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PBS Guest Argues Media Should Ignore Climate Skeptic 'Lies'

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Tuesday's Amanpour & Co., PBS's Michel Martin interviewed Lee McIntyre -- author of the book Post-Truth -- with the two discussing perceptions that lying is more accepted from political figures than in the past because of the election of Donald Trump as President. Without any pushback from Michel, McIntyre argued in favor of journalists censoring the views of those they disagree with, including global warming skeptics.

After the discussion began with McIntyre hearkening back to the days when tobacco companies tried to convince the public that their products were safe in spite of studies that argued otherwise, Martin eventually asked about his views on the media: "I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't ask if the media has played a role in this."

McIntyre then lumped in global warming skeptics with opponents of vaccinations as he suggested that both movements peddle "lies."

LEE MCINTYRE, AUTHOR OF POST-TRUTH: The sad answer is yes because merely by broadcasting a lie, there are some people who are going to believe it, you know, if you don't put any context in it. The best example I can think of here is the split-screen debates that they used to have with a public health official and then an anti-vaxxer or that they would have with, you know, Jim Hansen who is maybe the leading voice on doing something about climate change with, you know, climate change denying.

He then suggested that journalists should just be biased toward those that they've decided are factually wrong by omitting them from the discussion:

And, you know, in the media, people don't want to be accused of bias, and everybody understands that. And one of the easiest ways to show you're not biased is to let both sides talk. But the halfway point between the truth and a lie is still a lie. So if you have a split-screen debate where, you know, you're creating in the reader, the viewer, the listener's mind that there's a debate over the consensus on climate change when there's really not. And the reason that happened is because you gave voice -- you gave a split screen -- you gave equal time to the person on the other side. That's what's called "information bias." So I think that the media has played a part in that. They're doing a better job now on anti-vaxxer -- they're doing a better job on climate denial.

Martin followed up by asking about President Trump without actually naming him:

MARTIN: I want to go back to the political realm because this is something that came up over and over again during the 2016 campaign, and you've got a candidate who is saying things that are determinately not true or that can be demonstrated to be false. And yet this is a candidate for high office who has the right to run -- who has the right to make an argument. What would you do differently?

In spite of all the aggressive fact-checking journalists have engaged in against President Trump, McIntyre complained about the media covering President Trump's rallies:

MCINTYRE: So I'm well aware of where I am and what I'm about to say, which is that -- as I say in the book -- major media outlets which ran Trump's rallies in the 2016 election -- unfiltered, uncut, with no commentary, even when there were lies that were being spread -- did play a role in creating disinformation, played a role in some of the post-truth that we now live with.

 

 

MICHEL MARTIN: I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't ask if the media has played a role in this.

LEE MCINTYRE, AUTHOR OF POST-TRUTH: The sad answer is yes because merely by broadcasting a lie, there are some people who are going to believe it, you know, if you don't put any context in it. The best example I can think of here is the split-screen debates that they used to have with a public health official and then an anti-vaxxer or that they would have with, you know, Jim Hansen who is maybe the leading voice on doing something about climate change with, you know, climate change denying. And, you know, in the media, people don't want to be accused of bias, and everybody understands that. And one of the easiest ways to show you're not biased is to let both sides talk. But the halfway point between the truth and a lie is still a lie. So if you have a split-screen debate where, you know, you're creating in the reader, the viewer, the listener's mind that there's a debate over the consensus on climate change when there's really not. And the reason that happened is because you gave voice -- you gave a split screen -- you gave equal time to the person on the other side. That's what's called "information bias." So I think that the media has played a part in that. They're doing a better job now on anti-vaxxer -- they're doing a better job on climate denial.

MARTIN: I want to go back to the political realm because this is something that came up over and over again during the 2016 campaign, and you've got a candidate who is saying things that are determinately not true or that can be demonstrated to be false. And yet this is a candidate for high office who has the right to run -- who has the right to make an argument. What would you do differently?

MCINTYRE: So I'm well aware of where I am and what I'm about to say, which is that -- as I say in the book -- major media outlets which ran Trump's rallies in the 2016 election -- unfiltered, uncut, with no commentary, even when there were lies that were being spread -- did play a role in creating disinformation, played a role in some of the post-truth that we now live with.

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