More Problems in PBS Frontline’s Part 2 “The Power of Big Oil”

In the race to the bottom for the distinction having no self-awareness of how ridiculous a person or organization appears as they denounce “disinformation” while putting out essentially non-stop disinformation, it looks like Frontline and the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee and the steady, plodding plow horse of the PBS NewsHour just got massively outpaced by the 4/28/22 news of songstress (no joke!) Nina Jankowicz as executive director of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board.” If Ms Jankowicz actually makes it to Day 1 of her new job without being forced to resign in shame, certainly the first of her potential targets should be the Democrat-led House Oversight Committee, and PBS, since a case could be made that their out-of-context, intellectually dishonest, less than transparent, false premise narratives have led to actual preventable death.

Meanwhile, Frontline continued on in its 4/26/22 “The Power of Big Oil, Part 2,” beginning straightaway with Kert Davies, the person they teased viewers with at the end of their 1 hour 25 minute Part 1 program. Unlike Frontline’s other ‘source’ in Part 1, John Passacantando, who got both the hugely problematic “Ozone Action” label applied to him along with the Greenpeace label, Davies is not identified as having any direct association with Passacantando at Ozone Action, at Greenpeace, or elsewhere.

Part Two: Doubt

KERT DAVIES, Director, Climate Investigations Center: In 1998, there was this meeting in D.C. It’s convened by the American Petroleum Institute. … They’re hatching a plan to stop people from worrying about climate change. … The plan right at the top says, “Victory will be achieved when recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the quote, conventional wisdom.” They said that it was never implemented, but what it shows is an intentionality—we need people to not care so much about climate change. We need uncertainty to rule the day.

To steal a line out of Al Gore’s 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” movie, this has happened before, albeit in reference to the only other viable-looking leaked industry memos (they’re actually worthless) which supposedly proves the fossil fuel industry sought to spread uncertainty the same way the tobacco industry did, in order to preserve the life of their industry:

…. The misconception that there is disagreement about the science has been deliberately created by a relatively small number of people. One of their internal memos leaked and here is what it said according to the press. Their objective is to reposition global warming as a theory rather than fact. This has happened before, after the Surgeon General’s report. One of their memos leaked 4 years ago. They said, “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of creating a controversy in the public’s mind.

But notice what Kert Davies added with regard to ye olde “victory will be achieved” memo set: “They said that it was never implemented, but what it shows is an intentionality …” No. It was never implemented, period. Full stop. In my 2020-’21 complaint protest against the BBC’s similar reliance on Kert Davies’ unsupportable ‘evidence’ that fossil fuel disinformation campaigns exist, I pointed out the sheer folly of that argument by suggesting the comparative logical fallacy of people who could claim the BBC broadcasts outright disinformation simply because a rejected, never-implemented leaked memo described a plan to deliberately put out a disinformation news item solely as an experiment to see how widely it would be repeated.

The crash here is elemental for Frontline, for the BBC, for Kert Davies himself, for the U.S. House Oversight Committee’s witch hunt letters to fossil fuel executives (and verbal questioning of them), and anyone else who’s enslaved to that worthless API memo. Rather than regurgitate unsupportable speculation that the fossil fuel industry planned to deliberately deceive the public about the harm of man-caused global warming, they could show actual irrefutable evidence — full context document scans, undercover video/audio transcripts, leaked emails, money-transfer receipts, etc — proving the accusation is true. But for the umpteenth time, contrary to what Davies claims about the ‘untold story’ here, Frontline’s presentation is just the same old story that relies on Davies / Davies / Davies / “Doc Cloud #784572” …. meaning Davies. Davies himself actually admits there’s nothing new in this Frontline program.

Starting out badly, the Frontline Part 2 episode never improves when it comes to putting out disingenuous portrayals lacking full context. The moment I saw former Fox News show host Bill O’Reilly, I knew it was going to imply something that is not factually true.

BILL O’REILLY, FOX News: This global warming controversy is unprovable, but that doesn’t stop people on both sides from swearing they know what the heck is going on. …

The mere mention of Fox News is a dog whistle to anyone left of center in politics, and basically all on that side leap to the conclusion that O’Reilly was an anti-global warming person. I watched his program nearly every day, and, as a result of being frustrated on how he knew next to nothing about either the science of it or the politics of it, I detailed that in a March 2012 guest post at Steve Milloy’s website. At Steve’s site months later, I showed how a particular enviro-activist’s ignorance about O’Reilly within an likely fake publicity stunt exposed just how little that side of the issue knows about his position. He’s clearly a pro-global warming guy. We have to wonder how hard it was for Frontline people to find their one single clip, which ultimately only shows that O’Reilly at least made the effort to give fair broadcast time to the two sides ….. something the PBS NewsHour program has apparently never done all the way back to 1996.

Next, in very short order, was Frontline’s claim, lacking the larger context around it, and after it over the next eight or so years.

