And the Economist is rubbish too

Since the last of the CRU-email inquiries came in, a whole string of rubbish journo's have been queuing up to try to explain why, given that the inquires enhonerated the scientists, there was so much kerfuffle over the whole issue. Naturally, given that the journo's can't have been wrong, the scientists must have done something wrong, so a whole string of tedious "yes they were exhonerated but still, they could have done better" posts have come and gone.

Pearce was trash. Monbiot was rubbish during the fuss and was rubbish afterwards though JA took the piss out of him better than I did. mt finds somewhat better from the NYT (original here), good for them.

But the one that has wound me up today is the Economist, whose headline Flawed scientists is deeply dishonest and fails the introspection test. They should have written "flawed media", since the overall failing in this sordid affair was the inability of people like them to produce accurate reporting. Their subhead is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change needs reform. The case for climate action does not ; the second half of this is OK, the first isn't. the IPCC works. I'm sure it could use some fiddling - JA found it not entirely open about the comment process, though that got fixed - but compared to the beam in the media's eye, the IPCC has motes.

So we have stuff like

Yet the science of climate change has seemed to be derailed by climategate and the discovery of some errors in IPCC reports, even the gravest of which come far short of undermining its conclusions. Part of the explanation is no doubt a noxious campaign against the credibility of environmental science in general, and climate science in particular; the internet has allowed the doubt thus manufactured to go viral. But the problem also stems from the failings of climate scientists themselves, and the institutions they work in.

and you can peruse the entire article and find not the slightest hint that the lily-white media might even be a tiny bit at fault for being a bunch of gullible fools.

[Update: Amusingly enough, there is now an Economistgate. They defend themselves - apparently they would edit a cover but never an internal picture, they say. I find their examples of other covers edited not quite convincing - the point of this one is that you couldn't tell it was edited. It would have been more honest for them to have put a note somewhere explaining the edit and linking to the original. Also, is their explanation We removed her not to make a political point, but because the presence of an unknown woman would have been puzzling to readers entirely convincing? I wouldn't consider it odd to have an unknown woman standing next to the president; indeed, I would find it ordinary. I think it is clear that they removed her because it made a "better" photo, because it made their point, or because somehow it didn't look right the other way. But to do so silently was wrong.]

[Another way to tell how bad the Economist piece is to note how Eduardo "Jugular" Zorita likes it.]

[More: I've just looked at all my Economist comments (I now have 3, having made 2 today). I'm pleased to see that my comments on "Merchants of Doubt" (pointing out how carefully The Economist avoided mentioning GW) is at a recommendation level of 35, way above any others. See comments sorted by recommendation.

[Yet more: I'm not sure when I'll lose the will to live but Andy Revkin joins the ranks of those still defending the indefensible media coverage (a href="…">ht Gareth). His excuse is that "conflict is story" and who cares about reality (no, he didn't say that last, it is only implied).]


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You're on a rampage.

I think if you go back to the articles at the time, you'll see the Economist handled climategate pretty well. You will see some variation among articles though, despite the attempt at writing with a single voice.

[Ah, good point. I *haven't* gone back into their archive and I have just relied on my general feeling they got it wrong -W]

By carrot eater (not verified) on 11 Jul 2010 #permalink

I wonder for how long can the likes of Revkin keep their "disinterested observer" facade with a straight face.

The Economist cover is generally editorial, so why not edit out an insignificant portion to better make the point? It's not much different than leaving out a frame from a draft of an editorial cartoon from the final version and not crediting it. The amateur, 30-second photoshop job to Obama's right makes it clear that there was no intent to deceive.

This isn't scientific data, manipulation to better make the point is fine, so long as it's close to reality. Making a point in journalism isn't a mathematical exercise like science is, so there is a degree of creative license.

Revkin's excuse about why he went to Michaels is the utterest of bullshit. He maintains Michaels, Christy, Lindzen and RP Jr. on his list of qualified commenters because they reliably produce juicy contrarian quotes. He could go to a real (intra-consensus) contrarian like Carl Wunsch, but Carl isn't very likely to produce a good quote to begin with and would resist being steered into it. I confronted Revkin on this once and his reply was basically that he could keep doing it so long as the scientific community continued to be polite to such scientists. Little details like being famously and consistently wrong, a self-aggrandizing gadfly and/or an employee of the fossil fuel industry are glossed over. Meh.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 11 Jul 2010 #permalink

Many journalists were wrong-footed on this one, and they're now adjusting their narrative. That is good news. If they were pushing the "whitewash" line which most of the contrarians want them to follow, that would be bad news.

The fuss is over until and unless the police come up with something about the hacking. Science survived without a single wound, the scientists are all still free to do their research, and this false scandal will be forgotten by the end of the summer.

By Tony Sidaway (not verified) on 11 Jul 2010 #permalink

Post @7 by "saç ekimi" is some fecking Turkish spam, which has been posted elsewhere at SciBorgs by "evden eve nakliyat". (I'm seriously annoyed now, as this is the third or fourth time I've seen that fake-post in the last hour or so of browsing the various blogs.)

[I've reported it as spam (whatever that does) and killed it -W]

The media's response was entirely predictable to anyone who's followed the MMR stupidity (or similar stories), or who has noticed many newspaper apologies* and/or has read Flat Earth News.

*Michael Rosen's R4 series had an episode on saying "Sorry" a little while back with a notable piece from an newspaper's solicitor on how they like to say sorry without saying sorry.

Travis #8: excuses, excuses... can you say 'whitewash'? Don't expect us to be all reasonable after smelling blood. What's the fun in that?

By Martin Vermeer (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink

What do you think about Clive Crook in the FT yesterday/today?

The Econ is quite mild in comparison.

I am not sure that it matters much if the article on emissions by our France Germany and UK reps is anything to go by in today's FT.