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It's Easy Being Green
Parents should be upset with school, not Stossel

By the Cynic
cynic@politicalusa.com

6/28/2001

 

If there were one person (although there are probably many) I could blame for my nastiness toward government intervention, John Stossel would be the one. 

Granted, there are several politicians who make me angry with the government, but John helped me see the light on several issues such as free speech, greed and general governmental ineptness. His specials often have me shouting "go, go, go" followed by a barrage of four-letter tirades. This is amazing considering that these reactions are usually reserved for football games and baby seal clubbing in my household, not a news program.

Stossel, in his zeal to avoid the typical journalistic alarmism, has built a base of enemies. Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has long put Stossel in its crosshairs under the guise of exposing his alleged deliberate bias on the subjects he covers. Deliberate bias? Has FAIR talked to Dan Rather? Has FAIR run Bryant Gumbel through the wringer? Of course not. FAIR suffers from its own deliberate bias.

Tonight, Stossel covers environmentalism.  Strike that, militant environmentalism. His one-hour special, Tampering with Nature, deals with environmental activism and our history of tampering with nature, to beneficial ends. During the filming of this special, Stossel interviewed a batch of Santa Monica children (read: wards of state) regarding their knowledge of environmental issues as taught by their school. He asked the kids such questions as: "Do any scientists disagree about the cause of global warming?" The correct answer, of course, would be yes, thousands of them.  The kids all answered in the negative. This raised the ire of the nitwits over at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG sought out these children's parents and, with some prompting, banded together to stop ABC from airing the footage so the children wouldn't look like boobs (now just the parents do).

As any worth-their-salt extremist group would do, the Environmental Working Group pimped the parents to strike a blow at Stossel's reporting, repeatedly calling him a liar and asking ABC news to fire him. Well, can EWG point out anything that Stossel told the kids that wasn't true? ("Umm, gee...well, but, but he made those kids look dumb.") So the parents, rather than being upset at the indoctrination served up in the curriculum of environmental education at their children's school decided to shoot the messenger. Now call me crazy, but if some enterprising journalist interviewed my child on an educational issue and showed me that her teacher was deliberately leaving out facts and/or theories one way or the other, I would interview with this journalist myself and scream about the standards of the school. I would not let some group of wackos parade me in front of the media to show the world how proud I am to raise an idiot.

ABC news, showing the testicular fortitude of a quilting club, pulled the footage based on the parental complaints. It will be replaced with Stossel explaining the results of his informal survey without showing the kids. While it is not exactly censorship, it does speak volumes as to the integrity of network news. These parents agreed to have their kids interviewed. They signed a waiver. If they weren't familiar with Stossel's style of reporting, then shame on them. Stossel, showing himself to be a stand up guy, stated on Fox's O'Reilly Factor: ''I'm not happy, but I see their point. We had no legal obligation to kill it, but if parents don't want their kids on, who are we to force them?" (Integrity and class from a journalist? Whoda thunk it?) ABC should show its guts and run the piece as is.

What the Environmental Working Weasels (much better name) have forgotten is that science, by its own nature, is debatable. There are few absolutes. For every scientist that screams the sky is falling and that we will all die if we don't quit using disposable douches, there will be others to say it's not so. To purposely leave out details, facts, theories and findings to these debates is a travesty in itself, not to mention the possible economical and environmental impact of any legislation passed on the basis of these one-sided debates. 

Global warming, as an issue, is a sticky subject to cover. There are plenty of scientists who disagree on the occurrence of global warming. Even those that do think that global warming exists, disagree on the cause, or disagree about the possibility of damage it can do and, further, the correct measures to take about it. The science of global warming is a hodge-podge of opinion. Is it wrong for Stossel to point this out? Should we ignore the thousands of legitimate scientists who believe that global warming hype is more bark than bite? Of course not.

Without a reigning consensus on global warming, I think we need to let real scientists debate this issue and come to more reasonable conclusions than "it's happening, let's knock over every factory and plant a forest." There are too many variables and too much scientific interpretation involved to let special interest groups control the information. Letting the Environmental Working Group decide what is legit and not-legit about environmental issues is like letting the KKK decide what the proper place for black people should be. Yet the media, in all its ineptness, treats these types of folks as if they are the authorities…the gurus of all things environmental. It's no wonder that they go off the deep-end when a reporter like Stossel questions their view. 

On top of pissing off wacko extremists, Stossel's reporting and approach to journalism angers a lot of folk in the general media. He conducts the interviews himself and is very active in the production of his news specials. My feeling is it's more of the "cut it out, you are making me look lazy" type of resentment. If anything, Stossel would probably enjoy a lot more success if he went after shock value journalism. He would probably be given 14 specials per year as long as he would toe the line and tell you that we will be consumed by alien flatulence or that cottage cheese causes cervical cancer or whatever. That would be the easy way for him.

Stossel is a good reporter. We need more reporters like him to shake the trees and question media wisdom (oxymoron if there ever was one) about any public issue. It seems to many journalists treat any claim by a government scientist or special interest group as if God had just handed them a press release on a stone tablet with a confirmation from a burning bush. This is not fair to science. This is not fair to the public. This is not fair to our wards of state.

Most of all, It's not fair to a good journalist like John Stossel.

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