The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation

Summary:   At some point during the 1970’s a large part of the mainstream media decided to abandon journalism to become the Ministry of Truth.  Advocacy journalism, instructing the peons and elevating their consciousness.  The slo-mo but accelerating business disaster that resulted followed — loss of audience, fading profits, layoffs — should not detract from their considerable success at mastering the techniques of propaganda.  This post does a post-mortum on one example.  For more information see the links to related articles at the end.


The original FM articles about climate change discussed the selling of global warming.  These were greeted with cries of the “science is settled.”  After 44 points describing the debate among scientists (see my posts here, literature citations here) we return to the original theme — with an example of skilled agitprop.  Professionals at work, keeping America misinformed.

This post discusses three articles:

  1. Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 1 January 2009
  2. Statement related to Daily Tech article of January 1, 2009“, published at The Cryosphere Today
  3. Is the Cryosphere Crying Wolf?“, Nina Shen Rastogi, Slate, 10 February 2009 — Disinformation about the 1st two.

Also note the follow-up to this post:  George Will: climate criminal or brave but sloppy iconoclast? 23 February).

As usual, we will examine each in sequence.

(1)  The Daily Tech article:  polar sea ice unchanged since 1979

Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979“, Michael Asher, Daily Tech, 9 January 2009 — “Rapid growth spurt leaves amount of ice at levels seen 29 years ago.”  Excerpt:

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.   The data is being reported by the University of Illinois’s Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

Each year, millions of square kilometers of sea ice melt and refreeze. However, the mean ice anomaly — defined as the seasonally-adjusted difference between the current value and the average from 1979-2000, varies much more slowly. That anomaly now stands at just under zero, a value identical to one recorded at the end of 1979, the year satellite record-keeping began.

… Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the NorthPole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery. Bill Chapman, a researcher with the UIUC’s Arctic Center, tells DailyTech this was due in part to colder temperatures in the region. Chapman says wind patterns have also been weaker this year. Strong winds can slow ice formation as well as forcing ice into warmer waters where it will melt.

… In May, concerns over disappearing sea ice led the U.S. to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts who claimed the animal’s numbers were increasing.

Update:  Cryosphere Today posts a graph of daily global sea ice area from 1979 to now here.

(2)  A response posted at The Cryosphere Today

Excerpt from “Statement related to Daily Tech article of January 1, 2009“, published at The Cryosphere Today, published by the Dept of Atmospheric Sciences at the U of Illinois (no author listed, undated) — Emphasis added in red.

One important detail about the article in the Daily Tech is that the author is comparing the GLOBAL sea ice area from December 31, 2008 to same variable for December 31, 1979. In the context of climate change, GLOBAL sea ice area may not be the most relevant indicator.

Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979, as noted in the Daily Tech article. However, observed N. Hemisphere sea ice area is almost one million sq. km below values seen in late 1979 and S. Hemisphere sea ice area is about 0.5 million sq. km above that seen in late 1979, partly offsetting the N. Hemisphere reduction.

… Arctic summer sea ice is only one potential indicator of climate change, however, and we urge interested parties to consider the many variables and resources available when considering observed and model-projected climate change. For example, the ice that is presently in the Arctic Ocean is younger and thinner than the ice of the 1980s and 1990s. So Arctic ice volume is now below its long-term average by an even greater amount than is ice extent or area.

(3)  From the above nuggets Slate brews a stew of disinformation

Excerpt from “Is the Cryosphere Crying Wolf?“, Nina Shen Rastogi, Slate, 10 February 2009 — Comments are inserted into the text.  Emphasis added in red.

For the past month or so, news has been circulating around the Internet that global levels of sea ice — i.e., the floating ice that forms on top of ocean water — are back to where they were in 1979. In particular, Arctic sea ice, which was supposed to be melting rapidly, reportedly “rebounded” in 2008. This argument, which originated on the Website Daily Tech, rests in large part on the reported “rebounding” of Arctic sea ice in 2008 and is being held up by climate-change contrarians as a “gotcha” to Al Gore-ish Chicken Littles. Scientists who study the cryosphere, however, say that the latest data on sea ice does nothing to refute global warming — unless you willfully misread it.

In her powerful opening, Rastogi refers to Asher’s “arguement” — she puts rebounding in quotes (indicating doubt)  — and implies that Asher gives a “gotcha” rebuttal to Al Gore (more on this below).  As we will see, the experts she cites at The Cryosphere Today confirm Asher’s statement, there was a rebound, and he does not discuss the wider implications of sea ice trends.

Back to Slate:

… Now, let’s go back to the Daily Tech article. It states: “Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery.” First of all, the predictions that the article refers to were in regard to summer sea ice — no one is claiming that the Arctic will see ice-free Christmases anytime soon.  Also, the scientific community isn’t nearly as unified as the article suggests; predictions as to when those watery Arctic summers might commence range anywhere from 2013 to 2100. Some scientists said it was possible that the summer of 2008 would be ice-free, but those statements weren’t made as decisively as the Daily Tech piece asserts.

