Most people are looking forward to the summer months -- hitting the health clubs to get fit, buying the suntan lotion, booking the beach vacations -- and so are the major media. Their idea of fun in the sun is finding weather extremes and blaming them on the impending doom of global warming.
Did you ever tune in the network news and think you were getting a bedtime story in reverse? Instead of calming you to sleep, every story seems to tell you of the phantoms under your bed, the ghosts in the closet and the monsters that plan to visit on the weekend. Dan Rather goes beyond that new frightening haircut. He loves to forecast everything short of plagues of locusts as the summer begins.
Some press critics say that there's no political agenda in all this panicking. The networks don't have a liberal bias. They're just merchandisers of melodrama.
Not so. It's usually only a seamless transition away from the melting icecaps of Nepal to the cavalcade of "nonpartisan experts" excoriating President Bush for watching T-ball while the planet burns. For example, here's John Roberts on CBS: "Global temperatures on the rise, glaciers retreating, storms more frequent and severe -- a looming crisis, say many scientists, of the greenhouse effect. Yet claiming potential harm to the economy, the White House today confirmed it will abandon the global accord to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, the No. 1 greenhouse gas." Roberts should be fined for polluting the planet by exhaling excessive carbon dioxide on the White House lawn.
How ardent is television's environmental crusade?
A new study by Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center's Free Market Project looked at the networks' coverage on the environment from Inauguration Day (Jan. 20) through Earth Day (April 22). It found that the red-flag scaremongers on global warming drew six times as much attention as the views of those who think the nightmare scenarios are either exaggerated or wrong. In three months of evening news coverage, 86 percent of network reporters or sources expressed the view that global warming was a dire threat, while only 14 percent, just seven statements of 49, challenged that dominant storyline -- and weakly at that.
ABC, CBS and NBC totally, completely, absolutely banned the airing of anyone who challenged the climate scientists at the Al Gore School of Gloom. CNN at least included one snippet of the heretical president referring to the "incomplete state of scientific knowledge." Consider this just another peek at the gloriously censorious future of political communication under the Shangri-la of McCain-Feingold.
When Bush decided to scrap the Kyoto treaty -- a piece of paper so unpopular that 95 senators unanimously put clothespins on their noses and said no -- the networks gave the pro-Kyoto fringe 69 percent of the air time, to only 31 percent for the Bush public-relations line. The numbers were almost identical on the broader notion of whether stricter carbon dioxide limits were vital. Worse, the pro-Bush snippets were not scientific arguments, but largely economic statements about the heavy costs of more regulation.
In the 20 soundbites awarded to our compassionate liberal environmental activists, not once were they truthfully labeled as liberal.
Perhaps the most interesting numbers in this study center on the Fox News Channel, the locus of so much liberal ridicule about being GOP-TV. On the science of global warming, Fox's "Special Report with Brit Hume" featured 63 percent of reporters and sources who found a dire warming threat, to 37 percent of dissenters. Fox, for example, found climate scientist Richard Lindzen to declare the United Nations reports on warming were exaggerated. Presumably the liberal media laugh at the "we report, you decide" slogan since scientific skeptics get 37 percent of air time, instead of zero, which they deserve. Apparently, Fox's conservative-bias error is to suggest that any scientific debate on warming exists, period.
On the fight over the Kyoto treaty, Fox gave two-thirds of the air time to the pro-Kyoto faction, and only one-third to the anti-Kyoto folks. This underlines what the Big Three consider GOP-TV -- giving the economic arguments of anyone opposed to radical environmentalism one third of the airtime.
What's missing in all these rolling network blackouts of dissent on the global-warming debate is any notion of how loony the environmental activists really are, and how obsessed they are with diminishing our freedoms. The supposedly outrageous Bush-Christie Whitman agenda on the environment is in no way as extreme as the ban-the-SUV crowd that thinks our use of charcoal grills and lawn mowers will lead to global catastrophe. But these are the people the media see as the truth, the whole truth, and the only truth.