The Big Naomi Oreskes Hole in PBS Frontline’s Part 3 “The Power of Big Oil” Train Wreck

Predictably, Frontline’s Part 3 program offered viewers only half or less of the full story they were telling, which is why the program as a whole could be labeled “disinformation,” but the program lost all the focus it had in Parts 1 and 2 on the ‘corrupt fossil fuel industry spreading disinformation’ accusation angle. I’ll cover that bizarre twist in highlight form toward the end of this post. The far larger problem overall now is the very weird “Naomi Oreskes Hole” that Frontline and Oreskes herself inexplicably dug for themselves. Her inability to keep her mouth shut on various items is the gift that keeps on giving; ammo handed on a silver platter to potential congressional investigators and law firms defending energy companies in global warming lawsuits.

I’m speaking of “Merchants of Doubt” documentary movie star/book author / historian Naomi Oreskes, of course. The new wrinkle arising out of this situation concerns both the teensy little bit Frontline permitted her to say, and her unforced error reaction about what she did not ultimately say.

So, what did she finally say in Part 3, after having been used as a teaser in the introduction mere seconds into Part 1 and again the same way in Part 2?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She never appeared in the main presentation of Part 3 at all.

In a technical sense, it was false advertising – disinformation – from Frontline to imply she was going to appear on the program. She does not even appear in any kind of ‘supplemental’ videos of additional material not seen in the broadcasts.

The massive irony to this situation concerns the teensy little bit from her that Frontline did permit her to say:

It’s important to understand the past. You can’t understand where you are, if you don’t know how you got there.

It is of course implied that viewers would fully appreciate the current ‘disinformation’ spewed by the fossil fuel industry now if they knew of the total history of it. And who better to tell the Frontline audience about it than “climate disinformation expert” Naomi Oreskes.

That is all exactly backwards. It is important to understand the past because the public won’t understand where they are with the accusation now if they don’t know how the accusation got here today via its core promulgators. Start digging into the history of how these accusers got involved, and you don’t find nice tidy answers, you end up finding more and more crippling problems which could reveal the accusation to be nothing more than outright libel/slander.

Start with her reaction to not appearing on the program for any extended length of time in this Part 3. It was in response to some guy tagging her and her “Merchants of Doubt” co-author with praise how the media was finally catching up to their work, in a re-Tweet of some other account’s post about the April 19th broadcast of Frontline’s Part 1:

Better late than never…I guess. (FWIW we pitched this story to Frontline in 2012. They told us they only did stories that were original to them.)

Notice the lack of delight there. But for serious, objective, unbiased investigators, the immediate questions are: “pitched what story?” / “who’s we“? / “why specifically in 2012?”

By 2012, Oreskes had two stories, not just one. Regarding her much more famous “Merchants of Doubt” story, contrary to the hype about it exposing skeptic climate “liars-for-hire,” and contrary to Oreskes’ own hype of it as exposing how fossil fuel industry lobbying led to doubt undercutting ‘scientific consensus,’ the book is described as exposinga loose-knit group of high-level scientists .. with deep connections in politics and industry,” but it arguably contained nothing more damaging against skeptic climate scientists than their conservative / political / ideological motivations. Meanwhile, her other damaging-appearing accusation “evidence” back then was in her much more obscure book chapter contribution and directly related Powerpoint presentation concerning the worthless “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” ‘leaked memos’ which have long been falsely attributed to the Western Fuels Association. The problem with that second story of hers is that it is hers alone, so there is no “we” involved there.

Or is there?

She specifically said the mystery “we” pitched the story, whatever it is, in 2012. Not 2013, not 2011. Who else also said essentially the same thing about the same date? Kert Davies, who was quite prominently seen in Frontline’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Did he offer any specifics on what that ‘film’ might be about? Yes, he did, at his Climate Investigations Center “Viewer’s Guide” for Frontline’s 3-part series … that totally excluded Part 3:

… clip is shown from this video produced by the Western Fuels Association. The story of the coal industry’s role, and the electric utility companies and associations role could be another whole Frontline

There’s that name again, the Western Fuels Association. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the reason why these core accusers keep going back to ye olde supposedly Western Fuels “reposition global warming” memos is because that is literally the absolute most viable-looking “evidence” they’ve ever had to prove that ‘Big Coal & Oil’ colluded with skeptic climate scientist ‘shill experts’ to spread disinformation. Second-best is their beloved but equally worthless “victory will be achieved” memos.

Meanwhile, Frontline’s Part 3 program strangely lost all the focus it had in Parts 1 and 2, for who knows what reason. Rather than offer any evidence of industry disinformation undercutting the ‘settled science’ of catastrophic man-caused global warming, it veered into what looked like hits against former Obama Administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz over vague insinuations that he was involved in illicit advocacy of natural gas production, and hits against President Obama himself (memo to enviro-activists: you don’t bite the hand that feeds you).

Beyond that, here’s my highlight list of Frontline’s arguably continual disinformation:

Take every one of those headlines and more from the days 100-120 years ago of zero SUVs and vastly smaller numbers of giant coal / oil / natural gas-fired power plants and turn them into headlines from 1-10 years ago that blame you and your SUV for harsh weather, and you see the acute problem with what ex-Greenpeace USA neé Ozone Action director John Passacantando said back in Part 1 as an inadvertent display of pure psychological projection, pointing an arrow the size of Texas as where the real disinformation in this issue appears to be:

You want to make an assumption that it’s a meritocracy. A good argument will prevail, and it will displace a bad argument. But what the geniuses of the PR firms who work for these big fossil fuel companies know is that truth has nothing to do with who wins the argument. If you say something enough times, people will begin to believe it.

Sound familiar? Replace the “geniuses of the PR firms who work for these big fossil fuel companies” with ‘relentless activists accusing skeptic climate scientists of industry corruption’ and you may have a far more accurate picture of the way things currently are.

If the Frontline program was an actual investigative news outlet instead of an apparent propaganda pusher for narratives from enviro-activists which were never questioned, they could turn their focus 180° against her and the other activists, in order to find out exactly why their accusation narratives crumble apart under even minimal tough scrutiny.