Asher said “predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008.   Rastogi’s qualifier of “decisively” seems intended to weaken the accuracy of Asher’s statement.  Was Asher correct?  Here are four examples of predictions about the melting ice.

(a)  Expert: Arctic polar cap may disappear this summer“, Xinhua, 29 February 2008 — Excerpt:

“The polar cap in the Arctic may well disappear this summer due to the global warming, Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, said on Friday. … “If Norway’s average temperature this year equals that in 2007,the ice cap in the Arctic will all melt away, which is highly possible judging from current conditions,” Orheim said.

(b)  North Pole Could Be Ice Free in 2008“, ABC News, 27 April 2008 — Excerpt:

“The set-up for this summer is disturbing,” says Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). A number of factors have this year led to most of the Arctic ice being thin and vulnerable as it enters its summer melting season. … “There is this thin first-year ice even at the North Pole at the moment,” says Serreze. “This raises the spectre – the possibility that you could become ice free at the North Pole this year.”

(c)  North Pole May Be Ice-Free for First Time This Summer“, Aalok Mehta, National Geographic, 20 June 2008 — Excerpt:

Arctic warming has become so dramatic that the North Pole may melt this summer, report scientists studying the effects of climate change in the field. “We’re actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history],” David Barber, of the University of Manitoba, told National Geographic News aboard the C.C.G.S. Amundsen, a Canadian research icebreaker.

… But the North Pole’s current plight stems from a much more startling reduction in sea ice that took place last summer. That extensive melt shattered all previous recordsand destroyed a significant portion of the Arctic’s multiyear ice. “We lost 65% of the ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere all in one year,” Barber said. “So it was a whopping decrease. We didn’t even think it was possible for the system to lose so much ice all at once.”

(d)  Exclusive: Scientists warn that there may be no ice at North Pole this summer“, The Independent, 27 June 2008 — Excerpt:

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

… “The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the NorthPole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I’d say it’s even-odds whether the North Pole melts out,” said Dr Serreze.

… Ron Lindsay, a polar scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, agreed that much now depends on what happens to the Arctic weather in terms of wind patterns and hours of sunshine. “There’s a good chance that it will all melt away at the North Pole, it’s certainly feasible, but it’s not guaranteed,” Dr Lindsay said.

Back to Slate:

As for the “substantial recovery” claim — well, sea ice always “recovers” in the winter, in the sense that it grows back after it melts. And, yes, September 2008 did show more ice than September 2007 — but the Lantern would argue that going from the worst summer on record to the second-worst is nothing to crow about.”

Again notice the how Roastogi attributes emotionalism to Asher — “to crow about” — with no quotes, since it is her invention.  And finally she gets to the point of Asher’s article:  that ice cover was similar to its extent 30 years ago.  It’s not just the primary point of his article, it is almost the only subject discussed.

Back to Slate:

… The “miraculous recovery” argument makes the classic mistake of confusing short-term changes with long-term trends. The rate at which sea ice melts or freezes is determined by a complex mix of variables: not just atmospheric temperature but also wind patterns, ocean currents, saline levels, and the amount of open water surrounding the ice. So looking at a single data point is bound to skew your analysis if you ignore the clear and persistent long-term changes, as this blog post wittily demonstrates.

Rastogi uses a false quote to exaggerate Asher’s words.  Asher says nothing about a miraculous recovery; the only adjectives he uses are “rapid” and “substantial”.  Then more dancing by Rastogi, as she ignores Asher’s valid observation that whatever the “trend” the levels were unchanged point-to-point.  The logical rebuttal to his observation would be to show that the “clear and persistent long-term” trend, which she does not even attempt (perhaps for good reason).

Back to Slate:

The Daily Tech piece also sows confusion about the meaning of global ice levels. In a global-warming scenario, it’s possible that Antarctic sea ice might rise as Arctic sea ice plummets. Looking at the combined ice area of both regions doesn’t tell us much about the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions, as this response to the Daily Tech item — written by the scientists whose data the piece cites — explains. …

Attributing to Asher things he did not say — and then than rebutting  this fiction.  Asher does not “sow confusion about the meaning of global ice levels” because he does not discuss the meaning.  The closest he comes to such a thing is the conclusion (a brief factual statement of the recent public policy actions about bears).

Rastogi is “a writer and editor in Brooklyn, NY”  Obviously a skilled writer, as she writes 1100 words about Asher’s 360 word article and manages to effectively disguise that the point of his article is correct.  That’s a professional at work!


Email from Michael Asher:

For the record, neither Rastogi nor Slate contacted Dailytech in regards to their article, and in fact refused us any rebuttal or reply when we learned of it independently.

This raises an important point, one that shows why the mainstream media has lost its vigor:  allowing Asher to post a response at Slate would generate free content and buzz — and contraversy.  Readers.  Media lives and dies by the size of its audience.  Slates preference for the ideological purity of its pages over traffic is a bad sign for its longevity as a business.

