Climate

Disinformers defend Foxgate email saying unequivocal warming of the climate should always be disputed

Discredited WattsUpWithThat blogger makes up more stuff, while scientists and media critics slam Fox News

Decadal

Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon was widely condemned yesterday for an email telling the network’s staff not to report on even the most widely accepted scientific facts without immediately challenging them, as I reported here.

The only ones defending Fox News are, predictably, the originators and repeaters of the very disinformation that FoxNews reporters are being ordered to repeat.  The leading online disinformer, discredited former TV weatherman Anthony Watts of WattsUpWithThat, actually went so far as to fabricate phony claims about the email in order to defend Fox News

Yesterday, he wrote (falsely) that it was a “stolen email” and “illegally obtained” –on the basis of no facts whatsoever.  In fact, as MediaMatters explained to CP, “It was provided to us by a recipient.”  I think that was pretty obvious from the story and from the email itself, which was clearly sent to a great many people in FoxNews.  It would be hard to imagine that no one on the distribution list thought the email was journalistically inappropriate.

So why would Watts make up such a libelous claim, one that is so transparently false and easily checked (notwithstanding the fact that it is his modus operandi)?

He was trying to make a bizarre and torturous equivalence between the massive hack of Climategate emails and Foxgate in order to try to smear Al Gore (and me).  #FAIL

Let’s move on to the more interesting, but still erroneous, critique from disinformers like Watts.  They claim that Fox News is only following standard “journalistic” practices.  First off, anyone who actually believes that FoxNews is following journalistic practices should read Howell Raines: “Why has our profession “¦ helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?”.  Raines, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former NY Times executive editor, explains

For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party“¦.  In a bygone era of fact-based commentary typified, left to right, by my late colleagues Scotty Reston and Bill Safire, these deceptions would have been given their proper label: disinformation“¦.

[Ailes] and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions “” whether on health-care reform or other issues “” they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting.

As for Fox News, lots of people who know better are keeping quiet about what to call it. Its news operation can, in fact, be called many things, but reporters of my generation, with memories and keyboards, dare not call it journalism.

The Foxgate email sent to Media Matters did little more then confirm what everybody already knew about FoxNews.

But what of the claim that FoxNews in this particular case was just trying to bring fair and balanced coverage to the climate story?  Recall that, as MediaMatters explained, the Foxgate e-mail was “sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon “¦ less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was ‘on track to be the warmest [decade] on record.’ ”

Sammon wrote “we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”

As Dan Kennedy, an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, told TechNewsWorld:

His memo on climate change, by contrast, underscores what Fox has become: not a news organization, not even an honest opinion outlet, but a source of political propaganda.  The real obligation of journalists is to help their audience understand that the scientific community is almost unanimous that the climate is changing, that human activity is a major cause and that voluminous amounts of data support that view.

For the record, the 2007 Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded its review of scientific literature and relevant observations:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

The key word is “unequivocal,” which is to say, “leaving no doubt.”  Remember, every word in this sentence was signed off on by every single member government, including the Bush Administration — twice, since it appears in the Summary for Policymakers of Working Group 1, “The Physical Science Basis” and the final Synthesis report.

For a summary of the underlying data and studies, with charts, see “The complete guide to modern day climate change:  All the data you need to show that the world is warming.”

The scientific evidence has become even stronger in recent years — see, for instance, Met Office finds “evidence for man-made warming has grown even stronger in the last year.” And so the traditionally conservative and staid U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the equivalent of our scientific Supreme Court, concluded its recent review of climate science:

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems”¦.

Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

And so it is a scientific “settled fact” that the Earth is warming.

As TechNewsWorld reports in their story, “Critics Slam Fox News for Distorting Global Warming Debate”:

Sammon’s assertion in his email that there is some question that the planet is warming was challenged by experts interviewed by TechNewsWorld. “I don’t know of any scientist who would say that the planet is not warming,” declared John Abraham, an associate professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

Abraham, who authored in May a widely disseminated rebuttal of the arguments by skeptics of global warming, added: “Everyone knows the planet is warming. There’s very, very clear evidence of that.”

Richard Alley, an Evan Pugh professor of Geosciences at Penn State University, agreed. “The most recent [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] assessment said warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” he said. The panel is a scientific body, established by the United Nations, to review and assess the most current information on climate change.

So no, it is not journalism in any way shape or form for FoxNews managing editor Bill Sammon to insist that any time an assertion is made that the planet has warmed it must IMMEDIATELY be “called into question.”

