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The political economy of climate change

I'm by 'I fking love science'

Image by ‘I fcking love science’

Environment writer and academic Nicole Clark looks at how climate change sceptics’ views are promoted in Australian print media, concluding that the content generally reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite.

In the mass media, the political economy perspective is centred around the principal notion that the media is owned and run by elites that seek to mandate the distribution and dissemination of media content, in accordance with their own ideological values. Most notably, those values that reflect a more right wing political sentiment (Herman and Chomsky, 2008). Therefore, political economy is synonymous with the view that corporate news structures own the right to media content and therefore own the right to the message. Under these pretences, corporate news bodies are able to frame content according to the best interest, concerns and needs of the elite (Herman, 2009).

Freedom to act and freedom to promote autonomous views provides news bodies the propensity to perpetuate and distort information of an untruthful nature (Herman, 2009). News bodies therefore, have the power to distort the public perception and promote views that consequently transcend the decision process of modern polity (Gamson et al, 2013). The production of media content, infers the beliefs that dominate state and private activity in society. The way the media is propagated, is central to society (Herman, 2009); therefore, the nature of media content informally legitimises political decision. In brief, the nature of media content holds an influence unlike any other and any information that is distributed from corporate news bodies truthful or not, will always influence a core component of political discourse.

Propaganda is a phenomenon that aims to influence the thinking and attitudes of individuals in a population or society. Propaganda is most consistently linked to events in history that are associated with war and religious freedom (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2011). The ways print media is a propagated and produced can more often than not, intervene with the political economy perspective and take on characteristics that demonstrate agenda setting properties reserved for propaganda delivery (Black, 1977).

Climate change is scientific fact and humans are to blame. Humans must act to reduce carbon emissions. Action requires injecting money into the global economy at all costs- to all financial and economic institutions, to prevent further damage to the earth (IPCC, 2011). In Australian 59% of the print media is owned by News Corp, the remaining 30% represent the independent channels (Bacon, 2011). Print media owned by News Corp include, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. In Australia, an unusually high concentration of sceptics’ views on climate change are routinely observed in print media, such content rivals that of scientific fact and most notably appears to reflect the views for the best interests and concerns of the elite (Bacon, 2011).

Herman and Chomsky, (1988) adhere to the views that the political economy of mass media holds a crucial function that links political economy to the media; where media owned adversaries construct their views in ways which can be attributed to propaganda techniques. This article examines the Australian media and draws parallels to an Australian context, for content that displays a sceptic’s view of climate change. It will examine content from a report published in 2011 entitled: ‘Sceptical Climate’ by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (Bacon, 2011) the report includes a highly detailed analysis, in which the study teased out inconsistencies that were noticeably reflective of the sceptics’ viewpoint of climate change in print media.

Using examples from the report by Bacon (2011), this article will determine whether suspected techniques of propaganda outlined by Herman and Chomsky (1988) are evident in the Australian print media. In order to establish how climate change sceptics’ views are published in the print media, it will draw parallels to sceptics’ views expressed, views of which may be strongly associated with propaganda phenomenon witnessed elsewhere in the world. It will examine the propaganda influence through three filters: ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology; as described by (Herman and Chomsky, 1988).

Ownership

  • Print media ownership in Australia is concentrated and News Corp owns 56% of the print media (Bacon, 2011). Ownership ranks very highly among those who reflect the liberal or right wing political stance (Gantzkow and Shapiro, 2010). This is not only reflective of the political economy principles described above but Boykoff, (2008) notes; this is synonymous with a content analysis of print media that was distributed from news corporations in the UK in 2008. Corporations, which were also owned by News Corp. Herman and Chomsky (2008), state, high concentrations of media ownership, tend to exhibit characteristics that represent propaganda tactics. This therefore, also confirms, (that) media ownership is a strong template for analysing content with suspected propaganda substance.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate Change Rebel Fights back – The Daily Telegraph, (2010); “I am writing to offer personal briefings on why “global warming” is a non-problem to you and other party leaders during my visit. You say I am one of “those who argue that any multilateral action is by definition evil”. On the contrary: my first question is whether any action at all is required, to which the objective economic and scientific answer is – no”– an example of interconnections with elite actors and the need to maximise profits and denial of climate change, to push an agenda for no-action which is in the best interests of elites.

