Monday, December 13, 2004

Spurious attempt at "fair and balanced"

Last week the Washington Post ran a piece reporting that "Humans May Double the Risk of Heat Waves". Overall, it's good to see the papers reporting on the issue of human-induced climate change.

However, I'm linking to this article for a different reason, namely that it seems to me to exemplify a certain liberal pathology regarding what "fair and balanced" means. Now, right-wingers (Fox News) have a perfectly clear understanding of what "fair and balanced" means to them -- it means promoting their views. For liberals, however, "fair and balanced" means presenting "both sides of an issue" -- even when one side is rooted in fact and the scientific method, and the other is rooted in ideological claptrap. This article typifies this self-destructive liberal reportorial bias.

After summarizing the findings in the Nature piece (for those readers who don't know, Nature is one of the two most prestigious general science journals, along with Science), the article goes on to quote a fellow named Myron Ebell, who disputes the substance of the Nature article, poo-pooing it as "a small potatoes paper" and claiming that "modeling is not science."

This clown has no standing to comment on this issue as an equal to the scientists quoted. As even a simple Web search can tell you, Ebell runs a Republican-funded think tank and is the author of such wonderful observations as, "the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are probably thickening rather than melting" and "higher fuel efficiency standards costs lives." He's a partisan hack whose life is dedicated to providing quotes that dispute indisputable scientific findings. What he's saying is something about as rooted in science as the claim that the earth is flat.

On the issue of climate change, if the WaPo wanted to achieve "balance," it ought to quote from Bjorn Lomborg or one of his proteges. Lomborg argues that human-induced climate change is real, but that the mainstream policy proposals for containing greenhouse gasses (i.e. Kyoto) are unjustifiably expensive. Now, that's a legitimate scientific opinion, and it deserves a hearing and debate. A partisan arse like Ebell deserves no hearing.

So why does the WaPo give a wingjob like Ebell the time of day? Mainly, because they've given him the time of day before. He can be reliably wheeled out to make a bold bullshit claim designed to confuse uninformed readers or viewers, thereby providing cover for the right-wing clear-cutting, strip-mining, gas-guzzling, ANWR-drilling agenda. Hacks like Ebell exploit the media's desperation to avoid seeming "biased" by reporting that the Bush regime's environmental policy is based, pure and simple, on bad science -- or actually, on anti-science. Giving people like this a hearing is a form of self-destruction -- in this case, not just liberal self-destruction, but self-destruction on a planetary scale.

The Bushist position on climate change is yet another example of its habit of lying about the future.

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