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).

“In fact, the sale doesn’t really start until the client says “no.” Then your job is to reframe any and all objections until the “no” becomes a “yes. With the Straight Line system you’ll be anticipating all objections, looping them back, and knocking them out before the client even brings them up.”

Jordan Belfort, “Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling: Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence, and Success“, p.103

There is something striking in S. Foucart’s articles: nothing effectively contradicts his storytelling. The arguments against it are either

  1. presented in such a way that they have no force (especially with the technique of abusive quotation that we have just seen),
  2. or immediately “debunked” by the author, often in a way that is irrelevant.

1. Neutralization

The neutralization of objections involves generally a lot of juxtaposition and citation, as illustrated in article (15), in which S. Foucart condemns the fact that a report on beehives mortality didn’t investigate the role of pesticides. You have a passage where two researchers are outraged, going so far as to say that not being interested in pesticides would be a “political choice rather than a scientific one” (we spoke about it in the section on the improper citation). S. Foucart then gives us the manager’s response:

“We have agreed with the Commission to develop, over the first two years, a robust assessment method for the health of colonies, in order to be able to compare countries,” replied Gilles Salvat, director of animal health at ANSES. If we had done a very large number of additional samples and analyzes up front, the cost would have been prohibitive. In the future, more focused studies will be done.” (15)

Foucart does not say anything about it and goes on and continues to criticize the study, arguing that “as such, the results already seem to exclude the sole responsibility of natural pathogens in the mortalities observed” and that the choice of hive mortality as an indicator would minimize the situation.

Thus, it completely neutralizes the response of ANSES, without ever responding to it. On the contrary, he adds, indicators more extensive than the mortality of hives, including for example sublethal effects, being probably much more expensive to study. The objection is treated as if it is worthless. This innuendo is reinforced by the distance put by the quotation, an effect of which we have already spoken, which also adds an atmosphere of suspicion.

One form of neutralization is hijacking. So let’s take this simple sentence:

“But, say the agrochemists who market these products, we need to feed humanity well. (30) [Subsequently, the author argues that NNIs would not have a positive effect on returns.]

In reality, this argument is mainly carried by farmers. By attributing it to “agrochemists”, it operates a diversion having the effect of:

  • Facilitate his argument. The latter would indeed be much more difficult to maintain when confronted with the voice of farmers.
  • Discredit the carriers of this discourse, who are relegated to the rank of henchmen or executors of agrochemists.1

Generally speaking, the idea that NNIs are inefficient is hardly compatible with reality: most farmers are highly skilled technicians, many of whom are even engineers. He therefore systematically belittles them, presenting them as toys of strength that surpass them.
You will also find this neutralization method in:

  • « L’UICN, Syngenta et le déclin des bourdons » (17), avec les arguments de Ana Nieto (paragraphes 11 et 12)
  • « Disparition des abeilles : comment l’Europe a renoncé à enrayer leur déclin » (53), paragraphes 17 et 18

2. Contradiction

Foucart systematically presents himself as an authority having to decide between two positions. He uses this posture to present what is not as an effective counter-argument. For example, here is what S. Foucart writes about the Epilobee study in the article just after the one we just spoke about:

“The architects of the study argue that it would have cost to take samples from all the beehives visited. It’s fair game. But let’s read the thirty pages of the published report: the word “pesticide” is not there. The word “insecticide” either, not even an understatement as benign as “phytosanitary product”. We look, in vain, for the words “agriculture”, “agricultural practices”…” (16)

Once again, S. Foucart does not speak once again of the argument in question: the cost of analyzes. He does not mention the budgetary choice at all, but the fact that the term “pesticide” does not appear in a report… not dealing with pesticides. Yet he presents this as a perfectly effective counter-argument. He even implies that it would be because the term pesticide was not “benign” that he was discarded.