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Ignobel Prize in Journalism


Bloggers, cable news anchors, and big newspapers alike have been unable to resist speculating this week about Al Gore's chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize is awarded on Dec. 10 in Oslo, but the winner will be announced Oct. 12.

Of the recent articles on Gore's chances, one of the least substantive but most effective in setting tongues wagging and keyboards clattering was a Christopher Hitchens article written a few weeks ago for Slate. Hitchens suggested, not without a wink, that he would "be very surprised indeed if the peace prize is not awarded to Albert Gore Jr." Although Hitchens didn’t dare to assume that Gore will run for president if he wins yet another award, he did add that "several people, some of them well-informed, have been saying to me that Gore will wait until the Nobel committee's announcement before he makes up his mind." Solid reporting, there.

 

Add to that a spottily sourced article in the London Times, which actually quotes Hitchens' vague innuendo as justification for its own speculation that Gore might use a Nobel Prize as a reason to run for president, Add another publication to the media pile-on. Never mind the utter lack of evidence and the speciousness of the argument that Gore will have to run for president if he wins the Nobel Prize.

"Problem is, they're only guessing," the AP finally noted a few days ago about the media outlets. The media, especially that of the 24-hour variety, has a desperate and never-sated need to fill airtime in the age of constant-streaming content—idle speculation is an easy place to turn. No one who watches the news need wait very long before they see an anchor asking reporters and "expert" guests absurd hypothetical questions.

But what makes the focus on Gore's Nobel prospects more problematic is that it gives his critics the opportunity to make one man responsible for delivering the message of climate change, which is in fact a long-term, global challenge. Then they just have to shoot the messenger to discredit the mountains of scientific evidence. Paint him a "Lear Jet Liberal" (conservatives really are better at coming up with these sorts of pseudo-sociological smears) and a hypocrite, and suddenly you don't have to deal with climate change.

A segment on the FOX News (and this blog could probably be devoted entirely to FOX) show Hannity & Colmes yesterday demonstrated my point nicely. Chris Miller of the NRDC, a guest on the show, struggled to explain the basic existence of global warming in a segment ostensibly about the Peace Prize. Ultimately, his voice couldn't be heard amid the personal attacks on Gore and, finally, himself.

MILLER: You can't debunk the science, and so you go after him for the way he travels. The fact is, Al Gore has done more to educate the American public on this issue...

HANNITY: You're a broken talking point.

MILLER: ... than anybody else.