“Turn the water back on!” exhorts Sean
Hannity, 14 times or so, despite the fact that no one turned the water
off. His mendacious catchphrase was repeated seven more times by
teabagging flunkies in the faux documentary, “The Valley Hope Forgot.” The word “drought” was uttered by Hannity exactly once.
resonates in California, a state with 12.2 percent unemployment. So Fox News fabricated a narrative taken from the plot of Chinatown to complement Dustbowl images from The Grapes of Wrath.
Chinatown fictionalized the history of the Owens Valley Land Grab,
wherein corrupt government
officials diverted water away from local farmers to enhance the value
of developers’ real estate investments in the San Fernando Valley. Hannity leaves no doubt about who, in his fantasy, turned the water off. “I would like to put aside
politics,” said Hannity, “because if Barack Obama allows
-- tells his environmental extremists in his administration to stand down and
turn the water on, he will get the first credit from me, OK?”
Facts are not welcome in the parallel universe of Fox News. The last time California had a drought this bad, it
had ten million fewer people. For the last three years, the statewide runoff
has been 40% below average. Eight of the last ten years have been the hottest
on record, and regional disputes over water rights have become increasingly
contentious everywhere. Just ask people in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. According to network policy that prohibits the acknowledgment of
inconvenient truths, the words
“climate change” and “global warming” were banished altogether.
As a pretext for
assigning blame, Hannity referenced a court order that
dictated how the state must intermittently limit diversions out of the Sacramento-San
Joaquin River Delta toward the agricultural region further south. But compliance with that order had been
preempted by a subsequent injunction.
Even if the plan to limit
diversions were put in effect, water flow to the agricultural region would have
been reduced by 9% below the historical average. The lion’s share of water flow
reductions, more than 75%, was traceable to the drought.
Hannity’s pretext follows the
standard right-wing narrative that says environmentalists are job
killers. “Farms in this once fertile area have been dried up all
because the government has put the interest of a two-inch minnow before
great people that you see out here tonight,” he said.
Except the issue is not really a
single freshwater fish, the delta smelt. Nor is it merely the dramatic decline of other fish, including longfin smelt,
threadfin shad, juvenile striped bass, green sturgeon and Central Valley
Chinook salmon. It’s the safety of California’s
drinking water. The near extinction of the delta smelt is symptomatic of the
health of the entire ecosystem of the delta, which receives
50 percent of California’s total stream flow and provides
drinking water to two-thirds of state residents. Excessive
pumping of water out of the delta reverses the natural river flow, so that salt
water from San Francisco Bay intrudes into the delta, which is below sea level.
The drought exacerbates the problem. Last April, the environmental group American Rivers summed up the situation as
The largest watershed in California is on the verge
of collapse, threatening the water supply for 25 million people, placing the capital
of the nation’s most populous state at high risk of flooding, and damaging a once
productive and healthy ecosystem that supported the nation’s most diverse salmon runs.
Climate change, population growth, water supply demands, and endangered species
listings have brought this outmoded water and
flood management system to the brink.
None of this would ever be disclosed by Fox News, where dishonesty and demagoguery have gone
viral. Roger Ailes has one overriding mission, to prevent any intelligent discussion of the vital issues of our day.