A big howdy and welcome to Al Gore, who with a 7,200-word feature ("Climate of Denial: Can Science and the Truth Withstand the Merchants of Poison?") in the new Rolling Stone has joined the press-critic racket.
Although the primary target of Gore's piece is the press corps, his pen wanders, giving his article the flow of several op-eds about separate topics stitched front-to-end like the victims of The Human Centipede. Gore begins complaining about press coverage of global warming but then marbles his essay with a couple of history lessons and sections complaining about campaign-finance regulation, the economic crisis, the number of hours people watch television, and the "powerful special interests" who have "rigged" the political game. I needed two cups of strong coffee and a tap from a cattle prod to finish it: Your dosage may vary.
Assuming you witnessed the 2000 campaign, I don't have to reprise Gore's views about those powerful special interests that have rigged the political game. Nor do I need to summarize his ideas about global warming, seeing as his Oscar-winning documentary and best-selling books have flooded the public consciousness. But Gore's media criticism deserves a second look—and pointers—should he decide to join the ranks of the press critics permanently.
Pointer No. 1: Vilify your enemies by name.
Gore's criticism is hopelessly vague. He blames the press for covering global warming like a professional wrestling referee—working from a script to boost viewership—but then gives no examples. He bitches about "extremist ideologues" but names none. He denounces "large carbon polluters" who finance "pseudoscientists" but doesn't name either.
The entire piece names just one corrupt news organization: the Fox News Channel. Yes, it's always fun to cane the Fox News Channel for its crimes, but Gore doesn't have the goods. Instead of citing a "refereed" news story broadcast by Fox, he quotes from an email from a Fox News Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon, which Media Matters uncovered in December. In the email, Sammon instructed his reporters to question the "veracity of climate change data." Elsewhere, Gore maintains Fox News was one of the "hyperactive cheerleaders" for the Iraq War. (He names no others.) That's it!
The only other news organization named—the New York Times—gets a brownie point when mentioned. In 1991, the Times published a leak from a coal-industry planning document describing the industry's scheme to "reposition global warming as theory" and not fact. Gore doesn't provide a link to the piece. Here it is.
Pointer No. 2: If you're going to champion "science and reason," something Gore does repeatedly in his piece, you must not avoid inconvenient truths (sorry!) that challenge your thesis.
For example, Fox News Channel's corporate parent, News Corp., boarded the let's-stop-global-warming bus four years ago and now claims to be carbon-neutral. So what does it mean that Fox News opposes the global warming argument but the company that owns Fox News—and its CEO, Rupert Murdoch—embraces it?
Pointer No. 3: If you're going to cite survey results, put them in context.