It's not enough to bash in heads, you have to bash in minds

Newspapers reject open letter from 255 NAS member, routinely publish deniers nonsense

Joe Romm brings word that the Wall Street Journals, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, who all have no trouble  printing denier non-sense, rejected printing the open letter signed by over 250 members of the National Academy of Sciences.

The lead author, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick had this to say:

We sent it first as an op-ed (one at a time, in order) to the WSJ, then the NY Times, then the Post. Each rejected it. No reasons given (they don’t usually). We then took it to Science, rather than try other smaller circulation newspapers. They agreed, and as you know, ran it on May 7th. The media coverage has been substantial, though mostly electronic media. And in terms of “mainstream media” more attention was given OUTSIDE of the US than inside — so some of the major papers in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, but not here.

This is the situation we find ourselves in. Supposedly reputable newspapers routinely publish articles that are demonstrably incorrect, yet refuse to publish articles written and endorsed by scientists that aim to correct these inaccuracies.

As Carl Sagan famously said:

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. This is a clear prescription for disaster. It’s dangerous and stupid for us to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, toxic and radioactive wastes, acid rain.

The newspapers who refused to publish the letter are doing their part to ensure that we remain ignorant about science.

The question is why? And more importantly what can be done to remedy the situation?

3 Responses to Newspapers reject open letter from 255 NAS member, routinely publish deniers nonsense

  1. While I am dismayed, I am not really surprised. But this is proof positive of the degree of bias in reportage by the mainstream media. But this is not the bias mentioned by BoyKoff & BoyKoff, (2004) Ref. 1.
    Perhaps some might be persuaded that this bias is the result of self-censorship brought about by consideration for certain advertisers.
    I for one do not believe this. Such anti-science bias must surely be proof of the Anti-science campaign funded by the likes of Koch Industries et al. as revealed by John Mashey Ref. 2,3.

    Ref. 1
    Ref. 2
    Ref. 3

  2. I think it is a combination of factors. One is the old adage ‘if it bleeds it leads’. As Paulina Essunger wrote over at Tobis’ place:

    Perhaps Andy Revkin has part of the answer. In an essay on science writing he points out that, by the “metric of the media,” it’s the “reporter’s job” to be “irresponsible.” “Finding the one element that’s new and implies malfeasance [even if the “find” or “implication” proves mistaken] is the key to getting on the front page.”

    There is also an erroneous allegiance to balance, where they present both sides of the issue, even when both sides are not equal.

    Add to that the poor science knowledge of most reporters (and the shrinking number of dedicated science reporters), and their inability to differentiate between good information and bad, and you start to paint a picture where it is guaranteed that they will get things wrong, especially when there is an ongoing active disinformation campaign.

  3. I was looking at the wikipedia entry for “nash equilibrium” and it struck me how it relates to this situation.

    it’s basically a game where every player is stuck with a disadvantage if they are to give up the status quo – even though they may all sink in the same ship

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