To the Inbox of the Duluth Reader,
RE: Damages done;
The March 8, 2016 Superior Telegram, published an important guest editorial about the nature of a free press, and the requirements needed to suit a news source for libel.
A landmark case, (New York Times vs. Sullivan), does describe exceptions in cases when a defendant or defendants are charged with libel, but are not held responsible due to lack of “actual malice,” and because of not (deliberately) publishing false information.
Another pertinent exception is that public people are, (in a sense), the legal equivalent of public property, and as such, often need to be subjected to public scrutiny. Therefore, discussions about them cannot be denied, since the courts feel that free speech and freedom of assembly can guarantee our recognizing the tyrannies of governing authorities—so, even if not completely factual, the idea of reaching truth through rigorous debate, is generally considered more important than requiring completely truthful information!
But, what about the fact that various lies and misleading information are commonly published in our opinion pages under the guise of free speech and fair balance? Do climate change deniers not know that the things they claim to be true, are indeed, stated with deliberately malicious intentions, and are designed to discredit the very large body of intelligent, competent, and dedicated climate scientists who attempt to educate the public about the dangers of CO2 and other greenhouse gases every day? Can deniers be exonerated on account of the ignorance in their lies, and therefore be considered innocent of making malicious statements, or of engaging in (deliberate) attempts to harm scientist’s reputations, while falsely mischaracterizing the meticulous accuracy of the information they gather? In a word—NO! No one can deliberately cherry pick data, lie, or mislead the public, without first being aware of their own deceits. You must know what a chart listing global warming trends actually documents, before you can effectively alter and/or discredit the information it documents! And, you cannot mislead the public in any convincing way, unless you promote false arguments, which you are already aware of as being false. Unfortunately, far too many opinion page editors are without the aid of science editors, or have the time to do their own research into the claims made by deniers—which otherwise, could easily be proved false.
So, is it wrong to keep the public in ignorance, via either willful, or unwitting dissemination of false information in our newspapers, magazines, and our other media sources?
Before you answer, make no mistake about it—if you accept the many accomplishments of medical science, or, our knowledge about the laws of motion which have allowed us to successfully chart Apollo moon missions, the proliferation of digital technology, the methods of measuring and quantifying the vast distances between stars and galaxies in terms of light years, or the danger of destroying our Earth much more rapidly with tremendous amounts of energy released via nuclear fission and/or nuclear fusion, or accept the proven methods of dating extremely old artifacts and fossils, with the aid of carbon dating, as well as dozens of other dating technique which rely on the half-life rates of radioactive materials—then you must also accept the fact that we DO know that global warming is happening and that man is its primary cause—simply because all other forms of scientific knowledge are made possible by applying the same scientific method. Regardless of our current irreverence and public suspicions regarding real facts, facts are real, and do indeed, continue to exist!
Remember that the same knowledge about global warming is shared by thousands of scientists all over the world—though they be from entirely different cultures, political systems, and religious backgrounds. Yet, none of them denies the same objective knowledge just because they live under the laws of various rulers, or under different political systems.
Let’s look forward to the day when real science is no longer maligned, and when our “fact checking,” opinion page editors agree to at least place short disclaimers next to the letters of AGW deniers on their opinion pages, (stating quite accurately), that the vast majority of climate scientists, around the world disagree with the content of their letters, and in fact, that all major scientific bodies on Earth accept man’s primary role in causing global warming. Let the words of deniers be published! But for God’s sake, we also need help from those with the editorial integrity to properly inform the public that the views of deniers are NOT shared by the vast majority of legitimate climate scientists around the world?
Our American press does have a long history of standing up to those in power—if only it now realized that the vast power of the oil and coal industry, as well as other fossil fuel using and producing companies, are what it truly needs to stand up to, today!
Peter W. Johnson