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Denialists' Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts


Chris Jay Hoofnagle


University of California, Berkeley - School of Law, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology

February 9, 2007


Abstract:     
The Denalists' Deck of Cards is a humorous illustration of how libertarian policy groups use denialism. In this context, denialism is the use of rhetorical techniques and predictable tactics to erect barriers to debate and consideration of any type of reform, regardless of the facts. Giveupblog.com has identified five general tactics used by denialists: conspiracy, selectivity, the fake expert, impossible expectations, and metaphor.

The Denialists' Deck of Cards builds upon this description by providing specific examples of advocacy techniques. The point of listing denialists' arguments in this fashion is to show the rhetorical progression of groups that are not seeking a dialogue but rather an outcome. As such, this taxonomy is extremely cynical, but it is a reflection of and reaction to how poor the public policy debates in Washington have become.

The Deck is drawn upon my experience as a lawyer working on consumer protection in Washington, DC. Where possible, I have provided specific examples of denialism, but in many cases, these arguments are used only in closed negotiations. Some who read them find the examples humorous, while others find it troubling. But all who read the Washington Post will recognize these tactics; they are ubiquitous and quite effective.

This taxonomy provides a roadmap for consumer advocates to understand the resistance they will face with almost any form of consumer reform. I hope to expand it to include retorts to each argument in the future.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: lobbying, logic, rational thought, advocacy, libertarianism

JEL Classification: D18, K20, K32

working papers series


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Date posted: February 11, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Hoofnagle, Chris Jay, Denialists' Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts (February 9, 2007). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=962462 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.962462

Contact Information

Chris Jay Hoofnagle (Contact Author)
University of California, Berkeley - School of Law, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology ( email )
344 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-0213 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://hoofnagle.berkeley.edu
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