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
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.
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.
Graham didn't mention that Morano -- a former co-worker of Graham's at the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com -- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.