News sourcing

  • Journalistic professionalism in the Australian print media influences public policy. Whether journalists in the media exclude some sources in favour of others, or they simply forego the inclusion of other any sources at all, they are likely to display one dimensional characteristics (Bacon, 2011). Such characteristics were also found in the Gulf of Persia, (Nohrstedt, et al 2000). Herman (2009) states, such characteristics also demonstrate a strong tendency towards propaganda tactics commonly attributed to instances where media is both owned and run by the elites; rendering it synonymous with the political economy of mass media perspective.

Print media example

  • Title: Climate change not caused by humans: academia – The Sydney Morning Herald, (2007); “In these circumstances it is incredible that some leaders of scientific societies and academies have tried to use their authority to demand acceptance of the IPCC report.”– example of using the role of experts and intellectuals in an opinion piece from a one dimensional perspective of a journalist to construct a sceptic’s view of climate change.

Convergence in the dominant ideology

  • Reinforcement of views and ideas, using the anti-factor; that are in the best interest of the elites positions and interests is also a phenomenon that is displayed in the Australian media. High paid journalist Andrew Bolt, also an elite and climate change sceptic, published more opinion pieces on carbon pricing in Australia than any other (Bacon, 2011). Antilla, (2005) also notes the framing of climate change sceptics’ views to be a theme in the USA and demonstrates, that it was also a predominant notion that was shown in the US media over and over again. Good (2008) through extensive content analysis- discovered that, reinforcing elite views was a prominent theme and also attributes these characteristics to reflect tactics that show distinct similarities towards propaganda.

Print media example

  • Title: With Climate scientists like this no wonder we doubt – The Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt (2014); “It’s farce like that which helps explain why the CSIRO reported last week only 47 per cent of Australians buy its spin that the climate is changing and we’re to blame”. An example of how elite journalist Andrew Bolt, is reinforcing a sceptic’s opinion of climate change toward existing sceptics and those individuals who have not yet formed an opinion on the matter to invoke fear and the anti-factor, implying a government institution is the enemy-in order to push an elite agenda.

Conclusion

In Australia, by the virtue of autonomy, print media in Australia has been allowed to produce false information on false pretences to formally and informally describe scientific consensus on climate change that is neither true nor conclusive. The absolute truth of climate change has been masked. Through the wrongful disclosure of media sectors, the facts of scientifically diagnosed climate change, are wilfully and wrongfully promoted from a sceptic’s viewpoint.

Since print media, is owned by elites, it is clear climate change action is not in their best interest. In high concentrations in print media, content reflects the opinions and interests of the elites and hence the truth is subject to improper representations that inherently reflect propaganda techniques. Most of the sceptics’ viewpoint on climate change were sourced from Australia’s most powerful media body, News Corp. The techniques of propaganda present in content evidently coincide with media ownership and propaganda filtration from media ownership, news sourcing and convergence in the dominant ideology.

Most, or all content, reflects the ideals and best interests of the elite which exist in conjunction with media owned adversaries, who spread their own message, of un-truthful claims, and henceforth are clear signs of propaganda initiatives. These messages are constructed in the context that is congruently linked to the political economy perspective and reveals a sceptic’s view of climate change in the media is therefore, right wing slanted; un-moderated and freely distributed at will for the purpose of influencing political discourse.

References

Andrew Bolt, The Herald Sun (2014) http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_with_climate_scientists_like_this_no_wonder_we_doubt/

Antilla, L. (2005). Climate of scepticism: US newspaper coverage of the science of climate change. Global environmental change15(4), 338-352.

Bacon, W. (2011). A SCEPTICAL CLIMATE Media coverage of climate change in Australia 2011.

Black, J. (1977). Another perspective on mass media propaganda. General Semantics Bulletin44(45), 92-104.

