Mark Twain, author of the now politically incorrect Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Good advice, especially for those who play fast and loose with facts and truth. And relevant in the internet age when articles, headlines, words and photos are preserved in perpetuity.
Lies, built upon lies, eventually become so tangled that the truth may be forever lost down the rabbit hole. Rather than starting with the truth, to avoid having to remember the labyrinthine path taken by each additional falsehood.
CNN, the network famously referred to by President Trump as “fake news”, should heed the advice of Mark Twain. Otherwise they are likely to be tripped up over their own contradictory stories, in this case only a few years apart.
In 2015, CNN ran a story with the headline, “Did climate change cause California drought?” Less than two years later, CNN ran this headline, “California’s drought is almost over.” Is the irony of these two headlines lost on the journalistic mavens of CNN? Probably. But the internet remembers, happy to take CNN to task over their contradictions.
After all, CNN totally missed the humor in a Sean Spicer quip during a recent White House press briefing. In response to reporters pestering him about mythical Trump-Russian collusion, Spicer responded, “If the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russia connection.” CNN, missing Spicer’s joke just as they missed the irony of climate change causing then somehow stopping a drought, ran a fact checking story to tell us that Russian dressing isn’t really Russian. Thanks, intrepid journalists. Did CNN ever fact check Barack Obama’s claim to have campaigned in 57 states with a news report telling us that there aren’t really 57 states?
Back to the California drought. Despite the accusatory headline tying the drought to climate change, buried in the article is a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration arguing that the California drought is not due to climate change. In fact, this region suffered “megadroughts” eons ago, long before humans were driving SUVs and burning coal for electricity.
In other words, the recent California drought is one of many in this arid region. Likely made worse by water supply and demand, rather than climate change. A growing population in Southern California, consuming ever increasing amounts of water. And the cyclical nature of droughts.
Those who only scan headlines, without reading the entire article, only see “California drought” and “climate change” linked together. The few who read the article completely recognize the “fake news” headline for what it is. Much like another recent story in CNN with a similarly misleading headline, “Is there a link between climate change and diabetes?” Buried in the article is the truth that such a link is speculative, an association rather than causation. Regardless of the headline proclamation.
Human activity “may” cause this or “could” cause that. Maybe. Or maybe not. It’s irresponsible to imply one thing in the headline and within the article backtrack to the truth, that it’s all speculation. Perhaps these headlines are just click bait, unworthy of serious news sites. Or it’s CNN’s way of promoting the left’s climate change agenda via a flashy headline, walked backed within the actual article.
Going further, if we accept CNN’s premise that the California drought was caused by “human-induced climate change”, then how could the drought be “almost over” in less than two years? What human activity ended the drought? After all, if humans did something to cause it, then what did they stop doing to stop causing it?
Are Californians driving less? Running their air conditioners less? Using less water for cooking, cleaning and bathing? Yet the population of California is steadily increasing. CNN was not clear on how the drought ended, other than through moisture rich storms and large snowfalls, both of which are not influenced by human activity.
CNN can’t have it both ways, saying human activity caused a drought and then not explaining what new or different human activity was responsible for ending it. Rather than acknowledging the obvious, that droughts, as one aspect of climate change, are cyclical. And continue to occur regardless of human activity.
If CNN was honest in their first story, they would not have to remember how to reconcile their initial claims when they are contradicted two years later. “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
How much easier and honest for CNN to report on the California drought in proper context. How does the current drought compare to past droughts, including the “megadroughts” of pre-historic days? How long do droughts typically last? When might this drought end? This would provide useful information to farmers and others dependent on a steady water supply.
It also makes subsequent stories more credible and relevant. After all, droughts begin and end. Same for warm and cool spells. Or stormy seasons and calm seasons. If the causes are unknown, just admit that without the misleading headlines.