There's been some controversy in recent days over GOP Boss Rush Limbaugh and the number of people who listen to his national radio show -- has his audience doubled with the election of President Obama (um, no) and does have have 20 million regular listeners (something like that)? In the end, the number of listeners doesn't matter. Right-wing talk radio is making an impact on American politics, and that impact is not good, not when its spreads viral misinformation.
Consider this alarming new poll:
PRINCETON, NJ -- Although a majority of Americans believe the seriousness of global warming is either correctly portrayed in the news or underestimated, a record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. This represents the highest level of public skepticism about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in more than a decade of Gallup polling on the subject.
And where is all this skepticism coming from? Why, it's the same demographic that listens to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity -- what a surprise!
Since 1997, Republicans have grown increasingly likely to believe media coverage of global warming is exaggerated, and that trend continues in the 2009 survey; however, this year marks a relatively sharp increase among independents as well. In just the past year, Republican doubters grew from 59% to 66%, and independents from 33% to 44%, while the rate among Democrats remained close to 20%.
Notably, all of the past year's uptick in cynicism about the seriousness of global warming coverage occurred among Americans 30 and older. The views of 18- to 29-year-olds, the age group generally most concerned about global warming and most likely to say the problem is underestimated, didn't change.
Look, skepticism is a healthy thing -- there's an old saying in journalism that if your mother says she loves you...check it out. But the compelling case for climate change isn't very hard to check out. This appeared in the New York Times this week:
U.S. EPA has added dozens of scientific accounts about global warming threats to a key document that is expected to help drive federal regulations for curbing U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, according to an agency draft (pdf) obtained by Greenwire.
In the latest 161-page document, dated March 9, EPA officials include several new studies highlighting how a warming planet is likely to mean more intense U.S. heat waves and hurricanes, shifting migration patterns for plants and wildlife, and the possibility of up to a foot of global sea level rise in the next century.
The draft also warns of storm surges and flooding around the planet, especially in vulnerable regions with limited abilities to adapt, including sub-Saharan Africa and Asian mega-deltas in India, Bangladesh and China. "Climate change impacts in certain regions of the world may exacerbate problems that raise humanitarian, trade and national security issues for the U.S.," the draft says.
I know, I know, it's those wacky "socialists" that Obama has sent over to the EPA since he became president, right? Uh, not exactly. It turns out the EPA staffers who prepared this report were working under the Bush administration. Good thing some of those folks were doing their homework instead of sitting at their desks listening to Rush and Sean pontificating, also known as prevaricating.
The truth is that Michael Steele got it right the first time, that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, it is ugly -- and his ugly entertaining can be harmful to your health. What to do?
As some readers already know, I strongly oppose restoring the so-called Fairness Doctrine. While I agree with critics who say that right-wingers gamed the system with conservative media moguls to dominate the airwaves, I would also note the same thing used to be said about campaign finance, that it was all hot-wired for Republicans, until Obama came along and showed it was possible to raise more money than the GOP and to do it from the bottom up. Same with radio -- this is a center-left nation, and progressives and moderates can out-talk conservatives if they are smart about it.
Drown 'em out.
Before people start to drown.
(Top photo from the Daily Mail)