Part 1—The two percent misperception: In this morning’s New York Times, the truth appears on page D3.
On that page, Justin Gillis does a Science Times report about climate change. As he starts, he describes how easy it is to get mis- and disinformed about this particular topic:
GILLIS (2/11/14): At the exact moment President Obama was declaring last month that “climate change is a fact,” thousands of drivers in Atlanta were trapped in a grueling winter ordeal, trying to get home on roads that had turned into ribbons of ice.Disinformation is everywhere in our modern, corporatized pseudo-news culture. By contrast, if it’s information you want, you may have to turn to D3.
As the president addressed Congress and the nation in his State of the Union speech, it was snowing intermittently outside the Capitol. The temperature would bottom out later that night at 13 degrees in Washington, 14 in New York, 1 in Chicago, minus 6 in Minneapolis—and those readings were toasty compared to some of the lows earlier in January.
Mr. Obama’s declaration provoked head-shaking from Congressional climate deniers, and unleashed a stream of mockery on Twitter. “As soon as he mentioned ‘climate change’ it started snowing on Capitol Hill,” said a post from Patrick J. Michaels, a climate skeptic at the Cato Institute.
As he proceeded, Gillis challenged the inanity of messages like the one Michaels delivered. If you turned to page D3 today, you could have learned these facts:
GILLIS (continuing directly): The chortling was predictable, perhaps, but you do not necessarily have to subscribe to an anti-scientific ideology to ask the question a lot of people are asking these days:According to Gillis, global warming concerns the whole globe. Our own country represents less than two percent of that sphere!
If the world is really warming up, how come it is so darned cold?
The question might say more about how humans perceive the world than it does about the climate. After all, in principle, we are all supposed to know that climate and weather are not the same thing. But we have a strange tendency to think that whatever is happening to us right now must be happening everywhere.
Scientists refer to global warming because it is about, well, the globe. It is also about the long run. It is really not about what happened yesterday in Poughkeepsie.
The entire United States, including Alaska, covers less than 2 percent of the surface of the earth. So if the whole country somehow froze solid one January, that would not move the needle on global temperatures much at all.
Gillis goes on to describe the very high temperatures occurring in other regions at this time. You could read all about that today, if you reached page D3.
Reading Gillis’ piece today, we had the same sort of thought we had last Friday, when we read this column by Paul Krugman: Why is this information on page D3, inside the Science Times section? Why isn’t this information on the newspaper’s front page?
Patrick Michaels is a major player in the world of climate change skepticism and denial. As Gillis noted, the recent cold weather also inspired the standard inanity from some members of Congress.
Whenever it snows or gets cold in the winter, citizens are now exposed to this nonsense. Reading Krugman, then reading Gillis, we found ourselves asking a familiar question:
When citizens get disinformed in major ways, why isn’t that front-page news? Why isn’t it major news when people get disinformed about major topics?
Gillis described a type of two percent misperception. We humans! Foolishly, we tend to think the entire globe is like our own little hill of beans!
In this, the age of disinformation, we get a lot of help in forming such misperceptions. This week, we’ll wonder again why this sort of thing is permitted to stand—why you have to read D3 to get today’s information.
We’ll also ask if our own liberal world is getting into these dis- and misinformation games. We liberals have always complained about this when it’s done from the right. As our own “liberal” news organs form, are we doing this sort of thing too?
Gillis presents an interesting report. His report appears deep inside the Times.
The bullroar is quite widespread these days. It's almost like anything goes!
The bullroar is quite easy to find. Sometimes, information seems hidden.
Tomorrow: Last Friday’s column by Krugman