What is Pre-Bunking?

Nonsense spreads like crazy on social media channels making it very hard to play defensive and debunk effectively. Debunking resembles a game of whack-a-mole!

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Pre-bunking is an alternative approach, the idea is comparable to that of a vaccination where an “inoculation” conveys immunity. Information pre-bunking and inoculation with factual information leads to people being less susceptible to rumors, lies, false narratives, conspiracy theories, and bad information.

The question is, how to effectively pre-bunk? There are two ways:

  1. Pre-bunk with correct information
  2. Pre-bunk by highlighting the methods those who spread mis- and disinformation are using.

Intuitively, you might think that providing the correct information is the way to go, but studies have shown that the second approach - pre-bunking by explaining how people deceive - is more effective. It makes sense, too, nobody likes to be fooled, and once people recognize the methods they will recognize them whenever they encounter them and will not buy into these arguments easily.

A lot of the research on debunking was done by John Cook, who also founded Skepticalscience.com and the website, app, and game CrankyUncle. He summarized the five most common methods used by climate change deniers (and others spreading bad information) with the acronym FLICC.

F - Fake expert
L- Logical fallacies
I -Impossible expectations
C- Cherry-picking information
C - Conspiracy theories

Here is an explanation and infographic by the German website Klimafakten.de (don’t worry, it’s written and decent English).

A simpler version of it from Cranky Uncle is here

Turns out there is a lot behind those five letters FLICC.

Spotting these techniques and explaining them can be fairly difficult, they are subtle, appear logical at first glance or sometimes more than one are mashed into one “argument”.

If you want to dive deeper here are four videos by John Cook that explain science denial and FLICC very well using climate change denial as an example:

Fake experts
Logical fallacies
The rest, that is ICC

His channel is worth following and very instructive.

How does this all apply to CDR?

Read our short articles on how the different fallacies are used in climate change denial overall as well as by CDR opponents.