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34 Responses to Disinformers defend Foxgate email saying unequivocal warming of the climate should always be disputed

  1. Anderlan says:

    This email was leaked by a recipient, because I suppose this is vile and someone decided to slip it out as a favor to the world. In contrast, the 13,000 UAE emails were stolen by hackers paid by radical fundamentalist think tanks, fossil fuel companies, or both.

    Speculation? Yes. Truthy? Very. Falsifiable? I’ll leave it as a challenge to any denier reading.

  2. Don says:

    The Latest Directive from the Fox Ministry of Truth is parallel to the censorship directives eminating from the central authorities in China.

    http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2010/11/latest-directives-from-the-ministry-of-truth-october-22-november-7-2010/

  3. Steve Bloom says:

    Anderlan, one reason we can tell they were hackers is that the next thing they did was attempt to hack RealClimate.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Fox is more dangerous than the yellow journalists of the Gilded Age, because they test drive talking points, and hire sophisticated propaganda consultants. The notion that Fox is the one that is “balanced” and the other stations and print outlets are “liberal” has gained wide currency in this country.

    It’s hard to say what their following is- 35 million news viewers is certainly a lot, but hardcore Fox followers appear to be somewhere around 30-40% of the electorate. That’s enough to achieve obstruction of climate change policy and everything else we need. Without Fox and the people paying for it, there would be a chance return this country to greatness. With it, and leaders like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin appearing as honored guests, the first task will be to maintain national viability.

  5. Nigel Moore says:

    Joe,

    Two things really scare me right now, and the figures in this post illustrate them perfectly.

    1) Climate sensitivity and aerosol forcing (in particular sulfate): If you compare the first NOAA temperature anomaly graph with one of SO2 emissions, you will see they follow a near-perfect inverse relationship. This to me suggests that the climate is highly forced by scattering aerosols and likely by the aerosol indirect effect as well (though this is still highly uncertain due to the complexities of cloud condensation dynamics). If this is the case, then CS must be very high, meaning that cleaning up air pollutant emissions could cause a very sharp rise in warming that will continue to dangerous levels.

    2) Land-ice feedbacks: Look at the 2000-2009 temp. anomaly map, and you see something very disturbing. The areas warming the fastest at present are greenland and the arctic in general, and the small region of Antarctica that is home to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Its almost as though the planet has evolved to incorporate intense ice sheet albedo feedback mechanisms.

    Very scary indeed. Presently I am working on problem #1 with a team of researchers looking at the effects of SO2, and potential uses of geoengineering with sulfates. We may be able to continue aerosol masking if we choose to, but we cannot control climate feedbacks if they start to get out of control.

    -Nigel Moore

  6. Tyler says:

    Whether it was hacked or not is one distinction; the other is that Sammon is a boss at a news organization ordering his employees to spread confusion and doubt about an issue where there is little (if any) doubt, whereas the folks involved in the ClimateGate episode are scientists in a spread out community sharing thoughts and frustrations with each other.

  7. dhogaza says:

    Anderlan, one reason we can tell they were hackers is that the next thing they did was attempt to hack RealClimate.

    They didn’t attempt, they did, they took over the site and shut out the admins, and dumped the e-mails as a post.

    And the police are treating the break-in at UAE as a break-in. The only “evidence” that it’s an internal leak is the extreme amount of “it’s a leak!” shouting coming from the denialsphere.

    Sammon wrote “we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”

    And every time a new bird-dino ‘tweener fossil from China is found and announced, Fox should IMMEDIATELY point out that geologic timescales are based on data that bible-thumping critics have called into question. Equal time for the 6,000 year old earth types, please, Fox! It wouldn’t detract from your credibility at this point …

  8. Dennis says:

    To prove they are “fair and balanced” FOX will also have to start pointing out that it’s only a theory that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

  9. paulm says:

    Hear Hear.
    Or should that be hear hear.

  10. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    A recent poll showed Fox viewers to be more disinformed than those who prefer other sources, but the others are not good, only less bad.

    Meanwhile here is a tidbit:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/12/16/928833/-UPDATED:-If-This-Doesnt-Send-Chills-Down-Your-Spine

  11. Wit's End says:

    Someone should herd the Fox reporters into a room and make them watch this movie, starring Peter Cox, Chief Climatologist at the Met Office, which demonstrates in a most graphic and convincing way that dimming of the sun from pollution has kept the earth artificially cooled from what would otherwise be (and eventually will be) much more extreme heating than predicted by models:

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/12/insidious-soup.html

    Then they won’t be able to pretend they didn’t know when their children ask them why they doomed them to an uninhabitable climate.

