Friday, May 19, 2006

Truth Versus Truthiness

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an Australian group opposing wind power has close ties with a British group funded by the nuclear industry.

That group was set up by Sir Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister. Sir Bernard is now a director of Supporters of Nuclear Energy, and a former consultant to British Nuclear Fuels. Coastal Guardians Victoria has also worked closely with the now-discredited British botanist David Bellamy, who believes climate change is a myth.
I've discussed David Bellamy at length here. Note, too, the Janus-faced approach of the nuclear industry: touting nuclear power as a "green" solution to climate change, while aiding and abetting climate-change denialists and other anti-environmental extremists.

That's not what's interesting about this article, though. What really startles me is that the author, Wendy Frew, seems to believe that the claims of public figures can be assessed in terms of their agreement with reality (as opposed to, say, market forces):
Mr Le Roy said wind power would not work because it needed back-up power (the national electricity grid is, in fact, already served by back-up power); green groups were split over wind power (all of Australia's major environment groups support wind power); and that wind turbines did not work because they could not store electricity. However, there is no effective way to store large amounts of electricity, regardless of whether it comes from coal or wind, energy experts say.
In most American papers, the same article would be very likely to follow the "competing claims" model (Electricity storage: Views differ) in which scientific belief becomes a matter of consumer choice. This, of course, results in an unnaturally extended shelf-life for the claims of disingenuous, anti-scientific hacks like LeRoy. It's the intellectual equivalent of ethanol subsidies.

The question is, does the "essential meaning" of such articles come from an authorial intent to maintain "balance," or from the specific political exigencies of the American journalistic field?

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