Six million dead Jews beg to differ.
On September 15, Pulitzer-prize winning Inside Climate News reported that Exxon had known about the dangers posed by global warming due to fossil fuels since at least 1977, and spent several years engaged in serious scientific research before abruptly switching into the denialist mode, where it became a leading force for disinformation and denial. This stunning new revelation of just how long oil companies have known the truth about global warming while promoting denial and lies about it should have served as a wakeup call for the media to re-examine how it has naively misread decades of climate disinformation, and failed to adopt a sufficiently critical perspective. But not for the Associated Press Instead, the next week AP announced it was extending further journalistic cover for the still ongoing deception.
On the one hand, AP took a big step forward by deciding to stop using the term “climate change skeptic”, following concerted pressure from scientists and activists. But they also took a big step backward by deciding to not use the term “climate change denier” instead, and to actively nix it as well. “Climate change denier” sounded too much like “Holocaust denier,” AP explained, so it was out, too. They added the following to their style guide (which many journalists outside AP use as well):
Our guidance is to use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science and to avoid the use of skeptics or deniers.
This is, quite simply, wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
This is a classic example of false balance on AP’s part, with multiple problems on both sides of the scale and one big thing wrong at the middle: “doubt” is not mid-way between “skepticism” and “denial” . It far closer to the former than to the latter, which is why the deniers were so pleased with it.
Joe Romm cited three problems with AP’s reason: First, that AP had an easy alternative, pointed out by Justin Gillis in the NY Times in February: “others have started using the slightly softer word ‘denialist’ to make the same point without stirring complaints about evoking the Holocaust.” Second, that the most prominent deniers, like James Inhofe “knowingly use phony arguments to stop the world from acting in time…. Since when should anyone care about the phony concerns of such self-destructive anti-scientific people?” Third, Romm noted that many deniers actually like the term. If they don’t have a problem with it, why should we?
All that is true, but there’s a further point worth making: climate change denial is actually much worse than Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial deals with the deaths of millions in the past, which it did nothing to cause, however morally odious it surely is. Global warming denial deals with the deaths of millions in the future, which it helps to cause, by crippling efforts to prevent them. And that’s something much worse, as is reflected in law: It’s not a crime to lie about murders in the past, except to hinder a police investigation, or prosecution; but it is a crime to tell enabling lies about future murders—it’s called conspiracy to commit murder.