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Daily Howler: Four ''news'' programs ginned a fake tale, making a joke out of warming
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GLOBAL DUMBING (PART 1)! Four “news” programs ginned a fake tale, making a joke out of warming: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2007

DEBUNKING THE DIMWITS: Three cheers to Josh Marshall, who has steadily pursued the nonsense about Nancy Pelosi’s plane. (“Poor form” be damned!) And three cheers to Kevin Drum for last evening’s post, called “DIMWITTERY.” In his post, Kevin is “trying to remember all of the dimwit stories about Democratic politicians that have somehow made the jump to mainstream media stardom in the past few weeks.” Earlier, Kevin offered his own Pelosi post, saying “the continuing flap...is so knuckle-draggingly stupid that I can hardly stand to open the newspaper these days for fear of reading about it.”

As we’ve said, for years and years—it’s precisely these sorts of “dimwit stories” which have driven our recent electoral politics. It has taken Dems and liberals a very long time to recognize this reality-based fact. By instinct, bright people will often prefer to work on matters which aren’t quite so dumb and dim-witted. But: In ignoring this part of our modern politics, we’ve been allowing the dimwits to win.

How poorly do we still play this game? How poorly do we understand the terrain on which our electoral politics works? Many of Kevin’s (intelligent) readers still don’t seem to get it. Here’s a comment appended to Kevin’s first post—a comment from a well-intentioned, well-meaning person who has a truly disastrous sense of how we ought to do politics:
COMMENT TO DRUM (2/8/07): Kevin wrote: The continuing flap over Nancy Pelosi's military jet accommodations is so knuckle-draggingly stupid that I can hardly stand to open the newspaper these days for fear of reading about it.

Then why are you writing about it? You are only feeding it more energy by doing so.

Keep up your posts about global warming instead. It is the biggest issue facing humanity, it is closely linked to the Middle Eastern oil wars (e.g. Iraq) and energy policy, and there is a whole lot of action going on around it in the Senate and the House and in private industry (e.g., the US Climate Action Partnership) not to mention the usual skullduggery of the Bush administration, for you to blog about.
The reader wants Kevin to focus on warming. But the public debate about global warming has also been shaped, in the past dozen years, by the types of dim-witted stories this readers wants Kevin to ignore. Starting today, we’ll offer two days of posts on this topic (see “Global dumbing,” below). But in general, it does little good to offer high-minded policy posts while ignoring the dim-witted ways public opinion gets shaped on such issues. Nor can liberals afford to ignore the ways in which public opinion is turned against the pols who actually care about such issues. Al Gore is a giant on global warming. But guess what? His most recent poll numbers are 32 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable (click here, scroll down)—precisely because of ten years’ worth of the dim-witted tales which this reader says Kevin should ignore. Sadly, these tales are the heart of our modern politics. We liberals and progressives have ignored them for years—and this reader wants Kevin to continue.

Today, many liberals and progressives hope Gore will run for the White House. Their comments are frequent at liberal sites (at the Huffington Post, for example). But it would be very hard for Gore to run because of the profusion of dim-witted stories we liberals agreed to ignore in the past. Those stories were repeated endlessly, year after year, with very little challenge or criticism; inevitably, such stories get in the heads of the voters, leading to 32-46 polling outcomes. On the merits, we ourselves would probably prefer Gore to the three current leading Dem hopefuls. But long ago, we liberals helped create a world in which Gore simply can’t be judged “on the merits.” We did that by ignoring years of dim-witted stories. It’s the strategy advised by Kevin’s commenter—who cares about global warming instead!

In last evening’s DIMWITTERY post, Kevin asked readers for other “dimwit stories about Democratic politicians that have somehow made the jump to mainstream media stardom in the past few weeks.” And he asks if there are any such stories about Republican pols. But some of his commenters still don’t seem to understand what types of stories he means. (See this early comment, for example. This is not the sort of story to which we think Kevin refers.) Our question: If some of Kevin’s (intelligent) readers still don’t grasp the concept involved here, do we think that average voters will? We’ve failed to warn voters about these tales. As a result, many voters don’t have a skeptical bone in their bodies when the latest such dim tales appear.

