The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game — with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.
The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I’ve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.
But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun — for the first time in my adult life — to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was “a writer,” because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to a stranger that I’m a journalist.I am very far from happy with McCain but I think it is fair to say that if I were entitled to vote in US elections he'd get my vote because Obama scares the daylights out of me. Not Obama personally but the apparent personality cult that has grown up around him which means that, as Malone says:
[i]f the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.
That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.To put it simply Malone's long, read it all, column states that the MSM (and he fingers in particular the editors, something I'm not so sure is correct) has deliberately engaged in what we call propaganda when we see it on offer from the Glorious Leaders of Tyrannical Dictatorships. The problem here is that if Obama wins and he ends up not being quite the wonderful messiah he is predicted to be then there's going to be buyers remorse on behalf of the US electorate in a big way and it seems pretty clear that a major casualty in any blowback will be the MSM who covered for Obama during the campaign.
On 3rd August this year, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told the Chicago Tribune: “The science about climate change is very clear. There really is no room for doubt at this point.” Since publication of the 4th IPCC report in 2007, the mainstream media has, in general, accepted this position. As Andreadis and Smith (2007) note, UK journalists are no longer required to balance each warning voice. Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, Cristine Russell concurred, suggesting that for US journalists “the era of ‘equal time’ for sceptics... is largely over.”And then he notes that, um, unfortunately the blogosphere is rather full of dissent.
It is my contention that new media is providing the spatial and temporal freedoms that, when combined with the ability to publish free from peer‐review and from journalistic codes, provides the ‘room for doubt’ for which Pachauri says there is no longer any time.He follows this up with the sort of proposal to bring joy to the heart of any greenshirted extremist:
Do we have time for ill‐informed scepticism and disinformation? As Oreskes and Renouf revealed just this Sunday on BB[C]2, we’ve had 30 years of it now. The IPCC warn that we have only 10 years to act to avoid runaway climate change. The question could also be: does our democracy even have time for new media?The question is asked because Mr Lockwood is convinced (by weight of credentials as opposed to evidence I think) that climate change must be stopped now. Then he shows why the free speech in this area is so dangerous:
First, in what ways is new media used to spread sceptical discourse? Three examples. In December 2007, the New Statesman published an article by David Whitehouse claiming “global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased.”x Three weeks later, New Statesman columnist and climate author Mark Lynas wrote: “Whitehouse got it wrong – completely wrong.” Web editor Ben Davies let the forum debate run five months, attracting 3,004 comments: this could not happen in a letters page. This delivers the promise of what Howard Rheingold saw as “a way of revitalising the open and widespread discussions among citizens that feeds the roots of democratic society” (Rheingold 1993). The important thing here is that the comments were in support of the sceptic Whitehouse, by a ratio of about six‐to‐one.
Do we believe this ratio is representative, or just mimics the internecine morass afflicting news sites such as the Guardian’s Comment is Free? The same ratio was quoted by Downing and Ballantyne in their 2007 report ‘Turning Point or Tipping Point?’ for comments received after the airing of Channel 4’s Great Global Warming Swindle. According to them “Channel 4 anecdotally reported that among the 700 comments it received [including phone, but mainly online], supporters outnumbered critics six to one.” Channel 4 Head of Documentaries Hamish Mykura, writing in the Guardian, used this ‘anecdotal’ evidence to shore up its broadcast (to 2.7m viewers). That comment‐board rants are used to justify such flawed programming is indicative of the force of new media in promulgating sceptical positions.But it gets worse. Not only so the unwashed persist in holding and shouting out positions that Mr Lockwood finds unacceptable they read and make posts on really popular blog sites instead of reading proper news magazines:
[A]nother starting point is to look at blog aggregation sites. While this omits traditional media, it is a good measure for extra‐institutional influence. On Wikio, four of the top 20 science blogs are sceptics. The most successful, WattsUpWiththat.com, the US‐based blog of sceptic and former weatherman Anthony Watts, in July this year posted 646,024 page views (2.8m since launch). It is in the top four of 3.4m blogs using the free online blog authoring tool, Wordpress. Using the latest Nielsen Net Ratings data, even the most conservative estimate would give it over 300,000 monthly visits and a readership of over 31,000 users. Compare that to the New Statesman’s 12.7% year‐on‐year decline, to headline sales of just over 26,000.That right there is the writing on the wall. A blog run by some guy with little or no qualifications gets more readers than a magazine produced by a staff of dozens. And the blog holds the wrong opinion!
Perhaps the best known example of political impact has been the work of sceptical blogger Steve McIntyre, whose criticisms of the hockey stick graph used in the IPCC reports led to a US Congressional Committee to examine its validity.Steve's work is important because of its political impact. Really? How about its scientific attitude where it helped spotlight the incredily shabby basic data gathering and dodgy statistics used in climate science? While I don't think the high priests like Hansen and Mann would agree I suspect that a lot of scientists are extremely greatful for Mr McIntyre's work exposing the flawed statistical reasoning that resulted in the hockey stick. Likewise, Mr Lockwood writes about Anthony Watts concerning his general purpose site "WattsUpWithThat" and ignores the related site that has allowed the world to see just how poorly sited many surface stations are and how this is likely to skew global warming data.