By Karl Frisch
I grew up in Los Angeles, so the notion of living in or around snow was romantic — the thing of movies. Living in Washington, D.C., this past week has proven to be something entirely different.
Don’t get me wrong, the calm quiet brought to my neighborhood by several feet of fresh powder blanketing the streets and sidewalks made for some amazing photos and an impromptu snowball fight or two.
It’s the right-wing media that have spoiled the Rockwellian images that I associated with snow in my youth.
Like clockwork, every time even a few inches of snow falls, out come the conservative media’s anti-science crazies. To them, cold weather proves what they already believe: that there is no global climate change, and even if there were, we humans certainly aren’t even partly to blame.
This is as a good a moment as any to note that there is a very real difference between weather (what we experience outside over a short period of time) and climate (the study of weather over a relatively long period of time). Got that? Conservative media figures telling you that this week’s blizzards (short period of time) disprove global climate change (relatively long period of time) are either lying or shockingly misinformed. I’ll let them choose which is a more apt description.
Leading the anti-science idiocy is a host of conservative Fox News figures.
Over on the network’s right-wing morning show, Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson maintained her long-held passion for dismissing climate science, saying she wanted to talk about the "dichotomy" created by "big snowstorms" occurring while "the Obama administration [is] talking about creating a new federal office to study global warming." Co-host Steve Doocy added to the nonsense, claiming that it was "interesting, though, given the fact that the weather is so rotten right now, and people are going, ‘How can there be global warming if it’s snowing and it’s fairly cold?’ "
Interesting observation? Hardly. Idiocy worth ignoring? Absolutley.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity dug in deep as well, adding to his extensive history of science denial. The conservative host found it absolutely hilarious that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had "tunneled his way through two feet of snow in D.C." to announce the proposed creation of a new Climate Service office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The very next day, Hannity was back at it, saying, "Global warming, where are you? We want you back" while discussing recent winter storms.
Ironically, Rupert Murdoch — CEO of News Corp., Fox News’ parent company — stated in 2007 that News Corp. "can set an example" and "reach our audiences" when it comes to fighting climate change, promising to make all of News Corp.’s operations carbon neutral by this year.
Perhaps it’s time for Murdoch to call an all-staff meeting and discuss just how they are reaching their respective audiences on this issue, which he has said "poses clear, catastrophic threats."
Of course, it’s not just Fox News. Conservative newspapers, talk radio hosts, blogs, and other online outlets are in on the science-denial scam as well.
The reigning king of right-wing radio, Rush Limbaugh, never misses an opportunity to use cold weather to dismiss climate science, often attacking former Vice President Al Gore in the process. This week was no different. El Rushbo called recent snowstorms a "nail in the coffin" for climate change science before asking, "Where is Al Gore?" Like Hannity, Limbaugh also found it "absurd" that the Obama administration has proposed a new global warming agency amid "record-setting cold weather," saying that D.C.’s snowstorm was more proof that "man-made global warming" is an "ongoing hoax."
The right-wing written word doesn’t fare any better. In an editorial, the conservative Washington Times claimed that "Snowmageddon" is "undermining the case for global warming one flake at a time." And Andrew Breitbart, Internet gossip Matt Drudge’s protégé, used his BigGovernment.com website to host a blog entry stating, "[A]nother 10-20 inches of snow. … Now THAT is some climate change."
When I hear news reports that forecast snowfall, I grimace. Not because I don’t love making a good old-fashioned snow angel as much as the next guy. It’s the conservative media absurdity that follows that makes me cringe.
Ultimately, the science-mangling reports from right-wing media outlets big and small say just as much about their practice of journalism as their views on peer-reviewed climate science. Their disregard for the practice of science mirrors their disregard for the practice of journalism.
What, then, is the logical conclusion? They just can’t be trusted on this or any other important issue.
Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog and research and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the Web, as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, or sign up to receive his columns by email.