  12. Barry says:

    “we should refrain from asserting that second-hand smoke is a threat to children’s health without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

    “we should refrain from asserting that humans didn’t live with the dinosaurs without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

    “we should refrain from asserting that the planet is round without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

    “we should refrain from asserting that Americans landed on the moon without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

    “we should refrain from asserting that Bush beat Gore in the vote without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

    Geez, the amount of email directives the Faux News folks get must be overwhelming to deal with.

  13. David Smith says:

    Mike Roddy @ 4 – Fox is more dangerous than the yellow journalists of the guilded age because… They are distorting issues related to our actions and the habitability of the entire planet. A bad outcome, in this case, would likely kill us all.

    You forgot that one.

  14. Nick says:

    What’s Anthony doing with his computer on again? I thought he was forbidden to turn it on before writing out “I must learn to offset for differing baselines” 100 times…

  15. Mimikatz says:

    Once again, what is the end game for Murdoch and the Koches and the GOP hierarchy? In 10-15 years when warming is not only indisputable but people are scrambling for ways to survive the coming catastrophic changes, today’s young people will remember who lied to them and told them it was a hoax. Very few people under 25 are going to vote GOP. Ailes, Murdoch and the Koches will be dead or senile by then, but the John Boehners and Eric Cantors will be in late middle age. How do they expect to hold onto power?

  16. Wit's End says:

    Mimkatz, #17, Fascism will arrive in America wrapped in a flag and carrying a bible…think Sarah Palin. If you haven’t ever been in an oppressed society, it’s hard to imagine. (anecdote from yesterday’s blogpost) I asked a woman I know, an illegal immigrant, WHY she thought Barack Obama has reneged on every campaign promise he made and she replied instantly, “He doesn’t have any choice. After the election, they took him into a room and said you do what we tell you to do, or you will be shot.”

    That’s the way it works in some parts of the world.

  17. Peter M says:

    Fascism is here – its been around for about 40 years- buts its become harsher, the divisions in the nation geographically have become more defined between left and right.

    I agree with #17- that the GOP has lost most of those under the age of 35.

    When the ill effects of climate change really begin to disrupt our society- who will get blamed? The Republican party, and its assorted media hounds- from Fox, to George Will- and others.

    The trouble is- the ability to rebuild like after the second world war will not be possible- from here forward there will be a vain attempt to adapt- and that will prove to be futile.

  18. Berbalang says:

    Mimkatz @ 17: I know that many of the paid deniers gloat over the number of people who are going to die due to their actions. Then again these are the same deniers who worked for the tobacco industry and gloated over the number of people who were going to die due to their actions. Some people never change.

    As for Murdock, the Koches and the GOP hierarchy (including Dick Armey), I suspect part of it comes down to a power squabble among the super rich.

  19. progressive engineer says:

    Anderlan says:
    December 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    This email was leaked by a recipient, because I suppose this is vile and someone decided to slip it out as a favor to the world. In contrast, the 13,000 UAE emails were stolen by hackers paid by radical fundamentalist think tanks, fossil fuel companies, or both.

    Speculation? Yes. Truthy? Very. Falsifiable? I’ll leave it as a challenge to any denier reading.

    Here is Anthony Watts response. I challenge Mr Romm to post it since Watts posted the above comment.

    REPLY: Assuming you know all the inside details of both, and can verify them, go ahead. So far even the Norfolk police have not been able to establish theft or leak. So if you know more than them, by all means lay your cards on the table.

    P.S. Oh, and “because Joe Romm says so” isn’t acceptable evidence. – Anthony

  20. Wit's End says:

    oh progressive engineer?

    It’s Dr. Romm to you.

    ’nuff said.

  21. Bob Doublin says:

    shouldn’t that be “if you know more than THEY DO” I’m also surprised “then” wasn’t used instead of “than” Yaawwwnnnn,pardon me,I have something IMPORTANT to do, like flossing my teeth.

  22. Adam R. says:

    When the ill effects of climate change really begin to disrupt our society- who will get blamed? The Republican party, and its assorted media hounds- from Fox, to George Will- and others.

    No, not even if the entire Antarctic ice sheet should slide into the sea next year. The Republicans would claim it was due to sunspots, and the electorate would believe in the “controversy”. George Will would write a column chastising Leftists for ignoring the sunspot threat.

    It is impossible to overestimate how dedicated the FUDsters are to their campaign. There is literally no event that could deter them.

  23. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    So if you know more than them, by all means lay your cards on the table.

    Oh that is so rich coming from Watts–the man who slanders, guesses, makes stuff up, jumps to conclusions, and doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good ideology or opinion. What a hypocrite.

