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Melting Down Over Climate Criticism

Because the Media Research Center can't handle criticism, it predictably lashed out at a group that exposed how it spread misinformation about climate change.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/10/2022

The snowflakes at the Media Research Center can't handle criticism of their own work. So when the Center for Countering Digital Hate listed the MRC and NewsBusters on its list of the "Toxic Ten" right-wing purveyors of misinformation and denial about climate change, the MRC unsurprisingly went ballistic.

Joseph Vazquez used a Nov. 2 post to lash out at the group, play guilt-by-association with China and tout his boss, Brent Bozell, going full Godwin over the report:

The U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate wants to censor organizations that disagree with it on climate policy. It released an absurd report attacking the Media Research Center and eight other conservative organizations in an attempt to shut them down online.

The leftist group behind the attack is led by a socialist who co-authored a book about “how to defeat” conservative ideas. The group promotes leftist eco-extremism, but behind all that are its deep ties to Communist China. The CCDH is funded by a leftist eco-group that financed a “greening” scheme for Communist China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The propaganda report headlined “THE TOXIC TEN: How ten fringe publishers fuel 69% of digital climate change denial” includes three recommendations to censor the organizations the group doesn’t agree with. These include: “Stop monetizing” their content; stop allowing them to buy ads and it even wants social media firms to “comprehensively label” what it calls “climate denial.”

MRC founder and President L. Brent Bozell slammed the attack. “Digital brownshirts are attacking conservative organizations for daring to have an honest debate on climate policy. These anti-free speech bigots want to shut down anyone who dares to disagree with them. Calling for more biased fact-checks as a way of silencing scientific debate is insane. This is another typical left wing cancel culture attempt borne out of anti-conservative bigotry. Stop Big Tech Cancel Culture!”

Vazquez not only did not rebut anything in the report, he didn't even provide a link to it so his readers could judge for themselves.

Later that day, MRC executive Tim Graham rushed out a column attacking the report, dismissing the CCDH as a "British socialist group," smearing the group's leader Imran Ahmed as an "ayatollah" and complaining that it wants encourage advertisers from patronizing these operations: "Once again, the Left wants to win debates by stopping any debate from happening." Graham seems to have forgotten that the MRC has an entire operation dedicated to letting its followers attack advertisers who support non-right-wing outlets -- and, thus, stopping debate.

Like Vazquez, Graham refused to link to the report to readers could judge for themselves. He didn't address the report, but he did complain about MRC-related images in it:

My column on Climate Depot founder Marc Morano’s book Green Fraud was pictured under the Daily Wire section of the report. The MRC section is illustrated with a Joseph Vazquez article on NewsBusters about...Marc Morano. He’s apparently Digital Hater Number One.

In my Morano column, I noted that the Climate Panic lobby is never held accountable for failed predictions of doom from decades ago. In one PBS series called Race to Save the Planet, Meryl Streep claimed “By the year 2000 -- that's less than 10 years away -- the earth's climate will be warmer than it's been in over 100,000 years. If we don't do something, there'll be enormous calamities in a very short time.”

In 2021, that can be defined as climate misinformation.

Graham didn't mention that Morano -- a former co-worker of Graham's at the MRC's "news" division, -- is not mentioned in the report at all outside of those screenshots, which puts the lie to his claim that the report portrays Morano as "Digital Hater Number One." He also didn't mention that Morano is not a climatologist or has no other related scientific background; his Climate Depot has received funding from fossil-fuel interests and, thus, can't be taken seriously as an independent, legitimate view of climate change, since his paycheck depends on his denying it. Graham's column touting Morano's book uncritically repeats his arguments and doesn't challenge them at all, and Vazquez's NewsBusters post was another hagiography, touting a fawning interview with Morano about "An Inconvenient Truth after its 15th anniversary."

Graham railed against the report for purportedly trying to censor opposing views -- but views that oppose the right-wing climate-denial narrative are never allowed to stand un-attacked at the MRC. Who's the real censor here?

The MRC found a friendly Republican congressman to parrot its attacks on the CCDH, as described in a Nov. 4 post by Alexander Hall:

Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL) raked the U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate over the coals for its call to silence conservative organizations.

Representative Steube slammed the “CCP-sympathizing socialists” of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), who he summarized “have made it their mission to suppress the facts and silence conservative organizations,” in a Nov. 3 tweet. The CCDH called to censor organizations that disagree with its radical leftist agenda on climate policy. CCDH listed the Media Research Center, along with eight other conservative outlets, among the so-called “toxic ten” sources condemned for not kowtowing to leftist politics. Steube proclaimed: “It’s past time for them to be held accountable for the left-wing front groups that they are. We cannot stand for this.”

