Media Flunks Science March Test

April 26, 2017

Forensic historians of the future, in piecing together why a great civilization tore itself to bits, may conclude that what destroyed our ability to reason together was the greed of media companies who played the great conversations of democracy as if it was Big Time Wrestling.

Media Matters:

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators participated in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and sister marches around the globe. Many participants were protesting the Trump administration and Republican Party’s climate denial and their attacks on science. But some television networks covering the marches also devoted airtime to climate deniers, who misled their viewers about the impacts and extent of global warming.

The April 22 edition of CNN’s New Day Saturday featured a guest panel discussing the marches that included Bill Nye the Science Guy and physicist William Happer, a climate change denier. In the segment, Happer perpetuated the myth that carbon dioxide is not a harmful pollutant and that it benefits the planet, and he claimed incorrectly that temperatures are not rising as fast as climate models predicted. He also called for the cancellation of the Paris climate agreement because it “doesn’t make any scientific sense. It’s just a silly thing,” and then compared it to the Munich Agreement and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nye rebutted Happer in each instance and expressed his disappointment with CNN’s decision to host the climate change denier, stating, “I will say, much as I love the CNN, you’re doing a disservice by having one climate change skeptic and not 97 or 98 scientists or engineers concerned about climate change.” Indeed, the segment was in line with CNN’s typical approach of elevating conflict among panelists over truth telling.


CNN has played an important role in mainstreaming and normalizing Trump’s misinformation, thanks in large part to the small army of Trump surrogates the network has hired to defend the president during panel debates.

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, CNN president Jeff Zucker described the network’s approach to covering politics, saying, “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.” That politics-as-sport approach has placed a heavy emphasis on drama, with much of CNN’s programming revolving around sensationalist arguments between hosts, guests, and paid pundits.

That fighting-based approach to covering politics has created a huge demand for Trump supporters willing to appear on the network, which is why CNN hired Trump supporters like Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany to defend Trump full time.

But CNN’s fixation on drama and debate has turned the network’s coverage into a circus of misinformation. CNN’s Trump supporters derail segments critical of the president, misrepresent Trump’s positions to avoid tough questions, and peddle false and misleading information on national TV while being paid by the network. In many cases, CNN’s Trump supporters repeat the same lies and talking points that CNN’s serious journalists spend all day trying to debunk. That might explain why Trump has quietly pushed his surrogates to appear on CNN, even while publicly feuding with the network.

All of this would be fine and normal for a network like ESPN — but when you treat politics like a sport, you end up with news coverage that cares more about fighting and drama than it does about serious truth telling.


2 Responses to “Media Flunks Science March Test”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    I just created the petition “Stop hiring climate deniers”.

    It would mean a lot to me if you took a moment to add your name.

    Jeff Zucker, president at CNN, has said ‘“The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.”” Following that strategy, CNN commonly pits one climate denier or far right wing propagandist against one person who accepts reality and the overwhelming science on climate. It creates furor and fake controversy. But politics is not sport. Media in general, and CNN in particular, must stop using conflict to titillate, and take its responsibility to educate seriously if we want to keep our democracy and the natural world alive.

    Then sign:

    Real change happens when everyday people like you and I come together and stand up for what we believe in. Together we can reach heaps of people and help create change around this important issue.

    After you’ve signed the petition please also take a moment to share it with others. It’s super easy – all you need to do is forward this email or share this link on Facebook or Twitter:

    Stop hiring climate deniersPl

  2. Kiwiiano Says:

    J4Zonian: it would help if you added your own name. Unless your parents had really unusual tastes, in which case I apologise.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: