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Environment

The Media Blame Game

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 27, 2009 8:15 PM

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What do Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and liberal climate bloggers like Joe Romm all have in common? They are inveterate media bashers. Limbaugh has long railed against the MSM; he helped perfect the "liberal media" label into a favorite cudgel of conservatives and an effective meme. Limbaugh is also a slash & burn artist. His fusillades against the MSM are often accompanied by ad hominem attacks on individuals. Joe Romm is fond of the same tactic. In this recent post, he casually slanders Roger Pielke Jr. as a "denier" while criticizing journalists. Romm knows full well that Pielke Jr. is not a "denier." But because Pielke is often critical of statements by politicians and scientists that use global warming-related data in a misleading manner, Romm brands him a "denier." Romm uses the same method to slime The Breakthrough Institute, because they advocate different approaches to combat climate change than Romm--and horrors (!), the media takes them seriously. It's a twofer: flog the media and your enemies at the same time. It's a daily ritual for Romm to find a story (usually in The New York Times) that he detests for some perceived transgression against the climate change cause. To counter a recent story on the transportation costs of wind turbines, Romm makes this ridiculous statement in a post today:

As the NYT desperately searches for any bad news it can publish about clean energy, perhaps it's time for them to change their motto from "all the news that's fit to print" to "every silver lining has a cloud."

Though Sarah Palin uses the MSM as a personal foil, like many conservatives, Palin often refers to the MSM as some monolithic entity. Yesterday, in her departing words as Alaska governor, she said this:

How about, in honor of the American soldier, you quit makin' things up?

Never mind the odd and self-pitying conflation. There's that broad brush tarring, the god-dang liberal media in cahoots. Similarly overwrought generalizations of the MSM (and its motives) have become a staple of climate bloggers like Romm and others. Where conservatives point to ideological bias, climate change advocates charge incompetence or slavish devotion to the principle of objectivity ("false balance"), or in this case, deliberate manufacturing of controversy:

Many media outlets are the arms merchants of the climate change information war. They are under economic siege from shifting reading and viewing habits, competition from the Internet, etc., so they are desperate to hold on to whatever eyeballs and advertisers they can. They're so short sighted that many of them don't think about the consequences for the world or future generations or even their own children.

This notion that journalists should operate from a higher ethical plane than anyone else and subvert their professional and personal lives to the climate change cause is felt powerfully by some bloggers. Michael Tobis, who I have come to respect for his thoughtful commentary, loses me on this score. During the uproar over the New York Times magazine profile of Freeman Dyson, Tobis took this ethical responsibility argument to a bizzare conclusion:

If Revkin thinks his family's comfort is more important than the survival of the planet, if he doesn't have the cojones to stand up to the publisher and say "kill the Dyson crap or I am out of here" or something like that, he is not doing us much good.

Not doing us much good. That pretty much sums up the mindset of this new breed of media bashers on the left. If a journalist writes a story that is viewed as giving aid and comfort to them--the deniers--then you might as well be one of them. Or, if one of your colleagues writes such a story and you don't quit in protest, then what good are you? That narrow mindset--us and them--offers a convenient lens to view every perceived grievance. It's the preferred lens of Limbaugh, Palin and their ilk. It's now the preferred lens of progressive climate change bloggers too.

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