Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WaPo Blog Policy Promotes Climate Astroturfing

One of the unintended consequences of commercialized blogging is that it creates whole new areas of conflict of interest for the traditional media attempting to make the transition to the online world. The high-fiber media have always been subject to the possible interference between the business side and the editorial side of publishing. In a recent example, WaPo publisher Katharine Weymouth absolutely, positively, in no way interfered with an article being written for the newspaper's Sunday magazine:
Post Magazine Killed 'Depressing' Story.
No. Really. All just a coincidence.

The online arena provides a new dimension, however. Among the usual denialist rants in response to a recent pathetic Climate Despot style hack job at the online WaPo's weather blog was this little fact-free gem by one "gpp1111" (spelling and grammar preserved):
What is of most concern is how skeptics of the global warming theory are treated. I have in the past made comments on blogs only to find that people had researched who I was. They don't answer my questions or debate the facts, what they want to know is who is making the argument. I have been accused of being paid by the fossil fuel companies (I wish I was), many supporters of the theory seem to think any contrarians must have alterior motives (than just the truth). To be called Holocaust deniers, flatlanders and such, using disparaging comments, ad hominem attacks, must be similar to what other skeptics experienced in 1930's Germany, skeptics of you know who. Have not noteable scientists who support the theory called for Nuremburg style trials. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/6/23/17350/3999/231/540815 Science is not supposed to have consensus. Consensus is a political term. Many/most scientific discoveries have come from contrarians. It is dangerous to promote consensus on any subject by simply savaging your opponents (or trying to do so). Fortunately the truth has its own power. Mother Nature is weighing in on the subject. Some alarmists are now agreeing that temperatures might fall for the next 20 years (but they say this gives humanity more time to prepare for the inevitable warming and just wait and see how hot it is going to get once the 20 years of cooling is over). The past ten years of cooling temperatures show that "natural forces" are more powerful than man made ones. It never crosses the alarmists minds that perhaps these same natural forces that are making the earth cooler also made it warmer from the late 70s to the 90s. Delaying cap and trade legislation now is critical because it will be even more difficult in the future to pass it when cooler temperatures (and the resulting shorter growing season) are felt by people throughout the globe. www.isthereglobalwarming.com
The initials gpp are fairly generic, but some determined Googling against the referenced web site along with a good memory for names and an extensive bookmark list turned up some interesting connections, especially a comment earlier this year at Chris Mooney's Intersection blog:
Re Geoffrey Pohanka

Mr. Pohankas’ web site, which his name linked to, doesn’t identify him. However, anyone living in the Washington DC area is familiar with the name Pohanka, which is a family that owns a number of automobile dealerships in the area. And guess what, Mr. Pohanka is the president of the Pohanka Lexus auto dealership and a member of the Pohanka family that owns these dealerships.

Mr. Pohanka, as one whose family is heavily invested in the automotive dealership industry, thus has a vested interest in denying global warming as the automobile industry is one of the major contributors to the production of carbon dioxide and other carbon emissions. Because of course, measures to alleviate such production will probably have a negative effect on that industry. Nice try Mr. Pohanka but its pretty hard to hide from Google.
Apparently Pohanka had no problem appearing in public when he was recently interviewed on the PBS Nightly Business Report, where he was identified as the president of Pohanka Automotive Group, whose 14 dealerships in the Washington, DC area had sold 800 cars under the Cash for Clunkers program and was awaiting $3 million from the government in payments.

Under the WaPo's "free speech" policy, gpp1111 is just another grassroots guy/gal from Woodbridge or Wherever, whereas in reality he has a vested interest in policies that allow him to sell more high-profit SUVs and trucks while he feeds at the public trough for stimulus money and the WaPo rakes in more revenue (originally typed "profits" here, but braincheck overruled, considering the state of the publishing business) from one of its major remaining advertisers.

Nothing to see here, folks, just free speech at work.


What's in a name? said...

Wonderful post and very articulately argued.

The mainstream media has been manufacturing news and astroturfing for decades now.

Collaborative media has made it slightly easier to arrive at the truth. As a counter-measure, what I would like to call capitalist forces, are increasing the noise.

In other words the closer we get to the needle in the haystack - the more hay the pile onto what is left-over.

The way Google is structured, it allows people to pay to get on the top-of-the-haystack. This causes even more noise and digging for the truth is becoming increasingly difficult.

A good example of this in my opinion, is how the Internet and the media have been hijacked by the health-hcare debate. This has created a wonderful smoke screen for continued air bombing with drones in AfPak.

This use of common property resources (the world wide web) to cover-up and change the facts is worrying.

Anand Bala

CapitalClimate said...

Thank you for your interest. As modes of communication become more widespread, there is a kind of Gresham's Law of information in effect, in which bad information drives out the good. There is enough economic incentive involved, however, that it's not necessary to invoke political conspiracy as an explanation.

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