2/27/2006

Journalism...or Propaganda

This piece is not about global warming, whether it exists, or whether it is caused by man. (Although if you want to comment that its existence is beyond question, I will appreciate you for your willingness to indelibly paint yourself as either a) an repentant ideologue or b) a moron who can't read.)

This piece is about the difference between good journalism and propaganda, and whether we as readers of the news in North Central Montana can or should legitimately expect to receive the former. The Tribune yesterday ran a piece entitled "Climate change affecting agriculture, wildlife, recreation." The clear thrust of the piece is that global warming is real and is caused by man.

The reporter states that "most scientists" agree about climate change. This necessarily implies that another number, up to 49%, do not agree with the idea that it is real and caused by man. My problem is this: Not once, anywhere, does the reporter cite to any source that suggests that climate change is not occurring on a long-term basis or that it is not caused by man. She acknowledges, then ignores, competing points of view.

Then, in a sidebar appearing in the print version of the story, the reporter noted 10 things we can do to affect climate change. Number 8? Write to a senator to lobby him or her in favor of environmentalist policies.

Is this really what a newspaper is supposed to do? Present a completely one-sided account of a story, and then urge political action by the readers based upon that account? I would submit that it is not, and what we really have here is left-wing, environmentalist propaganda.

Wikiepedia defines "propaganda" as "a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions of people, rather than impartially providing information." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Endnote: Faithful readers of the Tribune know they frown on and refuse to publish 'form letters' to the editor. In other words, if a political group suggests that its members send a letter in a particular form to various newspapers, and if the Tribune figures it out, they won't publish it. It is interesting that in Number 8, referred to above, the Tribune refers the reader to a website where a coalition of state, left-wing public interest research groups and "state environmental groups" will send...yup, you guessed it, a form letter on your behalf.

21 comments:

David Crisp said...

The reporter specifically says the story isn't about whether global warming is caused by human activity. It's about steps being taken in this area to deal with warmer temperatures. Rather than rehash the debate, the story goes straight for solutions. That seems like a reasonable approach to me.

GeeGuy said...

I have to disagree with your analysis. If the story "isn't about whether global warming is caused by human activity," the reporter has a strange way of showing it ("Most scientists now agree that greenhouse gases contribute to the Earth's warming ... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities ... Gases from factories, cars and coal-burning power plants are blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming ... Power plants are responsible for more than a third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions ... an inventory for greenhouse gas emissions ...) To the extent the story "isn't about whether global warming is caused by human activity," it is only because the reporter writes the story from the perspective that such is a known, or given fact.

Again, while the cause may be man, that's not my point. It is that the story is completely one-sided, and is really only so much environmentalist propaganda.

David Crisp said...

But geeguy, what would the other side be? If you are writing a story about actions that are being taken to deal with consequences of global warming (regardless of whether you can establish beyond scientific dispute whether humans are too blame) what would count as telling both sides? Do you give equal time to people who aren't doing anything?

GeeGuy said...

I guess I disagree with your premise that it is all about steps being taken. That might be the ostensible focus, but I think actual discussion of steps being taken is a small part of the article in favor of the standard litany of man-made/Kyoto Protocol/global warming posturing.

Wulfgar said...

Most scientists now agree that greenhouse gases contribute to the Earth's warming

Absolutely true, and not in dispute.

There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities

Also absolutely true and not in dispute. The blame game is yours, geeguy. But, despite Micheal Chrichton, (who deals with older bad evidence), there definatively is "new and stronger evidence" that human activity contributes to global warming.

Gases from factories, cars and coal-burning power plants are blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to global warming

"Are blamed for" ... again, factually correct.

Power plants are responsible for more than a third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions

Uhhhyup. Seems to be the case.

It doesn't appear to me to the point that man is "to blame", (KYOTO!!!), but that we must accept global warming as fact, and that we have a hand in it.

