And the Award for Climate Change Propagandism Goes to…

Old-school, hard-nosed, traditional reporters don’t merely accept superficial information without question, they spot inconsistencies in the material and go digging in order to find out why the details don’t line up right. Three weeks ago, The Weather Channel website featured a hit piece against the Heartland Institute authored by Pam Wright, which Heartland’s Jim Lakely dissected yesterday here. As ever with such dissections, there’s always more. From my own unique bit of expertise on the political side of the global warming issue, let my politely suggest that Pam Wright should not quit her day job as a propagandist to become an old-school reporter.

In her hit piece, she directly cites Desmogblog four times, a place which suffered from a ‘journalism due diligence’ problem ever since its inception. But she also has this line within her piece about a skeptic climate scientist, Dr Sherwood Idso, containing a url link address which technically sources Desmog for a 5th time:

In July 1991, Idso participated in pro-coal ad campaign financed by coal-burning utility companies as one of three members of a “science advisory panel,” according to the New York Times.

As loyal readers of GelbspanFiles know, there is far more to that detail. But for new readers arriving here, let me briefly retell the story, using screencapture photo links.

The 1991 NYT article, when anyone takes the time to read it further, contains the allegation that the ‘pro-coal PR campaign’ had the strategy goal to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” supposedly seen within secret leaked industry documents provided to the newspaper by the Sierra Club. Problem is, from right around the present time back to mid 1997, almost nobody credits either one of those entities with the discovery of those alleged memos. Al Gore spelled out that memo phrase full screen in his 2006 movie, and his movie companion book said ‘Pulitzer-winning reporter’ Ross Gelbspan discovered it. Scores of other people throughout the years credit Gelbspan for that, when they aren’t doing a three-step citation cascade to cite 1) a Union of Concerned Scientists dossier, which in turn cites 2) a set of Greenpeace memos, which, in turn, 3) originate — alongside Ross Gelbspan — at a forgotten enviro-activist group called Ozone Action.

For all the times Weather Channel author Pam Wright cites Desmogblog in her piece as some kind of credible source about industry disinformation campaigns, why does she fail to mention Ross Gelbspan? Desmog was, after all, inspired by and built on the works of Ross Gelbspan; he was its star blogger from January 2006 to November 2010. Why, after a little over 20 years of hero worship of Ross Gelbspan as the discoverer of the corruption of skeptic scientists like Dr Sherwood Idso, is he now cast aside?

  • Could it be the fact that he never actually won a Pulitzer is an anathema to the reporting profession?
  • Could it be that he was not actually a working reporter at the time at the time of his so-called ‘corruption discovery,’ and that this ‘discovery odyssey’ is plagued with a timeline problem?
  • Could it be that Gelbspan is caught in his own self-inflicted information burial problem involving his 1997 hardcover / 1998 paperback book content detail name swap of Dr S Fred Singer’s name for Dr Sherwood Idso?
  • Could it be that Gelbspan’s books contain memo phrases (again, one of which Gore said Gelbspan discovered), part of which are quoted in Gore’s 1992 book years before Gelbspan first mentioned them?

Could it be that citing the New York Times rather than Ross Gelbspan is now a way to lend an air of credibility to any current mention of that old pro-coal “Information Council for the Environment (ICE)” public relations campaign, such that nobody would think to question anything about it? Personally, I see that as a mistake, because a few curious minds might say, “Golly, I never knew the Sierra Club had anything to do with exposing those leaked memos,” which in turn might lead them to wonder about that silence. Which in turn, if anybody chooses to accept that mission, might lead more people to wonder if those leaked memos really are what they are portrayed to be. That could lead to disaster for pretty much the entire notion that skeptic climate scientists are in any kind of pay-for-performance arrangement with fossil fuel industry executives.

Who should win the Award for Climate Change Propagandism? Hapless ‘reporters’ like Pam Wright? The list of finalist nominees might end up containing quite a number of much more prominent names.