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The Blowback on "The Tempest"

I'll be doing a chat today at 11 a.m. about my story about the global warming skeptics, "The Tempest." You can send in a question or comment or shrieking invective in advance. Fulsome praise welcome.

It's been interesting to track the reaction among the blogs, via Technorati. I have an idea of what the story said, but some readers encountered a different story altogether. We live in a time when a "feature story" that lets characters speak, and, in many instances, undermine themselves, and damage their own credibility, is too subtle for readers who are accustomed to polemics and advocacy journalism. I tried to avoid making this a back-and-forth story. Because it wasn't necessary.

Bill Gray's comparison of Al Gore to Hitler generated the most buzz. ThinkProgress noted that, last week, another GW skeptic compared Gore to Joseph Goebbels.

The Gadflyer makes a nifty comparison between Bill Gray and the old-fashioned baseball scouts in Michael Lewis's book "Moneyball":

"On one side of the divide that Lewis sets up in the book (and over-states to some extent) are the traditionalists, that is, the scouts, who observe young players in person and assess their future potential based on what their eyes and experience tell them. These are blue-collar, beer drinking guys who've spent a life time in the baseball equivalent of the trenches - in broken down hotels and half-empty ballparks in the middle of nowhere. On the other side are the so-called sabermetricians, the new wave of baseball analysts and personnel people who rely on sophisticated computer analysis of a player's previous record to project their likely future performance. Lewis portrays the scouts as resentful at the young whipper-snappers who don't actually know anything about the sound and feel and smell of the game, so wrapped up are they in their ivory tower models.

"The scouts and Gray see the computer driven intellectuals as elitist and arrogant and out of touch with how things really work. But, the striking thing about the scouts and about Gray is this: the powerful and unstated arrogance in their outlook. Their eyes tell them everything they need to know about how the world works. That humans can deceive themselves, or miss crucial details of a complex picture, or maintain perceptions colored by bias of one sort or another is implicitly ruled out here. Colbert brilliantly satirized the president for this kind of mindset during his legendary roast of the President at the recent White House correspondents' dinner, when he talked about the President knowing things in his gut, and not having to read about them to understand reality."

Quark Soup writes: "It's more of a profile and not science journalism, and Achenbach gives the skeptics wide range to offer their (often angry) views. For the most part it's stenography. He does finally clean it up a little towards the end, countering some of their main arguments with consensus views."

Matt Stoller in MyDD writes: "I was on a panel with Donald Graham a few weeks ago, and he said that the Washington Post doesn't make policy but does provide the factual universe for the country to have public policy discussions. I have a hard time believing this after reading this ill-informed article that fawns over global warming 'skeptics'." [Since I can't believe that Mr. Stoller is that tone-deaf, or would intentionally misrepresent the story, I'll presume he didn't really have time to read it.]

Meanwhile, Rabbett Run calls the story "a demolition of Bill Gray," and CapitalistImperalistPig liked it a lot, and writes, "There is pathos as well as a bit of humor in this image of Gray as Lear, howling into the storm." The Island of Doubt writes, "Achenbach covers just about every familiar argument against climate-change consensus, respectfully, and then quite neatly demolishes them."

The Daily Doubter reacts to Fred Smith's statement that "Wilderness is the least natural part of this planet":

"Smith means to say that it is unnatural for the environment to not be manipulated by man, but Smith is also falling into the is/ought fallacy. What is the case is not necessarily what ought to be the case. If it is the case that man has traditionally changed and manipulated his environment that does not mean it necessarily follows that it ought to be the case. We can assume Smith's premises to be true and his argument would still not be valid."

A brand new (like, started this morning) blog called Bloated Plutocrats writes: "...faux balance is rampant. It's why the Swift Boaters -- who peddled nothing but lies about John Kerry's combat service -- got significant airtime. It's why global warming deniers got a cover story in the Washington Post magazine."

And there's more where that came from.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 30, 2006; 6:45 AM ET
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