For years Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe has specialized in columns that seem designed to incite a torrent of letters to the editor, and this pattern is nowhere more striking than in his periodic columns denying global warming. Perhaps such letters provide ‘evidence’ that Mr. Jacoby is contributing to public debate and therefore merits a platform for his ever-predictable screeds. What is less obvious is why the Globe feels compelled to print his attacks on science.
Today’s column is a striking illustration of Jacoby’s method. He begins by searching for his opponent here settling on Bill Clinton’s recent climate change. Our former President remarked, “we look like a joke, right? You can’t win the nomination of one of the major parties in the country if you admit that the scientists are right?” Jacoby then pulls out his favorite tactic of contacting one of the vanishingly small minority of scientists who reject the ever-increasing torrent of peer-reviewed scientific research outlining the details and mechanics of global warming. Jacoby concludes with a circular argument, asserting, “We’ll know that the science is settled when the battles have come to an end,” The problem here is that there is no real battle, only a manufactured reality, which Jacoby is taking part in creating, so that American Republicans can pass around emails glorifying denial to each other. It’s a remarkable strategy: so long as deniers continue to deny climate change they can claim that the science is not settled. With this approach deniers can assert that the science is not settled indefinitely. Manufacture a false version of reality, and then use that manufactured reality to reject reailty.
Writing letters to the editor at this point may actually make the problem worse—Jacoby wants, after all, to create the illusion that he is taking part in a real debate. However, the Globe’s stance in continuing to publish these columns raises further questions. Under the First Amendment, Jacoby is free to write what he wishes, but the Constitution does not require the Globe a platform for repeated attacks against science.
Since the Globe is ready to publish columns that deny global warming, it’s worthwhile to wonder what else the Globe would feel fit to print ? Would the Globe publish columns denying that smoking causes cancer? Would the Globe publish columns defending slavery? Why then, do they see fit to take part in stopping any effective response to global warming until it is too late to do anything except suffer the consequences?