No Comment — June 4, 2007, 5:13 pm

The American Media and Global Warming

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “Silver Blaze” (found in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, 1894), literature’s greatest detective solves the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a celebrated racehorse. The key to the solution was in this passage:

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

And today, Holmes’s technique is instructive. For there is something very curious about the American media’s treatment of the issue of global warming. And what’s curious is that it reports next to nothing.

Every time I leave the country and pick up a newspaper or watch a news broadcast, I find menacing stories about the rapid disappearance of glacial ice in Greenland, Iceland and Antartica; stories about the threats presented by rising water in coastal zones, and so forth. Then I return to America and learn that this is all alarmist nonsense really not worth reporting.

Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason, makes this point. If you’re looking for evidence of how the new “corporate culture” of the media had affected its reporting – essentially made it stupid and irresponsible, look no further than this issue.

This will be a week to keep that question in focus. The G8 summit in Heiligendamm commences on Thursday. For the host and the majority of the G8 states, this summit is about one issue: global warming. They have been carefully laying the foundations for G8 coordinated action on hydrocarbon emissions and related warming issues. But there’s been one consistent delinquent at this function, and his name is George W. Bush. By and large, the American press has given Bush a free pass, with the result that most Americans haven’t got a clue of the rupture between America and the other leading states of the developed world on this issue. Europeans, Canadians and Japanese read about it every day.

At this point, I am more concerned about the irresponsibility of the American media than I am about Bush. And so are the Europeans. Reporting around the world, and especially in Europe, is coming to a focus on the scandalous behavior of U.S. media. Consider this note in the current issue of Germany’s Der Spiegel:

Many Americans had no idea until today that their government and those of the other Group of Eight (G-8) countries were locked in a bitter battle over global warming. The US media has studiously avoided the issue. The New York Times has ignored it for weeks, the Washington Post covered it with one short article and USA Today contented itself with a wire report from the Associated Press. Meanwhile the television networks have apparently decided to run absolutely nothing on the issue.

And, as Spiegel points out, when they do decide to run something – it’s very low profile, brief, and focuses on some utterly meaningless initiative that Bush has taken – creating a completely false impression about the current dialogue. What’s up now? Bush is intent on blocking the Europeans from setting an effective agenda to address the problem. And the U.S. media is complicit with him at every step. This is my observation and my prediction. Let’s track things through the end of the week and see if I’m not borne out.

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