The Corner

The Dangers of Groupthink

From my USA Today column:

Indeed, the closer you look at the scandal the more you realize it’s all one big outrage. The same journalistic tribalism that allowed Dan Rather to destroy his career over “Memogate” keeps reinforcing itself. Rather picked sources who said what he wanted to hear, then he reported what they said as if it were indisputable. The same thing is happening on climate change. Ideological bias is a major factor in the news media’s work as a transmission belt for the climate industry. But part of the problem is also that the journalists do a bad job when the majority of “respected” experts agree on anything complicated. For instance, it was pretty impossible for reporters to independently investigate whether Saddam Hussein had WMDs, and since the most established authorities agreed he had to have them, the news media reported the consensus, which turned out to be wrong.

Likewise, most journalists aren’t qualified or capable of working through the climate data. So they opt for the consensus. But there are important differences, too. While there’s often reason for governments to hide classified intelligence, there’s no reason for climate data to be classified. If the science is a slam dunk, why are CRU researchers keen on hiding their research? After the WMD fiasco, journalists agonized over their mistakes. Why no soul-searching over the CRU fiasco? Climate change hasn’t been “debunked” by these documents. But the integrity of the “consensus” has been.

Also, keep in mind that the stakes are higher. In Copenhagen this month, the U.S. government will try to join the global bandwagon to spend trillions in fighting climate change. That money will not only enrich corporations, weaken U.S. sovereignty and hinder global growth, it will come out of funds that could be spent on fighting disease and poverty. Surely that’s worth some journalistic skepticism?

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