Friday, January 01, 2010

Reckless Endangerment in the Drudge Report

A posting yesterday in Black Sun Journal correctly categorizes the authors of Matt Drudge, the author of the Drudge Report, as evil for, at worst, knowingly and, at best, recklessly misleading his readers and directing them to perform actions that threaten to cause significant harm to substantial numbers of people.

(See: Black Sun, Lying With Headlines About Climate Change)

The deception comes in the form of presenting headlines without explaining their context, where Matt Drudge either negligently or knowingly deceives his readers into drawing false conclusions from those headlines.

In the case, the Drudge Report contains the headline, "'No rise' of atmospheric carbon dioxide fraction in past 160 years . . . "

It is quite reasonable to believe that a great many of the people who will read The Drudge Report will take that headline to indicate that all of these claims about humans causing an increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are false. There hasn't been any change in atmospheric CO2 concentrations - caused by humans or anybody.

A responsible person warns others against likely false interpretations, particularly when those false interpretations could result in others doing something dreadfully harmful - something that could lead to the destruction of whole cities.

What a responsible person who considers this information important would do is say, "Here is some important information. I wish to share it with my readers. However, it is important to me that my readers understand the truth of the matter. If they do misinterpret this data, they risk performing actions that could destroy whole cities. I do not want my readers to perform actions that could destroy whole cities - particularly on the basis of information I provided. So, I will do the responsible thing and make sure they understand the fact of the matter."

The fact of the matter, as Black Sun Journal reports, is that half of human CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere where they contribute to global warming. The other half is being absorbed into the oceans where they contribute to the acidification of the oceans. (When water absorbs CO2 it creates carbonic acid - the same acid you get in soda pop.)

As the oceans become increasingly saturated with CO2, they may be able to absorb less and less - like a wet sponge can absorb less water than a dry sponge. This means that more CO2 gets left behind in the atmosphere - meaning a stronger contribution to global warming.

Matt Drudge either knowingly or recklessly seeks to use this headline to convince his readers that there is nothing to worry about with regard to putting CO2 in the atmosphere. Many readers looking at this headline will jump to the conclusion that there are no legitimate concerns over human CO2 emissions. As such, they are likely to continue performing actions that, in the end, could result in the destruction of whole cities.

One could argue that Matt Drudge is not responsible for the mistakes made by his readers.

That is not true.

If you had an electronic device that had the potential to set of a nuclear bomb in another city, and you handed it to somebody in a context that you knew - or should have known - would lead them to believe it was safe to push the button, you would be morally responsible for the people who were killed. Even if the device contains a tag that says ACME NUCLEAR DETONATION DEVICE, you would have an obligation to make sure that the person you handed it to knew what it was and did not perform any action that threatened to do significant harm to whole cities.

This is a moral responsibility in that no decent, moral, responsible human being would turn over such a device to somebody else without making sure that they understood what it is they were holding.

Matt Drudge has every reason to believe that his readers will misinterpret this headline and think of it as a reason to perform actions that could destroy whole cities. The fact that he does not care to warn his readers about this misinterpretation shows that he is as morally irresponsible - as morally evil - as the person who carelessly handles a nuclear detonation device to somebody in a context where they are very likely to press the button.

Here is a question to answer. What is the most reasonable explanation as to why Matt Drudge selected this headline when compared to all of the other news items related to climate change, and all of the other headline news in particular? What is more likely? It was a coincidence that Matt Drudge selected a headline likely to mislead people? Or that he selected the headline knowing - and even intending - to mislead his readers?

Let us not forget the fact that he is misleading his readers - negligently or knowingly - into doing things potentially destructive to whole cities, without showing a twinge of conscience over the fact that his actions are deceptive, or over the fact that they could potentially lead to the destruction of whole cities.

Whether his actions are negligent or knowingly deceptive, he displays a lack of concern over the potential destruction of whole cities. He demonstrates that the thought that huge numbers of people may be made to suffer has insufficient pull on his moral conscience to motivate him to take care to prevent such an event. That tells us a lot about what type of person he is.

18 comments:

TH said...

Like Fox News, Drudge has discovered that telling people what they want to hear is profitable business.

Will it dawn on people that their views are being echoed back to them? Will it occur to them that reinforcing unchallenged biases is not the best way to understand and benefit from reality?

Best wishes for 2010!

John Doe said...

Another case of over-reaction, dude. Drudge is an ex-newspaper man. HEADLINES sell newspapers. I've seen many of his headlines which seemed to scream that the end was near due to global warming, too.

