Will says there is no man made global warming, and that it is all going to be OK? All the scientific warming measurements for 2008 are inconsequential? And he is called the most influential writer in America?
By Larry Ray / The Rag Blog / January 22, 2009
I sometimes read Newsweek magazine’s back page column by George F. Will because he can be a fine writer. In 1977, Will won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Heretofore, I usually have been only mildly irritated by his generally conservative timbre and his trademark tendency toward sesquipedalian prose. But with his PhD from Princeton and his M.A. from Oxford, he instinctively must scatter about long, generally unfamiliar words like journalistic territorial scent marks on the page. Will has been called, perhaps “ … the most influential writer in America” by the Washington Post writers group. And that is what troubles me.
Will’s recent column in the January 26th edition of Newsweek see-saws between tepid stamps of approval for George W. Bush’s spare positive moves, and a final verbal lashing for his incompetence and failed leadership. His latest column artfully winds its way through his assessments of the name, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” to the failures of hurricane Katrina disaster assistance, the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, and then in a seeming involuntary, uncontrollable Tourette Syndrome burst of keyboard tapping, this paragraph is awkwardly forced into the column:
Within the lifetimes of most Americans now living, today’s media-manufactured alarm about man-made global warming might be an embarrassing memory. The nation will then be better off because Bush—during whose administration the embarrassing planet warmed not at all—refused to be stampeded toward costly “solutions” to a supposed crisis that might be chimerical, and that, if real, could be adapted for considerably less cost than will be sunk in efforts at prevention.
Wait, did I just read that? Yep. Will says there is no man made global warming, and that it is all going to be OK? All the scientific warming measurements for 2008 are inconsequential? And he is called the most influential writer in America?
Will chooses his words carefully. He qualifies his claims with “man-made,” “supposed crisis” and “if real,” all code that positions him way to the right. But then he suggests the supposed crisis “might be chimerical” (imagine your own mythical fire-belching she-goat animal made from mismatched body parts) to remain true to his logocentrism, while leaving a door open for maybe, kinda, sorta some kind of climate change. The derailing of his column’s train of thought from reviewing Bush’s two-term presidency to suddenly, jarringly pitching his denial of global warming is what troubles me.
Ultraconservative eagerness to jump on most any convenient juicy liberal-bashing rumor and rush it to press showed itself, sadly, in Will’s Washington Post column this past June when he wrote that “Drilling is underway 60 miles (97 km) off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.” Dick Cheney, and GOP House leader, John Boehner both cited the same wild claim to the press, wanting to believe the right wing fiction. All three were forced to offer retractions after Democats and energy experts pointed out the gross error. But the egg had already dried on their faces by then.
A little more poking around shows that George F. Will is, in fact, a darling of man-made global warming denier web sites like climatechangefraud.com who declare they are, “dedicated to debunking, reviewing, and responding to the shrill cries of the media and the global warming zealots who have embraced anthropogenic global warming (AGW) as an eco-religion and not as a scientific endeavor for answers.” I wonder if Will wrote that paragraph for their web site? Most folks just say manmade instead of anthropogenic.
All the debunkers hate Al Gore with a frightening, almost pathological stridency. The professed belief that carbon dioxide has nothing to do with global warming is almost like a secret fraternity handshake among rabid ultraconservatives. In a December 29th, 2007 column Will wrote, “Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize that should have gone to nine-time Grammy winner Sheryl Crow, who proposed saving the planet by limiting—to one—”how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”
And from that strange, tasteless toilet paper comparison, Will also has sweepingly minimized concerns of the world’s top atmospheric and environmental scientists with observations like, “The warming that is reasonably projected might be problematic, although not devastating, for the much-fretted-about polar bears, but it will be beneficial for other species. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment anticipates increasing species richness.”
George’s father, Frederick L. Will, was a professor of philosophy, and specialized in epistemology, at the University of Illinois. Ironically, Will certainly must know that epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion. Today Will sadly seems to be unable or unwilling to make that distinction in his writing.
[Retired journalist Larry Ray is a Texas native and former Austin television news anchor. He also posts at The iHandbill.]