Steube tweeted a blog from NewsBusters featuring Media Research Center Founder and President Brent Bozell who torched the study’s creators as “Digital brownshirts” who are “attacking conservative organizations for daring to have an honest debate on climate policy.”

Surprisingly, Hall did link to the CCDH report, but he failed to refute any of its contents.

Epic failure to debunk

It took nine days after its release for the MRC to actually respond to the report itself, in a Nov. 11 post by Heather Moon and Gabriela Pariseau. Their opening set up the nasty tone of the piece:

The leftist U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate just launched a broadside attack against nine conservative digital outlets with its “Toxic Ten” report. The report aimed to silence entire outlets for writing stories that don’t follow the leftist climate policy narrative.

The hyperbolic report used data out of context to make it appear that users should care about 0.00012 percent of Facebook engagements in the last year. It also equated any discussion of eco-hypocrisy, data manipulation, George Soros or Marxist ideology in relation to climate policy to so-called “disinformation” that must be silenced.

Such pro-censorship behavior would allow no room for legitimate debate over real issues.

As if Moon and Pariseau (or any other MRC employee) are interested in legitimate debate. The fact that they too refused to link to the report they're attacking is further evidence of that.

That was followed by even more attacks on the CCDH:

The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), partly funded by a group with ties to communist China, had huge success in peddling its previous pro-censorship list. It highlighted what CCDH considered the top sources of so-called “disinformation” about vaccines, dubbed the “ Disinformation Dozen.” Then the organization turned its sights to online news media that occasionally cover the climate policy debate.

The duo are referring to a CCDH report earlier this year on 12 mostly right-wing misinformers about COVID vaccines. In a August post attacking Facebook for following CCDH recommendations, Autumn Johnson put "misinformation" in scare quotes, just like Moon and Pariseau are referring to "so-called 'disinformation'" here -- part of the MRC's insistence that COVID misinformation is whatever someone thinks it is, not something that can be objectively defined.

Moon and Pariseau recycled an old complaint about the CCDH report:

CCDH’s report lacked transparency and used questionable data from a biased source. Further, the method used to find so-called “disinformation” articles was full of prejudices.

The group claimed to analyze 6,983 “climate denial articles” for its study, but declined to provide a specific list of articles included. That’s a huge problem with research transparency. It only included the query that it used to find the articles, which raised multiple concerns.

The query was constructed to look only for articles that mention keywords related to climate change. It then also required the article have one or more keywords from a long list that the authors believe would indicate that it was an article questioning climate change.

As ConWebWatch noted when Moon bashed another study for the same reason, the MRC frequently conducts "studies" that fail to make underlying data public regarding the subjective judgments it makes about the content being reviewed, so she has little room to complain about that.

They continued:

One of these was the word “realism,” as though anyone who wishes to debate what is and is not real about climate change is to be silenced. Another example are the words “hypocrite” or “hypocrisy.” Including those words shows that the authors consider any discussion of the excess use of carbon in private jets, large motorcades or enormous mansions by people pushing climate policy should be dismissed, demonetized and shut down.

The duo didn't mention that "climate realism" is actually a euphemism being used by right-wing anti-climate activists to soft-pedal their denialist views. Nor did they explain why attacking someone's alleged hypocrisy on climate issues is relevant to the debate.

They then tried to downplay significance of the report's finding that 69 percent of the Facebook interactions on climate-denial content comes from the "Toxic Ten" websites:

CCDH does not provide a list of all of the posts evaluated for this study. It only provides a few examples in the report. Given the nature of the study, the logical conclusion is that most are linked posts. Linked posts generate a fraction of the engagement that other posts do.

CCDH is exaggerating the significance of the climate posts in the overall scope of what happens on Facebook in order to peddle its own agenda that is toxic to free speech and open policy debate. Even a leftist reporter explained that its data on engagement with conservative sites and stories is overblown. Both his piece and an article by Western Journal explained that engagement metrics are an indicator of how controversial a post is rather than how many users are actually reading and being influenced by it.
The duo linked to a August post by Moon hyping that "A new Facebook report proved the @FacebooksTop10 daily list of 10 most-engaged link posts each day is wildly misleading, given that posts with the most views got far more engagement than posts on the list." But a month later, Moon was attacking data that comes from Facebook, declaring that reports about "severely flawed" data coming out of Facebook "discredited any study relating to so-called “misinformation,” alleged radicalization or political polarization that used the Facebook information" and that "Every study that used the flawed data should be retracted until a new analysis has been completed."

