Regurgitating oil industry talking points doesn’t make a climate “debate”
Some might say that the only thing worse than being (deliberately) stupid is being lazy. Fortunately, we don’t have to decide, because climate change deniers are both. Case in point: As you may recall, Nicolas Loris of the industry-funded Heritage Foundation, recently argued that harmful indoor air pollution from gas stoves is no reason to replace them with electric ones, because people can just cook on the back burner.
While some might be embarrassed about defending a product by telling users to only use the half of it that’s so inconvenient it’s a synonym for procrastination and deprioritization, Loris was apparently so proud of this compelling argument that he made it again. But this time the stakes were a little higher, because instead of running as a blog, the backbench backburner argument was published in the Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona’s main paper.
Aside from a new introduction, the pieces are practically identical. A comparison shows that some 60% of the content is the same in the two pieces.
That’s the big problem here. As far as the Daily Star’s readers were concerned, what they read from Loris was the honest opinion provided by “The Heritage Foundation’s Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy and deputy director of its Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.” They would have no reason (other than the emptiness of the argument) to expect that it wasn’t offered in good faith, or that this was a professional and strategic attempt to launder fossil fuel industry propaganda into mainstream media.
Because while his lofty (and lengthy) title certainly sounds impressive, it’s really just a distraction from Loris’s actual job, which is to protect the fossil fuel industry.
You wouldn’t necessarily know that upon reading his op-ed in the Daily Star though, unless you happened to know that Loris lifted most of this op-ed from a post he made on the Daily Signal, and you happen to know that while the Daily Signal sounds just like a real newspaper (like the Daily Star!) it’s actually just the blog of the Heritage Foundation.
And while that too may sound benign, the fact that the Heritage Foundation is funded by, among others, the Kochs and the billionaire fracking brothers who aren’t the Kochs, means that readers — at the very least — deserve a disclosure that Loris’s employer is a recipient of funding from the industry he’s defending.
The most annoying part though, is how stupid the argument really is, because you better believe that 60% of self-plagiarized material includes his suggestion to just use the backburner of gas stoves.
So for placement in a major local newspaper, something that’s harder and harder for deniers to get these days, Nic Loris lazily lifted passages from what he had previously published at his Koch-funded organization’s blog, which in turn he had cribbed from an transparently fossil-fuel-funded organization’s blog. And don’t forget the purpose of the article: defending the fossil fuel industry against the claim that people should be encouraged to use appliances that don’t raise the risk of their child developing asthma by 42%.
Now, it’s one thing to reuse content when it’s, say, from your own blog to your own website, where the audience knows what they’re getting in each place. But it’s another to plagiarize your own regurgitation of the oil industry’s talking points for a major newspaper, where the audience is under the assumption that opinions are unique and offered in good faith.
But at a minimum, if you do lazily plagiarize the stupidest argument ever, try and at least do something original in between, so you don’t have to put the two repetitive pieces right next to each other on your website.
Top Climate Change and Clean Energy Stories:
(Crossposted with DailyKos.)