Posted by: Dick Wesley | February 5, 2008

Science and Public Debate: Manufacturing Controversy in the Press

 I appreciate the Roundtable and the efforts put into running this blogsite. I am very much looking forward to hearing Professor Ceccarelli’s lecture. My particular interest is in media coverage of climate science. For many years now, powerful forces within this country have spent much time and money in the effort to distract us from the reality of global climate change. They have been very successful in manipulating both the science and the media. Lance Bennett has explained the professional norms of  journalism, one of which is “balance” or “objectivity.” By giving voice to “both sides of the story,” journalists  frequently create the false impression that the scientific community has been divided on the “debate” surrounding global warming.  It is not only journalists manufacturing the climate controversy. Opinion pages of the newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal regularly feature columns by individuals associated with industry-funded think tanks. Syndicated columnists, talk radio hosts, and TV personalities also assist in the dissemination of the myths surrounding global warming. Of course, it doesn’t help that government scientists have been gagged by the Bush Administration from speaking on this issue. To add context, previous assaults on science include those by the pesiticide industry (re: DDT – which included the character assassination of Rachel Carson), coal-burning electric utilities (re: acid rain), and the chemical industry (re: effect of CFCs on stratospheric ozone). In the words of Moti Nissani, there have always been experts willing to back up a “profitably mistaken viewpoint;” there have always been efforts “to cover the issue in a thick fog of sophistry and uncertainty” and to “unearth yet one more reason why the status quo is best for us.”   Recently, there have been a number of books that touch upon this intersection of media and manufactured scientific controversies. I highly recommend The Republican War on Science (2005) by Chris Mooney. The top internet source for the latest on climate science (including rebuttals of false assertions in the media) provided by climate scientists is http://www.realclimate.org/.  This Roundtable discussion promises to be highly engaging, the topic is extremely timely and relevant. 

  Liisa Antilla

Posted by: Dick Wesley | January 16, 2008

Manufactured Controversy: Science and Public Debate

In recent years, scientists have expressed frustration with the degree to which political actors attempt to influence how scientific research is reported and interpreted for the public.  Professor Leah Ceccarelli will discuss 3 important cases in which controversy did not exist within the scientific community, but was successfully manufactured for a public audience by political leaders, organized think tanks, and lobbying groups.  These cases include global warming and intelligent design in the US and AIDS dissent by President Thabo Mbeki in South Africa. 

Join us at the University of Washington Seattle Campus on February 7, 6:30 PM, Communication Building Room 126 (Free Admittance, RSVP  to wesleyr@u.washington.edu)

Please share your view of this issue with us as well.

Posted by: Lloyd Jansen | November 15, 2007

Movie Review – Soldiers of Conscience

SOLDIERS OF CONSCIENCE – Documentary Film – Catch this if you can.  With graphic footage of the war in Iraq, the film lets eight soldiers discuss why they either continue to serve in the military and Iraq or opt for conscientious objector status.  Half of this selected group opts to pursue C.O. status in the face of harassment and, for some, criminal prosecution.  The dialogue and the accompanying stories are profound and provoke “conscientious” thought about war.   One reason that it is hard to pursue C.O. status is that, under U.S. law, one must oppose all wars.  A soldier who opposes a specific war only, thus, is subject to prosecution.  (Locally we can look at the case of Lt. Ehren Watada, not in the film, who has found himself in this situation.)  Various of those who oppose C.O. status essentially argue that if the U.S. is in a war, then that war, ipso facto, is about defending the U.S.  The film strives to let each side speak and would serve well as a focus for a discussion group. 

It is playing around the country and I was able to see it at the end of a one week run last week at the new SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) Theater.  I didn’t see it in time to post a review before the run ended.  The only public screening coming up that is remotely local is one night only this coming Saturday, 11/17, in Olympia.  Apparently, churches and other organizations have been able to get copies for their own showings.  More info, including a trailer, is at http://www.socfilm.com/.

Posted by: Dick Wesley | November 3, 2007

Targeting Iran ~ David Barsamian at the Roundtable

David Barsamian is an independent journalist as well as founder and Director of Alternative Radio ( www.alternativeradio.org ). He presented his critique of US policy toward Iran and the American media coverage to the Citizen Roundtable on October 30, 2007. Like Picasso, Barsamian sees things from a different perspective. He raises a number of provocative questions:

1) Is US policy in the Middle East the product of a desire to promote freedom and democracy or does it stem from a desire to control a major source of the world’s oil?
2) When does American-Iranian history begin? Does it begin with the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979? Or does it begin with the CIA-assisted overthrow of the democratically elected leader Mohammed Mosedegh and installation of the Shah in 1953?
3) Why do Americans learn of British Imperialism, French Imperialism, German Imperialism, and Soviet Imperialism but not American Imperialism?
4) Why did Henry Kissinger support the development of an Iranian nuclear program in 1974 and condemn the development of an Iranian nuclear program in 2004?
5) Barsamian asks why the debate on US policy toward Iran seems to be limited to either sanctions or pre-emptive war and does not include discussion of negotiations.
6) Why is the autocratic government of Egypt’s Mubarak described as moderate and the theocratic government of Iran described as part of the axis of evil?
7) Why is Iran being blamed for ruining the success of the American invasion of Iraq? Could it be that the US decision to invade Iraq or that the US strategy of the occupation was flawed?
8 ) Why do 50% of Americans feel that an attack on Iran is justified? Why did 50% of Americans feel that an attack on Iraq was justified before it occurred? Is the US media providing objective information or publishing Bush Administration propaganda?
9) Why in 2005 did the New York Times require 14,000 words to describe the faulty reporting of Jason Blair but less than 1400 words to analyze a self-described failure of reporting before the Iraq invasion?
Please share your answers to thes questions with us. What additional questions do you think that engaged citizens should be asking?

Dick Wesley

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