Environmental Journalism Has Become Ideological Warfare

moneyWhy do so many climate-related news reports sound like propaganda written by zealous, even fanatical, environmentalists who could never be called impartial or objective?

Why have reporters belonging to the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) abandoned the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics, which includes a pledge to support “open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant,” and instead promoted retaliation against scientists with whom they disagree, often calling for the censorship of climate-alarm skeptics?

Deep-Seated Emotions

The evidence suggests SEJ’s actions weren’t based solely on the perennial need for sensational headlines or the usual left-wing politics of covering the environment beat. It’s more personal. Many environmental journalists seem driven by emotions aroused before they entered journalism school: fear and loathing of modern technology and the flourishing human populations it brings.

That’s the core of the environmental catechism as taught by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Paul Ehrlich’s ThePopulation Bomb, and The Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth.

Many green beat reporters appear to harbor feelings of misanthropic self-loathing, as National Book Award novelist Jonathan Franzen said of himself in The New Yorker: “I was raised as a Protestant and became an environmentalist, but I’ve long been struck by the spiritual kinship of environmentalism and New England Puritanism. Both belief systems are haunted by the feeling that simply to be human is to be guilty.”

This makes environmentalism and journalism a treacherous coupling. The father of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Bert Bolin, said as much. In his 2008 A History of the Science and Politics of Climate Change, Bolin wrote, “There has been an unfortunate polarization of the way the media report the climate change issue. … It was non-governmental groups of environmentalists, supported by the mass media, who were the ones exaggerating the conclusions that had been carefully formulated by the IPCC.”

The scientific evidence was weak, but the environmental journalists’ belief was strong, so they lied. Period.

Once greens attained real influence, environmental reporters emerged as vengeful authoritarians driven by power and a furious intolerance toward doubters who threatened their belief and personal status. The science, as Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Norman Rogers pointed out, is just window dressing.

Joyfully Wearing ‘Pareto’s Blindfold’

Rogers took his cue from the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto, who, in 1901, wrote in The Rise and Fall of Elites: An Application of Theoretical Sociology: “The greater part of human actions have their origin not in logical reasoning but in sentiment [emotion]. Man, although impelled to act by non-logical motives, likes to tie his actions logically to certain principles; he therefore invents these a posteriori in order to justify his actions.”

We can think of this as “Pareto’s Blindfold” and apply it to climate reporting: Reasoning about science with many environmental reporters is futile because you’re not dealing with science or reason, you’re dealing with illogical principles invented to justify their fear, loathing, human guilt, and retribution. Reporters can’t see this, much less admit it to themselves.

With the Obama administration’s Machiavellian collusion, reporters who are more environmentalist than journalist now rule the climate beat. 

Big Money Supports Alarmism

You can credit the SEJ, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with more than 1,200 member reporters and academics in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and 27 other countries, with the general decline in journalistic standards among environmental journalists. SEJ has received 119 grants from 35 notorious anti-development foundations, totaling $9.5 million since 1999. With this financial prompting, the SEJ’s stalwarts, including Andrew Revkin (The New York Times), Seth Borenstein (Associated Press), and Suzanne Goldenberg (The Guardian), have led the decline of climate news into ideological warfare.

To many SEJ writers, it is not possible for them to be biased, because issues have only one side: their own.

Associated Press’ Borenstein asserted, “The nature of reporting is to get two sides to an issue. But the nature of science reporting is to get what’s really happening.”

SEJ thinks whatever isn’t environmental dogma is a lie, as indicated by its reference webpage “Climate Change: A Guide to the Information and Disinformation.”

SEJ writers also promote “false balance,” the notion that giving opposing views concerning climate change any mention at all is not real balance because skeptics are liars paid to undermine the truth. Thus, Pareto’s Blindfold justifies total censorship. 

Public Sees Through Hype

Fortunately, the public has resisted this biased climate journalism. A March Gallup Poll found the number of people saying they worried “a great deal” about global warming peaked in 2000 at 72 percent. Despite increasingly hyperbolic media coverage, the number of people greatly worried about climate change fell to 55 percent in 2009 and has remained there since. Significantly, 42 percent of Americans think reporters exaggerate the seriousness of global warming, and only 21 percent think media reports are generally correct.

Perhaps a big reason behind newspapers’ declining readership is reporters’ increasing abandonment of their traditional fourth-estate role as government watchdog and defender of dissent in favor of promoting the “official” views of government and large bureaucratic institutions.

Climate reporters have stooped to reprehensible smears to destroy skeptic scientists with false “science-for-sale” allegations in orchestrated campaigns with extremists such as Greenpeace. The true colors of their yellow journalism are showing, loud and ugly. 

Ron Arnold (arnold.ron@gmail.com) is a free-enterprise activist, author, and commentator.

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Comments (11)

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    Mark Pawelek

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    Very informative but is it that simple?

    On the subject of “false balance”, I notice environment journalists always interview a green activists on any matter connected with nuclear power, but never interview nuclear engineers or ex-plant managers. This effect is so striking that James Conca, at Forbes, wrote a whole article on it. Do SEJ members class nuclear engineers among climate deniers who shouldn’t be allowed a platform – even when those engineers are climate alarmists too?

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