Have you ever wondered why your local TV weatherman is such a jackass? Now we know the reason. Weather forecasters who are actual scientists are not allowed on TV. For over 30 years, the mass media have pursued a systematic effort to keep people from knowing the truth about sudden climate change. The result has been that your TV weather staff, cleansed of anybody who might mention a scientific finding about climate, has devolved into a collection of whores and fools.
It’s not just weather forecasters, but all newsmongers that have kept us ignorant and misinformed. And they never admit their fault. Take the last big case of journalistic malpractice, coverage of the hurricane that emptied New Orleans of most of its African-American residents. The weathermen were dancing in the streets as the hurricane made landfall east of the city–”Looks like we dodged a bullet, Steve”–even as the levees were giving way. Thousands died, stranded, taking the reporters’ unanimous word that evacuation wasn’t necessary. It was reporters who kept rescue boats from flooded neighborhoods, warning of armed looters who were shooting at rescue workers. Turned out the shots were coming from the rooves of flooded homes, cries for help that were heard but not heeded. Nobody apologized for any of this that I ever heard. On the contrary, reporters patted themselves on the back for seeming sympathetic on the air.
Maybe you noticed the transformation that corrupted our media. If you were a supporter of public TV in the 1970s, you remember the early episodes of Nature, which seldom failed to warn of shrinking habitat and depletion of resources, and Nova, where we were invited to understand scientific inquiry. They still called it educational television in those days. Factual coverage ceased in the 1980s, and any substantial discussion of climate science has been suppressed in the interim. On today’s Nature, the wild animals all have cute names, and Nova invites us to learn why we enjoy riding carousels.
We don’t know exactly why our media have misled us. They never acknowledge their own failures, much less explain them, and they refuse their critics any and all exposure. They know that an essential element of censorship and bias is suppression of all mention of censorship and bias. Still we can guess what’s behind all the disinformation. News publishing is business, and business has to make money. For a newspaper to make money, it has to have an audience, it has to have advertisers, and it has to have investors and financiers. There’s a vast body of important facts that lots of potential audience members would rather not hear and another, overlapping body of knowledge that advertisers and investors would rather not publish. There’s money to be made by withholding such facts.
If there were an obligatory code of ethics for journalists, it might forbid editors and publishers from allowing the profit motive to interfere with reporting, but there is no such code. In fact, the only source of accountability for this industry, the one industry explicitly protected by our constitution, is the news-consuming public, which ought to be just about everybody. There was a time in my city when it was easy to hold your paper accountable. If you didn’t like the evening paper, you could subscribe to the morning paper, or you could get both (for a dime) and make critical comparisons every day. Today we have just one newspaper in Hartford, and it runs the same stories in virtually the same words as every other paper in the USA. It’s a lot more expensive now, too. Pay more. Get less. Not a lot of accountability there.
Because most people can’t or don’t read, a big segment of the public gets its news from TV news-readers. TV news-readers shouldn’t be mistaken for journalists, even though they play them on television. Their qualifications seem to center on how they look and sound on the screen. Their scripts are pretty much what’s printed in the newspaper. It’s not wise to alienate one of these personalities. You’ll never appear on TV if you do. In fact, the worst public relations move a writer can make is to criticize the media. Ralph Nader won’t do it. He knows he’ll be silenced if he defies these people. The exposure Glenn Greenwald has received lately is unprecedented, as critical as he is of the corporate press. I have a feeling he’ll be shut down soon, never to be seen again by most viewers.
We can put the blame on ourselves for failing to hold our mass media accountable, but the corruption of journalism has to be cited as the principal cause of our trashing of the atmosphere. We’ve been fed a steady diet of lies about pollution for the better part of two generations. Any bit of information that could have threatened the status of rich people, like a fact that might prompt a big change in personal consumption habits, has been banned since at least 1980, when we ceded the White House to the upper class with the election of Ronald Reagan. The collapse of the natural environment was no secret then, but you would never guess that from a review of the intervening record. Reporters have gone along with the censorship because reporters who didn’t go along have been purged.
The disinformation dispensed by the mass media has led us to a state of permanent warfare, a failed economy, a government of thugs, constant bombardment with advertising, the utter alienation of each and every one of us from each and every other one of us, the abandonment of values, and, now, a future of hardship and hopelessness for our grandchildren that will be without precedent in modern history. I don’t suppose I’m the only person who wants retribution for the injury the mass media, especially the news media, have done to his family. I would certainly keep my eyes open if I were one of those attractive celebrity news-readers I keep seeing on TV. I want to say to the weatherman, “There’s probably somebody out there who wants to lock you in the trunk of your car. You maybe want to look both ways before you pop it open.”