Bozell Column: When the Press Favors Secrecy
Here’s a dirty little secret about The New York Times. It likes to leak things. Important things. Things that change the course of the public conversation. From the Pentagon Papers to the ruined terrorist-surveillance programs of the Bush era, the Times has routinely found that secrecy is a danger and sunlight is a disinfectant.
Until now. A troublesome hacker recently released e-mails going to and from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain, e-mails that exposed how the "scientific experts" cited so often by the media on global warming display are guilty of crude political talk, attempts at censoring opponents, and twisting scientific data to support their policy agenda.
The e-mails prove just how dishonest this left-wing global warming agenda truly is. And now suddenly, the New York Times has found religion, and won’t publish these private e-mails. Environmental reporter Andrew Revkin, who’s more global warming lobbyist than reporter, quoted – sparsely – from the e-mails, but declared he would not post these texts on his "Dot Earth" blog on the Times website: "The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here."
That rule didn’t apply to things like the disclosure of the SWIFT global bank monitoring program against terrorists.
Unlike our secret terror-fighting efforts, there is no grave matter of national security to protect here. There is only a danger of shredding the undeserved reputation of some global-warming alarmists as nonpartisan, nonideological, just-the-facts scientists with no preconceived environmentalist or statist agenda.
The networks also have ignored this emerging scandal with all the ignorance they could muster. But in the seven days after the New York Times revealed the existence of an NSA program to monitor communications to terrorist cells abroad, the three networks ran a combined 23 stories about the program, more than one story, per network, per night.
Revkin’s story in the Times did have some truncated quotes with ridiculous details. In a 1999 e-mail exchange about charts showing apparent climate patterns over the last two millenniums, Phil Jones of the CRU said he had used a "trick" employed by another scientist, Michael Mann, to "hide the decline" in temperatures.
Dr. Mann confirmed the e-mail was real, but told the Times "the choice of words by his colleague was poor but noted that scientists often used the word ‘trick’ to refer to a good way to solve a problem," and not as something secret.
Doesn’t a network correspondent just smell the fraud when scientists start offering lame excuses for the words they somehow didn’t mean? Don’t just listen to conservatives. Try Nate Silver, a statistician and liberal-media favorite, recently named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People. He says the scientists in this exchange were unethical:
"Dr. Jones, talking candidly about sexing up a graph to make his conclusions more persuasive. This is not a good thing to do -- I'd go so far as to call it unethical -- and Jones deserves some of the loss of face that he will suffer." But then he adds the typical liberal disclaimer: "Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing that happens all the time in both academia and the private sector -- have you ever looked at the graphs in the annual report of a company which had a bad year? And it seems to happen all too often on both sides of the global warming debate."
When conservatives are wrong, conservatives are wrong. When liberals are wrong, everyone does it, don’t you know?
It’s also important to note that these folks play a rough game of hardball. This isn’t about science. It’s politics – the brass-knuckles sort. In another e-mail from Jones to Mann, reported in The Washington Post, there’s talk of cutting skeptical scientists out of the official United Nations report: "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," Jones writes. "Kevin and I will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal to reject the work of climate skeptics, perhaps with a boycott: "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," Mann writes. "I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Jones replies.
This kind of censor-your-opponents activity ought to disgust a journalist who values openness and rigorous debate above all. Every day the networks avoid this story, they’re saying they don’t really care about either of those values. In fact, they become willing accomplices in a coverup of global proportions.