Words & Deeds

Murdoch finds it’s not easy being green
March 16, 2012

In 2007, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch unequivocally acknowledged the reality of climate change and launched “a global energy initiative across News Corporation to reduce our energy use and impact on the planet.”

But while corporate pursued his green dreams—Dow Jones, for example, installed a 4.1-megawatt solar installation on its New Jersey site that could supply up to half of its energy needs—the company’s leading news outlets, including Fox News, the New York Post, and The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages, kept right on deriding climate change as a liberal fantasy.

Their crusade has gathered steam since late 2009, when hackers stole thousands of e-mails from leading climate scientists, and the climate-change-denial community claimed those missives proved scientists had conspired to suppress doubts about climate change. (A subsequent investigation proved otherwise.)

The scientists “mani-pulate[d] the peer-review process” for money, asserted Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens. His piece was one of more than 50 wsj op-eds and editorials that made reference to so-called Climategate between December 2009 and the end of 2011. The columns called the scientists “alarmist,” “unethical,” and “conniving,” and suggested they were involved in “misconduct,” a “fiasco,” and a “scam.”

Fox News aired 37 Climategate segments in this period, in which it characterized climate research as a “scam,” a “hoax,” a “swindle,” or a “fraud.” The Post published 26 pieces, online and in print, some of which referred to the scientists and policymakers as “alarmists” or members of a “cult” who had either “fudged data and gagged critics” or “cooked the books,” ostensibly for “a big payday.”

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The anti-intellectual cause was served. In 2007, when Murdoch acknowledged the reality of climate change, 77 percent of the public said there was “solid evidence of global warming,” according to a Pew poll. By mid-2010, after the barrage of denial from Murdoch’s newsrooms, a Yale University poll found that only 40 percent of Americans were concerned. Quite a climate change.

Maria Armoudian is a fellow at the University of Southern California’s Center for International Studies and is the author of Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World.