We hope that Josh and Kevin will continue working this crucial part of our politics. In the spring of 2002, Josh wrote pieces for Salon and the Washington Monthly—and he seemed to pretend that he didn’t know that Gore had been exposed to this onslaught (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/19/02). What would Gore’s numbers be like today if Josh (and others) had spoken more frankly back then? Simply put, there’s no way to know. From 1999 right through last week, liberals and Democrats agreed to make an extremely bad deal with the ages.

WILL HE BE A GOOD BOY: Just to maintain the historical record, Chris was off (or on) his meds again as he chatted with Terry McAuliffe last night. He worked his way through a big pile of script, eventually returning to this:

MATTHEWS (2/8/07): Is your friend Bill going to be in this campaign? Going to be busy with the campaign, not get any distractions going with other things?

MCAULIFFE: He’s going to be very busy.

MATTHEWS: No distractions?

MCAULIFFE: He’s got a distraction right now. He’s writing a book for the next two months.

MATTHEWS: Will he distract our attention from his wife by misbehavior?

MCAULIFFE: No sir.

MATTHEWS: He won’t? He’s going to be a good boy?

MCAULIFFE: His wife is running for president. He`s going to do everything—

MATTHEWS: It doesn’t kill me—it doesn’t kill me if he doesn’t distract from this campaign.

MCAULIFFE: He’s the most popular man in the world.

MATTHEWS: We do not want to go back to 1998. [pause] Some people do.

MCAULIFFE: I think 1998, in the congressional elections, we actually picked up seats. Is that what you’re referring to?

MATTHEWS: Is that how you keep score? I keep score, he got impeached.

MCAULIFFE: Chris, let me just tell you this. She is running for president of the United States. This is about Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Her vision.

MATTHEWS: He’s part of this?

MCAULIFFE: You bet.

MATTHEWS: He’s going to do whatever it takes for her to win?

MCAULIFFE: You bet. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the candidates. You have a three-way race coming up in Iowa. You say you`re ahead of this there right now. What about John Edwards? I thought he was ahead.
As always, Chris was factually clueless—this time, about recent Iowa polling. But he certainly knew one thing—he didn’t want to finds himself getting distracted again. And so, he sent his famous message: Stop him before I get distracted more!

Chris wasted time with one more round of questions about Hillary’s very troubling joke. He said this: “I think her problem is that she yells and she talks in a scolding fashion rather than in a way that`s winning and charming.” And omigod! Speaking of script, here was the first Iraq reference:
MCAULIFFE: What the American public wants, Chris—forget all of this—they’re sick of what’s going on in Iraq today.

MATTHEWS: I’m sick of what`s going on in Iraq. I wish she would come out against it.
“I wish she would come out against it?” Hillary Clinton in DC last week: If Bush doesn’t stop the war, I will. But so what? Like others, Chris read the featured script—the one we’ve discussed here all week.

Chris himself had been a good boy during most of this past week. Last night, though, he went back on his meds. Or perhaps he was once again off them.

Special report: Global dumbing!


PART 1—NONE DUMBER: You can’t get dumber than Tucker Carlson. On Wednesday night, he started his nightly “news” program with his heart in his throat and his brain in a lock. He was concerned about global warming—or rather, with a troubling offshoot of same. For the sake of the historical record, we offer his full commentary:
CARLSON (2/7/07): First, global warming.

An international report appeared the other day echoing what Al Gore has said for a long time—global warming is real and civilization probably is causing it. The majority of climate scientists appear to agree with this conclusion. The majority, but not all of them.

George Taylor, Oregon’s longtime state climatologist, holds a contrary view. Taylor believes global warming is mostly the result of what he calls natural variations, long-term trends that humans can’t control. Among climatologists, this is not considered a crackpot view. But politically, in Oregon, it is heresy.

The Democratic governor of that state has announced that he will strip George Taylor of his title for daring to question the causes of global warming. Keep in mind that the governor is not a scientist. He hasn’t cited any dishonesty in Taylor’s scholarship. He just doesn’t think he ought to be allowed to disagree with the conventional wisdom on global warming.

