“When a reputable newspaper lies, it poisons the community; every newspaper story becomes suspect.” — New York Times, 1981.
After the New York Times faced a wave of criticism for hiring a columnist with a record of spreading misinformation about climate change, NBC has followed suit — adding George Will to its stable of pundits.
On Monday, Politico reported that Will — a Washington Post columnist who was let go from Fox News in January — is now a contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. Will is in the pantheon of anti-science writers: Media Matters,for instance, named him its “2014 Misinformer of the Year.” When “exaggerations about Ebola” won PolitiFact’s 2014 Lie of Year, the first example they cited was a George Will column.
Will has been one of the most widely debunked climate bullshitters in the country for a long time. He is perhaps unique in having had his own newspaper publish strong refutations of his disinformation — not just by independent experts on the op-ed page, but by the Post’s own reporters in a news article.
Washington Post reporters take unprecedented step of contradicting columnist George Will in a news…thinkprogress.orgBut because the so-called liberal media feel obliged to provide “false balance” — equal time for professional misinformers even on matters of science — the Post just kept publishing and publishing Will’s anti-science nonsense without so much as a fact-check.
Similarly, consider how the New York Times defended their decision to hire their own climate bullshitter, Bret Stephens. Amid the growing backlash and subscription cancellations, the Times editorial page editor said there are “millions of people who agree with [Stephens].”
So what if the Times knows that those “millions of people” have been duped by the same fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign Stephens channels. Or that the Times is running a major ad campaign claiming there is no alternative to the truth. Or that the Times’ own journalists regularly report on the climate reality that former Wall Street Journal columnist Stephens has repeatedly dismissed as “imaginary.”
The Times still published three pieces in a row by Stephens full of factual errors and disingenuous comparisons regarding climate science and climate solutions.
In the Trump era, popular ideas are apparently more important than fact-based ones.
Not coincidentally — and not without some irony — both Will and Stephens share a disdain for Trump, even while they share his anti-scientific opposition to climate action. Apparently, when news outlets want to claim a diversity of opinion, being anti-Trump trumps being anti-science.
Yes, it is important for progressives to see varying points of view. But the views of those who reject or misrepresent the science behind climate change are already wildly over–represented in the media. After all, while the mainstream media strives for balance and insists on featuring misinformers, the right-wing media (and the fake news sites) don’t feature the scientific facts, as studies by Climate Nexus and others have noted.
Also, the “views” of the climate bullshitters don’t actually vary: their latest arguments are pretty much the same ones disinformers have been using for two decades. It is worthwhile to know what those arguments are, why they are wrong, and how to quickly rebut them. But the best way to do that is just to periodically visit the website SkepticalScience.com.
The fundamental mistake the Times and NBC/MSNBC made in hiring Will and Stephens — disinformers who keep repeating widely-debunked nonsense — was perhaps most clearly stated in an April 1981 Times editorial about a Washington Post reporter named Janet Cooke. Cooke had fabricated a story that the Post later submitted for a Pulitzer Prize “although some within the Post doubted the story’s veracity,” as Wikipedia explained.
“When a reputable newspaper lies, it poisons the community. Every newspaper story becomes suspect,” the Times editorialized. “Great publications magnify the voice of any single writer.”