Also note Asher’s comment posted below.


With such disinformation saturating the mainstream media, we see a possible explanation for the oddities of comments on the FM site by pro-AGW (anthropogenic global warming) enthusiasts.  Articles like Rastogi’s supply no factual basis for their beliefs, so their comments seldom provide any.  Instead Rastogi gives both the illusion of certainty and a feeling of righteousness.

The science will sort itself out eventually.  Until then I believe we should adequately fund climate science research — including review of research (as done in new drug approvals), and prevent public policy mistakes based on incomplete or premature conclusions.  For more about these recommendations see My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009.

Propaganda, like this Slate article, is part of the problem, not the solution.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Some posts on the FM site about disinformation and propaganda:

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!, 2 September 2007
  2. 4GW at work in a community near you, 19 October 2007
  3. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  4. Successful info ops, but who are the targets?, 1 May 2008
  5. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable”, 8 June 2008 – About Debkafile
  6. Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?, 15 June 2008
  7. Psywar, a core skill of the US Military (used most often on us), 26 November 2008
  8. Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep, 2 December 2008
  9. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 February 2009

Some posts on the FM site about the sociology and politics of climate science:

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
  3. “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton, 15 November 2008
  4. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  5. Apostasy against core leftist doctrine at the Huffington Post!, 13 January 2009
  6. Peer review of scientific work – another example of a flawed basis for public policy, 22 January 2009
  7. Obamaopens his Administration with a powerful act that will echo for many years, 4 February 2009
  8. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  9. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009



51 thoughts on “The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation”

  1. I sometimes feel this site devotes disproportional attention to this issue, but it is understandable to want to provide a counterweight to any sort of assumption-based panic. It does seem that insufficient attention is devoted to the possibility that global warming might not be such a bad thing, either in and of itself or as a counterweight to global cooling, which has certainly happened in the past and been disastrous.

    What is certainly true is that we live in the most propagandized culture that has ever existed, both in terms of quantity and quality, and that is not a good thing. All media are by definition middlemen, who by definition have their own material agendas, and they are not identical with the public interest, nor can they be.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There is no rational basis for the selection of topics written about here, within the field of geopolitics. I write as the spirit moves me, until I complete my build-ships-in-a-bottle course. Then I begin a more socially useful hobby.

    Climate change is significant on several levels. For its effect on the world, but also as an illustration of the decision-making process in America (its disfunctional observation-orientation-decision-action loop).

  2. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » FABIUS MAXIMUS: “The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation.”…

  3. “Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the NorthPole could melt entirely in 2008.”

    Don’t you just love media-annointed experts? Just listen for them, then bet against what they say.
    And as an aside from that, what are the chances that during the Holocene Climatic Optimum, that there was an ice free North Pole all summer given how much warmer that arctic was then than today?
    Fabius Maximus replies: I consider this a bit harsh. First, these are real experts in any sense of the word. Second, there is strong temptation to make bold statements to reporters. Fame is a door to fortune and influence in our society, and journalists hold many of the keys. Giving them accurate answers about cutting-edge climate science — complex, nuanced, reflecting the uncertainties of a new field — means oblivion.

    It’s a reasonable gamble to make a big guess. No professional penalty for being wrong, media fame for being correct.

  4. 1. Journalism started going down hill when they started giving out college degrees for it and the media gave preference to hiring those who have them.
    2. Most people who have degrees in journalism have them because they didn’t have what it takes to get a degree in say, electrical engineering. Its a minor leap above getting a degree in Transgender Studies.
    3. Most journalists are scientifically illiterate.

    –Enough said.

  5. One would think that, in the absence of an anti-human/anti-civilization agenda, evidence indicating a lessening likelihood of catastrophic warming would be welcomed as a dodged bullet; the level of hostility leveled at any such evidence is clear indication of the fervent climato-religious zeal held by the AGW ‘enthusiasts’ (fabulous ironic term!).

  6. There has been no warming on average in the US rural sites in over 111 years. It is all urban heat island effects. The data has been summarized in a little YouTube video. It may be simple but it is a very valid study. Think of what the data show.
    Fabius Maximus replies: For something of this complexity and importance I only look at studies with a much higher level of expert analysis. Even with my minimal knowledge of climate trends, I would expect to see warming over the past 111 years as northern hemisphere temperatures rebound from the Little Ice Age.

    In any case, this is not a thead on which to debate global warming. The subject is coverage of climate science by the mainstream media — or perhaps media manipulation as a broad topic.

  7. I think it says a lot about Global Warming and climate science in general when the response to any failed prediction is such an article. Real science advances by hypothesis, prediction, and falsification. Accept that your prediction failed or you hypothesis was falsified and move on. Fix the problem. Deal with contradictory data. The AGW crowd is having none of that. Ipso facto not science.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s not tar an entire field because of the actions of a few. There is a great deal of excellent climate science being done, outside the media’s 3 ring circus. For examples see the FM Reference Page on Science & nature – studies & reports.

