Accuracy in Media

As coverage of the confirmation hearings of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R.-Okla., President Trump’s pick to lead NASA, indicates, the mainstream media continues to confuse acceptance of its worldview of environmental issues with qualifications for top government jobs.

Salon’s Keith Spencer summed up the view:

“Say what you will about President Trump, but when it comes to his federal nominees, the man is remarkably consistent: He has a secretary of education who detests public education, a secretary of interior who hates public lands, and a housing and urban development secretary who ‘has a lifetime of anti-union and anti-worker positions,’ according to professor Eric Loomis.

“Not a man to break a streak, the president has nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R.-Okla., for National Aeronautics and Space Administration chief, despite Bridenstine’s misunderstanding of the fundamental premises of science, in particular, climate science, the study of which is one of NASA’s main functions.”

Translation: These nominees do not toe the liberal or mainstream media line.

The Salon story accuses Bridenstine of using “a tactic perfected by the tobacco industry, specifically the sowing of doubt to obscure science.”

“In the same vein, Bridenstine once said that ‘climate ‘has always changed,’ and noted ‘periods of time long before the internal combustion engine when the Earth was much warmer than it is today.’”

Spencer quoted Christian Davenport of the Washington Post, who wrote Bridenstine said global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago, “which isn’t true,” Davenport said.

“Indeed,” Spencer wrote, “Bridenstine has a long history of misconstruing, denying, or misrepresenting climate science. As with many die-hard conservative climate deniers, it is hard to tell whether he truly believes what he says, or if the cognitive dissonance – from the knowledge that industrial production in a free-market economy is slowly making Earth uninhabitable – is too much for his dogmatic synapses to bear.”

What’s too much for synapses to bear is this attack on Bridenstine, capitalism and conservative environmental management. Bridenstine is right that temperatures basically have not risen for more than 20 years now. He is right the climate has always changed and that the earth has been cooler with more carbon in the atmosphere and warmer with less. 

He also is right in what he has announced he plans to do as head of NASA. He wants to shrink its involvement in the study of Earth’s climate – numerous other federal agencies already do this – and refocus it on what it was originally intended to be: the “pre-eminent spacefaring nation in the world.”

Opponents in the media and elsewhere point out he would be the first politician to hold the job and does not have the scientific background previous administrators have had.

A Navy Reserve pilot now in his third term in Congress, Bridenstine has been interested in space even before he came to Washington. He was the director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium for two years, and last year, he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, which calls for NASA to devise a 20-year plan to return to space.   

Bridenstine is the kind of guy who gets mischaracterized a lot in the mainstream media. He holds a variety of positions that are popular on the right but not on the left, and the media insists this makes him an extremist.

The official position of the Trump administration is that climate change is worthy of keeping an eye on and not much more. The media has not gotten used to this idea, even though more than half of America agrees. Trump won’t change; the media probably won’t either.

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