In the category of sloppy pseudo-balance-driven reporting today, we have the following comparison between George Will's making stuff up and Al Gore's exaggerating a consequence of a well-established phenomenon. The New York Times' Andrew Revkin writes:
Earlier this month, former Vice President Al Gore and the Washington Post columnist George Will made strong public statements about global warning — from starkly divergent viewpoints.
Mr. Gore, addressing a hall filled with scientists in Chicago, showed a slide that illustrated a sharp spike in fires, floods and other calamities around the world and warned the audience that global warming “is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.”
Mr. Will, in a column attacking what he said were exaggerated claims about global warming’s risks, chided climate scientists for predicting an ice age three decades ago and asserted that a pause in warming in recent years and the recent expansion of polar sea ice undermined visions of calamity ahead.
Both men, experts said afterward, were guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.
In the first place, George Will is on record for denying that global warming is taking place–he's not just denying its risks.
Gore, on the other hand, engaged in hyperbole about the risks of global warming, a phenomenon qualified scientists justifiably believe to be taking place.
The difference, seems to me, is fairly obvious. Is what Gore says wrong? Probably. But obviously not in the same Will is wrong.
Here's some prescience by Revkin:
In a paper being published in the March-April edition of the journal Environment, Matthew C. Nisbet, a professor of communications at American University, said Mr. Gore’s approach, focusing on language of crisis and catastrophe, could actually be serving the other side in the fight.
“There is little evidence to suggest that it is effective at building broad-based support for policy action,” Dr. Nisbet said. “Perhaps worse, his message is very easily countered by people such as Will as global-warming alarmism, shifting the focus back to their preferred emphasis on scientific uncertainty and dueling expert views.”
But Dr. Nisbet said that for Mr. Will, there was little downside in stretching the bounds of science to sow doubt.
Criticism of Mr. Will’s columns, Dr. Nisbet said, “only serves to draw attention to his claims while reinforcing a larger false narrative that liberals and the mainstream press are seeking to censor rival scientific evidence and views.”
Indeed, perhaps Nisbet could add that a primary cause of doubt in the public's mind is reporting of this variety. Perhaps it is Revkin's job to help us see the difference between Al Gore's occasional and not wholly unsupported exaggeration and George Will's dishonest rejection of well-established science. George Wil, in other words, is to blame for making stuff up. This is not somehow Al Gore's fault.