Earlier this week Paul Krugman wrote about the rhetorical effectiveness of spreading little falsehoods. These little lies, as he called them, get repeated over and over again first by the irresponsible media (Drudge, talk radio, Hannity, and so on), then they work their way up to Howard Kurtz and various other mainstream outlets, who take them or their authors seriously. It’s not of course only a right wing thing–just ask Bob Somerby or Glenn Greenwald. These little falsehoods take various forms. The most obvious is the malicious fabrication (e.g., recent inventions about Nancy Pelosi). Less obvious is the subtle or not so subtle distortion of views you don’t agree with. Those are the little lies George Will tells. Today, for instance, he returns to the theme of global warming (which he insists on calling climate change, despite the propangandistic origin of this phrase). The article is a Summa of all of Will’s recent climatic confusions, so it might take a while. So for today we’ll just comment on this:
>In a campaign without peacetime precedent, the media-entertainment-environmental complex is warning about global warming. Never, other than during the two world wars, has there been such a concerted effort by opinion-forming institutions to indoctrinate Americans, 83 percent of whom now call global warming a ” serious problem.” Indoctrination is supposed to be a predicate for action commensurate with professions of seriousness.
What are “opinion-forming institutions”? Are they the kind–like right wing talk radio or the Post editorial page–that endeavor to produce loud and sometimes false opinions about political questions? Or are they the ones (like universities) that produce what sometimes get called, true opinions with a logos–i.e., knowledge–about the world around us? Not all opinion-forming institutions, in other words, are the same; if so, parents can save a lot of money by sending their kids to Rush Limbaugh University. Aside from the sneering stupidity of the remark about the “entertainment-environmental complex” (this from a man, mind you, who takes a science-fiction novel (by a Hollywood producer) about global warming to be scientific evidence on par with the consensus of credentialed climatologists), we’d also wonder what “indoctrinate” (used twice here) means. One usually uses such terms in order to stress the value-laden character of the views being taught. Rarely would one use it to describe the process of informing someone of some other other fact about the world. Some call that “teaching.”