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There Goes the Fearmongering “Librul” Media Again

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The anti-environmentalist spin machine is at it again. A series of headlines has been making the rounds of the blogosphere lately:

Time Magazine, Sept. 10, 1923: “The discoveries of changes in the sun’s heat and the southward advance of glaciers in recent years have given rise to conjecture of the possible advent of a new ice age.”

New York Times, Sept. 18, 1924: “MacMillan Reports Signs of New Ice Age.”

New York Times, March 27, 1933: “America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-Year Rise.”

Time Magazine, Jan. 2, 1939: “Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world, at least for the time being, is growing warmer.”

There are more headlines in this vein. I guess people are trying to say that since the media has been talking about climate change for years, we don’t need to worry about the current global warming problem, right?

First unearthed by the right wing Media Research Center, the headlines spread quickly. The MRC was cited by an Editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That editorial was then cited by a blogger at Newsbusters. From there, it went all over, as right wing bloggers slapped each other on the back and congratulated themselves for proving, once again, that this global warming stuff is just fearmongering.

I’ve got another set of misleading headlines for you to ponder.

In the runup to the Iraq war, the New York Times ran many headlines about the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Exempli gratia: A New York Times Headline from September 8, 2002:
‘U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts.’ These headlines were a major part of the Administration’s case for war.

From the American Journalism Review:

On September 8, the Miller/Gordon story about the aluminum tubes appeared on page one of the New York Times. The information was attributed to unnamed administration sources. That same morning, Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed by Tim Russert on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Cheney mentioned, vaguely at first, Saddam’s efforts “to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the bombs.” Russert, familiar with the Times story, prompted his guest: “Aluminum tubes.”

Cheney replied: “Specifically aluminum tubes. There’s a story in the New York Times this morning — this is — I don’t — and I want to attribute the Times. I don’t want to talk about, obviously, specific intelligence sources, but it’s now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire…the kind of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge.”

When Bob Simon heard about this interview, he told me, he smelled a rat. “You leak a story to the New York Times,” he says, “and the New York Times prints it, and then you go on the Sunday shows quoting the New York Times and corroborating your own information. You’ve got to hand it to them. That takes, as we say here in New York, chutzpah.”

Of course, it was later demonstrated that the tubes were not the type needed for Uranium enrichment. That fact was glossed over.

The misleading headlines kept coming, even as the war progressed. Quoted from FAIR:

Over on Fox News Channel (3/23/03), the headline banners were already rolling: “HUGE CHEMICAL WEAPONS FACTORY FOUND IN SO IRAQ…. REPORTS: 30 IRAQIS SURRENDER AT CHEM WEAPONS PLANT…. COAL TROOPS HOLDING IRAQI IN CHARGE OF CHEM WEAPONS.” The Jerusalem Post, whose embedded reporter helped break the story along with a Fox correspondent, announced in a front-page headline (3/24/03), “U.S. Troops Capture First Chemical Plant.”

The next day (10/24/03), a Fox correspondent in Qatar quietly issued an update to the story: The “chemical weapons facility discovered by coalition forces did not appear to be an active chemical weapons facility.” Further testing was required. In fact, U.S. officials had admitted that morning that the site contained no chemicals at all and had been abandoned long ago (Dow Jones wire, 3/24/03).

Judith Miller was a major source of headlines about Saddam’s supposed WMD.

However, it emerged that the vast majority of her WMD claims came through Ahmed Chalabi, an indicted fraudster and one of the leading figures in the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the group keen to militarily overthrow Saddam. Miller relied on untested defectors’ testimonies (usually provided by Chalabi) to write several front-page stories on this information. Michael Massing from Columbia Journalism Review suggests her stories were “far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the (Bush) administration”.

Quoted from an article by Antony Loewenstein, “Engineering consent: The New York Times role in promoting war in Iraq.”

So, my question is this: Do we dismiss all threats of terrorism and WMD proliferation on the basis of this failure by the New York Times? Obviously, the media only wants to sell stories, and all they care about is fearmongering, right? Obviously, there is no threat from terrorism, just like there is no threat from global warming.

Think about it.

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  • http://www.co2emissions.org.uk Hoggle

    “Obviously, the media only wants to sell stories, and all they care about is fearmongering, right? Obviously, there is no threat from terrorism, just like there is no threat from global warming.”

    As clear an example of a logical fallacy as I have seen for days.

    The fact that the media looks for scare stories cannot imply that any stories they find are invalid. It can’t even imply that they are all exaggerated. All it implies is that some of them MAY be either fabricated or exaggerated.

    What you are, in fact, trying to say is that a biased sample proves, because it is biased, the opposite of what it would prove if it was not biased.

    It’s called Denying the Antecedant. Look it up.

  • http://futuregeek.net futuregeek

    Not sure if you understood what I’m trying to say here.

    Yes, the media looks for scare stories. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re not.

    Just because they were wrong in the past (e.g. global cooling, Saddam’s nuclear program) doesn’t make them wrong now (e.g. global warming or terrorism).

    Sorry if I was unclear.

  • http://www.co2emissions.org.uk Hoggle

    cool – missed the irony

    Hey – we agree! Break out the champagne :)