The news media is a near constant race to appear “impartial,” so much so that I often wonder if the major American networks wouldn’t give equal time to the Nazi Party so Himmler could justify the Holocaust in a bid to appear “unbiased.” And while reaching for a Godwin so early in an article probably isn’t the best way to start off, it spells out rather clearly how . . . dimly . . . I view the ridiculous BS that gets passed off in the name of “impartiality.”
A more salient and anchored example of this “neutrality” fetish is the media’s insistence on painting science deniers as “skeptics” and giving them equal time to air their idiotic, baseless garbage. I’m not the only one who’s fed up with this either. A number of scientists, science professionals, and skeptic activists released an open letter to the public last week demanding news outlets stop calling climate change deniers skeptics.
The letter was responding to a New York Times article which referred to Senator James Inhofe as a “prominent skeptic of climate change.” A press release from the Center for Skeptical Inquiry noted that 48 of the center’s Fellows — among them Bill “The Science Guy” Nye, Cosmos co-creator Ann Druyan, physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others — humbly requested that our media dislodge it’s head from the rear end of the perpetually aggrieved and stop using “skeptic” to describe people who are anything but.
The letter drew special attention to Inhofe. Inhofe is a skeptic in the same way that Venus’ surface is inhabitable. He bears as much resemblance to an actual skeptic as modern life does the Ediacara biota; his similarities with the term “skeptic” are nearly identical to the syntactical similarities between Spanish and !Xoõ or Pirahã.
The open letter rather sharply criticized the New York Times, and the media in general, for their insistent usage of the word “skeptic” as a synonym for “stupid”:
As Fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, we are concerned that the words “skeptic” and “denier” have been conflated by the popular media. Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims. It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration.
Real skepticism is summed up by a quote popularized by Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Inhofe’s belief that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” is an extraordinary claim indeed. He has never been able to provide evidence for this vast alleged conspiracy. That alone should disqualify him from using the title “skeptic.”
You can read the full letter here.