NARRATOR: The president, too, veered from the tone he’d struck as a candidate and was emphasizing the uncertainty of climate science.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Climate change, with its potential to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed by the world. We do not know how fast change will occur or even how some of our actions could impact it.

I lived through the two Bush Administrations. Although I was minimally encouraged about the ‘huge news’ of his decision on March 14, 2001 not to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants, I was still concerned enough about what he might not know of the global warming issue that I wrote my first-ever letter to the White House that year suggesting he should look intoa Frontline program from 2000 that pointed out many holes in the issue.’ I was referring to this April 18, 2000 one, “What’s Up with the Weather?,” a joint Nova / Frontline collaboration which was the last time either program gave any fair media balance to the skeptic side of the issue. Recall that in Part 1 of this current Frontline program, skeptic climate scientists Dr Patrick Michaels wasn’t seen offering any in-depth science points, but was initially suggested to be a tool of the fossil fuel industry in a setup leading straight to Kert Davies’ utterly non-science political opinions. Frontline producer/director Jane McMullen later asked Dr Michaels about his ‘industry’ association and then asked him how much they paid him ….. while never posing any association / money earnings questions to any other guest (hint: Passacantando’s millions in ‘dark money’ income). In the 2000 Nova / Frontline program, the very much alive Dr S Fred Singer was permitted to offer salient science details that would send any objective, inquisitive viewer into further explorations of what might undermine Al Gore’s version of the ‘science.’ In Part 1 of this current Frontline program, the late Dr Singer was not even identified as an atmospheric physicist, but his credibility was attacked without any chance whatsoever for him to defend himself by a person having no science expertise at all.

One other thing to consider regarding President Bush’s legacy in the global warming issue that’s not referred to one bit in this current Frontline program: September 11, 2001. In the face of an uncertain future resulting from how to deal with al-Qaida terrorism, the global warming issue plummeted on everyone’s list of immediate concerns.

After the above bit, Kert Davies returned, still identified onscreen as the “Director, Climate Investigations Center”:

KERT DAVIES: I’ve been investigating the fossil industry for decades, and Exxon was a ringleader. … Exxon had emerged as the real bully on climate change …

Investigating … for who? Right now in 2022, his Climate Investigations Center is only eight years old. Frontline is being less than transparent here regarding his 24-25 year direction association with John Passacantando. So in just that little history admission of his about decades, why should viewers not be told about his prior workplaces?

Moving further along about 15 minutes to around the halfway point of this Part 2 program:

NARRATOR: In 2006, Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, sounded the alarm to a widening audience, warning of a “planetary emergency.” …

Two problems: Gore’s movie was warning of global warminga minimum of 23 times in the script itself, if one unofficial screenplay transcription is accurate. More often, if you just do a search of the words “warming” or “warm” by themselves. It didn’t warn about “climate change” one single time. Do a search for the word “climate” alone, and the results show the word not even partly connected to the word “change.” How many times does the collective Part 1 / Part 2 Frontline transcript show the words “global warming”? Give it credit for 25 times. “Climate change?” 87 times, after you subtract one reference within a clickable video caption at the bottom of their transcript. And yet no explanation about why Gore’s movie never mentioned climate change, which otherwise might lead viewers to wonder about that.

One more problem when comparing this Part 2 Frontline presentation to Al Gore’s 2006 movie: Part 2’s title is “Doubt,” and there is no doubt about the presentation’s setup of ye olde “victory will be achieved” memo set right at the beginning as evidence of industry-led disinformation campaigns which created uncertainties — doubt — about settled science. Gore’s movie used exactly the same tactic, but with two exceptions. He waited until past the one hour 12 minute point to bring up ‘leaked memos evidence’, and he didn’t use the “victory will be achieved” set. He used ye old “reposition global warming” memos.

His movie sent the “reposition global warming” memos out into the internet in viral fashion, people everywhere viewed them as absolute “smoking gun” evidence. How could Frontline leave out that detail when bringing up his movie here? They do have one more presentation to go in this 3-part series, however.

Now, speaking of movies and comparisons, Frontline has another apparent disinformation / intellectual dishonesty situation happening. It concerns former South Carolina U.S. House District 4 representative Bob Inglis, appearing twice toward the end of the Frontline Part 2 broadcast. After a setup about the Koch brothers orchestrating political candidates, Inglis speaks of the Kochs not liking a question he gave, versus what one of his Republican primary candidate said:

NARRATOR: Bob Inglis was one of those targeted. He says suddenly Koch Industries stopped supporting him and backed an up-and-coming conservative opponent.

BOB INGLIS: My most enduring heresy against the orthodoxy at the time was just saying climate change is real and let’s do something about it. … One very memorable occasion was a big tent meeting. All of my primary opponents were there. … [the] question for me was, “Is climate change human caused, and do you support a carbon tax?” And so I said yes and yes. … And then [the question] goes to the guy that we were concerned about because he’s a very capable fella.