Boykoff, M. T. (2008). The cultural politics of climate change discourse in UK tabloids. Political geography27(5), 549-569.

Gamson, W. A., Croteau, D., Hoynes, W., & Sasson, T. (1992). Media images and the social construction of reality. Annual review of sociology18(1), 373-393.

Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2010). What drives media slant? Evidence from US daily newspapers. Econometrica78(1), 35-71.

Good, J. E. (2008). The framing of climate change in Canadian, American, and international newspapers: A media propaganda model analysis. Canadian Journal of Communication33(2), 233.

Herman, E. S. (2009). The propaganda model after 20 years: Interview with Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture6(2), 12-22.

HERMAN, E. Y. C., & Chomsky, N. N. 1988 Manufacturing consent: the political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon.

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (Eds.). (2011). Propaganda & persuasion. Sage.

Mitigation, C. C. (2011). IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation.

Nohrstedt, S. A., Kaitatzi-Whitlock, S., Ottosen, R., & Riegert, K. (2000). From the Persian Gulf to Kosovo—War journalism and propaganda. European Journal of Communication15(3), 383-404.

 

36 comments

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  1. JaneSalmon

    Bring it on!
    No glory in war.
    Daughter of a Brigadier

  2. Tony Francis

    Hi

    I think the theme of the article below is very important but it features a glaring typo a number of times i.e. the name Chompsky instead of Chomsky (para 1, line 5; para 5, line 1; para 6, lines 2 and 8; para 7, line 7). The name comes out correctly in the references.

    Tony Francis (Twitter name @TonyFrancis70)

  3. mikestasse

    Mihael, can you PLEASE correct Noam Chomsky’s name mis-spelling…? It’s NOT ChomPsky!

  4. Kaye Lee

    It’s not just the Murdoch press. Maurice Newman, when he was chairman of the ABC, believed that climate sceptics and denialists didn’t get enough of a run in the media.

    In 2010, Christopher Monckton and James Hansen both toured Australia. Monckton is a fruitcake with no scientific qualifications at all. He is paid by people like Gina Rinehart to promote climate change denial. Hansen is an American adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He is best known for his research in the field of climatology, his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in 1988 that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change.

    Monckton was given extensive national coverage on television, radio and online. Hansen did one interview with Philip Adams. Monckton was discussed 161 times on the ABC while Hansen was only mentioned nine times.

    Have a look at this edifying article from our favourite fruitcake Lord Monckton which shows how he thinks science should be sold to Australians. Warning….it’s cringeworthy – he very obviously thinks Australians are illiterate bogans.

    http://o.b5z.net/i/u/10152887/f/Setting_the_Climate_Council_Straight_about_their_propaganda.pdf

  5. Kaye Lee

    And my personal favourite….when Monckton dressed up in Arabian clothes and pretended to be a delegate from Myanmar at an international conference on climate change. He has since been banned.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBVdbCGNilI

  6. Kaye Lee

    Great link thanks John. I had missed that. I wonder which poor sod will get sent to Paris next year for the international climate change talks. They are going to be eaten alive.

  7. Anthony O'Connell

    Opinions and beliefs reported should be based on reasonable balanced arguments and arguments are good in a democratic, egalitarian society (just like we used to be). But where there is overwhelming evidence based on scientific theory, balanced reporting actually undermines and ultimately destroys the message.

    Part of it comes from a misunderstanding of what a scientific theory actually means. To most people, a theory is defined as a thought, an idea, a concept as in “but it’s just a theory.” Scientific theory is quite different. Scientific theory is based on sound scientific research and observations with an ability to make predictions about the future. Where a theory does meet these criteria, it is considered a good theory and is retained. Where it does not, it must be discarded or modified.

    There is a world of difference between a scientific theory and a ‘theory’. Climate change deniers confuse the two, either by accident or on purpose. I suspect that Andrew Bolts of the world lean towards ‘on purpose’. It serves their agenda and that of their masters.

  8. john921fraser

    <

    @Kaye Lee

    Greg Hunt with Wikipedia in his "Favourites".