  8. The problem with climate science journalism arises primarily from the climate scientists themselves. In other areas of science reporting, the writing might be scientifically illiterate and sensationalized, but there are usually quotes from those enthusiastic about the science in question, and those skeptical of the approach or the conclusions.

    However, there are a very vocal group of climate scientists (and non-scientific activists) who really circle the wagons if anyone tries to upset the AGW applecart with even mild questions or observations. And there are a lot more who seem to maintain normal scientific skepticism in their work, but won’t risk airing that skepticism in public. Some of this is likely based on self-interest in terms of grants, papers and prestige, but I am sure some of it is due to the vicious trashing skeptics receive from the vocal minority. Heck, James Hansen and others want those who even question AGW put on trial.

  9. I’ll tar an entire field, and for one simple reason. They aren’t scientists, they’re politicians.

    All of the science pointing to CO2 as the driver of “global warming” has failed to pan out. When reality contradicts your scientific predictions, you typically do one of two things: re-work your hypothesis, or re-evaluate your data to see if you made any errors.

    However, what the IPCC does is get the AP and Reuters to publish stories about how everything’s melting, when evidence to the contrary is staring us right in the face.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This is just silly. What is your basis to “tar an entire field” and say “they aren’t scientists”? Do you know all of them, have studied their work? Most of them? Any? Does this include the scientists studying the influence of solar cycles on Earth’s climate, who are opposition to the group running the IPCC?

  10. I am a scientist and it is very easy to see how the media may not cover any science well. Data analysis is very boring. You just want someone to tell you what it means.

    I spent many, many hours checking data for that little video and trying to decide how to best analyze it. Experimental design is very important and even under the most controlled conditions, a poorly designed experiment may give useless data. Climatologists can’t set up controlled experiments and must depend upon observation and modeling. If the data collection systems are not completely reliable or consistently controlled (and most of the surface temperature stations might fall under that classification) it makes it all the more difficult to make accurate models. We really can’t say what will happen next year let alone the next hundred.

    But accuracy may not be so important to the media. The media like things to be dramatic, and I hate to say it, the more outlandish the prediction (the ice is all going to melt and we are all going to die) the more dramatic it is and sells the story so much better.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Why not write it up and post it on a climate science blog, with the video as an insert? It might be a generational thing, but I don’t take a YouTube video seriously. Or any video or TV for that matter (I don’t even have a TV, just a monitor). (With one exception about TV: I bought the Miami Vice Season One DVDs as a source of fashion tips).

  11. “I sometimes feel this site devotes disproportional attention to this issue”

    Well, that sort of makes sense, since the offenses on the topic are so egregious.

  12. Tcobb, well-said (comment #4). Despite being a scientist, and thus allegedly fitting the stereotype of being generally impenetrable and poor at speaking or writing, I am the exception. I love to write, and do so well-enough to be a journalist. I once applied to Medill School at Northwestern University, and was rejected – to my disappointment but eventual pride. I wear that as a mark of distiction now, given the shoddy record of journalists these days, when so many have abandoned their critical role as our nation’s fourth estate in favor of naked partisanship, infotainment and the like. Michael Crichton warned of the increasing irrlevency of the mainstream media as far back as the early 1990s in a series of talks he gave; he was ahead of the curve on that one. He went on to write about science as fear-mongering in his book “State of Fear.”

    Fabius: I have not read in some time, if ever, a better summary description of the failings of modern journalism than your first paragraph. Well done! Keep on building that ship in a bottle… it looks to be a good one.

  13. The pursuit of profits is another potential cause of the modern decline of journalism.

    Media organisations are profit-maximising companies, whose customers are advertisers and whose products are conduits to the population. In order to maximise its income from advertising, a media organisation must increase the number of people who see/hear the advertisements they publish. This is commonly achieved by manipulating the content they publish to better attract viewers. Stories of doom and gloom, sex and titillation, and irrelevant entertainment events are substituted for content to attract viewers. Detailed and in-depth analysis of issues is simultaneously rejected, as it is seen as boring and unlikely to attract viewers. This reduces the quality of the journalism produced by the mainstream media, which now intends to entertain and not inform.

    Reducing the quality of journalism found in the mainstream media also makes it easier to spread disinformation and propaganda, especially if the media is a willing participant. This isn’t to say that traditional journalism is dead, just that its often less profitable than entertainment masquerading as journalism. People will still seek “good” journalism, however, they will have difficulty locating it the mainstream media channels.

  14. The climate science reporting fiasco has gotten pretty bad when one has to resort to a “he said/she said” analysis about sea ice. Another indication of bad climate reporting was a very well respected climate scientist taking it to reporters on his blog earlier this week:

    An Egregious Example Of Biased News Reporting, Roger Pielke Sr, 15 February 2009

    There are more climate scientists like this one trying to get their knowledge and viewpoints disseminated but finding it very difficult – a great read by an eminent climate scientist describing the situation can be found here:

    Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?“, Richard S. Lindzen (MIT Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate), 29 November 2008 — Conference paper, posted at arXiv.

