Acton Institute Powerblog

Everything Old is New Again

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Here’s an interesting report from the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute on the cyclical nature of media coverage on the issue of climate change. We all know about the global cooling craze of the 1970’s, but who knew that the issue goes back more than a century?

It was five years before the turn of the century and major media were warning of disastrous climate change. Page six of The New York Times was headlined with the serious concerns of “geologists.” Only the president at the time wasn’t Bill Clinton; it was Grover Cleveland. And the Times wasn’t warning about global warming – it was telling readers the looming dangers of a new ice age.

The year was 1895, and it was just one of four different time periods in the last 100 years when major print media predicted an impending climate crisis. Each prediction carried its own elements of doom, saying Canada could be “wiped out” or lower crop yields would mean “billions will die.”

Just as the weather has changed over time, so has the reporting – blowing hot or cold with short-term changes in temperature.

It appears that we’re reaching the “outright hysteria” part of the current coverage cycle, considering that Al Gore can get completely credulous coverage for statements like this:

“There’s an African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We have to go far quickly,” former Vice President Al Gore told a packed, rapt house at the Benedict Music Tent Wednesday. With many scientists pointing to a window of less than 10 years to moderate the effects of global warming, he said, meaningful change is still possible, but “It is a race.”

…”What we’re facing worldwide really is a planetary emergency,” Gore said. “I’m optimistic, but we’re losing this battle badly.”

…”The habitability of this planet for human beings really is at risk,” he said.

I don’t know about you, but my BS detector is going crazy at the moment. I’d say that we’re about as likely to be in a 10 year race for survival today as we were to be in a 10 year race to save the oceans back in 1988 (according to the then-popular TV star Ted Danson). Apparently Cristopher Hitchens isn’t the only one prone to wild overstatement these days. And while we’re on the topic of overstatement

Marc Vander Maas


  • brewski01

    Interesting report? No, just predictable. The Media Research Center is a non-profit 501c3 organization that receives funding from ExxonMobil – $202,500 since 1998. MRC is a lynchpin in the right wing media machine. Their rants are echoed by outlets ranging from Drudge to FOX NEWS – giving them credibility they clearly do not deserve. From there, all too often, mainstream media picks up on the narratives and suddenly, they are established fact.

    Of course, the reason that MRC cares so much about denigrating Mr. Gore has nothing to do with the premise of his book and quite a bit to do with protecting the business interests of its donors. It is a remarkable abuse of the system that while MRC smears Democratic Leader after Democratic Leader, ExxonMobil gets a tax deduction for funding these front-groups for this global-warming-denial campaign of smear and fear against Al Gore and others who are trying to get this country to join the rest of the world to combat the threat from global warming.

  • Dan VandeBunte

    …“What we’re facing worldwide really is a planetary emergency,” Gore said. “I’m optimistic, but we’re losing this battle badly.”

    If only Al Gore and the other Democrats were as optimistic about the war on terrorism.

  • Dan VandeBunte

    It would seem to me that there really is no debate here. Either the media at those times reported what they are claimed to have reported or not. It isn’t opinion, it’s just a matter of fact checking. If the media really did report as is claimed, then not only is the MRC report both correct and valid, but they would in fact deserve credibility.

    “this global-warming-denial campaign of smear and fear”

    I don’t know whre you get your information from, but the last time I checked the debate isn’t whether there is global warming or not, but whether it is because of humans, whether it can be controlled by humans, and how immanent the threat is. It’s ok, liberals do that kind of thing all the time. They can’t win arguments by actually stating what their position is, so they have to reframe the argument in a such a way as to make all other opinions absurd. They did it with abortion; “We’re not pro-abortion, we’re pro-choice. Who could possibly be anti-choice?” They did it with the war in Iraq; “We’re not anti-america nor would we ever dream of using the war in Iraq to gain political advantage, we just want to bring the troops home. Who could possibly be against bringing the troops home?” And now we see it with climate change; “It’s not that we don’t have any proof that humans caused climate change or that humans can actually do something about it, but the other side is denying that there even is climate change. Who could possibly deny that there is climate change?” By the way, which side of the climate change debate was it again that uses fear and smear tactics? Oh yeah, the left.

    “…“The habitability of this planet for human beings really is at risk,” – Al Gore.

    Maybe your problem isn’t with the MRC or the right. Maybe your problem is just that the facts do not support your views.

    Don’t mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns.

  • Marc Vander Maas

    Yeah, it was probably Exxon’s bloody oil money that allowed the MRC to manufacture the quotes and photos from news articles over the past 110 years. None of that ever happened. Right.