This past Sunday's 60 Minutes segment on global warming was okay for what it was: An attempt to cram decades of steadily accumulated research and analysis into 15 or so minutes of television, with a lengthy digression to watch researchers shoot a polar bear with a trank-dart, which was apparently included for no other reason than the fact that it's so frickin' cool to be able to manhandle such a hugely dangerous animal and not have to worry about getting turned into steak tartare.
One of the talking heads even earned himself a lifetime achievement award for graciousness by saying that global-warming skeptics had performed a service by making researchers hone and clarify their scientific methodology — as opposed to saying, less politely but more accurately, that the only people left to doubt climate change are either irresponsible cranks or paid shills in the employ of right-wing think tanks and the petrochemical industry.
A whole separate 60 Minutes segment could be devoted to fake controversies about the reality of global warming, and it could have no better lead-in than the weekend's news that King Dubya, whose administration's policy of ignoring or distorting real science brings to mind Stalin's ruinous embrace of Lysenkoism, actually met with pop sci-fi novelist Michael Crichton to talk about global warming. Since Crichton's novel State of Fear dismisses all evidence of global warming as the work of Dr. Evil-like conspirators, this is rather like hearing Bush prepped for an audience with the Pope by reading The Da Vinci Code, or geared up for a Middle East peace summit by studying The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion (Bush's buddy Pat Robertson could loan him his own well-highlighted copy).
If you think these comparisons are unfair to Crichton — who is, after all, a perfectly entertaining pulp writer when he isn't trying to stand on a tottering soapbox — then head over to the New York Review of Books site and spend some quality time with Ian Buruma's essay on Rising Sun, which compares Crichton's depiction of the Japanese with the descriptions of Jews in a piece of vintage anti-Semitic propaganda. The world is ever changing, but the methods for distorting it never seem to change all that much.
Cross-posted at The Opinion Mill.