If you want to get all rightious about doctors having "an agenda" in wanting to do something about a pandemic of bird flu (and reporters reporting that fact) then please do so. But doctors didn't cause bird-flu, and nor did reporters. You're reading in some kind of agenda here in response only to the weight that you, yourself, have one. Are there things we can do about global warming or not? Seems to me, the answer is ... yes.

GeeGuy said...

Oh, come on, Wulfgar. Don't tell me you missed the point. If a newspaper is going to do an article on global warming, and then tell people to write their congressmen, shouldn't they include even a teensey weensey bit of the opposing point of view?

SallyT said...

Hmmm, mr crisp, you write:
'Most scientists now agree that greenhouse gases contribute to the Earth's warming

Absolutely true, and not in dispute.'

Ah, but this is in dispute. In fact, this whole website is dedicated to providing the other side.

I don't call 2,500 scientists 'most scientists.' Especially when something like 17,000 scientists signed on to the 1998 Petition Project asserting "there is no convincing evidence" that the global warming theory bears out, while others have long cited concerns about the models and methodology used by global warming enthusiasts.

Just because you hear the claims over & over doesn't make them true.


you also note:
'There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities

Also absolutely true and not in dispute.'

Excuse me, but one good volcanic eruption spews 100X the same pollutants that make the chicken-littles tremble & fall prostrate before Kyoto.

Mention that to a global warming crusader & they'll ramble on & on about man's activities causing volcanos to erupt--as well as hurricanes, earthquakes, glacial melt, rap music, etc. etc.

The 'new & stronger evidence' is recycled theory and abandonment of common sense in the obssession to make global warming real.

I'm not yet a codger, but I've been through the 'shortages' & 'new ice age' warnings of the seventies; the 'hole in the ozone' scare of the eighties; the proliferation of 'causes,' from baking bread to cow farts, of the nineties; and now the 'meltdown' scare of the new millenium.

Incidentally, the facts you are so sure aren't necessary to the Trib story might include:
-the costs of Kyoto implementation.
-the consideration of detrimental effects of environmental correctness.
-the acknowledgement of drastic emissions reductions achieved in the US, let alone the world.
-the small fact that wa-a-ay too many careers & bureaucracies (as well as much environmental destruction) are built on attempts to thwart global warming.

A story about solutions should logically consider the validity and effectiveness of those solutions, no?

SallyT said...

Sorry, mr crisp.
my previous comments were directed at wulfgar, not you.
so sorry

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but SallyT, those web sites you cite have been disproven, and your numbers are outdated, and they're wrong, and, and, my scientists can beat up your scientists, and everyone knows it's true and you're nothing but a right-wing reactionary, and, and...you're...you're..stupid!

Wulfgar said...

SallyT, I think you're reading too much into what I said. I'm not arguing about whether or not humans cause global warming, yada yada. This post was about newspaper based propoganda.

To say that there is new evidence of X, when in fact there is, is a true statement, regardless of whether you agree with the conclusion or not.

That the climate is warming is absolute fact, and not in dispute by anyone rational. Beyond that, you ascribe to me ideas that I don't hold. I do agree with Micheal Chrichton that some of the science behind Global Warming theory is suspect or just plain poor. But that wasn't the point here. The point that Geeguy is making is that the media is ideologically biased on this issue, and I don't think he makes the case very well. If reporting facts is evidence of bias, then I think we could use more of that in the media.

And please remember that not telling you what you want to hear (Kyoto bad, costs high, yadayada) is also not evidence of bias.

GeeGuy said...

While SallyT can certainly fend for herself, Wulfgar, I find that both your and Mr. Crisp's response to my complaint simply dodge the issue.

Mr. Crisp argues that it is not necessary to discuss alternative causes to climate change because the article is about solutions. You argue that it is not necessary to discuss opposing viewpoints because those reflected in the article are true.

Neither of you address what I hoped to make the point of the piece. Journalism is supposed to be balanced. Propaganda is one-sided with a particular outcome in mind.