But wait. Whatever happened to freedom of speech and the sanctity of the scientific process? The very people you’d expect to stand up for a scientist’s right to practice science in the face of politics have been silent in the case of George Taylor. Why? Because his position isn’t fashionable at the moment, and in the end that’s all that counts. Unfortunately.
According to Carlson, George Taylor believes that global warming is mainly caused by non-human factors. For this—says Carlson—Oregon’s governor wants to strip him of his title as state climatologist.

Before we go further, did we mention the fact that Carlson may be the world’s dumbest human?

Of course, if you’re a denizen of national kooky-con media, you may have heard this story elsewhere. For example, Bill O’Reilly built a segment out of Taylor’s plight on the Wednesday night Factor. On that same evening’s Hannity & Colmes, the boys began their segment on warming with Taylor’s sad plight too. And the story was covered briefly on Special Report. Except, when Brian Wilson handled the story, a few small cracks began to emerge. Uh-oh! Wilson attributed a sensible motive to Oregon’s perfectly sensible governor. And uh-oh! He almost mentioned the dodgy provenance of Taylor’s supposed state title:
WILSON (2/7/07): The Oregon state climatologist may lose his title because he does not accept the theory that humans are the main cause of global climate change. A Portland TV station is reporting that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski wants the title taken away from George Taylor, who insists natural cycles explain most of the planet's climate changes. Taylor is a climatologist with Oregon State University, which gave him the title of state climatologist.

The governor is seeking the authority to appoint his own climatologist, and says it's important to have one that agrees with the state's goals of reducing greenhouse gasses.
Wilson didn’t quite have his facts right. But he attributed a rational motive to Governor Kulongoski, who wants a state climatologist who shares his goals. And uh-oh! Wilson said an odd thing! Somewhat strangely, he said that Taylor had been given his title by someone at Oregon State!

Yes, this story ran on four “news” programs this past Wednesday night. But guess what? The fuss may have surprised the people of Oregon, where this is such a total non-story that it has barely been mentioned in any news outlet. What are the actual facts of this case? On January 29, the Oregonian’s Michael Milstein previewed a public debate about warming between a pair of local climatologists. And deep down—starting in paragraph 20!—he offered an account of Taylor’s alleged state position. In the past several weeks, this has been the sole in-state news report on this utterly meaningless subject. This is the utterly pointless squib which led to Carlson’s presentation:

MILSTEIN (1/29/07): Taylor is not among the leading Oregon scientists, including [Mark] Abbott, whom Gov. Ted Kulongoski asked to help develop a state strategy on climate change. The governor last week questioned whether Taylor can legitimately call himself state climatologist since the position is not officially authorized in state law.

"He's not the state climatologist," the governor said. "I never appointed him. I think I would know.

"He's not my weatherman."

The position of state climatologist was dissolved by the Legislature in 1989, Abbott said. Taylor runs the OSU-based Oregon Climate Service, which performs many of the same duties that the state climatologist once did, and OSU gave him the same title.
On January 31, the AP ran a story about the debate on its state-and-local Oregon wire. “Although Taylor is often referred to as the state climatologist for Oregon, that job was dissolved by the 1989 Legislature,” the buzz-killing news service said.

In short, Taylor really isn’t the state climatologist. Nor does anyone much seem to care, including Governor Kulongoski. As noted, the initial report appeared in the 1/29 Oregonian; the only follow-up was a short report on 1/31 describing the debate. This is simply not a story—except in the kooky, crackpot preserves where half-wits like Carlson blather on and shape our degraded public discourse.

So no, there isn’t an ongoing story concerning the Oregon state climatologist. It isn’t even especially clear that any such person exists. But so what? On Wednesday, four big “news” shows pretended otherwise, ginning up their latest fake tale. As we’ve discussed above, this is exactly the way our discourse has worked over the past fifteen years.

Why did Carlson et al gin this story? Duh! To generate the latest complaints about that ol’ debbil, global warming! Carlson got to pretend that the theory of warming is being advanced by hypocrites—the kind of people who would “strip George Taylor of his title for daring to question the causes of warming.” Of course, Carlson has frequently clowned on this subject, as we’ve told you in the past. In December, for example, he and his fatuous frat boy, Willie Geist, laughed about the Oscar nomination extended to An Inconvenient Truth. They hadn’t seen the movie, they said—but they laughed about how “pedantic” it was (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 12/13/06). But then, as we noted that day, Carlson had often showcased his larger ignorance about warming itself. For one sad example from Media Matters, punish yourself—just click here.

Readers, how dumb is Tucker Carlson? Carlson is dumb-on-a-stick. Last Friday, he and Geist staged another fine show, this time laughing about Gore’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As usual, the boys had their basic facts wrong—and their schoolboy taunts in hand:

GEIST (2/2/07): Well, Tucker, Rush Limbaugh may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of the Nobel Peace Prize. But to the people at the conservative public interest law firm, Landmark Legal Foundation, Rush is a regular Nelson Mandela. Landmark has nominated Limbaugh for the 2007 Nobel Prize...

Now this news, of course, sets up a Nobel smackdown for the ages, between Limbaugh and Al Gore, whose nomination by a pair of Norwegian parliamentarians was announced yesterday. [Viewing graphic of Gore and Limbaugh] Wow, look at that, nose to nose! Tucker, Rush has the weight advantage, Al has the reach. Who do you think takes that smackdown?

CARLSON: Actually, I think Gore has the weight advantage these days. But I have to say, I mean, either one of these guys would be better than most winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Rigoberta Menchu, a total phony? Yasser Arafat, who killed a bunch of people? I mean, I don’t think Gore and Limbaugh murdered anyone lately, so I think they’d be a step up.

GEIST: So, you would take Gore over Limbaugh, or are you still deciding?

CARLSON: That would make Gore even more pompous and ubiquitous. So no, probably not, I’d go Limbaugh.

In fact, Limbaugh wasn’t nominated, Carlson’s claim notwithstanding. The Landmark Foundation isn’t eligible to make Nobel nominations—except in the land of “dimwit stories,” where so much of our discourse now exists. But when have elementary facts ever mattered to frat boys like these? What matters, of course, is the frat boy taunt. Gore is too pompous—and he’s too fat! Carlson engaged in more jests about Gore’s “behemoth” size on Monday evening’s program.

So let’s see: No, Rush Limbaugh didn’t get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And no, the governor of Oregon isn’t trying to strip George Taylor of some title. But these dimwit stories exist for a reason; they encourage voters to think less well of Gore, and of the theory of warming itself. How blatant does the messaging get? Here’s the way Alan Colmes introduced his program’s segment on Wednesday:
COLMES (2/7/07): But first, in spite of the recent cold weather across the nation, hysteria over global warming is not letting up. Al Gore continuing to push the environmental agenda. And this time in Madrid, Spain.

But not everybody on board with the scenario that Gore puts out, and it's not sitting well with one politician. Oregon's governor is threatening to fire his state's climatologist for failing to fall in line with the global warming.
Before he pushed his version of the Oregon tale, Colmes read his owner’s favorite messages. The “hysteria” over warming continues, he said. Indeed, Demon Gore was still at work, “pushing” his agenda.

Let’s be clear: This week’s bogus tale about Taylor came from deep on the bottom end of our current journalistic pig-pile. Predictable dimwits pimped the fake tale, and complained that Gore was too fat. But over the course of the past dozen years, Gore’s remarkable work on warming has also been mocked at the absolute top of our news chain. Why are Gore’s numbers 32-46? Why does a dimwit sit in the White House? On Monday, we’ll revisit a 1999, front-page report which came from the very top of our press corps. For ourselves, as we’ve worked again with this disgraceful report, we’ve come to a fairly sour conclusion: Some of our most exalted scribes should perhaps take their warming in hell.

MONDAY—NONE MORE DISHONEST: The message of the report was clear. Al Gore is “loony”—unwell.