Occasionally, we hear from people who believe that liberal media bias isn’t really that big of an issue because most people don’t really trust reporters to tell the truth. While public trust in the media is at an all-time low, that hardly means they lack the power to shape opinion.
A perfect case in point is the notion popularized by environmental alarmist Al Gore that the Earth is experiencing more severe weather events supposedly caused by “climate change.” Like his earlier debunked claims that global temperatures were increasing, this statement is also false. But many people are simply unaware of the facts.
That is understandable given that most people are not interested in keeping tallies of the number of hurricanes and tornadoes. Being uninformed about the facts, they are easily susceptible to having their opinion influenced by the media’s love of disaster coverage and also of extremists like Gore making false claims about severe weather phenomena.
One such person who appears to have been influenced in this way is Los Angeles Times reporter Stacey Lessca. Fortunately for her, yesterday she received some much-needed education during an interview with a scientist working for the National Severe Storms Laboratory. After discussing some of the particulars of the recent tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, Lessca shifted her questioning toward environmental orthodoxy (to watch, fast-forward to the 11:20 mark), asking research scientist Robin Tanamachi if there really were more tornadoes happening thanks to “climate change:”
“It seems like there’s been more severe weather, it seems, it just feels like hurricanes are getting worse. Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast. This tornado now has killed 24 people in the town of Moore. Do you think that more severe storms are becoming the norm, and do you think that they are directly related to climate change?”
Tanamachi answered that this was not the case whatsoever and that people who thought otherwise were likely being influenced by the media’s continual reporting on weather events:
Well the statistics don’t bear that assertion out. What we’re finding is that people’s perception is that severe weather has increased. That perception is largely based on media presentation and that an event like the Moore tornado is now broadcast worldwide within moments of its occurence. And so it can seem more local to people than it is.
But as far as the number of tornadoes, we haven’t been able to discern an increasing trend. As far as the number of hurricanes, we haven’t been able to discern a really solid increasing trend with that. So it’s just a matter of people being aware of those events when they occur and being aware of them almost immediately after they happen.
This is not the only issue where the media have influenced the public into believing something that is false. As Geoffrey Dickens noted earlier this month, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 12 percent of Americans were aware that gun violence has decreased even though the drop has been quite significant. By contrast, a majority, 56 percent, believed incorrectly that gun violence had increased. This misperception was almost certainly created by the press which has been feverish in its coverage of mass shootings and in its advocacy for anti-gun laws.
Side note: The idea that human wickedness has some sort of effect on climate has long been a staple of some religious thought and it is yet another way in which modern environmentalism is actually similar to a religion. Both Al Gore and your garden-variety End Times lunatic believe that humans are being punished for their sins with more extreme weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes. It is sad reflection on modern society that the former is on his way to becoming a billionaire while only the latter is dismissed as a crank.
Hat tip: Gary Hall.
Matthew Sheffield is president of Dialog New Media, a techno-marketing company headquarted in the Washington, DC area. Working with the Media Research Center, he created NewsBusters in 2005 as the first-ever collaboration between a major Washington policy group and the blogosphere.