September 29th, 2010
ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS GETS IT WRONG. Bill Maher is a major proponent of climate action, yet he misspoke on his show last Friday night when he said that climate scientists got caught “fudging” their data. They didn’t. But how was he, or anyone else, supposed to know this? The right wing played the Climategate “scandal” brilliantly, and this shows it.
BILL MAHER MISSPEAKS
Last Friday night, on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, in the middle of discussing the Climategate controversy of last fall, Bill said, “… and some of the scientists there were caught, yes, fudging a few facts.”
I heard it. I emailed a major climate scientist. He replied, “Bill, who is otherwise well-meaning and relatively informed, screwed up big time here. What he said was completely false. Every one of the five U.K. and U.S. investigations that were done found that there was absolutely no evidence at all to support any allegations of fudging/misrepresenting/hiding/suppressing data, etc.”
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
It happened because the climate science (and environmental) community is entirely too comfortable with REALITY rather than perception. The scientist above cites the reality of the story. But Bill, like virtually everyone else who was exposed to the massive right wing media barrage of last winter, was unable to make it past the perception of dishonesty.
TWO TYPES OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Type One is using public relations to deceive the public. This is the stuff that scientists, handicapped by their blind obsession with the truth, rightfully live in fear of. But Type Two is using powerful communication tools to blast the truth out to the public in a voice that can override disinformation campaigns.
Climategate saw the right wing media do A LOT of the Type One style of communication. But sadly, it saw none of the Type Two style from the science community. There was a desire among many top climate scientists to engage in Type Two, as evidenced by their sad little letter in Science Magazine. But that just doesn’t cut it.
We’re talking hardball here. And until the science and environmental communities realize this and begin to allocate the serious resources needed, the truth will continue to fall victim to the communication dynamics of today’s massively polarized media environment.
This shouldn’t happen. Good guys like Bill Maher shouldn’t be making such mistakes. It’s not his fault. It’s the fault of the communicators.