    Hm, actually that quote should be saved, and then reposted in the comments next time he makes some unfounded assertions (which should be within 3 or 4 days).

  24. Jim Groom says:

    AlterNet has nice little piece today entitled ‘Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid.’ I’m listing the results of nine question asked of Fox News viewer and what they believe. Astounding in a word to say the least.

    91% believe the stimulus bill lost jobs
    72% believe the health care reform law will increase the deficit
    72% believe the economy is getting worse
    60% believe climate change is not occuring
    49% believe income taxes have gone up
    63% believe that the stimulus package didn’t contain tax cuts
    56% believe Obama initiate the GM/Chrysler bailout
    38% believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
    63% believe Obama was not born in the USA (or that its unclear)

    Obviously misinforming its viewers is working out well for the ignorati and their handlers. For the rest of us we will have to keep pushing against the tide of nonsense and pursue truth and science.

  25. Nick says:

    Watts obviously failed to remember/didn’t know/doesn’t understand the implications of the attempt to hack Real Climate and upload the stolen emails there. Or maybe he knows the party involved?

  26. Edward says:

    “The key word is “unequivocal,” which is to say, “leaving no doubt.” Remember, every word in this sentence was signed off on by every single member government, including the Bush Administration — twice, since it appears in the Summary for Policymakers of Working Group 1, “The Physical Science Basis” and the final Synthesis report.”

    See the big hassle over “unequivocal” at dotearth:
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/climate-science-survives-climate-diplomacy/
    Andy Revkin believes that Andy Revkin has corrected an IPC document.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In Australia we suffer from the print version of FoxNews, Murdoch’s ‘The Australian’. This ‘rag’ treats all subjects along straight far Right ideological grounds, never more so than in regard to anthropogenic climate change. Yet, after years of ‘coverage’ skewed by more than 90% in favour of every species of denialism, from the chameleon-like Lomborg to the hilarious imbecilities of Plimer, The Australian has taken to proclaiming itself the only balanced voice in the debate. In other words a bunyip version of ‘Fair and Balanced’ in purely Orwellian terms. Incidentally The Australian has had the preposterous effrontery to proclaim itself ‘The Heart of the Nation’, which, if true (and in the dark moments that increasingly afflict my conscience I fear it may be so)would mean that we have morally, intellectually and spiritually been measured and found wanting. I prefer to think of this pernicious rag as The Fundament- ‘The Fundamental Orifice of the Nation’ whose product is best flushed away before it poisons its environment.

  28. Susan Anderson says:

    I know this is just a quibble, but is UAE the University of East Anglia?

    I checked and at last reading, UAE was United Arab Emirates.

    Since we like accuracy, let’s get this right. I find the switch a little disconcerting though I knew what was meant and it’s only a typo. Thanks.

  29. Chris Winter says:

    Susan Anderson is correct; it is undoubtedly a typo for “University of East Anglia.”

    At least there are only two possibilities, as far as I know. We haven’t gotten to “United Earth Oceans” yet. :-) (For fans of SeaQuest DSV, an old TV show.)

  30. Larry T says:

    I am not sure that #17 and #19 are completely correct. The US rankings in math and science knowledge continue to drop in relation to the rest of the world. The current level of scientific illiteracy is bad enough and Fox and the right make good use of it. I doubt they will be able to see past their lies any better in the future.

  31. Speculation? Yes. Truthy? Very. Falsifiable? I’ll leave it as a challenge to any denier reading.

    Is this ‘A? Yes. B? Yes. C? You decide.’ formula a staple of right-wing rhetoric? Yes.

    Is it tired and cliched? Yes.

    Does it make people stupid? I, as an unbiased purveyor of unbias, invite you to decide.

    frank

  32. Chris Winter says:

    Progressive engineer quoted Anthony Watts:

    “Assuming you know all the inside details of both, and can verify them, go ahead. So far even the Norfolk police have not been able to establish theft or leak. So if you know more than them, by all means lay your cards on the table.

    P.S. Oh, and “because Joe Romm says so” isn’t acceptable evidence. – Anthony

    (Emphasis added.)

    It’s no surprise that Anthony Watts thinks the CRU e-mails were leaked. What’s interesting is that he denigrates the opposite opinion on the basis of lack of evidence, but never considers that the lack of evidence might invalidate his own position.

    On second thought, this is not very interesting after all. It’s become a predictable pattern.

    And there is some evidence that the e-mails were not leaked. In addition to how they were released, as already mentioned, there’s the fact that no one has come forward to claim credit.