Global Warming: Muzzle or Megaphone?

By April 7, 2006Global Warming

Very amusing article from the otherwise-talented Juliette Eilperin in yesterday’s WaPo about the celebrated “muzzle” that the “White House” has put on government scientists eager to talk about global warming. However, like everything else with this frenzy, the devil is missing in the details.

it’s actually funny when you read the article. You see lots of scientists quoted on the record — by name — throughout. These would be the ones that are being muzzled by the White House. And, in fact, when you read it, these folks work at the Department of Interior, so it’s really not the White House after all. No matter, “US Geological Survey” isn’t as much as a headline grabber as “the White House”.

The story also reveals the horrors of all this censorship. Interior scientists are required to clear interview requests with higher-ups, something they never had to do before. In fairness, Eilperin does note that both the Departments of State and Justice restrict access by random staff to reporters. Truth is, there are lots of federal agencies and Capitol Hill offices of both parties that limit contact with the press. We were more surprised to find that Interior didn’t have this rule until now.

In any event, a few days ago we noted Bob Novak’s article about how the notoriously-gagged James Hansen of NASA had been pretty much of a one-man megaphone out there on the issue since 1988, even removing the muzzle long enough to speak at a John Kerry rally during the campaign. Eilperin refers to him and also to one Konrad Steffen, who pretty much dishes freely on global warming in her story. Add to this the veritable feeding frenzy by the press– covered by George Will a week or so ago — and it’s hard to credibly claim that anybody on that side of the issue is being censored at all. In fact, there appears to be more of a megaphone than a muzzle for these folks.

Just for yuks, we strolled over to Google to type in “Konrad Steffen” and “climate change” and clicked on “search”. There were some 22,800 results for the man who’s been muzzled on this topic. And Hansen? Well, we typed in “James Hansen”, “NASA” and “Greenhouse”, since his spiel is about greenhouse gases. Results: 197,000. If this is a campaign to silence people, it’s about as successful as the Howard Dean campaign was.

Remember by the way that the scientific community is split on the issue to begin with. That doesn’t really come across in any of this. There are plenty of scientists who think the whole global warming scare is a lot of hooey. However, reading all the media frenzy over the issue and the short shrift given to their views, it’s easier to believe that they’re the ones who have been effectively muzzled.