The Internet puts vast, overwhelming amounts of information at our fingertips. It’s a truly great thing, and more and more of us not only have the time to search, surf, and troll through this ever-growing digital repository, but we’re also compelled to do so to earn our livelihoods.
With this and the ever-growing complexity of modern life, we come to form opinions about an ever-growing mass of topics, some of which we come emotionally attached to (at times too strongly attached to), despite a lack of significant direct exposure or experience. More and more conditioned to fast-moving events and never-ending change — change in information/communications technology, in particular — we’re compelled to form opinions, perhaps even take actions, on an ever-growing range of topics at an ever-faster pace.
Climate change is certainly one issue that seems to generate strong, deep, often emotionally driven responses and opinions. Now, suppose you learned that the sources of information you’ve been relying on to form your opinions about climate change, or any topic for that matters, were erroneous… bunkum…. Not just some of the time, but more than 80%-90% of the time!
Would you: a) acknowledge this, reject those sources, and search for new and better news and information sources upon which you could reformulate better informed opinions, or b) hold fast to your comfortable opinions and preferred news and information sources and deny that they’re wrong?
Astounding Disrespect for the Public and the Truth
Well, an eye-opening study of primetime news coverage on global warming by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that 93% of primetime Fox News’ discussions of global warming are inaccurate, LiveScience reports. Examining the same at the venerable Wall St. Journal, UCS found that an astounding 81% is just plain wrong!
Can you imagine? Millions of Americans rely on these news agencies’ reporting and analysis to inform themselves and form opinions, and now we find that they’re leading people badly astray on a critical issue of our times! It’s not only shameful, it’s dangerous.
“It’s like they were writing and talking about some sort of bizarre world where climate change isn’t happening,” study author Aaron Huertas, a press secretary at UCS, told LiveScience. “It’s clear that we’re not having a fact-based dialogue about climate change.”
If Fox News and WSJ had any self-respect and felt any sense of public, civic responsibility or obligation to inform the American public accurately and comprehensively, they should promptly issue a public apology and change their ways, if not do the decent thing and resign their positions and close up shop, or at least that part of the shop that deals with this issue. Worse than their own shamelessness is that this shows even less respect and responsibility to American and other viewers, not to mention a simple but crucial item: the truth.
In conducting the study on climate change reporting, UCS researchers sifted through six months of Fox News primetime programs from February to July 2012 and one year of WSJ op-eds from August 2011 to July 2012 for discussions of global warming.
“The most common climate mistakes on Fox News involved misleading statements on basic climate science, or simple undermining and disparaging of the field of climate science,” LiveScience reports. “For example, on March 23, one on-air personality referred to global warming as a ‘hoax and fraud.’ (The analysis did not look at non-primetime broadcasts or FoxNews.com.)”
UCS’ aim in conducting the study “is not to shut down legitimate debate on the appropriateness of various climate policies,” the news report continues.
“It is entirely appropriate to disagree with specific actions or policies aimed at addressing climate change while accepting the clearly established findings of climate science,” according to the report authors. “And while it is appropriate to question new science as it emerges, it is misleading to reject or sow doubt about established science — in this case, the overwhelming body of evidence that human-caused climate change is occurring.”
Oh, one more item of significance. Both Fox News and the Wall St. Journal are part of Rupert Murdoch’s sprawling global news and media empire, News Corp. Yes, the same globe-spanning news agency that used to publish the UK tabloid News of the World and whose most senior executives have been criminally indicted for illegally tapping cell phones and publishing the information it gathered. It seems that shameless disrespect for themselves, their obligations as a news organization, the public, and the truth are fundamental values upon which Murdoch’s globe-spanning news and media empire are based. To the extent and degree that people still choose to watch and read what it broadcasts and publishes, we’ll all be the worse off for it.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.