    Unfortunately, the sea ice type of journalism from the larger media outlets will continue. I see no solution to this other than finding other sources of information and analysis.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks for links to these articles! Also note this: “Scientists must rein in misleading climate change claims“, Vicky Pope (head of climate change advice at the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre), op-ed in the Guardian, 11 February 2009 — “Overplaying natural variations in the weather diverts attention from the real issues”.

  15. What worries me about AGW and climatology is that suppose they are wrong. The entire field of climatology would be radically discredited. Careers would end. Tenures would be denied and so forth. I have no doubt that many climatologists are hard working and sincerely believe in AGW. The fact, remains, however, that their careers depend on it being true. Worse still, their findings are being taken and exagerated by those with political agendas. Read the UN report on Climate Change sometime. The actual report is quite circumspect on the likelyhood and severety of global warmning. It was written by scientists. The exectutive summary, however, was written by political people and contains all of the outlandist claims.

    Perhaps the scientists are right about AGW. Time will tell. But the fact is that it is pretty obvious that they are engaging in serious group think and have created a situtation where they have a vested interest in their theory being correct. Those are not conditions for good science. If they are right, it will be because they got lucky. If they are wrong, heaven help us with the damage it will do to the reputation of science and scientists. If AGW is proven incorrect, advocates for every crack pot theory from intelligent design to vacines causing autism will have a pat response “oh so you are telling me the science says my theory is wrong, just like it said global warming was correct”. Sadly, they will have a point.

  16. Letter of Ex-communication.

    Sadly, as a documenter of anti-global warming propaganda, you are now recieving your ex-communication letter for heresy. The global warming community has comnfirmed the consensus scientific fact that the Globe is Warming due to man-made Carbon Dioxide emissions alone ove the last 50 years. This is correlated by most scientists in all fields of endeavour.

    Remember they are legion and will ensure you never get or continue to have tenure at any research institution, especially since you will be unable to get any sort of funding by arguing against what is a fait accompli. The Earth is warming, this is completely understood. You have turned your back on us, we now do the same for you.

    Your attitude is irrational at best and at complete odds with the scientific establishment, and with the Presidents of the all the primary world countries, for that matter. In addition, you will lose all funding for your articles bearing any so-called facts denigrating the policy and fact of global warming. No peer-reviewed scientific magazine will ever again look at you work for publication.

    Sorry, but the scientific establishment and its consensus has been damaged. You are directly held responsible for this and will no longer be able to talk to the community of true researchers and will be shunned for such behavior. Surely, Mr. Gore will be visiting you in your re-eduaction camp over the next few decades to correct your misconceptions. Remember a Nobel Prize trumps all and ensures the truth is correct and invariable.

    Sincerely, with all due regrets, you are hereby ex-communicated from the world scientific community,

    LOL, I could not resist! But expect this type of reaction from the “True Believers”.
    Fabius Maximus replies: No need to guess; just read the comments on the FM site’s articles about climate science.

  17. “At some point during the 1970’s a large part of the mainstream media decided to abandon journalism to become the Ministry of Truth. Advocacy journalism, instructing the peons and elevating their consciousness. The slo-mo but accelerating business disaster that resulted — loss of audience, fading profits, layoffs — should not detract from their considerable success at mastering the techniques of propaganda.”

    Isn’t this a bit of an exaggeration? Are the business woes of the mainstream media a direct consequence of the politicization of their reportage? There seem to be some who think that technology and related shifts in generational preferences for news sources have something to do with it.

  18. FM wrote: “There is no rational basis for what gets written here..”

    Wait a minute, that’s MY business model;-).

    Besides wondering if there is or isn’t global addition of heat due to people burning stuff… there’s also the possibility, at least, that we would not discover same because much of the heat could be used up evaporating water, which might explain this cheery article at TomDispatch: “Burning Questions: What Does Economic “Recovery” Mean on an Extreme Weather Planet?“, By Tom Engelhardt, posted at TomDispatch, 17 February 2009.

    And of course without proper historical data, we don’t really know what the cause if any of all this drought is.

    What does seem certain to me, unfortunately, is that whatever we do about the banks, or the carbon issue, or anything, the equation of human population/arable land/fossil fuels/fresh water simply does not solve at the current scale indefinitely. Something has to give.
    Fabius Maximus replies: There may be no “cause”, in the usual sense of the word. The 20th century might just have had unusually pleasant weather in some areas (e.g., western US, Australia), that are now experiencing normal climatic cycles.

  19. I am in complete agreement with you that this is a propaganda campaign.

    The original seminal research for this hypothesis is from a problem research study. The problem with using data that has been heavily edited to conform to a hypothesis and then used as a projection is a fallacy. If the data can not be consistently used to provide a model that fits historical data over say the last 2,000 years then how can you use it to project over the next 10 years, or 100 years, or 1,000 years?

