Saturday, July 28, 2007 - from National Post
Is Gore Right [That's a laugh:he's Left!] or Corcoran?
He says, "Before we get to the climate change chapter of Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, we need to know a bit more about the whole book. It helps put the climate stuff in perspective.
When the climate chapter refers to the "massive and well-organized" campaign of "lavishly funded" disinformation on climate change, backed by "wealthy right-wing ideologues," Gore is merely imposing the big theme of his book on the climate issue.
It's not a new theme. It's the same old leftist paranoia Noam Chomsky has been dispensing for decades: the idea that the media are tools of corporate-capitalist control used by power-hungry groups to undermineand destroy American democracy.
The Assault on Reason, now a bestseller, is a tour de force irrational rampage through the U.S. political system, a pseudo-intellectual pastiche of distorted history, context-dropping quotations, bizarre economic theory, and misrepresentations. Climate change is just a side issue to the book's major objective, which is to portray the United States as a country under the heel of power-hungry cabals of corporate and political interests. Gore calls it a "coalition of right-wing religious extremists and exceptionally greedy economic special interests."
The big theme is that Iraq, U.S. energy policy, climate issues, the Bush presidency and all that is wrong with the world can be pinned on the media. The Internet may eventually save us, but until that happens all citizens are at the mercy of electronic corporate power.
It all began, says Gore, with radio. Stalin, Mussolini, Adolf Hitler -- what do these totalitarian dictators have in common? "Each one mobilized support for his malignant, totalitarian ideology by using the powerful new medium for mass communication: radio."
In the United States, however, government "legal constraints" prevented abuse of radio through most of the last century. But "these constraints were removed during the Reagan administration in the name of 'free speech', and the results have been horrendous." Aha! So Ronald Reagan, that old totalitarian, is the culprit. And now radio, along with television, are controlled by the evil coalition. "One of the most obvious and dangerous consolidations of power has formed in the media, where powerful conglomerates have used their wealth to gain more power and consequently more wealth." Whew.
Now the climate chapter falls into place. These same wealthy right-wing ideologues loom over the climate issue. To prove this, Gore rehashes the trivial nonsense stories about ExxonMobil that are now part of the lore and mythical fabric of climate policy debate.
First we have the allegation that "one of the front groups" funded by Exxon had offered US$10,000 to each scientist who would produce a "pseudostudy" disputing climate science. This phony allegation surfaced in the left wing Guardian newspaper last year. It was based on a plan by the American Enterprise Institute to pay a group of scientists and contributors -- as it often does --an honorarium of US$10,000 to examine key climate issues.
Exxon's role? AEI's total revenues over the last seven years exceeded US$160-million, of which Exxon contributed less than 1% as part of its routine funding of foundations and think tanks. Gore's version of the Exxon science payoff is just a lazy rehash of climate activist dirty tricks. (For a full review of the AEI-Exxon story, search Google under "Scenes from the Climate Inquisition.")
Another dirty trick is the Royal Society's alleged role in rapping Exxon. Gore makes it sound like the full force of the society was brought down on the company. In fact, the society itself never really said anything about Exxon.
What happened was this. Bob Ward, then chief flak with the Society, was leaving the organization to take a new job elsewhere. A few weeks before his departure, he personally sent a letter to his corporate affairs counterpart at Esso UK Limited, a man named Nick Thomas. In the letter, flak to flak, Mr. Ward unloaded a lot of his personal concerns and first-person observations on what he viewed as Exxon's climate science failings. Mr. Ward, a clever manipulator if ever there was one, then leaked his own letter, again to the Guardian, the day before he resigned from the Royal Society. This created a sensation and established the now mythic Royal Society put-down of Exxon--even though it amounted to nothing more than a personal screed from a Royal Society employee who was about to jump ship.
Gore also repeats the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) charge that Exxon "funneled" nearly US$16-million over seven years to 43 advocacy organizations. That would include the US$1.6-million to AEI mentioned above. All other organizations would have received an average of US$330,000. Even the UCS described this as a "modest" funding effort -- and a far cry from the "massive" and "well organized" and "lavishly funded" crusade described by Gore. It's also peanuts compared with the billions and billions funnelled by governments to climate change promotion.
The Frank Luntz anecdote is another bit of recycled material from the trivia-laden war chest of climate activists. No doubt Luntz, a political strategist of the highest cynical caliber, actually did urge politicians to emphasize scientific uncertainty. So what? A larger number of strategists likely urged the opposite. Luntz is just another guy with advice on playing public opinion.
Gore's climate chapter -- including its brief notes on hurricanes, polar ice caps and other climate phenomena -- is a sloppy collage of false material and loose summaries of reports and stories.
In a later section of the climate chapter, not reproduced here, climate gets the full Gore treatment. He ties all his themes together in a typical total irrational meltdown. After a review of Hurricane Katrina as a climate event, Gore connects the dots between the unconnectable. "We were warned of an imminent attack by al-Qaeda; we didn't respond. We were warned the levees would break in New Orleans; we didn't respond. Now, the scientific community is warning us of the worst catastrophe in the history of human civilization."
When you think about assaults on reason, it doesn't get any worse than that."
If you wish to write to Terence, use his publicly published email address firstname.lastname@example.org