Tag Archives: journalism

Five trillion is a red line. Cross it and the environment crashes.

Summary: Here are three stories about environmental destruction, all featuring “five trillion” as the horrific number. Scary stories. Are they accurate?

To understand a trillion, look at it in cash

What is a trillion dollars?

(1) Five trillion tons of ice has melted!

5 Trillion Tons of Ice Lost Since 2002” by climate propagandist Phil Plait at Slate.

“…land ice loss is perhaps most important as a political trigger; the sheer amount of land ice being lost every year is immediate, here, now. And the numbers are staggering … From 2002 to mid-November 2014 — less than 13 years — the combined land ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland is more than 5 trillion tons. Five. Trillion. Tons. That’s beyond staggering; that’s almost incomprehensible. It’s a volume of about 5,700 cubic kilometers, a cube of ice nearly 18 kilometers — more than 11 miles — on a side.”

This is vintage propaganda, giving big numbers with no context. Much as the Right does with the Federal deficit (which if converted into pennies could build a bridge to Mars!).

The total mass of Earth’s ice is roughly 33 thousand trillion metric tons (per table 2 of 2013 USGS; other estimates differ). Five trillion metric tons over 13 years is 0.112% per year.  At that rate the Earth’s ice will melt in 6,600 86,000 years. What level of technology will we have in a thousand years? Children in the year 3,000 will probably consider conflate burning oil and cow dung, both things done by primitive people in the dark ages.

Also, estimates of Antarctica’s ice loss differ widely. A December 2015 NASA study found that Antarctica gained ice mass from 1992-2008 (see the press release).

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Journalists suffer from the crisis crisis, warping America’s vision

Summary: The news is all about fear. Each day journalists flood the media with exaggerated stories of imminent doom without useful context. This slant to the news warps our perception of the world, with ill effects on America’s public policy. It’s the crisis crisis, as described by Peter Moore in a prescient article from Playboy in 1987 (he thought it was bad then; it’s many times worse today).

Horribleness: America's true enduring bull market

The bull market in horribleness.


Excerpt from “The Crisis Crisis”

By Peter Moore
From Playboy, March 1987


It’s bad news Biblical style: Plagues of swarming journalists are swallowing — and selling — every doomsday scenario in sight. Picture a crowded bar. Three television sets hang from the ceiling, tuned in to the network feed. This is a high tech joint, so there are competing amusements, as well: MTV: on wall-sized monitors, dueling jukeboxes, video games with synthetic voices. On top of this racket, there’s the festive roar of conversation.

That is, until the news comes on. Talk stammers to a halt and eyes are cast upward; they dart from screen to screen. The anchor men begin to talk loudly, and they’re talking crisis: drugs, vanishing rain forests, terrorism, Armageddon. They’re inflating stories to ten times their natural size, decrying the end of the world. Their graphics are flashier than video games, their footage better than MTV, their high-tension talk scarier than s-f.

In the face of this onslaught, the patrons can’t concentrate; they can’t even think. Aghast, afraid, they gulp their drinks as the hysteria level rises.


When they’ve got a crisis to hawk, news magazines love to start stories in italics. In that type face, they can get away with anything: apocalyptic fiction that would otherwise be out of place in straight journalism, even overextended metaphors for American society like the one in the paragraphs above. Italic type can also clear the way for a single anecdote to stand in for the latest trend that’s ravaging society, and it lays the groundwork for paragraphs that begin, “The sad story of Bob J. is all too familiar in America today. He represents an insidious epidemic that is sweeping. …”

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Journalists are excited about Nicola Thorp’s story of high heels, feminism, journalism, & big government

Summary:  Nicola Thorp was told to wear 2 inch to 4 inch heels when she arrived for her first day as a receptionist at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a finance firm. This sparked a media sensation which provides valuable lessons about the death of journalism, the nature of news, and our love of big government.

Nicola Thorp

Nicola Thorp.


BBC: “London receptionist ‘sent home for not wearing heels’.” Similar headlines appear in The Guardian, the Australian Financial Review, and a hundred other “news” services.

Inevitably following these are “High heel row firm changes dress code policy for women” and a petition to “Make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work.” This petition on the UK government website has already received the 100,000 signatures for Parliament to automatically schedule a date to review it.

Nicola Thorp was a sergeant in the UK Army and now works as a model and actress — appearing in Doctor Who, BBC, The Guilty, and Blue Borsalino. See her profile. Thorp has masterfully played journalists, turning her employer’s rebuke into global publicity.

Now for the conclusions we can draw from this kerfuffle…

Woman's show with a two Inch heel

Woman’s show with a two Inch heel.


These little media sensations are rich with lessons about western society.

First, there is a massive surplus of media “space” over news content (see “Too many journalists” by French journalist Frédéric Filloux). Desperate to fill the space between the ads, premo news services imitate Buzzfeed. While that generates clicks, they remind readers that this is not worth paying for. Buzzfeed can survive on advertising; the serious news services cannot. The clicks aren’t worth the damage to their brand.

By news “content”, I meant stories that the Outer Party (aka the middle class of small business owners, managers and professionals) wants to read. That day in London lower class women suffered outrages a thousand-fold worse than a beautiful actress-receptionist being sent home to change her shoes. Some so horrific as to chill the souls of placid middle class readers. Those are not news because we don’t want to know.

Second, note the automatic response: the government must regulate this behavior. The bureaucratic state, with its massive machinery to observe and punish everyday behavior — enmeshing us in millions of regulations, subjectively enforced — is the obvious, inevitable, but seldom-mentioned result. Even by the highly trained professional journalists writing these stories.


For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about women and gender roles, about s information & disinformation – new media & old, and these about journalism…

  1. A new news media emerges for our new world, unseen and unexpected.
  2. Are we blind, or just incurious about important news?
  3. We know nothing because we read newspapers — About mythical numbers.
  4. Must the old media die for the new media to flourish?
  5. Clay Shirky is brilliant and American – hence often delusionally flattering.
  6. The long slow crash of journalism. How will it affect us?