This is part of the book “Stéphane Foucart et les néonicotinoïdes. The World and disinformation 1” in which we present one of the information manipulation techniques often used by journalists. All quotes are translated (by me), except the ones marked between [ ] in the french version (french quotes are to numerous to be marked in this one).

The juxtaposition consists of presenting two elements in succession, suggesting their links. This method of constructing discourse is omnipresent in S. Foucart. These mechanics can operate at multiple scales: within a single paragraph, between multiple paragraphs, or even at the article scale. They can also have several roles: to build a furtive logical structure, to neutralize a point or to insinuate.

1. Stealthily building a logical structure

The main purpose of juxtaposition is to create a logical structure without explaining it. For example, instead of saying “Marcel was seen at the scene of the crime, he is therefore guilty”, we can say “Marcel was seen at the scene of the crime. Some people think he’s guilty.” Depending on the context, these two examples can be understood identically.

Take this example:

“Although decided, the three opinions delivered by EFSA are not surprising. Laura Maxim, researcher at the CNRS Institute of Communication Sciences (ISCC) and one of the best specialists in the controversies that have accompanied the use of these substances, notes that “ten years ago, the Scientific Committee and technical [a group of experts set up in 1999 by Jean Glavany, Minister of Agriculture] had reached the same conclusions about imidacloprid “.” (4)

The sequence of sentences suggests that L. Maxim endorses the view that the opinions delivered by EFSA were “not surprising“. Yet that is not at all what the quote attributed to him says. The fact that a country report concluded in this direction about one molecule does not reflect some sort of consensus on the effect of a whole family of molecules.

The mere juxtaposition of the two sentences makes it possible to suggest (I do not see, however, what other interpretation to adopt) the idea promoted by S. Foucart.

2. Neutralize

juxtaposition is widely used to neutralize objections. We will see this point, objections management, in more detail later, but here is already a somewhat original quote:

“Solicited by Le Monde, Vincent Bretagnolle (CNRS) and Bernard Vaissière (National Institute for Agronomic Research), two specialists in these subjects, welcome this work but warn that they are only correlative: they do not provide definitive proof of causality. The fact remains that, of all the variables examined, write the Finnish agronomists, “only the adoption of neonicotinoid insecticides in seed treatment can explain the drop in yields in several [Finnish] provinces, and at the national level for the shuttle, through disruption of pollination services by wild insects”.

Despite an increasingly indefensible case, the manufacturers of these substances are determined to defend them tooth and nail before the European regulator, to keep them at full force on the market. An intense lobbying campaign is underway in Brussels and in the Strasbourg parliament – its outcome will be very interesting. ” (30)

Here, we have an objection: the results would only be correlative. The “Rest that” announces its neutralization. The overall conclusion of the paragraph is clearly that there would be causation, but it is not explicit. The objection actually serves here to emphasize its neutralization.

Then S. Foucart goes on to speak of the fact that the NNI have an increasingly indefensible case. There is no explicit link between the two paragraphs. Yet the implication is clear: the study in question, providing evidence for a causal link, makes the NNI case “increasingly indefensible”. Thus the juxtaposition effect makes it possible, without explaining it, to give scope to the commented study and to neutralize the mentioned limit, the simply correlative nature of the observations.

It can work at the article level. This is for example the case in the second article, which we have already presented in detail. It started with a question:

“Is the culprit rather incompetence or the accumulation of conflicts of interest? Impossible to decide. But the question now arises: how could the notoriously deficient bee risk assessment tests have been used for nearly twenty years to approve the latest generations of insecticides?” (2)

Even though he presents it as “impossible to decide”, ALL of the rest of the article supports the idea that the build-up of conflicts of interest is responsible. Incompetence here is a form of objection to the assumption that the accumulation of interest is responsible. He neutralizes it by apposition. What is stated at the beginning (“Unable to decide“) Is erased by the article as a whole.

3. Insinuate

More broadly, the juxtaposition allows the suggestion that an argument is fallacious or that an entity is more or less corrupt. Here is an example with the addition of an objection override:

“I think it would be a big exaggeration to say that lobbies have infiltrated the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). But it is true that among the key authors of the first report of this organization, which dealt specifically with pollinators and their decline, there was an employee of the industrialist Syngenta.

Researchers have also strongly protested, in the journal Nature, against this obvious conflict of interest – all the more so since the scientist in question was, at the time of her participation in the work of IPBES, at the center of ‘intense scientific controversy.

It is impossible to determine the impact that this person’s participation in the work of IPBES had in the end, but the history of science work carried out on the tobacco industry’s influencing strategies – in particular those of the American historian of science Robert Proctor (Stanford University) – shows that the participation, in expert work, of researchers in conflict of interest has the effect of biasing its conclusions.” (57)

Here, S. Foucart creates the objection, then neutralizes it. In the end, the message is that the “lobbies” have infiltrated IPBES and that this would have had consequences on its work. The affix allows this infiltration to be insinuated (and the idea that it would have consequences for IPBES reports) while explicitly denying it.

Note the structure, which is very reminiscent of the phrase “I’m not racist / sexist / conspiratorial, but…”, which is systematically a prelude to racist / sexist / conspiratorial talk. [Note: it is also so frequent that I found it in all the sexist and racist speeches that I analyzed in my book on what I call Militant Cancer.]