New Year’s Resolution:

One letter a day to media outlets or to one or more of our Elected Representatives.

The first three days’ worth went to the print media:

January 1:

The failure of our national media to cover the worsening climate crisis is surely the most important and tragic story of our time.  An intrepid journalist could earn a Pulitzer, nay, a series of Pulitzers, by doing the in-depth reporting which revealed the extent to which our broadcast and print media have been coopted by the deep pockets of climate-change deniers.  Alas, it’s not going to happen.  As with all stories in which the media establishment has been a participant, there will never be any meaningful investigation.  As glaciers melt, oceans become acidified, droughts become endemic, and local weather patterns become increasingly erratic and unpredictable, only one thing is absolutely certain: our media will continue to perpetuate the false notion that “there are two sides to every argument,” and the way to practice journalism is to give equal time to both parties.

Thus journalism becomes a travesty of itself.

Would an article on medicine be required to give equal column space to a proponent of the medieval theory of “humours”?  Would an article on air travel be required to give equal column space to a turn-of-the-twentieth-century scientist’s assertion that heavier-than-air flight is impossible?

The decline in the number of Americans who believe global climate change is caused by human beings is not an abstract phenomenon, to be reported “impartially” in the pages of the nation’s press and on the news programs of our networks.  No — that decline is the product of decades of irresponsibility on the part of that press and those networks.  Our descendants (if there are any) will not be kind to the American media of this time, and with good and tragic reason.

January 2:

The terrifying implications of current climatological research are diluted by the measured language of scientific discourse. The relatively neutral term “climate change” is grossly misleading. A more appropriate word would be “climaticide.” The facts are readily available, but what is needed in the public sphere is not measured language, but a clarion call, an alarm warning all of us of a looming catastrophe. And here is where the print and broadcast media of our culture have profoundly failed humanity.

By insisting on a specious policy of false equivalence in which the statements of a few corporate-funded denialists “balance” the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence, our media have abdicated their responsibility to the truth. The simple fact is that if the world’s industrialized cultures do not radically and rapidly change their behaviors, the lives of our children, our grandchildren, and their children in turn will be unimaginably and horrifyingly different. By failing to inform the public, by failing to take this threat seriously (all the while exaggerating other, less significant problems), the media are now enabling the most serious threat that our planet has ever faced. Generations to come will look back at the excesses of the twentieth century in shame; they will see the media’s blind indifference to our toxic behavior for what it is: a crime of terrible magnitude.

Ignorance is excusable; willful refusal to engage with facts is not. The job of the news media is to engage with facts. Please do your job, so that we (all of us, everywhere) can do ours: trying to change our culture’s direction in time to preserve our world.

January 3:

Another blizzard will surely bring another round of blather from climate-change denialists: “Look! It’s snowing! That means there is no such thing as global warming!” It is difficult to find words to describe this level and degree of willful ignorance. One of the oft-repeated and oft-verified predictions of climate scientists is that as the global climate crisis worsens, local and regional storms will increase in intensity and frequency. Climatologists also predict that anomalous weather events (snow in May, seventy-degree days in February) will occur more often. While it’s not in the purview of scientific prognostication, it’s a sure bet that as long as the fossil-fuel industry continues funding denialist research, we will be subjected to increasing levels of mendacity and gullibility from their paid spokespersons. Our national media has completely abandoned any pretense of being “on the side of truth,” and in the long run, the human race will be the loser.

Tomorrow I’ll send some faxes to some politicians.

Thanks for the critique. I often decry others’ use of passive voice…and it looks like I’ve fallen into that trap myself. Perhaps I should say, “That trap has been fallen into by this author” if I want to keep the streak alive.

20 Jan 2010, 10:57am
by Daniel W

Your letters would have more oomph if you stopped writing in the passive voice (which bleeds impact and bloats sentences) and started writing in the active voice.

Example of active writing (compare to your original writing):

The measured language of scientific discourse dilutes the terrifying implications of recent climatological research. The relatively neutral term “climate change” grossly misleads — the more appropriate term is “climaticide.” The facts are readily available, and the public sphere does not need measured language, it needs a clarion call, an alarm warning all of us of a looming catastrophe. And here is where the print and broadcast media of our culture have profoundly failed humanity.

The best book on writing well is the MLA’s “Line by Line.”


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