Journalism Fails with False Balance

April 28, 2019

“False Balance” is when journalism gives equal time to a brilliant scientist and a lying moron.

What climate explainers have tried to alert us to for decades.
“False Balance” in journalism is a crisis, and is making us all dumber.

Wisdom from Katherine Hayhoe, Alex Honnold and Snooki.

20 Responses to “Journalism Fails with False Balance”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Back to what is now a classic from 2014:

    • dumboldguy Says:

      You beat me to it, and I’m sure others thought of that “classic” as well. The problem is that so many people are simply PROUD of being dumber and don’t care about facts.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        PS A great piece from Samantha Bee—-she gets it!

      • Abel Adamski Says:

        Proud of being Dumb.
        Recent online polls have polled between 60 and 85% against on this subject being included in the school curriculum, i.e students being taught ARABIC Numerals.

        Note his Curious George label on his cap is upside down,. so sarcasm

        Damn good channel with every post one that elicits thought and investigation

    • Canman Says:

      The 97% is the world’s biggest bait and switch! It refers to whether CO2 is causing warming, which almost nobody (including people who get labeled as deniers) disagrees with, but it is always presented as a consensus that it is a dangerous problem. It may indeed be a dangerous problem, but that’s not what these studies say.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        WHAT? You’re channeling OMNO here in the confusion of your thinking..

        Anyone who doesn’t accept that CO2 is a GHG, that humans are responsible for rapidly ramping up the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, and that the resulting AGW is a HUGELY “dangerous” problem for ALL life on Earth, and instead wants to babble on about “what the studies say” is living in the deep dark past of denial.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        It may indeed be a dangerous problem, but that’s not what these studies say.

        Is this a joke? Which studies are you reading?

        The arctic is quite obviously melting at an accelerating rate, and the northern jet stream (aka the polar vortex), whose behavior depends on the difference in temperatures between the arctic and the mid latitudes, is looping all over the place more and more and will stay broken for centuries at least.

        The Argo floats are measuring higher and higher temperatures from the accumulated heat so far down to 700m depth.

        Ocean warming has led to fish stocks moving out of their traditional regions, disrupting both the natural food chain and the fishing industry. Fewer winter freezes and earlier thaws are allowing certain damaging insects (e.g., pine beetles and several species of mosquitoes) to survive and thrive in greater numbers.

  2. Canman Says:

    The notion of “false balance” really bothers me. It implies an authority figure who decides what we need to hear. It’s too convenient of an excuse to avoid confronting inconvenient and uncomfortable ideas. I note that “false balance” is usually brought up by the left, who like to claim they are not authoritarians. Once in a while, I also hear voices from the left lamenting the repeal of the fairness doctrine. How does this square with “false balance”?

    The reality is that experts often disagree on things. If some minority opinion is flawed or wrong, how about refuting it, instead of repressing it?

    • jimbills Says:

      You’re pulling your own bait and switch. The 97% thing is not just that CO2 causes warming, but that human activity is the primary driver of that increased CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) as well:
      https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

      I won’t say the 97% thing is whether they think it is a major problem, but virtually all agree that is is a problem, with many saying it’s a major problem.

      So, that said, here’s a fair compromise. The next newscast that features climate change can have 97 scientists who think CO2 and other GG causes warming, that think humans are the primary driver of those gases, and think it’s a minor to a major problem. The other three scientists can then say whatever they want. They can refute whatever they want, and be refuted themselves in turn.

      As it is, how is one scientist representing the 97% position and one scientist representing the 3% position actually fair balance?

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      The funny part about the 3% is that it’s split into a variety of alternative explanations. So it’s 97% AGW, and the others are a mutually contradictory list of pet suspects, each of which has been shown to be wrong.

  3. Canman Says:

    It’s not really clear to me how much of the current warming the consensuses say is human caused. In this video, Roy Spenser says he’s not sure how much is human caused, but he does not say it’s not human caused. I don’t think there’s any excuse for Gavin Schmidt to not debate him.

    • jimbills Says:

      Fine, ignore the NASA link.

      We’ve had ‘debates’ like that for decades now. You guys just keep popping up with the same arguments, each time thinking it’s a new thing that hasn’t been considered.

      Here’s even one climate scientist of the consensus position in a room full of them:

      I wonder why Schmidt won’t have a debate on Stossel’s show. Shocker. Stossel even has props like a life raft.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Schneider made excellent points—-was anyone in this group really listening?

        It’s another clip from way back, and I assume was made in AUS by the accents and the woman who was a cattle farmer—–I wonder if any of them have changed their minds since then, considering how much things have worsened down under over the past 9 years.

        PS The “you guys” make the same old arguments not because they think they’re new, but because you are ignorant of the science, ignorant of how scientific TRUTH is determined, and suffering from a terminal case of confirmation bias. WIFI’s all.

        • jimbills Says:

          Yeah, it’s Australian.

          I like watching the facial reactions. A lot of fear and confusion there. Schneider is remarkable in it – he’s so composed. An audience like that, the energy had to be bristling with hostility, and it must have been difficult to not let that rub off on him.

          For those that want to see the full thing (I doubt the commenter here will), here is part 2:

          Part 3:

        • jimbills Says:

          Part 4:

          Less than 10K views per each of those final ones, and they’ve been up for almost a decade. PewDiePie puts up a video and has nearly 10 million views in one day. But enough about my pessimism about humans.

  4. rsmurf Says:

    News reports there was a car accident at ave a/b, news reports there was not an accident at ave c/d, see they balance out! Every thing is fine!

  5. smithpd1 Says:

    I think this piece is far too glib. It is a serious matter and could use some serious examples of how the one vs. one interviews can distort truth.

    Another point that could have been made, that wasn’t, is that an equal-time debate between a liar and an honest person favors the liar. It takes far more time to refute a lie than to state the lie. A Gish Gallop is even worse.

    Non-scientist TV anchors are incapable of fact checking on the fly. Given that, TV networks need to address this issue head on and figure out how to moderate such “debates.” Better yet, figure out in advance that the debate is over, and they are spreading disinformation by using equal time.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Too glib? And needs serious examples? WHAT?

      You DO understand what modus operandi is used by folks like Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, and Stephen Colbert, don’t you? Perhaps not, since you also think that the point that an equal-time debate between a liar and an honest person favors the liar was also not made.

  6. Bryson Brown Says:

    It really bothers you, that people suggest treating 1 denier among 40 scientists as if he/she deserved equal time and consideration is a stupid way to think about science?

    What bothers me is watching propaganda and lies treated as just another, perfectly legitimate point of view- whether it’s vaccine denial, flat earthers or climate denial (which includes the slippery nonsense of ‘yes, maybe we’re warming the earth, but is that really so bad?’). Agriculture, city water supplies, coastal communities and more depend on a stable climate. When you get multiple 1/100 or 1/1000 weather events in just a few years, it’s inevitable that some of them will be catastrophic for the communities they affect.

    And of course the refutations you call for have been delivered over and over again in the scientific literature and in secondary lit as well– as if current events at just over 1 degree Celsius of warming don’t count in and of themselves!


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