Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nothing to see here, move along

Since we live in a busy world and there is only so much time a person can devote to the “news of the day”, it behooves us to ration our time carefully. Many people, in my opinion, glance at headlines and the first paragraph in a newspaper, form their opinions from that, and move on. Similarly, many people still get their impressions of the world from television news, a highly manipulative medium, which assaults us, simultaneously, with pictures (some of which are merely archived video), speech and headlines crawling across the bottom of the screen. I do not understand why anybody would subject themselves to this barrage – it produces shell shock in me. At the end of a broadcast I am never certain what I have learned or how I feel about it.

My preference is to search for news sources and opinion makers I generally trust on-line on the Internet. They could be found in on-line newspapers or blogs or occasionally broadcast outlets. You can take as much time as you need or is available to you. You can drill down to get the depth of material needed to understand a story and you can quickly link to other sites to give more background or different perspectives. You can bookmark them for easy access and you can save their output for future reference.

The difference between lazy reporting and thoughtful journalism shows up in today’s Toronto Sun.

Both items refer to the current scandal that has been dubbed "Climategate".

In a news story, a reporter tries to tell us that the leaked e-mails from the CRU are essentially irrelevant in the matter of climate debate. He quotes one global warming skeptic, a climatologist, with the Friends of Science organization, who thinks they are important because they show that the data on which the whole edifice of global warming is based may be false or distorted, and then immediately dismisses that person’s opinion with this sentence:

But most mainstream media and serious science groups have dismissed this interpretation of the e-mails as mischief.

Full points for identifying the MSM as a protector of the conventional wisdom, but “serious science groups”, who would they be? This reporter seems to think they include the Sierra Club and the Pembina Institute, because he cites quotations from their spokespeople. These are not scientific organizations, they are environmental advocacy groups.

What are we getting from this reporter? Is he displaying his bias by putting down the skeptics in favour of the pro global warming crowd? Or is he just ignorant?

One clue that he might not know what he is writing about is this sentence:

The e-mails, between top climate change scientists, appear to reveal top scientists were suppressing information that contradicted the widely held theory, backed up by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, that climate change is man-made.

Wrong, Mr. Reporter. It is the work of these climate scientists that back up IPCC report, not the other way around.

This is why it is dangerous to rely solely on headlines and reporters for reliable information.

Much better, in the same newspaper, to go to a regular columnist like Lorrie Goldstein who has immersed himself in the climate change file for the better part of the past year and has written numerous columns on the subject. He thinks this e-mail disclosure is far from being merely mischievous.

He has examined a set of exchanges that I have not seen covered in other media that shows the entire data base of weather information used by CRU was corrupted beyond repair. That is no small thing.

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