Colbert Not Quite Savvy Enough About his Inconvenient Truthiness
Let me start off by saying how much I actually like Stephen Colbert. His neocon character surely infuriates some views -- particularly president George W Bush -- but he aptly exposes the hypocrisy of the kowtowing American "conservative" media (I would argue that many of these outlets aren't pandering to conservatives per se, so much as they're pandering to the administration in general).
Let it also be known that he can identify a true neocon when he sees it -- thus, his "Tip of the Hat" to the Liberal party for their infamous "soldiers with guns" ad in early 2006.
But the human condition being what it is, even the most astute observers will be wrong from time to time. As was the case on last night's Cobert Report broadcast, when he commented on the case of Barry Lucier, a Roger Williams University student who was forced to watch An Inconvenient Truth for course credit.
As Lucier describes it, in order to graduate, he was required to take a lab course wherein one of the mandatory lab sessions was replaced with a screening of Al Gore’s film (presumably still mandatory, but explicit details are scant).
Colbert describes the entire situation in fairly cut-and-dried terms (provided one can read past the subtext), "at a 'college', Barry was forced to learn about something he didn't already think," Colbert lampooned. "When you confront young people with information that doesn't jibe with what they already believe they can get confused."
Colbert’s implicit theory: Lucier came to university to learn. Suck it up and go to class.
"He's enrolled in a class where the teacher thinks he knows more about the subject than the students," Colbert quipped.
Yet, if the professor in question -- or Colbert himself -- knew more about the film itself it's unlikely that Colbert would make such a joke.
While controversial on its own due to the “heated debate” that surrounds the climate change issue, Gore’s film courted further controversy by also being extremely inaccurate. Various observers have dug into the film and found it wanting on the scientific facts. In the film, Gore also exaggerates some of the potential consequences of climate change.
Gore even cranks up the climate change terror alert level by citing 9/11. This is actually a very sophisticated psychological technique whereby Gore can predispose his audience to become terrified of climate change by reminding them of the fear they felt on September 11th, 2001. Gore also proves that nothing is sacred by trying to forge a bizarre link between climate change and a near-fatal accident suffered by his son.
But perhaps the greatest disservice that Gore and Colbert do to the climate change debate is exaggerating the amount of consensus there is regarding the issue. In the film, Gore claims that no peer-reviewed publication has published anyone suggesting climate change is due to anything other than human activity. Colbert -- perhaps jokingly -- makes his own estimate about the proportion of scientists who disagree, “Sure, there’s a vast consensus of global warming science, but doesn’t the opposing five percent deserve fifty percent of the time?”
Au contraire: while it can be demonstrated that the various exhaust gases produced by human activity (particularly the combustion of fossil fuels) lead to a demonstrable greenhouse effect, the natural variations in the planet’s climate have been demonstrated as well. Gore’s film was found to have ignored key variations over the past 1000 years in order to portray the “hockey stick” model that suggests there has been little variation.
The claims on behalf of climate change alarmists that the opinions of such scientists are invalid unless they study a field directly related to climate change notwithstanding, the alarmists have their own problematic members. Aside from Gore (who is not a scientist), George Monbiot -- author of Heat doesn’t study a directly related scientific field. He’s a zoologist.
Where they haven’t successfully managed to dispell dissent with science, alarmists have resorted to declaring dissent ”immoral”, or outright slandering their opponents by giving them “awards” that suggest they believe the earth is flat.
Despite all the basic academic issues surrounding the film, and ethical issues surrounding the debate, Colbert dismisses Lucier’s concerns as “rigidity”. “The Barry Luciers of the world are entering a mindfield of knowledge. Who knows what destructive information they’ll be confronted with next?”
Then again, when one spends as much on tuition as one does at an American post-secondary institution, one also expects that everything they will be taught will be accurate. Gore's film politicizes the contentious science surrounding climate change -- using his film to try and teach the subject only politicizes the classroom. Unless a direct effort is made to debate the film -- which, in all fairness, may have occurred (again, details are scant).
“He might double-plus think despite unwell school.”
Whereas Colbert should double-plus think despite unwell movie.