I argued that laying out a several page piece without setting forth one single piece of contrary evidence, and then suggesting we take political action based on the one-sided story is propaganda, pure and simple.

Wulfgar said...

Geeguy, I haven't "dodged" anything. It is a simple matter of fact that truth is not open to a single piece of contrary evidence. Is the climate getting warmer? Yes. Does human activity play a role in that? Yes. You can debate how much a role, or what, if anything, should be done about it all you like. But claiming that something is biased or propaganda assumes that contrary opinions have the same weight as facts.

The goal of balance is a valid one when dealing with opinion, but not so much with that facts. I'm sure you've heard by now that in the view of the anti-media modern conservatives, any article about the roundness of the globe should include the views of the Flat Earth society. Headline: Shape of the Earth, Views Differ. That's not balance, that's just silliness.

SallyT said...

Wulfgar,
But aren't you completely ignoring facts that don't support your assumptions?
you say:
"Is the climate getting warmer? Yes. Does human activity play a role in that? Yes."

Both are assumptions, based on what you read & see in the mainstream media.

...again, www.globalwarming.org/ offers a comprehensive articles archive with plenty of facts, as well as the global warming alarmists' claims.

Musing:
Isn't it amazing that what might be considered good news (warmer climate = more opportunity for ag, recreation, wildlife, etc) is accepted as an undisputed fact that must be reversed or (as AlGore says) we're all gonna fry by 2016?

Methinks it a bit arrogant to believe that humans are really so powerful that we can drastically affect climate. I can't help but wonder how anyone can accept the 'warmer climate' propaganda in the face of deadly, record-breaking cold (worldwide) this winter.

The fact may be that the weather follows patterns that have been repeated since the dawn of time. Our current experience & science are out-of-context observations and conjecture.

But go ahead & fret, if you must.
:-)

Wulfgar said...

But aren't you completely ignoring facts that don't support your assumptions?
you say:
"Is the climate getting warmer? Yes. Does human activity play a role in that? Yes."


Sally, don't be stupid. The very website you post holds that YES the climate is getting warmer. Will that change next year? Who knows? Does human activity play a part in that warming? Show me one thing, just one, that can state definatively that it doesn't. Sorry, but I already know that you can't.

Methinks it a bit arrogant to believe that humans are really so powerful that we can drastically affect climate. I can't help but wonder how anyone can accept the 'warmer climate' propaganda in the face of deadly, record-breaking cold (worldwide) this winter.

And methinks it's a bunch stupid to believe that 6 billion of us can't change the climate. Do you have any basis for believeing that we can't affect climate change? Unless you're of the flat Earth variety, I'm thinking not so much.

The record breaking cold of which you speak was localized, now wasn't it? By all means, please show us the record breaking cold in Montana. Oh, what's that? There was record breaking heat in January in Montana? Well I'll be ... Perhaps climate change isn't what you think it should be, yes?

The fact may be that the weather follows patterns that have been repeated since the dawn of time. Our current experience & science are out-of-context observations and conjecture.

Right. Absolutely right. And without governmental concerns, we aren't gonna find out, are we? Here's the crux of the matter; you've made up your mind, not me. You've chosen the ignorant stance that says "this might not be real, so it isn't" over the stance that says "this might be, so let's find out". After all, finding out might cost money, or cause fear. Whatever. The arrogance lies on the side that would rather not discuss the possibilities as opposed to those who would. As in, the arrogance lies with you, Sally, not with me.

GeeGuy said...

Come on, Wulfgar, the very article that started all this states "Most scientists now agree that greenhouse gases contribute to the Earth's warming." Most, as in "not all."

Yet you now state that climate change and man as a cause is beyond question. An indisputable fact.

So, some number less than all scientists think global warming is real and caused by man, and some number less than all scientists think it is not. Yet, omniscient Wulfgar declares that all scientists who disagree with him are wrong, crying about the flat earth. Because Wulfgar's views are "fact." That's no basis for discussion, or even debate.