    This is an example of the most lackadaisical “science” foisted on us by a so-called NASA scientist. It is a horrible example of the worst sort of science done in recent years. It does not even follow the scientific method of posting all facets of the experiment and data so that it can be re-examined and re-executed by other scientists to prove the validity of the research done. Most scientists consider this type of modeling speculation at best, not proof of trends.

    This is the basis of a scientific consensus? I shudder to think of what this implies about our scientific community. That media, scientists, and politicians see this as a way to get votes, funding, and power is not really surprising.

    Read Jerry Pournelle’s and Larry Niven’s “Fallen Angels” for a discussion of just this kind of situation. You will understand after having read it. It shows just such a global warming conspiracy gone off beam and causing an Ice Age, because of poorly done science, propagandizing by radical environmentalists and political people trying to capitalize on the hysteria for votes and power, and frantic anti-warming measures hastily instituted to stop global warming, without thought to unintended consequences. Oh, and it was written in 1981 or around then.

  20. Ollie,

    That is a good point. The point of a scientific theory is not only to predict the future but explain past data. I have yet to see a AGW model that explains past climate changes like the warming that took place around 3000BC or the little ice age in the 1500s.

  21. Man, journalists are getting a beating here. I think Leper had it half right–news media is a business and needs to sell a product. That crazy guy on TV never sold OxyClean by saying ‘well, it works about a third of the time if you get the mixture right, and even then there’s strong research disputing the fact that oxygenation has a clear impact on stain removal, and even then, there’s no clear data in 70% of households.’ The consumer wants clear statements and prizes brevity and concision, which seem antithetical to the nuanced treatment that responsible science deserves. Try giving a reporter a long winded answer with a lot of qualified statements and see if you get quoted. As Gerard and FM have pointed out the nature of news media pushes experts and reporters towards bold uncompromising statements.

    On top of that, journalists have the misfortune of being human, which includes proclivity towards laziness, simplification, and bias. Anyone who is immune to these behaviors needs to switch fields and becomes journalists. Thankfully some unlicensed plumbers with no journalistic background are becoming reporters, so we may now be reversing the insidious trend of preference towards a college education and field experience when hiring for news outlets.

    I’m not going to pretend that 90% of what I read in newspapers and see on TV (can’t afford the Miami Vice DVDs) doesn’t make me want to scream about ethical reporting to the nearest person or chair. But that being said, without reporting, however imperfect, who’s there to disseminate any information, true or false? And at what point do we no longer have to be responsible consumers? Why do we trust their claims any more than those like ‘number one wireless network in America’ or ‘recommended by four out of five dentists’? Thankfully, there are blogs like this that centralize counterpoints to the media’s daily briefings, and we’re lucky that such information activists exist. But I can’t for the life of me see why the general public doesn’t feel the need to hop on the internet, read some studies and reports, and investigate for themselves every time they hear a sweeping claim like “the ice caps will disappear.”

  22. Matt Jones #19: “Are the business woes of the mainstream media a direct consequence of the politicization of their reportage?”

    YES! I really like the NY Times analytical coverage of politics and science and sports and business. But I cannot stand their tenditious and slanted reporting, spiced with periodic outright treasonable “leaks” of sensitive government information. Were it not for the latter, I would subscribe to get the former.

    “There seem to be some who think that technology and related shifts in generational preferences for news sources have something to do with it.”

    My generation (those born circa Watergate) and those younger do not have new sources for news. Bloggers are in general not reporters or journalists. Reading a newspaper on the internet is not a viable business model for the newspaper. You-Tube videos are in general not news. Us Weekly is not news. The free “Metro” tabloid is not not a real newspaper. Facebook updates and Twitter posts are not news. Talk radio is not news. My generation is in general abysmally ignorant of actual news and events, civics, science, and math, which is why they are so easily manipulated by the players of the media-entertainment-politcal world.

  23. I note with interest that the article on sea ice fails to mention that they are comparing *September* 1979 global sea ice to January 2009 global sea ice. It is the difference between summer and winter in the northern hemisphere. A straight January 1979 to January 2009 comparison provides a somewhat different assessment.
    Fabius Maximus replies: It fails to mention this because your statement is not correct. The excerpt from The Cryosphere Today, published by the Dept of Atmospheric Sciences at the U of Illinois is quite specific on this point: “One important detail about the article in the Daily Tech is that the author is comparing the GLOBAL sea ice area from December 31, 2008 to same variable for December 31, 1979.”

    Update: Note Ael’s gracious apology in comment #43 below. More like Ael and the internet would be a more fun and informative place.

  24. Pingback: Further Evidence of Media Distortion « Rantings of mine

  25. FM note: This comment is from Mike Asher, the author of the Daily Tech article

    Comment #25: “the article on sea ice fails to mention that they are comparing *September* 1979 global sea ice to January 2009 global sea ice. It is the difference between summer and winter…”

    This is incorrect; the original article compared Dec 1979 levels to Dec 2008. Furthermore, even had we chosen to use September data, the results would have still been valid, as we compared based on the _anomaly_ level (which is seasonally adjusted), rather than the raw amount of ice itself.

