For some time, I’ve been planning to write a long, ultra-serious post about the repeat failure of the establishment press to deal with complex, “dangerous” stories. This problem first smacked me in the forehead when I lived in Texas and the national press just flat missed the commercial-and-condo construction bubble that led to the multihundred-billion-dollar collapse of the savings and loan industry. Even after the fact, the major newspapers couldn’t seem to step up to the plate and assign blame to any of the major financial and political interests that had caused the catastrophe. Pathetic as it was then, this inability to face down powerful interests doing things dangerous to the Republic has only grown into an entrenched habit over time, as the major media have dealt glancingly, if at all, with complicated and major story after story. I was going to use Al Gore’s current (wordplay intended) piece in Rolling Stone, “Climate of Denial,” as the starting point for a lengthy, erudite excoriation of Fourth Estate failure to 1) puncture the obvious lies used as justification for invading Iraq and 2) warn of a mortgage bubble and derivatives nightmare that almost crashed the world economy. In my brilliant post, I intended not just to address the false equivalence the media have generally drawn between essentially the entire assembled scientific infrastructure of the civilized world and a few ideologically driven, industry funded hacks charged with creating some illusion of doubt about climate change, but also to wax eloquent about the bankruptcy of the he-said/she-said journalistic approach in general. Unfortunately, Gore did all this and more in his Rolling Stone piece, which (h/t to my friend Ryan Blitstein) deserves to be read in entirety. If you can’t be bothered to put out that much effort, take this part of the article away with you:
The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.
Al Gore is very gentle with President Obama, understanding his various political dilemmas over the course of many boring paragraphs. For his care, the former vice president is being attacked by Beltway media critics who don’t seem even to have tried to understand his argument. (Jack Shafer has written an especially beside-the-point piece that is very good at expressing the contempt in which Shafer holds Gore — and, to my eye, nothing else.) But careful as he is in getting there, Gore comes to the proper conclusion: The president has, for political reasons, backed away from confronting the most important issue of our time — and a very real and very direct threat to the future of life on Earth. All the money Big Oil and Big Coal can muster cannot change a simple truth: Burning fossil fuels threatens the future of life. Mr. President, isn’t the planet more important than a reelection?