Sunday, August 12, 2007

Both Sides Now

Overdue for Newsweek to Lose the Egregiously Dishonest Robert Samuelson.

Last week Newsweek ran a great news cover story on the continuing efforts of the global warming deniers to obscure, obfuscate, and lie about the evidence of anthropogenic global warming. This uncharacteristic feat of journalistic honesty must have rankled some of the dinosaurs lurking in the WaPo's icy journamalistic heart, because this week Robert Samuelson employs his column in the same magazine to attack the piece. The attack is striking mainly for the blatant dishonesty of its approach, though that's hardly a surprise to those who have watched Samuelson, bob, weave, and distort to the wing-nut tune these many years.

Samuelson says:

The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.

So, exactly how was it "fundamentally misleading?" Samuelson next spends four paragraphs avoiding the question with a riff on an at best peripherally related but interesting question: what can be done about global warming. His answer: nothing. Doh!

But let us not be distracted so easily. He attacked the story, why? Four paragraphs down:

Against these real-world pressures, NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability. (The company says it knew nothing of the global-warming grant, which involved issues of climate modeling. And its 2006 contribution to the think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, was small: \$240,000 out of a \$28 million budget.)

Every sentence in this paragraph contains a lie, except possibly the last. Sharon Begley's story reported (not "implied")what has long been known and well documented: that Exxon Mobile, the American Petroleum Council, and an allied group of energy interests have orchestrated, coordinated, planned and funded a network of denialist think tanks, "institutes," councils, politicians, and individuals with the sole purpose of discrediting the scientific evidence for global warming. That last sentence in his paragraph, while possibly accurate in isolation, is nonetheless equally dishonest, since it attempts to portray one small part of a huge campaign as representing the whole.

Except for that slim, deeply dishonest paragraph, the rest of the column is an unexceptional discussion of why it would be hard to do anything about global warming. If I were slightly more paranoid, I would think that the sinister hand of Donald Graham had slipped that paragraph into a boring story.

Link to column via The Reference Frame.