  9. John Kelly

    While News Ltd. dominates ownership it is questionable whether it dominates opinion. Social Media has impacted on both print and television news in ways unthinkable thirty years ago.

  10. Kaye Lee

    This trotting out of supposed “experts” gets to ridiculous levels when you look at someone like Malcolm Turnbull’s mate Henry Ergas who the Libs ask to give expert testimony on everything – Qantas, defence, carbon pricing, the NBN. He is an economist whose own company went broke but let’s not let that deter us.

    This is the conclusion he drew for the Business Council of Australia:

    “The Gillard government’s emissions trading scheme poses a $9 billion risk to the already stretched federal budget in its first five years if carbon price estimates prove optimistic”

    As we know, that prediction is wildly inaccurate but it didn’t stop Malcolm Turnbull appointing him to the “expert panel” to assess the costs and benefits of Turnbull’s “copper magic” NBN-lite,

    In 2009, Ergas and friends prepared an analysis of the NBN, predicting it would cost $133 a month to connect metropolitan customers and $380 a month to connect non-metro customers, “averaging out at around $170 nationally”.

    Currently, iiNet and Internode offer NBN deals starting at $49.95 a month. Optus starts at $65 a month, Telstra at $73 a month, somewhat less than the cost predicted by Henry and co.

    When appearing as an “expert” at the Australian Competition Tribunal about Qantas in 2004, Ergas was slammed by the tribunal:

    “On some occasions, the presiding member asked the experts whether they could answer the question put to them and asked them not to give a long explanation, but to no avail. Such an attitude and conduct of an expert witness leads to a conclusion of partiality and an inability to express an objective expert opinion upon which reliance can be placed.”

    But let’s keep asking him what to do because he tells us what we want him to say.

  11. nickthiwerspoon

    Don’t want to appear pedantic, but it’s principAL not principLE. PrincipAL means main, important, while principLE means a fundamental truth or proposition. “The principAL of a school should have principLES”

    Also, it’s autonOmous not autonYmous. ‘Nom’ comes from the Ancient Greek ‘nomos’ which means ‘law’, ‘autos’ is AG for ‘self’. On the other hand, the ‘nym’ in synonym, antonym, anonymous, etc comes from the AG ‘onoma’, meaning ‘name’ (drop the initial ‘o’ and you can see that it’s cognate with English ‘name’, German ‘namen’, Latin ‘nomen’)

  12. corvus boreus

    You’re not pedantic,Nickthiwerspoon, just a little picky and very precise(there is a distinction).
    Loved the breskdown of linguistic lineage. 😉

  13. corvus boreus

    It’s “breakdown” you sub-literate avian!(post to self)

  14. Keith

    Here is a clip of Monckton views on climate change being debunked.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXS8l3_Yhh0

    The other matter that is becoming more difficult for climate change deniers whether elites or individuals is what is actually happening weatherwise around the planet.
    This year there has been severe drought in Brazil, California, Arizona and other US States; there has been severe flooding in several US States, Britain, Bosnia/Serbia, and China; parts of the US have been hit by snow storms where they had not been experienced before; Alaska, Greenland and Scandinavia have had very warm winters; coastlines are being eroded in Alaska as ice that had normally protected coastlines is no longer there; glaciers are in retreat around the globe ( with a few exceptions); there are severe bush fires raging in California and Arizona. In relation to Californian bush fires, many have commented on how there is no longer a bushfire season it is year round worry. So, what has been experienced this year has been what climate scientists have been telling us we can expect, changes in the climate due to global warming.

    Climate change deniers nit pick research completed by climate scientists; some skeptical scientists do write papers; but, I have yet to see a single research paper written by a a skeptical scientist that has the depth of supporting references as shown in the recently published NCA document.
    The study of climate is a science and not a political ideology as claimed by some deniers.

  15. guest

    Warmists vs Denialists = Laws of Science vs “Laws” of Economics.

    No wonder these two groups have problems talking with each other.

  16. corvus boreus

    Or what happens when the functioning systems that maintain habitability within our biosphere are externalised in an abstract numbers game played to profit a handful of hominids.

