Tom Brokaw's two-hour Global Warming special for the Discovery Network airs tonight at 9 pm EST, and has attracted the attention of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. They put out a press release earlier in the week accusing Brokaw of tainting the program with "a lack of objectivity and balance", a feat they suggest is in line with Brokaw's suspiciously alliterative "partisan past".
Cautioning viewers away from a Discovery Channel special on improving the environment, it seems to me, is right up there with dropping a dime on the schoolgirls on your street corner for not having a vendor's license; serves them right for not selling the lemonade you like. What on Earth could be the point? And if firing off a press release to point out the biases of various television broadcasts is the domain of the US Senate, surely they would have to assemble an an entire wing of scribblers to cover the Fox News network alone.
And what of these biases, what of the obvious "agenda" Dave Shiflett so ominously alludes to in his review of the program for the Bloomberg News? Is Brokaw egregiously concerned about the future of the planet? Is he starting a war on sunshine? Shiflett muses about whether Brokaw is a "stooge for environmentalists" (burn!), as global warming critics are accused of being stooges for industry with a financial interest in the status quo. That's about the level of debate you can expect from negative coverage of the special, and often global warming itself; throw a bunch of words around and hope no one notices the lack of substance in your refutation. The "I know you are but what am I" tactic is certainly in evidence in that ludicrous press release, which falls over itself to point out that Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor featured in the program, endorsed Kerry in 2004; clearly his credibility as a scientist is shot. And if that doesn't convince you, check this out: "In addition, Oppenheimer also serves as a "science advisor" to the left wing and politically charged group Environmental Defense and was a co-founder of Climate Action Network." And then my favorite: "Finally, Oppenheimer appeared with Hollywood activist Leonardo DiCaprio and Gore's movie producer Laurie David on Oprah Winfrey's talk show." An environmental defense group and an appearance on Oprah: wow, what a chump.
Perhaps the success of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and the even better Who Killed the Electric Car? has got the committee feeling defensive. That's fine with me, especially if it sparks a substantive debate. Perhaps they counted on not that many people paying to hit a theater and get a lecture on the environment. Less fine, but the entertainment dollar is a reliably harsh mistress. Perhaps a television special, infinitely more accessible, is more worrisome. In fact it's clearly more worrisome, as it somehow managed to get up the nose of the federal government. I don't need to read a sulky, disingenuous press release about why people shouldn't trust a program that investigates the fate of the planet they live on, offering no evidence refuting the claims made in the program, only the indignant claim that some of the people involved in its production might be democrats. I'd rather have the US Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works put together a fair and balanced documentary of their own, if they feel so strongly about the viewing, consuming public not being victimized by these "potential and known biases". A little equal time, in the Murrow tradition. I know just the network for it.
Good night, and good luck.