Follow up on the Des Moines Register fiasco of he past week. The reporter, Aaron Calvin, was fired, but blames everyone else, says he is the victim of a right wing conspiracy and his own tweets were all taken out of context. The interview was done by his former employer, Buzzfeed News, which itself has a conflict of interest in reporting this.
Interesting comment on FB about journalists that commonly act like a school yard bully; seems a fair description of what happened here.
A classic illustration of how exaggerated, hyperbolic and untrue statements about climate lead to people conclude that projections of human-induced climate change are not true. Our own thesis is that improved communication comes from honest and accurate presentation of facts and logical arguments. Unfortunately, the climate communications community has, rather consistently, engaged in increasingly shrill propaganda messaging that eventually results in the “The boy who cried wolf” phenomena where no one believes anything anymore. This item illustrates how climate communications has backfired, circled back on itself, and produced an outcome opposite to what was intended.
Newspapers worldwide have agreed to jointly engage in a global Covering Climate Now project, where newspapers and other news outlets simultaneously use their advocacy journalism to persuade readers to take action on climate. This is indistinguishable from a global, coordinated propaganda operation and may back fire, turning people off from understanding and undertaking meaningful actions on climate issues.
The Guardian’s style guides says “climate change” is out and to be replaced by “climate crisis” and “climate emergency”. Both wordings were invented by the Guardian – “crisis” does not appear in the IPCC reports and “emergency” appears only in conjunction with “emergency medical services”. Increasingly dramatic reporting is backfiring and turning people off – a more effective strategy might be to report on the facts and logical arguments.
Two professors took a look at how the media has reported on the topic of climate and found that almost all news reports leave out critical and basic facts about climate. A corollary is that instead of reporting facts and the use of logic that supports anthropogenic climate change, most turn to propaganda methods such as appeal to authority, fear, name calling (“deniers”), get-on-the-bandwagon and so on. Incredibly, as I was writing this post The Nature Conservancy sent an email fundraising solicitation which illustrates the point: the first sentence of the email makes 4 demonstrably false claims to create fear about changes in climate. “Factfulness” teaches us how to detect when we are being misled – this turned out to be classic example of a charitable organization making exaggerated claims not supported by reputable science organizations (IPCC, NOAA, The Royal Society).
This post may be the first of several on how climate communications has been badly bungled by reliance on propaganda methods, rather than sticking with facts and logic.
Factfulness is an important book that opens our eyes to how our views of the world have been skewed, if not corrupted, by poor thinking skills and various groups, including the media, that focus on the negative and often inappropriately generalize small issues into seeming huge problems. The reality, as well documented in this book, is that the world is getting better, often way better – which is surprising when we are buried in negativity all day, every day.
Social media is filled with “inspirational quotes” that are often nonsensical gibberish, or as one professor suggests “pseudo profound bullshit” 🙂
No kidding: “America and its young people live in an age of near-constant bad news. OregonLive, like other news websites, is replete with headlines that stoke young people’s existential fears: stories highlighting climate change, mass shootings, political hate and the like.”
We actually live in the best of times with plummeting global poverty and illiteracy rates, rising incomes and middle income lifestyles that exceed the super wealthy of just 100 years ago. In the U.S., crime, including violent crime, is in a long term declining trend. But you probably do not know this because of the media’s focus on gloom and doom.
News and social media are literally killing our youth via increasing suicide rates as they are flooded with unnecessary fear mongering. The constant negativity is damaging – yet the media will continue down this path even while acknowledging their own role.
Lacking sufficient real news for web saturation news or 24×7 cable news, local school yard skirmishes are frequently blown up into national incidents by the pseudo news media. We’ve talked about this before.
Twitter is for hostile people to be outraged, Facebook is for the boring and Instagram is for the good looking people who live perfect lives (or not really).