To make Glenn Beck’s head explode?BPSDB
“I really don’t know what I’m talking about, do I?”
Well no shit Sherlock! The question is, why not?
The context (nutshell version) is that the new book Superfreaknomics has a chapter on climate change that is scientific gibberish. Not simply wrong, but error riddled nonsense. One of authors was on The Daily Show last night for some slow ball questions, with a nerf ball … and no strikes called … with Stewart both pitching and catching for Levitt.
Brad Johnson has done a very nice summary of the Superfreaknomics issue and the interview here (reposted here and here) The issue has been covered on this blog here, here, and here, while Brian D continues to do an amazing job tracking the many, many critiques here.
As Johnson notes, The Daily Show makes a point of mocking the main stream media for their soft, uncritical interviews and kid glove treatment of celebrities. My personal favourite is here where they contrast the media’s fawning over then President Bush and his cronies with Oprah’s merciless grilling of author James Fry.
So why the PR puff piece for Superfreakonomics? why the hypocrisy? The ‘frame’ for the interview is the controversy surrounding the book’s climate change science, so it’s not as though they didn’t know there were problems. Certainly all of the numerous errors and problems are well documented, fully explained, and easily accessible. Presumably they know how to use a search engine.
Despite that, the most penetrating question Stewart manages is “They feel you are betraying environmentalism? why are people so mad?” even as he offers the irrelevant “you’re not denying climate change” Straw Man argument for Levitt. Legitimate, informed critiques of geoengineering are dismissed as “dogmatic” … by Stewart!
That’s right, Levitt doesn’t even have to BS the interview because Stewart does it for him. From mocking green living to calling climate science “a religion” Stewart sounds like he is reading Levitt’s talking points. Instead of challenging Levitt, Stewart does all of the disinformation and obfuscating for him. Journalism schools could use this as a case study of really appalling interview technique; it’s that bad. As Johnson says, “in this instance, there was nothing funny about Stewart’s inaccuracy.”
To make Glenn Beck’s head explode?
Think about it. What an opportunity for ‘pay back’ by Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, or any of the other pundits Jon Stewart has skewered in the past. All they need to do is cover the story accurately while contrasting it to Stewart’s puff piece.
Trouble is, they would have to cover the climate change facts accurately to really expose what an appalling job Stewart did.
Given that most of them have been wallowing in climate change Denierism and that they actually like Superfreakonomics precisely because of it’s inaccuracies, that is not an easy choice. To expose Stewart they would have to expose Superfreakonomics.
Retract everything they ever said about climate to get back at Stewart? or cling to Denierism and take a pass on the chance to really stick it to The Daily Show? Embrace science and trash Stewart? Stay the course and let Stewart walk? I can see Beck’s head exploding given those choices.
Was that Stewart’s motivation? Even as I write this, is Limbaugh’s head spinning so violently it breaks his neck? It’s difficult to imagine why The Daily Show would so shamelessly abandon everything they preach and betray their principles so publicly, and for what?
A commenter on Daily Show Facebook page says ” Why Jon Stewart embraced and rebroadcast it is a mystery. Maybe his iconoclast side won out.” If so, then someone should tell Stewart that Levitt and Dubner have long since become icons, and that he just did an apologia for the status quo as surely as if it had been Cheney or Rumsfeld in the chair.
Regardless of their status, Stewart should not be giving anyone a free ride since it undermines everything he pretends to stand for. Free ride? this was better than free since Stewart did all of the heavy lifting for the book. Maybe the problem is that Stewart has become an icon, or at least mutated into what he first set out to slay.
Which forces me to reconsider the question I discussed in “Scary Monsters (And superfreakonomics)“, ie have we accomplished anything by blogging about the book.
My premise was that the actions of numerous bloggers meant that the general public could hardly avoid being made aware of the books numerous errors and disinformation. It seemed a reasonable argument at the time, but less so now.
If The Daily Show is able to practice such willful ignorance despite the easy availability of the facts, what are we to expect from the general public? How are we going to achieve public education when, for whatever reason, even Jon Stewart is propagating such facile nonsense?
Be that as it may, there IS value to making sure that The Daily Show is aware that “we saw what you did there.” Whether on their forums, their Facebook Page, or anywhere The Daily Show has a presence, let them know what you think of this interview … and maybe suggest to Bill O’Rielly that they could do a correction piece 😉
UPDATE Oct 29: See Super Freaky Economist Continues to Mislead on Climate Issues for the Superfreaks latest (USA Today column) attempt to spin their gibberish.
“Since 1982, spring in East Asia (defined here as the eastern third of China and the Korean Peninsula) has been warming at a rate of one degree Fahrenheit per decade.” Earth Gauge
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