The duo further insisted that the study's numbers be placed into context (which is friendly to their CCDH-bashing arguments), again citing Facebook data she has insisted elsewhere is misleading:

CCDH trotted out what it portrayed as a very concerning number: 709,057 total interactions with the so-called “climate denial articles” between Oct. 2020 and Oct. 2021. But numbers without any context are useless.

To put that number into context, Facebook noted analysis of Facebook data by SMPerth, a social media marketing education service in Australia, showed that in a 30-day period, the typical Facebook user likes 11 posts, comments on 5 posts and shares one post, for a total of 17 average monthly engagements.

Performing some basic math with these numbers, we discovered that the 706,057 interactions over a one-year period amounted to approximately 0.00012 percent of the total Facebook interactions over that time, a rather insignificant number. Certainly not a number worth the effort to demonetize and deplatform ten online organizations over.

From there, Moon and Pariseau moved on to citing previous predictions about climate catastrophe allegedly not coming true:

The first words used in the report are, “We are at a climate tipping point.” That is followed up with phrases such as “It is the greatest crisis ever faced by our species.” This language is alarmist by definition. Americans have been warned about being at such a tipping point to the point that it has become tantamount to the story of the boy who cried wolf.

One example among many was an article from 2006 on a climate change-promoting website saying that we have only a 10-year window to act. That window closed five years ago, yet we are still not facing the climate catastrophe predicted if we failed to act. It is nonsensical to claim that calling out truly alarmist and hyperbolic language as such deserves to be demonetized and deplatformed — especially when using hyperbolic language to do it.

But that report did not say things would immediately get worse if nothing was done in that timeframe. Indeed, climate change has continued since 2016, and 2020 was tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, so that prediction hasn't exactly been proven wrong.

The duo then returned to COVID misinformation:

The report then goes on to compare so-called climate “disinformation” to “ vaccine and COVID-19 disinformation,” saying that both “obfuscate the truth by overwhelming us with claims and questions designed in bad faith to confuse the debate so action is delayed. ”The authors chose this comparison because of the organization’s previous success with its “Disinformation Dozen” report. However, COVID-19 is a bad comparison for the point the authors tried to make.

The virus data proved “experts” wrong time and time again. Some stories initially labeled conspiracy theories” have borne out to in fact be supportable if not undeniably true, such as the Wuhan lab leak. Comparisons to the climate policy debate favor skeptics rather than the so-called “experts.”

Actually, the "Wuhan lab leak" has not yet proven to be true; in fact, the idea that it originated in a Wuhan food market remains quite viable. Many of the things Moon and Pariseau linked to to claim that people were wrong about things that turned out to be true -- like a Fox News attack piece on Anthony Fauci's purported "contradictions" about the virus -- can be linked to the evolving nature of knowledge about COVID. The duo had to go to far-flung places like a Turkish website and an article by notorious COVID quack Joseph Mercola, which don't exactly prove their point.

Moon and Pariseau concluded by whining:

CCDH stated in its report that the websites highlighted “are the main producers of content that sows climate change skepticism” pretending there is “more extensive debate than there really is.” This statement relies on the old “97 percent consensus” myth that has been debunked. The fact that the report must dredge up a debunked statement to make its point discredits its own argument.

The duo cited a 2016 Forbes piece written by an instructor at the University of Houston who previously had a career in the oil and gas industry claiming that the consensus level is closer to 81 percent -- but even then, the writer conceded that "support over 80% is strong consensus." Meanwhile, outside the right-wing bubble the MRC resides in, the 97 percent number continues to hold up.

Weirdly, Moon and Pariseau not only did not refute anything the report stated about the MRC -- such as its funding from fossil-fuel interests -- it censored any mention of the fact that the MRC was one of the "Toxic Ten" and, thus, the reason their report exists. They also didn't mention that another outlet on the list was Russian state media operations like RT and Sputnik News, though they appeared to be trying to write around that by referencing "nine conservative digital outlets" in the lead paragraph.

This is not exactly the takedown of the CCDH report that the MRC thinks it is -- to the contrary, it's more evidence justifying the MRC's place on the CCDH's list.

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