I respect your views, Wulfgar, but you're not that smart.

Wulfgar said...

Yet you now state that climate change and man as a cause is beyond question. An indisputable fact.

Yup. Kindly show otherwise.

So, some number less than all scientists think global warming is real and caused by man, and some number less than all scientists think it is not (completely caused by man).

Nice try, but your first statement is not the same as your last supposition. Try again. YOu're the one who wants oh so desperately to think that others are "blaming" so that it will justify your weak will to blame in stead. Sorry, but facts are facts. Prove that the climatre is not warming. Never mind, you can't do it. Prove that the actions of mankind have nothing to do with it. Never mind, you can't do that either.

You can get all juvenile and pissy about how I disagree with you, geeguy, but you're the one who assumes what I stand for and can't support your bluster. The truth of the case is simple: I am smart enough to understand the facts given, and you're not smart enough not to dodge the fact that you made specious claims of bias that you can't support. Global warming is real. Show otherwise if you're able. Mankind's activities enable the processes which contribute to global warming. Show otherwise if your able. Whine about a newspaper that shows these facts as they are, with no contra reasoning but your poor logic and whiny republicant bias, and then insult me for pointing that out, and I will call you on your pathetic schtick every time.

Let's be clear, geeguy; you don't want discussion or debate. When it's offered with clear logic, you fall back into insult. You want agreement with your view. Nothing more, and nothing less.

GeeGuy said...

First of all, and I mean this sincerely, if you took what I said as an insult I apologize. It wasn't meant that way. When I say "you are not that smart," I do not mean that you are dumb, but merely that I do not believe you are so intelligent that your statements of "fact" on a weblog are beyond question.

Your approach to this argument is not reasoned debate. You throw out a proposition as "fact," and then challenge others to "disprove" it. Then when you conclude others cannot "disprove" your "fact," that means your "fact" is a given.

"Global warming is real. Show otherwise if you're able." That is not proof of anything Wulfgar.

You have "proven" nothing.

Global Warming is a falsity perpetrated by the left. To find it exists, one merely takes some perceived thermal anomolies occuring over an infinitesimal time period (which is what 100 years in terms of the history of the earth) and draws all kinds of grandiose and horrible conclusions from these perceived anomolies.

There, now those are "facts." Prove otherwise. Never mind, you can't do it.

The funny part of all this, Wulfgar, is that I am far more open to accepting the existence of global warming and man's relationship to it than you are to the possibility that it is not a scientifically proven fact but is a mere theory...and yet I'm the one who is accused of being closed minded!

Anonymous said...

Wulfgar's arguments on this remind of Dan Rather's arguments on the apparently faked Bush National Guard documents. Rather still insists they are authentic because critics haven't come up with 100 percent proof that they are forgeries.

Steve said...

A food point is that science is not consensu, and consensu is not science. Forget who said it, but it does more to help this debate than claiming sides.
Sure human activity may contribute to global warming, but how much, and to what extent are we to destroy lives just so I can freeze my ass off in Montana?

Steve said...

A good point is that science is not consensu, and consensu is not science. Forget who said it, but it does more to help this debate than claiming sides.
Sure human activity may contribute to global warming, but how much, and to what extent are we to destroy lives just so I can freeze my ass off in Montana?

Anonymous said...

I found this old debate while searching for something else, but I can't but ask this question. somebody says
"And methinks it's a bunch stupid to believe that 6 billion of us can't change the climate. And methinks it's a bunch stupid to believe that 6 billion of us can't change the climate. "

OK, so if it is the number of people (and the livestock needed to feed them" that is the caus, why not start fighting that. The population in the western civilization is stagnant or falling, in Africa The Middle East and Asia it is rocketing. Strangely these areas are free to pollute whatever they want, whereas we in the west must pay. It's not science, it's politics. I agree that the general US household easily could halve energy used, but it should also be noted that a house in Kuwait use twice the energy in aircon alone, than a household in northern latitudes - including heating and transportation.