  17. Stephen Tardrew

    Nick:

    You don’t want to appear to be pedantic and then proceed to be pedantic. God spelling poor logic. Give it a miss.

  18. Keith

    Like there are tipping points in climate change; ultimately a tipping point will transpire where economies cannot mitigate against the damage being done by severe weather events.
    In the long run it makes not a jot of difference if there is plenty of fossil fuels that can be accessed if the breadbasket regions of the planet are compromised in relation to the amount of food that can be produced due to extreme weather events.

  19. Stephen Tardrew

    Skeptical The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism is an excellent handbook partly compiled by John Cook one of our per-eminent climate scientists and communicators.

    It can be downloaded for free and discusses the psychological dynamics of skepticism and strategies for deflecting criticism. The problem is, off course, frontal attacks do not work so more devious strategies are required. The struggle is to change the opinions of people who claim to understand science, and in their world they are convinced of the veracity of their claim, as they vehemently resist any attempted criticism. It is a type of psychological myopia involving cognitive dissonance. I bought this model and the cost of giving up attachment to it is too high for my fragile ego to bare. It ends up being a damn complex and convoluted issue.

    We really need a logic implant for these misinformed and mistaken dogmatists.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/The-Scientific-Guide-to-Global-Warming-Skepticism.html

  20. Stephen Tardrew

    Nick:

    Damn good spelling poor logic:

    Nick you have to be tolerant of peoples limitations as many of us blog on the run and there are other contributing issues.

  21. Stephen Tardrew

    Michael just lost one to the spam ether.

  22. corvus boreus

    Another tipping point is the potential triggering of “positive feedbacks”, an example being the possibility of Artic melt triggering the release of huge quantities of methane hydrates, introducing a runaway factor initiated by our actions but beyond our control.
    Those interested in the subject should research the findings of the joint arctic research group and the recent report delivered by Dr Natalya Sharpova. Those wishing to enjoy the day with an optimistic outlook should probably avoid it like the plague.

  23. John

    Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Leemings to the climate cliff.

  24. corvus boreus

    On Stephen’s suggestions for debating sceptics(advice on reactionary denialists; don’t bother) I favor a simple approach. Chances are, neither you nor the unconvinced individual fully understand atmospheric gases and their effects on climate. You will both be debating without a firm footing, or if you are versed in climatology and it’s influencing factors, your responses will glaze their gaze.
    Keep things within the realms of your own evidence based convictions, at a level the recipient can comprehend.
    I do not claim to understand much about atmospheric gases beyond basic respiration, photosynthesis, and combustion. I do understand that trees shade the surface of the earth from direct sunlight and absorb warmth, absorb carbon from the air into their structure and store water through hydro-tumescence.
    When you cut down a tree you lose these properties,particularly the sun-umbrella properties. It will be cooler in a forest than an adjoining paddock, and hottest in a bitumen carpark nearby. This is human activities affecting micro-climate. A series of little micro-climates can comprise a macro-climate. A series of macro-climates is the sum of our biosphere. We have cut down a noticeable proportion of the Earth’s forests, which must have an effect on surface temperatures.
    It’s also my belief that having heaps of fires burning around the place makes things hotter.
    This is gut level knowledge that most people would understand and few would refute. If it seems simplistic, consider it as an entry level application test to assess the person’s qualifications to progress to a secondary level debate. It is an approach that has, in my personal experience, made a few indoctrinated minds contemplate their basic(Bolt fed) assumptions.
    P.s. ,Stephen, if Nick’s digressions on language seemed irritating and non-constructive, remember, Nicole is studying for a science degree. The contents of her submitted thesis will be subjected to the often scathing attentions of peer review and examination by university academics. She has to brace herself for the scrutiny of professional and obsessional pedants even to the level of criticising diction and spelling.

  25. Stephen Tardrew

    Corvus: point taken.

  26. Pingback: The political economy of climate change | Clima...

  27. Nicole Clark

    Hi everyone, Michael and I are working on the spelling errors, and MY personal sincerest apologies on that (as it was my fault) , sometimes these things can get away from you! But all the same, it is always embarrassing to an academic when this happens!