Who would bother to even read the article if he didn't put some catchy phrase on the link? Maybe many would, but you can't argue with his success. And if people are so idiotic as to accept what some headline on the Drudge Report says as the truth, why haven't the global warming alarmacists--who control most of the rest of the media--been able to convince all those idiots that AGW is true?

Hate to seem to always be disagreeing with you, Alonzo, but I call 'em like I see 'em. You seem to place everybody in two camps: Those who agree with you, and the rest are "irresponsible" or "reckless" or not "decent" or "morally evil" or easily duped or motivated by greed. Maybe you are just using hyperbole to make your point. Then again, maybe you are just a nut who doesn't know any better. Usually good people exist on both (or all) sides of every issue.

John Doe said...

p.s. I KNOW it comes across as though I am a troll. I disagree with you often. But I very much enjoy your posts. You are obviously a deep thinker and a thought provoker. Please don't take undue offense when I disagree with you. Keep up the good work.

Emu Sam said...

A person can be morally flawed and not be the worst person on earth.

A person can be called "reckless" without implying they should change every aspect of their life.

A single facet can be called evil and worthy of condemnation without condemning the whole of a person. Indeed, such a people may have many praiseworthy facets, and probably more of these than of blameworthy facets.

It is not uncommon for new readers of Alonzo's blog to make this mistake.

anton said...

People have always chosen to believe what they would prefer.

This is the secret for the success of our world's religions.

They promise an after life -- you are not going to die! You are not going to end up as dust!
.

John Doe said...

Anton, your "logic" cuts both ways. Atheists convince themselves that there is no God so that they don't have to live under his constrainsts. Immoral people usually do not like others--including God--telling them that they are acting immorally.

I'm just sayin...

anton said...

John Doe: Again, you speak with limited knowledge and make assumptions that serve your belief and your agenda. But, what the heck, you don't care if you have the wrong bullets for your gun, you are going to pull the trigger anyway. But, of course, you are hiding behind your chosen "nom de plum" so you don't have to answer to anybody for your ignorance. Your gun is not going to "blow up in your face".

An assumption that I convinced myself "that there is no god" cuts the other way . . . "no one has been successful in convincing me that there is a god".
.

John Doe said...

Anton, that is a lot of words to say nothing. Actually, I see no reason why you should take offense. I was just applying what you said to atheists. YOU said "people have always chosen to believe what they prefer." You prefer to live your life without the constraints placed upon men by God. According to your "logic" no person could EVER prove to you that God exists, since you "prefer" that he does't.

Please, at 71 years old, you've never heard that what's good for goose is good for the gander? You want to make such broad assertions, go ahead, but they apply to atheists as well as to theists.

p.s. IF I ever consider you important enough to know my name, I'll tell you. You ain't right now.

Brian said...

Most news outlets do this to some extent literally every day. Drudge is one of the worst offenders.

@Emu Sam

"A single facet can be called evil and worthy of condemnation without condemning the whole of a person."

Heads up bro: I think someone else is using your identity on the previous thread. You'd better set him straight.

Emu Sam said...

@Emu Sam

"A single facet can be called evil and worthy of condemnation without condemning the whole of a person."

Heads up bro: I think someone else is using your identity on the previous thread. You'd better set him straight.


LoL. You think I'm being inconsistent? I supposed I'd better check in case I missed something.

Previous thread, I think I'm arguing that the sign counts as hate speech because it contains mostly false and unfairly condemning words. I don't think I'm arguing that religion should be free from condemnation. In fact, I think religion sits in an unfairly protected position in our society, where many people believe you cannot criticize it. Therefore, religion should be criticized all the more on this particular issue.

This thread, I'm arguing against the accusation of hyperbole. A statement such as "... as evil for, at worst, knowingly and, at best, recklessly misleading his readers and directing them to perform actions that threaten to cause significant harm to substantial numbers of people" is not hyperbole if it is true. But that's not what I argued. I argued that Alonzo isn't calling Matt Drudge (or many other people) completely evil, and this single-facet aspect is what saves it from hyperbole.

Hm. On first glance, these do appear to be inconsistent positions. The truth part my join them together, but I didn't mention truth in this thread.

Also, there are probably ways of stating truth that can still be hate speech. Talking about the atheism of Stalin's regime without directly linking it to modern USAian atheism, for example. It's true they were sometimes aggressively atheist - militant might be an accurate word here - and that many evil things happened under them. The deceit lies in implying that all atheists or all secular governments would do the same. Strict truth of the words said is not a measure of hate speech.

