Every journalist these days needs a blog and a social media presence, it’s just part of the job requirement. That’s doubly true for anyone freelancing. That said, blogging for me is more than just a job requirement.
If you poke around my site, you’ll notice that much of what I’m writing about is related to climate change. Why do I care so much about climate change? For starters, I credit my father, a very elegant human being and a physician. Thanks to his predisposition to living in harmony with the environment, I grew up eating organic food from our garden, contending with the occasional cold shower when the solar panels weren’t working perfectly, and taking frequent camping trips to the high sierras of California.
Additionally, my father was an MD practicing Environmental Medicine, treating people who had been exposed to chemicals. Back in the late 70’s, early 80’s, the chemical industry had been keeping an eye on this developing medical specialty. After all, how good could it be for business to have physicians claiming that their products, even in lower doses, harmed human health? Not good. And what happened next was textbook industry response to anything that threatens the bottom line. Lawsuits ensued. Unfortunately, my father died in a mountain climbing accident before a precedent setting case was settled, which left a public policy question pending, and me devastated…with my own questions. Some of this story is in my documentary The Tomato Effect, my first effort as a filmmaker from 2006.
My father lives on in me. The attacks his medical practice suffered happens again and again on science – it’s cliché. The problem now is that this well-honed, well-studied, multi-pronged strategy has been perfected over the decades. It has been deployed in public health issues from tobacco, asbestos, leaded gasoline, polyvinyl chloride, and countless others. It’s become this “thing”…a massive public relations machine selling doubt. It’s its own industrial complex; the “doubt industrial complex,” that exploits the sliver of uncertainty always present in science and medicine. Their jobs aren’t complete until you believe that the physician who says tobacco will kill you is a quack. Take any new public health policy where corporate profits are at stake: Shampoo-Rinse-Repeat. After a while, enough people are hurt and angered that they fight back and the truth slowly makes itself known. It becomes a settled issue and we move on as a society… as if all of us ALWAYS knew the truth. BUT…..Shampoo-Rinse-Repeat.
One of the many things that we’re all lathered up about now is climate change, which can make a person feel nostalgic for the days when we were debating the probability of contracting cancer from smoking tobacco. Now, civilization’s ability to feed itself rests on the truth prevailing in a timely fashion.
Having worked in mainstream media (MSM), I see clearly their culpability and I hold them no less responsible than the fossil fuel industry. They’ve been co-opted. Add to that, there is general confusion about what “balanced journalism” means. Aaron Sorkin, creator of West Wing and the new HBO series Newroom puts it like this:
“The thing that I worry about more is the media’s bias toward fairness. Nobody uses the word lie anymore. Suddenly, everything is ‘a difference of opinion.’ If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say “The Earth is flat,” the headline on the New York Times the next day would read ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.’ I don’t believe the truth always lies in the middle. I don’t believe there are two sides to every argument. I think the facts are the center. And watching the news abandon the facts in favor of “fairness” is what’s troubling to me.”
This site is my humble attempt to act like a responsible media professional and deal with facts. Facts and science live in total disregard for which party or corporation they please or put off. No party talking points, or PR spin will save us from gravity if we jump off a bridge.