    This is one of the many points Rastogi got wrong. What she did state correctly, however, was that a single year’s ice recovery does indeed say nothing about anthropogenic global warming. By the same tokenr, the melting of the past 150 years says nothing about it either. The cryosphere has been melting since the end of the last ice age, some 20,000 years ago…and over most of that period, it was doing so substantially faster than it is today. Global warming or not, we would expect the North Pole to eventually do what it has done in past interglacials — vanish entirely.
    Note Ael’s gracious apology in comment #43 below. More like Ael and the internet would be a more fun and informative place.

  26. Steve W from Ford

    You advise not tarring an entire field for the foolishness of the few and there is some wisdom in that entreaty. However I recall reading of the first results of project Argo last year. This is the project that has released approximately 3000 buoys around the globe that periodically dive to 1000 meters float along there for 8 to 10 days then go on down to 2000 meters while also recording the water temperature before rising to the surface and radioing the results to a satellite. The project had entered it’s fifth year with rather “distressing” results showing that the oceans were cooling slightly rather than heating as the AGW proponents had postulated. So what did the good scientists speculate was the problem? They opined that the instrumentation had some unknown error that caused it to misread the “true” temperature.
    Now, true, this was their first reaction and they will probably get it sorted but it says something fundamental about how biased your belief system is when your first attribution is that the 3000!!!! robots you have plying the oceans are, somehow, wrong because you just can’t believe the results.
    It makes me wonder just how deep down the “rabbit hole” many of our scientists are and how difficult it will be to accept clear data showing their error. I do not have your faith in human nature. I personally believe many will obfuscate the truth in order to delay the inevitable denouement.

  27. There has been a lot of talk lately about the decline / incipient demise of the newspaper. Given the media’s performance since at least Whitewater, would this be a bad thing.

    The only thing I need to read in my local paper is the obituaries. I can survive without coverage of the local pumpkin festival and the latest car crash.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You imply that whatever replaces the mainstream media will be as good or better. That is quite a leap of faith. Also, local self-government requires local news. If you or do not follow it, we are either a serf or relying on the industry of our fellow citizens (deadweight).

  28. I was one of the scientists at a conference in Dec 2002 to set up the new generation of UK climate models. This was at the DTI in London and we were guarded by anti terrorist police. I thought it strange as we were supposed to ‘protect’ the world. We had just had still born twins and I was against the build up of war against Iraq. Drop bombs on children and make more grieving parents. I had been asked to contribute to a UN report commissioned by the UK Government, so I wrote this in protest (taken off UK Gov site now, but here for reference, email also changed): Sustainable Development – the UK Government’s approach, 19 December 2002.

    The risk assessment that “climate change was a greater threat than terrorism” was a protest against the war. In 2004 the UK Government’s Chief Scientist Sir David King, who as far as I understand was only a member of the reports committee, published “climate change was a greater threat than terrorism”. He pretended he was the original author and got all the global publicity for it. He appeared on the chat shows and in the media. Always vague when asked how he came up with the idea. He didn’t I did.

    I contacted the BBC when they did a weeks programming on it. BBC News admitted Sir David was not the original author and I was better informed. But the BBC admitted they would go ahead citing him as the author as he was a celebrity and media personality and news was about ratings. Neither Sir David or the BBC followed scientific etiquette on such an important topic.

    This has been disastrous because so much other work on environmental management as been passed over, people have died, disasters could have been avoided. Just so Sir David and the media could present an untrue story. Have very little faith in the media.

  29. In 1968 I took a job as a police reporter and discovered that police reporters were very well informed but did not share what they knew with their papers. At the same time I was impressed with the determination of editors to verify what passed for information that went into the paper. City Hall reporters, like police reporters, were remarkably well informed about their beat and careful to keep their knowledge from the public, to preserve their access. My newspaper career did not last long but it cured me of my obsession with reading them. Gave up the NYT Sunday in 1985 and the rest of it by 1990. Curing myself finally of the WSJ. The problem with journalism today is not TV or internet. Its simple: the reporters all went to college, increasingly, woe to us, “good schools”, which means they have opinions on everything, do not know how to drink,and are not really friends with anyone who knows anything.

  30. Pingback: The irresponsible media…again! « The Thinker

  31. Pingback: Top Posts «

  32. Tired of the mainstream media manipulating consumer confidence with negative coverage of the economy? Read Positive Economic News. The other side, that you rare hear of.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Can you support this statement: “other side, that you rare hear of”. There were several long discussions about this theory here, and nobody was able to provide the slightest support, with the two possible (i.e., poorly documented) exceptions of during the Clinton-Bush election and on TV news. Whereas considerable evidence was given that it absolutely wrong for the mainstream print media.

