The Fox News Channel is determined to play as still controversial an issue that much of industry, not to mention the public, not to mention Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, has decided is not controversial. Al Gore has won fair and square, but since Fox has no use for Gore, that's easily discounted.
If Fox really wants to play the opposition, though, the network has to be sure everyone stays on task. And unfortunately, that's becoming difficult, a sign that the opposition has become increasingly irrelevant.
Fox and Friends is the network's breakfast show - I think it used to have a puppet as a co-host. Human host Alisyn Camerota brought on MIT Professor of Meteorology Kerry Emanuel and this happened:
Introducing him, [Camerota] gushed that [Emanuel] is one of THE most influential scientists when it comes to global warming and its link to hurricanes; he used to think that climate change caused more tropical storms but now, he's changed his mind. Three years ago he published very alarming findings that established a link between global warming and hurricane activity, and a few weeks later Katrina hit.
Emanuel responded that the reports that he's changed his mind have been "greatly exaggerated." ... They've developed a new technique for inferring hurricane activity from global climate data, which doesn't itself contain hurricanes. When applied to the past twenty-five years data, it is a startling confirmation of his findings of three years ago; hurricane power has increased by about 50% over the last thirty years. Applying that to hundred-year forecasts under a scenario of increased carbon dioxide output, they see increased activity in their models but not nearly as much as if they simply extrapolate the past thirty years forward.
Gulp! Here are the chyrons Fox and Friends used leading up to the chat: GLOBAL FLIP-FLOP: Warming doesn't cause hurricanes -SCIENCE OF STORMS: Global Warming 2nd thoughts - and
REVERSED SCIENCE: Scientist changes warming position.
Maybe networks still have pre-interview staffs that can weed out off-message guests before they get on-air - Emanuel only said what he came on to say - so somebody goofed. Now what?
Camerota and [Fox and Friends co-host Steve] Doocy did damage control, summing up that the models are forecasting "something different than what nature is showing us" and "we just don't know" whether global warming and climate change are making hurricanes more intense. Emanuel replied that the bulk of the evidence says they're getting more intense, we just don't know by how much.
Note that Fox and Camerota could be as right as reindeer about global warming: it's all complete hooey. But being right is clearly secondary to the agenda, which is to sound the correct theme. Fox News often gets dinged for its relentless promotion of conservative ideology masquerading as unvarnished truth, but here the network is getting stung by pursuing a rearguard action that is moving ever further to the rear. Global warming has just about moved beyond the ideological, where Fox often dwells, and into an article of modern secular faith.
It's scarcely a new phenomenon.
Our goal here is not to suggest that Fox is right and Emanuel wrong - Emanuel, in his short interview, behaved just as one would like: he stated what he knew and hesitated to draw conclusions or causal connections. Rather, we wanted to mark a cultural passing, as the last remaining bastions of opposition fade away. Noisily perhaps but none-the-less fading.