Frontline’s video clip of this primary challengers even shows murky, harshly backlit imagery of Inglis and his primary opponent’s response …… but does not identify who the opponent is while he’s giving his answer.

I didn’t even recognize the opponent’s face from that amateur quality video. But nobody who closely follows conservative politicians would fail to recognize his voice. Who was that ‘masked mystery man’?

Give Frontline credit for minimally showing just who it was who so badly defeated Rep Inglis in the primary, and some credit for following written journalism traditional when they placed Gowdy’s name in front of his answer in their transcript.

However, Trey Gowdy’s name is never spoken in this presentation, and not a word is spoken about his views on other issues. Why? Because when objective viewers know who Gowdy is, it undermines the entire narrative that true conservative candidates are shot down if – and only if – they alienate ‘Big Oil’ or the Koch brothers. If Inglis was every bit as conservative on all other issues as Gowdy, then how does he explain his downward slide over the two prior general election cycles against a Democrat opponent or Gowdy beating Inglis’ last opponent by a higher percentage? Former Rep Inglis is arguably displaying intellectual dishonesty by saying the Koch brothers were the sole reason for his defeat. But, he’s turned his defeat into possibly a lucrative second career at a place where his bio place features an ‘opponent-who-shall-not-be-named,’ and also not the wisest personal association bragging points, a place described elsewhere as, shall we say, ‘not exactly intellectually honest about what it is.’

Regarding my “speaking of movies and comparisons” remark above, let me borrow Al Gore’s line again: this has happened before. Where? It would appear that Frontline is channeling Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” documentary movie, where it pulled this essentially same ‘unidentified Gowdy’ stunt, except her movie did not have Gowdy speaking but instead showed a clearer image of him, while never naming him. I saw firsthand how that stunt backfired, when I attended her poorly-attended 2015 movie. Who else pulled this same ‘opponent-who-shall-not-be-named’ stunt just a little over a month ago? The Politico website.

There are numerous other very problematic assertions made within this Frontline Part 2 program worthy of analysis, but I’ll wrap up with just one more look at Frontline’s unquestioned acceptance of Bob Inglis’ portrayal earlier in it as an example of the difference between objective journalism and what appears to be nothing more than propaganda.

REP. BOB INGLIS, R-SC, 1993-99, 2005-11: For my first six years in Congress, I said that climate change was nonsense. I didn’t know anything about it except that Al Gore was for it. That was the end of the inquiry. … then our son … said, “Dad, I’ll vote for you, but you’re going to clean up your act on the environment.” So that was step one … Step two was going to Antarctica with the Science Committee, seeing the evidence in the ice core drillings. In that mile of ice is an amazing record of the Earth’s atmosphere. What it shows is stable levels of CO2 and then an uptick that coincides with the Industrial Revolution.

We make climate science sound so complicated. It’s really not.

So — rather than make any further inquiry that the political constituency would expect from their representative, he chose to honor the demand of a teenager with about as much science expertise as the high school drop-out Greta Thunberg? Did he inquire with anyone to be sure there wasn’t a major problem with ice core samples? Did he inquire to find out what skeptic climate scientists were disputing overall about this issue? Did he bother to find out what the EPA’s figure and NOAA’s was for the overall average pH value of the world’s oceans was before he made his demonstration at his last congressional hearing where he dropped an egg into a jar of vinegar to demonstrate what ‘ocean acidification’ looks like? No joke:

Rep. Bob Inglis, R-SC, 2010: “… I’m not a scientist, but I play one on a Science Committee … we did this little science experiment that I hope to convince some folks about ocean acidification … an egg that we put in vinegar …”

Contrary to Al Gore oversimplifying climate science to a spectacularly anti-science, anti-intellectual level which former Rep Inglis seems to have accepted without question, PhD-level climatologists / atmospheric physicists, along with experts in statistical data gathering and analysis can demonstrate for hours on end just how complicated climate science is. Well-informed Republican voters in South Carolina perhaps ultimately dumped Inglis because he not only didn’t know anything about climate science, but the last straw for them might have been how he showed no intellectual curiosity to actually learn more about it, while Trey Gowdy at least clearly wanted to see all the available information before the jury was out on the matter.

Frontline’s and the mainstream media’s withholding of half the available information on this matter is what will sink their credibility. They can fool all of the people some of time; they can fool some of the people all of the time, but they cannot fool all the people all the time, and when the public fully realizes the extent of the journalism malfeasance in this issue over the last two decades+, it may prompt one of the biggest public backlashes in history.
But Frontline, isolated in their own little echo chamber, forges on. Up next: Naomi Oreskes was a no-show in Part 2, but her teaser appearance in Part 1’s introduction assures us she will be in Part 3 on 5/3/22. What could possibly did go wrong there?