Perhaps it is WikiLeaks fever that has been sweeping the world lately, but a leaked memo from Fox News made public this week by Media Matters was a blatant example illustrating how the reporting by the Fox News organization is unfair and imbalanced by design.
The memo first came out last year during the Copenhagen climate talks.
It was written by Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington bureau chief as an immediate response to an on-air report by correspondent Wendall Goler from Copenhagen in which he mentioned that a report by the World Meteorological Association, a United Nations organization, stated that the years 2000 through 2009 would prove to be the warmest on record.
Sammon’s memo, in essence ordered Fox reporters, to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”
Of course, for anyone who has been paying attention to anything other than Fox News, the fact that temperatures in recent years continue to consistently break records year after year is well accepted as such, and is not a theory at all, any more than the fact the December 1st fell on a Wednesday this year is a theory. The theory, which explains this dramatic increase in temperature as the result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as the result of mankind’s exorbitant use of fossil fuels is now near unanimously agreed upon by all but a very small number of climate scientist.An editorial about this leak in the LA Times said, “Instructing reporters to treat such facts as controversial is like telling them to question the laws of gravity when discussing plane crashes.” They also said that, “only a crank would deny the underlying temperature data that show the Earth getting warmer — records compiled by independent stations around the world, combined with satellite measurements and confirmed by observations of rising sea levels, vanishing glaciers and other inputs.”
Instead of reporting on this critically important news, the unseen hands controlling the message at Fox instead saw fit to focus on trying to whip up the hacked e-mails from researchers at East Anglia into a controversy that they could serve up in front of their viewers, knowing full well that most of them would not take the time to check the facts.
The propaganda wizards on the right saw the East Anglia e-mail leak (whose origin remains unknown) as a crack in the scientific community’s credibility that they could leverage into an inflection point in the public’s perception, despite the fact that the emails in fact, revealed nothing of substance and have been cleared by investigative commission on both sides of the Atlantic. But it turned out to be another brilliant stroke of social manipulation on their part, since, in fact, public confidence in global warming declined after those stories were run. A Gallup Poll run earlier this year shows skepticism about Global Warming growing among the general public, despite the fact that the consensus among scientists continued to grow stronger.
In fact a recent poll that shows that 48% of respondents thought that scientist disagree as to whether the Earth has been warming and 53% felt that scientists do not agree that human activities are a major cause of that warming. In fact a survey of 3,146 Earth Scientists showed the 96.2% of climatologists agree the global temperatures have risen and 97.4% agree that human activity is a significant factor.
But I can assure you that you will not get this information on Fox News, because they have an agenda, which sadly, is more important than getting the truth out. I wish I could tell you how many of the respondents were Fox news watchers, but given the enormous success of their unique brand of entertainment, it is likely a large number.
A recent poll by the World Public Opinion organization found “strong evidence that voters were substantially misinformed on many key issues.” For the most part however, viewers’ level of misinformation declined with the amount of exposure to news media they received, with one exception. “Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it,” to be misinformed on a whole host of issues ranging from the economy, the stimulus program, taxes, auto bailout, TARP, President Obama’s nationality, and climate change. In fact, frequent viewers of Fox news were twice as likely to believe that “most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring” as compared to viewers of other news outlets.
They did the same thing around the Gulf oil spill disaster.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans will not read this. The vast majority will continue to watch Fox news and go on being misinformed. Recent TV ratings show Fox News gets about as many viewers as all the other networks combined. And those misinformed viewers will take their misinformed opinions into the voting booth as they did in November and elect a whole swarm of people that march to the Fox News drumbeat, let the truth be damned. The majority of these new congressman are climate deniers. Whether they started out that way, or whether they became that way to better align themselves with their donors, or maybe they just got that from watching Fox News, I can’t tell you. But what I can tell you is that they are wrong, all of them.
It would be one thing if this was a game, but even games have rules. Unfortunately, our news organizations do not. This is something that has to change.
RP Siegel is co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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