at 2:49 am

One Response

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  1. I think the Maslin there was full of wind quite frankly.
    I heard some half truths coming out there.

    Of course the temperature has generally increased through the last 150 years.
    Thats because since about 1300 we have had temperatures considerably lower than the previous 400-500 years and the climate is following a normal cycle of warming and cooling.
    To neglect the above fact when mentioning temperatures over the past 150 years is quite shocking to me.

    His hyperbole with respect to the number of scientists support IPCC is also shocking. I understand the IPCC itself claims 2,500 scientists but disturbing stories are emerging that a number of scientists have asked to be removed from that list as their work was either not included or grossly misquoted.
    To quote Mark Ross

    “I randomly picked scientists who had their names listed in the IPCC report located at:

    I was able to locate approximately 1/3 who now have publicly stated or published articles that they do not believe in Man Made Global Warming or have signed the following petition.

    And speaking of the petition project I see that it totals 31,486 scientists from the US alone.

    However who cares what scientists say, A lay person with half a brain can figure global warming out given some very good facts.

    Please visit

    This blog starts off with some well deserved lampooning of some politicians but quickly shows in laymans terms (with authorative references), that the world has been warmer than this before.

    That being the case, a child could ask why are we blaming CO2 this time around.




    March 7, 2010 at 4:03 am

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