  28. Roswell

    Nicole, I’m not fussed one little bit. It’s a fine article and that’s all that matters.

  29. Nicole Clark

    Thank you Roswell, I appreciate your kind words 🙂

  30. corvus boreus

    Ditto, fine line between dry factuality and general readibility, let alone attention to detail 🙂

  31. Nicole Clark

    Thank you Corvus :). I just finished writing something that Michael and I are working on getting up, it’s sort of more blatant and opinionated in what I might call my first ‘opinion piece’ so definitely stay tuned as it should go up by tomorrow.

  32. Cait Wallace

    Don’t the so called elite realise that climate change will affect their grand children just like the rest of humanity.

  33. sam

    If anyone is interested how deniers change the data sets to make global warming look less real:

    http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/02/roy-spencers-latest-deceit-and-deception.html

    Of course there are no limits to these fruit cakes. All different flavours.

    They even contradict their own previous statements going from ‘there is no warming’ to ‘there was warming but not now’ and im sure they will come back with ‘there is actually cooling the whole time’ at some point. There is money behind this and its all ‘think tanked’ into recurring periodically in the media such that the debate never goes beyond arguing about these. Just wait for the next ‘cold weather’ event you will see it will be brought back into the mainstream to have the conversation again.

    Now the global warming problem is getting quite urgent. (due to political obfuscation/corporations there is not shortage of money or economics, people willing to work to achieve these goals one would say some capitalists have caught on to this eg: germany/large swathes of europe even the right see it as a market for ‘products’ to make money. But not Australia they are one of the last bastions of morons in charge who dont ‘believe’).

    I for one am critical about the free market approach to renewables. (which others would disagree)
    Due to 15 years of inaction the scale of the problem now requires a government ‘going to war’/’full employment’ style solution.

    Eg: Australia should have a grand plan by now eg: ~100 or more base load base load thermal solar plants, massive wind, geothermal and (some massive scale projects) base load tidal to power the whole country in 10 years… THEN for all the difficult problems: agriculture/steel manufacturing/aluminium/recycle materials like electronics to recover raw materials etc.
    Set up the emmission trading scheme for that. Hence why i think even the greens policy is too conservative and ETS proposed by Rudd government in 07/08 was riddled with caveats/exceptions that would do to little to late. And whats so depressing is that was almost achieved 🙁

    Common rubbish from these inumerates/liars:

    *’its the sun’ *disproven for at least 10 years. But keeps coming back.
    *clouds will stop it *disproven, parameraterized in a variety of studies/data sets recently ~3 years ago.
    *medieval ‘warm’ period/’cold period *has always been disproven (climate != weather). Combination of variables and lack of data. (except dendrochronology and all that stuff which disproves their claims)
    *no warming in antarctic actually cooling *disproven, logical falacy comparing the outcomes of north pole to south pole.
    (Relies on some counter intuitive behaviour of ice sheets/moisture content in air relative to temperature and how ice forms to trick people into thinking the antarctic is not affected. *air at colder temps holds less moisture therefroe less ice as it increases to the threshold of 0 degrees (no ice forms) more ice forms and air velocity are 2 lerge variables in this behaviour.)

    Never one do any of these liars mention that the concept of a ‘greenhouse gas’ is very old science (spectroscopy) such that if the problem is viewed from a top down perspective the ‘variables’ causing global warming are obvious is in undeniably greenhouse gas from industry/agriculture/humans. Not something like the sun which is a very small variable at most +-0.1 to 0.3 degrees compared to the +3 degrees caused by said gases.
    And then there is ocean acidification which is a nice corollary to the whole process.

    Oh and they cry foul about statistical methods in climate modelling which they would gladly accept if it involved a cancer treatment, aircraft design or any of the other inumerable ways complex systems that work everywhere else in science/engineering. Saying something is ‘complex’ does not mean it is wrong and eg: something computationally complex may look/behave very simply and vica versa.

    Really one of the issues i hate sorry for the rant 😉

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