I'm not going back to look up Alonzo's definition, because I want to check if I understand it without parroting it. Hate speech is any speech used with the intention of denigrating a group of people based on traits which are not true of the entire group, with the goal of making the group seem less in the eyes of the speaker's audience. Speech here can refer to any communication in any medium, not merely oral. Hate speech is especially bad when children of the targeted group are exposed to it. Studies have been done showing that minority children develop self hate. Some here, mixed in with some less relevant.

Yes, intention matters. It matters in deciding whether a person is guilty of manslaughter or first or second degree murder and it is important in identifying hate speech. Whether the intent is conscious intent is less important.

Calvin said...

Oh for crying out loud! If the whole story could be captured in a headline, it wouldn't be called a "headline," now would it?

I'm beginning to think that the whole point of this blog is Alonzo trying to find new & dramatic ways to out-drama-queen himself to see what his readers will put up with.

My advice for Alonzo: grow the @#$% up.

Eneasz said...

Calvin - headlines should not be lies. I'm not surprised you disagree, considering your love of lies.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

John Doe

Atheists convince themselves that there is no God so that they don't have to live under his constrainsts.

This blog is filled with constraints to live under. It is a matter of objective fact that actions have consequences (as do desires), and there are reasons to avoid some of those consequences and to realize others.

The difference is between constraints derived from 21st century understanding of the world, versus constraints created by a bunch of substantially ignorant tribesmen who have been dead for centuries.

And, yes, atheists suffer the same defect of believing what they wish to believe, and the defect of forming tribal biases where they give the benefit of the doubt to fellow tribe members - fellow atheists - and are too eager to believe denigrating claims about other tribes. I write about this tendency among atheists constantly.

The way to deal with these problems is not to deny that they exist, but to insist that each person present their arguments and evidence to the review of others. I present my reasons for reaching the conclusions that I reach, and I leave it open for others to object either to the truth of the premises or the logic linking premises to conclusion.

In this case, the authors of the Drudge Report knew or should have known that their headline runs the risk of motivating others to engage in behavior potentially significantly destructive to others.

I hold that the most reasonable conclusion to draw is that the authors of the Drudge Report selected to use that headline because it would cause people to believe that they need not worry about human emissions of carbon dioxide. At worst, they know - at best, they should have known - that their readers would draw a potentially destructive conclusion and act accordingly. Yet, they showed that they did not care about this potential harm. At best, they did not care that their readers drew an unwarranted conclusion. At worst, they intended to use the headline to cause their readers to draw such a conclusion.

Anybody who disagrees with that conclusion is free to question the premises or the reasoning behind it. I could be wrong.

John Doe said...

to the extent that your comment "The difference is between constraints derived from 21st century understanding of the world, versus constraints created by a bunch of substantially ignorant tribesmen who have been dead for centuries" is aimed at Theists and away from athiests, I have this to say: PuhLeeeeze. Atheists have been around as theists, and their thinking is no more evolved. If you weren't aiming at theists, disregard that last remark.

Otherwise, I think the Drudge Report is just trying to generate traffic, but I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Those agruing that humans cause global warming seem to start with that as their premise (how could it be anything else as we burn so much fossle fuels?). Proving whether we are experiencing global warming at present is difficult as it is now well documented there has not been any warming for 15 years. What about the geological evidence of long cycles of global climate change - cooling and warming? Thirty years ago it was all about global cooling and how that would spell doom. If you look at the sociological aspects of the global climate change movement you see it merely as the useful pawn of a global elite intent on instituting a world government. Those invested in supporting the notion of human caused global warming should rethink their position and treat the subject like a science and not a religion.

Huh?!? said...

Man you guys are boring. Stop pretending and get an intellectual life already!

squirrel said...

What is truth? What is your truth? Is it the same truth as mine?
Do you have preconditions as to what you will accept as truth? If the answer to that is yes, then your definition of truth is biased, since only what you believe is truth is acceptable.

What collateral do you propose to guarantee your definition of truth. What oath do you swear that is acceptable to others that what you state is true? A bible? The Constitution? Mad Magazine? McDonald's Menu?

How does anyone believe what you say is truth? What is your collateral? You mock the Christian beliefs. You claim superiority to Christians. What makes you superior?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Yep. There's no such thing as truth. You might as well go drink some arsenic because the idea that it could kill you is just somebody's opinion - no more valid or invalid than anybody else's opinion.