Reporting both sides is not balance

Crikey readers have a lot to say about climate denialism -- and our shameful media.

An inconvenient truth about the media George Crisp writes: Re. "Climate change in Fairfax op-ed: a response" (yesterday). John McLean’s original article and his reply aptly demonstrate the asymmetry of the climate "debate" in our media.  McLean would like us to believe that his opinion is as meaningful as any other and that he is suitably qualified, if such qualification even be necessary, to have an equal say. But in fact he is making an extraordinary claim, one that flies in the face of established science and the "opinions" of the vast majority of genuine climate scientists and every peak scientific body. In making such a claim he must provide "extraordinary evidence" to be taken in the least bit seriously. But there is neither new nor significant data or interpretation in any of this. Nonetheless, he cries foul when criticisms are raised, playing the victim, making out that it is he has been unfairly treated. Rather than the critique of journalists he bemoans, it is the uncritical and "balance-seeking" media that continues to enable the ridiculous and undermining game of climate deniers to be played out ad nauseam. It is a fatal flaw, allowing the never-ending recycling of doubt, promoting inaction, perhaps leading us to the point where it really will be too late. Take on climate deniers on science Geoff Russell writes: Re. "The Big Oil-backed climate denier who hoodwinked Fairfax" (Monday). Much as I enjoyed Elaine McKewon's piece on climate change denier John McLean, it's mostly an ad hominem attack. The argument that McLean isn't an expert and therefore shouldn't be published would see more than a few journalists looking for alternative employment. McLean's lack of qualifications should affect how (or perhaps whether) we read what he writes, but we don't actually need to know he's misrepresented himself in the case of his recent op-ed. We can shred it concisely by appeal to the facts. McLean begins by asserting that the IPCC has no mandate to investigate "other causes of climate change" than human ... but later goes on to claim: "It was the IPCC's role to investigate whether this [human's were changing the climate] was correct." Obviously you can't assign responsibility for change until you can measure and compare various causes. He then reckons IPCC had no evidence to claim in 1992 that humans were causing climate change and still doesn't. This is false on both accounts. While evidence for a large and significant human role in the climate change process was rather weaker in 1992, it certainly existed, and it's huge now. James Hansen and others by 1988 had shown that current levels of warming were inconsistent with non-human causes, but could be fitted quite well once human causes were added. That's evidence. Fast forward 20 years and chapter eight of the 2013 IPCC report contains 139 pages dense with evidence on this precise topic, and these 139 pages point to a mountain of large studies done by an army of well-qualified people using a wide range of methods. That's evidence. McLean is wrong because he's wrong, not because he's an oil-funded climate denier who misrepresents his expertise. Media's complicity in asylum seeker silence Romina Aquinchay writes: Re. "Abbott's asylum seeker policy an affront to our Jesuit education" (yesterday). Great article. Should be given a wider audience. Unfortunately the people you have to reach, mainly the unthinking bogans who voted for the Coalition believing the "stop the boats" slogan, think that as long as the news about asylum seekers seems to be falling, the numbers must be going down, too. It would never occur to them to think why the government is hiding information.  If the ALP had done this when in power we would never have heard the end of it. However, the Coalition can act as it wishes and a compliant media says nothing. Nearly all media in Australia is shameful. Most of you should hang your heads in shame.  Not a Woodward or Bernstein among any of you. In regards to the articles and comments about privatisation, hear, hear to Les Heimann.  To all the others who practically have wet dreams about privatising anything that moves, once the money derived from the sales is used up, what is left to sell?  Taxes will go up, which is fine with me. I actually think that most of us want champagne service at beer prices, and we whinge about taxes but we are not highly taxed as, say, Scandinavia is, but taxes  should go up for business as well.  All of us are citizens, including the corporate world.

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5 thoughts on “Reporting both sides is not balance

  1. klewso

    What happens when you analyse data through nothing but raw opinion?

  2. Will

    Geoff Russell repeats the fallacy that attacking a byline is ad honinem. It isn’t. A byline is used to provide standing for comment – in this case conveying authoritative expertise. It is not ad honinem to point out that said expertise does not exist.

  3. Raaraa

    Imagine if every single issue gets put into a “balanced” debate. Controversial topics might include:

    1) Speeding
    2) Drink-driving
    3) Child pornography

  4. Keith Thomas

    Romina Aquinchay refers to “the unthinking bogans who voted for the Coalition”, as if they are citizens whose vote (and opinions?) deserve to be dismissed, but then later in the same post she adopts the statesmanlike mode: “All of us are citizens” as if we are all citizens meriting an equal voice. A loaded comment, Romina.

  5. Will

    Being slightly more charitable you could argue the bogans were alleged to be a sub-set who voted Coalition believing in Stop the Boats as an efficacious and substantive policy.

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