Teachers Balance Climate education. PBS False-Balances the News, Courtesy of the Kochs

May 3, 2012

The report above from last night’s PBS news hour starts out with good intentions, portraying the struggles of obviously passionate science teachers to convey the mainstream understanding of climate science.

The pernicious influence of Koch Foundation funding on PBS shows up in the inclusion of a spew of talking points from a non-scientist flack for the tobacco/oil funded Heartland Institute.  An knowledgeable source emails me that more interview footage from leading scientists and science educators was left on the cutting room floor to make room for non-science “balance”.

More evidence that Climate denialists lead the way in the movement to create a nation of idiots.

The segment rightly links the movement to teach “creation science” in the classroom, with hostility toward climate education.


11 Responses to “Teachers Balance Climate education. PBS False-Balances the News, Courtesy of the Kochs”

  1. Susan Buhr Says:

    Dear Peter,
    I am one of the people in the piece. As a person who works to support the quality of science in the classroom, I care deeply about what gets portrayed in the media and what goes into the classroom. I am happy with how the piece turned out and am not at all concerned about the Heartland institute being included. I don’t see it as an instance of bought influence at all. The talking points chosen by the Heartland guy will ring false to people who have experience with recent droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes and the narrator says the points are not consistent with scientific evidence. I would like teachers to know they need to watch out for “curriculum” that comes from the Heartland Institute.

    PBS has links to peer-reviewed lesson plans and activities on cleannet.org. If anyone wants to join the live chat today you may join at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/05/join-a-live-chat-thursday-how-do-you-teach-climate-change-in-the-classroom.html .

    Susan Buhr

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Thanks Susan. As the spouse of a teacher, and as someone who does a lot of speaking at various high schools around my
      area, I have great admiration for educators, and appreciation of the challenges they face.
      My concern is that someone not clearly identified as a non-scientist PR flack was given the opportunity to simply spew
      deliberately deceptive talking points on the public airwaves. The forces of climate denial have been winning this war up
      until very recently, and one reason
      is because they know it is not necessary to back up their claims, or even have any evidence
      at all, as long as they can create a moment of doubt in the mind of the viewer who does not
      have time or resources to track down the lies. Google “doubt is our product”.
      If the lesson was about whether the earth was flat, should PBS have brought someone in from
      the flat earth society? Or likewise, a young earth creationist into a discussion of the Tennessee law?
      Or should we discuss whether HIV causes AIDS – that is something that is espoused by degreed
      scientists – if you poke around on the web long enough. When is mainstream science mainstream
      enough that you can discuss it without bringing in a known, confirmed, professional liar to muddy the debate?
      The tobacco industry pioneered this kind of “science” debate, and demonstrated it works. That’s
      why outfits like the Heartland Institute keep doing it. I would just like to know when journalists
      will stop playing their game by their rules.
      My understanding is that NPR is instituting some new policies that will make this kind of
      stealth propagandizing more difficult when mainstream science is being discussed. I hope that is true, and
      I hope that PBS will evaluate their policies in that light.

  2. bobchewie Says:

    i always thought that climate deniers and creationists were related…according to them science is evil..why is that? is it beause that science will reveal that the industries they support produces poisonous materials…i still dont get the creationist crap..what does that prove?..apart from stupidity.
    unless it goes something like this:

    global warming hoax is created by communists..who are atheistic anti god…

    following that logic god and jesus must be capitalist freedom lovers…how does that square with slavery?

    anyone else able to decipher these things..

    i put these two views side by side and see if anyone can make sense of it..


    and this one:


    aplogies to all for reposting..my laptop is playing up and im having errors saying posts i make arent posting…so i cant tell sometimes.

  3. bobchewie Says:

    @greenman and all, i just looked at the photo of ‘enviromental protestors’ with their placards’ the slogans on them look like theyve been posted there..ie faked..and that hammer and sickle on the guys shirt..it looks stupid and clumsy..if anyone can find the original of this photo it would be interesting..

  4. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    I wonder who has done the most harm,Fox “News”in covering Global worming of PBS and the animal stories they cover and manage not to mention how GW is going to do these creatures in..Middle class people are lulled into into inaction

  5. otter17 Says:

    I agree with you, Peter. Over at Skeptical Science, John Cook created the “Debunking Handbook” that summarizes some of the research from psychology on how we process information. According to that handbook, the video above makes a mistake by displaying Heartland’s scare-tactics commercial and string of misinformation. When displaying the myth, one needs to be very careful to either minimize the visibility of the myth or clearly identify that it is wrong or not based on scientific research.

    In this case, we have a portion of video that prominently features non-scientific content, yet only at the end presents a short disclaimer that “these views are challenged by scientific evidence”. I think highlighting groups like Heartland is good, because they are an activist organization that is well-funded. The public should be made aware that such an organization exists, and it is attempting to shut down the policy debate via misinformation on science. Nevertheless, I agree with Peter that they should not be given a segment that allows their misinformation to have influence on PBS.

    I think a simple fix is all that would be in order. Ditch the Heartland commercial and the interview with the string of misinformation. Instead, show a chart with some of the more wild claims from Heartland in one column, and the views of the National Academy or Science or other scientific groups in another, with the narrator clearly explaining Heartland’s consistently anti-scientific views that attempt to reinforce the organization’s core political/economic ideologies.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      see the crowing here –

      use of the appearance as a claim to legitimacy – appeal to funders, etc

      • otter17 Says:

        From the Heartland blog:
        “It was biased heavily toward the views of climate alarmists, which was hardly a surprise. But since The Heartland Institute has been gaining attention for our plans to craft climate curriculum, the PBS producers reached out to us for “balance.””


        Wow, these guys don’t care if the PBS piece characterized their views as challenged by actual scientific evidence, so long as their message gets out there for “balance”.

        Yep, the James Taylor interview and commercial should have been replaced with something else.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          exactly the point. whether thru actual PR research, or thru native reptilian instinct, these guys understand the way memes propagate better than journalists or scientists do.

  6. John Puma Says:

    I’m hardly surprised at the news (to me) that the Koch roaches money is accepted by PBS.

    But now knowing that funding source, and a bevy of others, not to mention (previous, not current) scrutiny of PBS/NPR “journalism,” I would have to ask: “why does anyone still believe that PBS portrays anything with good intentions?”

    Here’s a sight that might make PBS easier to see for what it is, i.e., nothing special but certainly the leader in smug, self-satisfaction: http://nprcheck.blogspot.it/

    It IS particularly pernicious in that it portrays itself as different from the rest of American media but, like the US itself, it acts very much contrarily to its carefully-cultivated image of its purpose and mission.

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