    Also, this is funny (gallows humor) to provide as the world slides into what appears to be a depression. What were you posting on your site a year or two ago?

    For a better perspective on this see:

    * We have been warned. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime, 28 November 2007
    * Making us dumber, chanting “Dude, where’s my recession?”, 3 June 2008
    * When did “Dude” predict a recession? How severe?, 6 June 2008
    * The myth of media pessimism about the economy, 13 June 2008
    * All we have to fear is our optimism, 12 November 2008

  33. what happened to West media is just ordinary for East countries. The news had been manipulated and I am quite sure that people in the West aware about it. But if they are aware why does the media still have position to control public opinions?

    (i just skimming through and do not read fully, so comment first read second :) sorry)

  34. I would like to see the press give the context about what the Pope told Pelosi in their recent meeting about how politicians, among others, should be respecting and promoting life, not abortion. The statements from her office and Pro-choice sites are inaccurate.

  35. Soooooo, the fact that Venus is a literal molten hell because of extreme greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (including carbon dioxide and methane) is insignificant? No humans on Venus, so where is your man-centered hypothesis now?

    Is the writer of this blog a scientist? I suspect not. I suspect that he/she has a political agenda as well (perhaps christianity?)
    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s astonishing how so many comments on this site combine awesome certainty and gross ignorance. This comparison is nuts.

    * Venus is aprox .72 AU distant from the sun (i.e., 72% of Earth’s). It’s hotter in part because it is closer. The total solar irradiance (TSI) is roughly almost 2x that of Earth.
    * CO2 is aprox 93% of the atmosphere on Venus; it is 0.038% of Earth’s.
    * Its clouds are sulphuric acid, not water vapor.
    * The atmosphere pressure on Venus is 93x that of Earth, the equivalent of being almost 1 kilometer under the ocean. This is probably the single largest factor accounting for its high temperature.

    What will happen if Earth’s CO2 increases 5x? No need to guess. Today Earth’s atmosphere has 383 parts per million (ppm) of CO2. In the early Cretaceous the CO2 was aprox 2900 ppm (over 7x higher than now). There were no polar ice caps; the temperature was a few degrees warmer. There was no “tipping point” — the temperature did not rise to become like Venus. See this Google Search for more info.

    For another silly comparison (like yours), Mars has roughy the same fraction of CO2 in its atmosphere as Venus (95%). Don’t bother with the swimsuit when visiting; bring your parka!

    “No humans on Venus, so where is your man-centered hypothesis now?”

    Can anyone explain what this means? What is “my man-centered hypothesis”?

  36. * ps. do you know what Le Chatlier’s principle is? Just curious…
    * Has anyone mentioned that the earth is supposed to be in a cooling period now? Has anyone talked about the little ice ages in the last few hundred years (preceding industrialization)?
    * BTW those little ice ages were linked to increased atmospheric disturbances, like huge volcanic eruptions!
    Fabius Maximus replies: I don’t know what is the point of these comments.

    (1) The current state of Earth’s climate (cooling or warming) is intensely debated, and depends on what time period you mean by “now”. This year? This decade? This century? This millenium? Longer periods?

    (2) I suggest you publish your proof about the cause of the Little Ice Age. (why plural?) Its very existence as a global phenomenon is fiercely debated.

  37. “* CO2 is aprox 93% of the atmosphere on Venus; it is 0.038% of Earth’s.”

    This is incorrect. Go to pubmed and type in carbon dioxide and earth. Pubmed is a database for scientific literature. As I said, no real scientists here, just people with agendas.
    Fabius Maximus replies: NASA does much of the nation’s research to determine the composition of Venus’ atmosphere.

    NASA fact sheet for Venus: “96.5% Carbon Dioxide (CO2) by volume.
    NASA fact sheet for Earth: “Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – 380ppm” — which is 0.038%

  38. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Feb 10;106(6):1704-9. Epub 2009 Jan 28. Links
    Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Solomon S, Plattner GK, Knutti R, Friedlingstein P.; Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA.

    The severity of damaging human-induced climate change depends not only on the magnitude of the change but also on the potential for irreversibility. This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the “dust bowl” era and inexorable sea level rise. Thermal expansion of the warming ocean provides a conservative lower limit to irreversible global average sea level rise of at least 0.4-1.0 m if 21st century CO(2) concentrations exceed 600 ppmv and 0.6-1.9 m for peak CO(2) concentrations exceeding approximately 1,000 ppmv. Additional contributions from glaciers and ice sheet contributions to future sea level rise are uncertain but may equal or exceed several meters over the next millennium or longer.

    I could post hundreds more…
    Fabuis Maximus replies: So what is your point? It’s a paper about cutting edge science. As I have shown by citing dozens of other papers, its a debate. I have no guess as to who is correct, but believe
    * that we need more funding for research, and
    * 3rd party expert reviews (as done with new drug approvals) to draw conclusions for public policy use.

    Over time we will learn which side is correct.

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