Have you guys been following this little tiff between the editor of Scientific American and Fox News? Few stories really encapsulate the growing politicization of science and how the right is, as with racism and sexism, involved in a project of denying that they’re anti-science while also promoting an anti-science point of view. To summarize, the editor in question, named Michael Moyer, was asked to come on to Fox News to talk about the future of technology. Since so much of that future is going to be shaped, inevitably, by climate change, he wanted to talk about that. But they wouldn’t let him. Moyer said he’s not going to come onto Fox anymore, and that the whole experience made him uncomfortable.
Can’t blame him. Moyer is a science educator, and so of course his initial instinct when being asked to do media was to say yes. As it should be. I have no fault with him. He almost surely thought that while Fox is obviously a partisan network that frequently attacks scientific findings they don’t like for purely ideological reasons, it doesn’t mean every segment they do is about that. When they told him that he couldn’t mention climate change, he probably thought that it was mostly because it’s a politically touchy subject for them. Now he doesn’t want to go on anymore, because he rightfully is concerned about that this level of censorship is tantamount to dishonesty.
But the viciousness of the response from the Fox News team suggests that something more sinister is going on.
TPM has some choice quotes of the victim posturing and nastiness aimed at Moyer because he simply stated the obvious, which is that their policy—which they admit to having—of censoring mentions of climate change in these kinds of segments is anti-science.
“Clearly he has a problem with Fox,” Doocy said. “So why did he come on? Clearly, it was just to promote himself, and maybe his magazine as well. But, you know, hashtag classy. We put him on, we have a nice conversation and then he stabs us in the back.”
“The bone that he had to pick with Fox, he said, was that he wanted to come on here and talk all about climate change,” Kooiman added. “Well, our producers decide what we air.”
“We talk about climate change all the time,” Doocy interjected.
Yes, in politicized segments where you are promoting the myth that climate change is “controversial” or that there’s any real scientific debate about its reality. It’s clearly they censored him because this was supposed to be an “apolitical” segment. Again, they openly admit in this segment that they censored Moyer’s attempts to mention climate change in an apolitical ain’t-science-neat kind of segment. This is not in dispute.
All of which says to me their “apolitical” science segments are not apolitical at all. On the contrary. The segment was there to support their attacks on science elsewhere, by creating the false impression that they aren’t anti-science. “We can’t be anti-science,” the segment was saying. “See? We have scientists on to talk about science stuff. So our attacks on climate change can’t be about a refusal to accept science. It must be because we have Legitimate Questions and Real Doubts.” Moyer’s role was to shore up their credibility as not-anti-science, in the same way that they put female faces on the network to shore up their claim that they’re not anti-woman. No wonder he felt icky. They were exploiting him.
Now that he’s come out in public to blow the whistle, they are freaking out on him. Their attempts to put forward the image of general pro-science (but with Questions about climate change!) have been undermined dramatically. The true face of Fox News, one that is intrinsically anti-science and only accepts science on ideological and not evidentiary grounds, has been revealed. No wonder they’re so mad.
None of which is to say that we should generally be suspicious of cable news shows doing non-political segments on things like “exciting new developments in technology” or whatnot. Most of those are exactly what they seem. But there’s almost always an ulterior motive going on at Fox News, even with the seemingly most innocuous and apolitical segments.