Monday, February 17, 2014

Waste Time, Learning Nothing, With Bill Nye and Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:36 PM

"I think that Bill would probably agree with this, neither he nor I are a climate scientist," Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn said Sunday at the beginning of the worthless Meet the Press segment seen above.

This is true! Bill Nye is not a climate scientist. Marsha Blackburn is not a climate scientist. David Gregory is not a climate scientist. I am not a climate scientist. You (probably) aren't a climate scientist. And the vast majority of people who watched Meet the Press Sunday aren't climate scientists.

So what are we doing here, exactly?

Jay Rosen has a persuasive take this morning at his blog, Press Think: In short, he argues that the segment served as a way for Meet the Press to address an issue the show has ignored for a year, as well as an opportunity for Gregory to pre-empt charges of false balance by standing up for scientific consensus on the climate change question, and moving the ball forward by hosting a discussion on what we should do about it:

Having ignored the debate, Meet the Press figured it would step in and advance the debate. But in order to push back, as David Gregory self-consciously planned to do, you had to have someone pushing, first. You needed as a Meet the Press guest a figure whose way of flirting with denialism was to go there on camera: a show off. Only against that ground could Gregory show up as a figure of resistance. #

The segment ostensibly aimed to advance the debate about possible policy responses to climate change, but — in what Rosen argues was an attempt to validate Gregory as an authoritative voice in America's political discourse — it included a person (Blackburn) who didn't agree to the premise of such a debate. The result, Rosen concludes, was "an informational mess."

It was a debate on climate change, and a debate about policy solutions all at once. As such, it was effectively neither.

Blackburn is a politician who has made her name by being exceedingly willing to appear on television. The Science Guy is famous for explaining science to children and, more recently, for debating strawmen in public. Together they make claims that the show isn't interested in fully adjudicating. The viewers — the non-climate scientists, remember — most likely didn't tune in with the tools to sort the scientific wheat from the chaff, and the show hasn't provided any. We are no more informed than we were before.

Because that was never the point. It was political professional wrestling. For the sake of argument, and little else.

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