The Truth About the Press' Anti-Car Global Warming Jihad
The political right likes to claim that the mainstream press has a liberal bias. These self-appointed media watchdogs see a cadre of left-leaning fascists looking to manipulate popular opinion, to infringe on individual freedom by stripping law-abiding citizens of their God given right to own guns, smoke, pray in public, eat supersized fatty foods and drive gas-guzzling CO2–belching behemoths. In truth, the American press isn’t red, blue, pink or green. It’s yellow.
Once upon a time, journalism was considered a public service. The news media was owned by beneficent potentates; men who cloaked their more obvious commercial enterprises in the sanctimony of servicing our “right to know.” When technology fractured the audience, when news was made to stand on its own, it suddenly became more of what it was all along: a business.
The news media’s unshackled economic motives have amped-up their insatiable desire to be seen, heard and/or read. To that end they cater to our basest instincts with stories about all sorts of human extremes: fires, fanatics, fatalities and most important of all, anything urgently threatening.
Even before the news media lost their dignity, they perpetuated pervasive paranoia. My childhood was haunted by visions of nuclear attack, food shortages and dwindling oil supplies. These stories eventually gave way to dark tales of nuclear disaster and Y2K meltdown.
Thankfully, all of these perceived calamities are still largely theoretical. Food is produced in abundance, oil supplies have grown and Japan and France have demonstrated that nuclear power is safe and the Internet lives! And so new villains have arrived, most prominently terrorists but including the automobile.
While it pains me to even partially vindicate Detroit’s anti-media paranoia, it’s certainly true that automobile manufacturers have been victimized by willfully ignorant, self-righteous muckrakers. As ttac.com contributor Paul Neidermeyer recently recounted, the Chevrolet Corvair and Audi 5000 were both torpedoed by bogus safety concerns perpetuated by self-anointed safety campaigners (Ralph Nader and CBS).
Other popular models have fallen prey to absurd exaggerations of risk, provided without any discussion of context, scientific analysis or mitigating factors. Was the Firestone tire-clad Ford Explorer inherently dangerous? What does that mean anyway? The fact that over half the Explorer rollover deaths involved passengers who didn’t buckle their seat belts escaped the media’s limited attention.
Clearly, this trend has progressed to the point where the news media feels free to demonize the automobile in general, and vilify anyone who dares drive anything other than a [get-out-of-PC-prison-free] hybrid.
How many times does the media use the words “oil addiction” to describe our habit of driving our children to school, commuting to work, buying the things we need to survive and keeping the American economy healthy for ALL of us?
SUVs are regularly portrayed as the sole province of selfish, clueless, amoral Americans. The companies that provide these vehicles are cast as foot-dragging Neanderthals who, ironically enough, cater to their customers’ basest instincts.
Never mind that the news trucks schlepping their high-tech equipment are about as fuel efficient as a Sherman tank, or that the news helicopters that hover over televised tragedy burn more fuel than an entire fleet of Hummers.
And why is it OK to treat a normal, commercially vital activity like driving as if it’s some kind of criminal act? Global warming! And if global warming is the problem, American drivers are the cause. Oh, sorry, did I say “if?" I mean, “because.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, today’s news media never misses an opportunity to remind us of the “fact” that our vehicles’ fossil fuel combustion is creating greenhouse gasses that will hasten an increase in global temperatures that threatens our species’ survival.
Vehicle-induced global warming is a fact because a lot of scientists say it is– even though a large number of reputable scientists say it isn't. Woe betide anyone foolish enough to question global warming in the press; they're served-up as a crank or right wing nutcase.
Ten years from now, after a decade of declining ocean temperatures (as forecast by the National Hurricane Center), we’ll look back and wonder why people bought the paranoid pseudo-reality of global warming. Of course, by then the tragedy industry will have invented some new automobile-related threat to keep us riveted with fear.
Fascination is the key. The news media is afraid to tackle the tough questions relating to our cars because they believe the public is fundamentally stupid. They’re scared that their audience will take one look at a more complicated truth and switch off. If the information gatekeepers don’t simplify issues (e.g. SUVs suck), Americans will lose interest.
I like to think they’re wrong; that drivers can go beyond sound bites to engage in a proper debate on important issues related to our automotive activities. With your help, we’ll find out.
More by William C Montgomery
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