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The Self-Justifying Myth

George Monbiot, Guardian
People love films like The Great Global Warming Swindle, because they tell us what we want to believe.

… The most powerful story of all, endlessly narrated by the hired hands of the fossil fuel industry, just as it was once told by the sugar slavers, is that we are both all-important and utterly insignificant. We are too important to be denied any of the delights we crave, but too insignificant to exert any impact on planetary processes. We fill the whole frame of the story when it suits us and shrink to a dot when that scale is more convenient. We are capable of occupying both niches simultaneously.
(22 July 2008)
Most recent column by Monbiot: Don’t be fooled by the climate change bill. Carbon trading torpedoes it

Contributor Shane writes:
George Monbiot has this and another story Distortions, Falsehoods, Fabrications posted at his web site after the release of a recent report about the above mentioned film.

Probably the best critique of Swindle has been put together by the group at OfcomSwindleComplaint, and you you can read their full submission online or as a pdf.

BBC2 climate change drama: Burn Up

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian
In London, a handsome, thrusting young oil man with a perfect blond family gets a big fat promotion and a big fat new car. Over in Saudi Arabia, six geologists are gunned down in the desert, while the one who was taking a poo behind a dune at the time (happily, with the crucial memory stick in his pocket) gets away. Back in London, a little girl – one of the perfect blonds – has an asthma attack, and an Innuit lady, protesting against oil exploration, sets herself on fire (after pouring petrol over her head: maybe there’s an irony there). The handsome oil man begins to wonder if burning oil isn’t the answer. Also, he has the hots for the icy greeny, played by Neve Campbell. They go to the Arctic together, to the funeral of the burnt Inuit lady.

Hearts melt. Along with the icecap.

It gets steamy.

The transformation of the handsome oil man – from JR Ewing to George Monbiot – will presumably be complete by the end of part two on Friday.
(24 July 2008)

China’s Guerrilla War for the Web

David Bandurski, Far Eastern Economic Review
They have been called the “Fifty Cent Party,” the “red vests” and the “red vanguard.” But China’s growing armies of Web commentators-instigated, trained and

financed by party organizations-have just one mission: to safeguard the interests of the Communist Party by infiltrating and policing a rapidly growing Chinese Internet. They set out to neutralize undesirable public opinion by pushing pro-Party views through chat rooms and Web forums, reporting dangerous content to authorities.

By some estimates, these commentary teams now comprise as many as 280,000 members nationwide, and they show just how serious China’s leaders are about the political challenges posed by the Web. More importantly, they offer tangible clues about China’s next generation of information controls-what President Hu Jintao last month called “a new pattern of public-opinion guidance.”

It was around 2005 that party leaders started getting more creative about how to influence public opinion on the Internet.
(July 2008 issue)

Bad Days for Newsrooms—and Democracy

Chris Hedges, truthdig
The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.

All these forces have combined to strangle newspapers. And the blood on the floor, this year alone, is disheartening. Some 6,000 journalists nationwide have lost their jobs, news pages are being radically cut back and newspaper stocks have tumbled. Advertising revenues are dramatically falling off with many papers seeing double-digit drops.

… Newspapers, when well run, are a public trust. They provide, at their best, the means for citizens to examine themselves, to ferret out lies and the abuse of power by elected officials and corrupt businesses, to give a voice to those who would, without the press, have no voice, and to follow, in ways a private citizen cannot, the daily workings of local, state and federal government.

… We live under the happy illusion that we can transfer news-gathering to the Internet. News-gathering will continue to exist, as it does on this Web site and sites such as ProPublica and Slate, but these traditions now have to contend with a new, widespread and ideologically driven partisanship that dominates the dissemination of views and information, from Fox News to blogger screeds. The majority of bloggers and Internet addicts, like the endless rows of talking heads on television, do not report. They are largely parasites who cling to traditional news outlets.
(21 July 2008)
Good points, though the author paints a too-rosy picture of traditional newspaper journalism which is also permeated with ideology, with its own set of taboos and blinders.

Related from The New York Observer: Is 2008 the Worst Year in Modern Newspaper History? -BA