Pat Michaels goes quote mining

Media Matters catches Pat Michaels in an outrageous bit of quote mining:

MICHAELS: Well, it’s an exaggeration. Global warming is a very real thing. People have something to do with it in the last several decades of the 20th century. But what people do on this issue is they exaggerate it. I have a quote from [Gore], from Grist magazine recently.

He said, “I believe it’s appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is.”

HANNITY: Yeah.

MICHAELS: He says it’s appropriate to over-represent the danger on this issue. You have to realize what he said and take that as you see this movie.

No, Gore did not say it was appropriate to over-represent the danger. Michaels has taken the quote out of context. Gore was answering a question about what the right mix is between talking about the dangers of global warming vs the solutions to it, and saying that you have to get people to recognize that there is a problem before you can talk about solutions.

Read the question and answer:


Q.: There’s a lot of debate right now over the best way to communicate about global warming and get people motivated. Do you scare people or give them hope? What’s the right mix?

A. [Gore]: I think the answer to that depends on where your audience’s head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.

Over time that mix will change. As the country comes to more accept the reality of the crisis, there’s going to be much more receptivity to a full-blown discussion of the solutions.

Pat Michaels is smart enough to have read the interview and understood what Gore was saying. Michaels’ conduct was plainly dishonest. David Roberts, whose interview Michaels quote mined comments here. And if you haven’t seen it before, check out the almighty whopper Michaels told Congress in 1998.

Comments

  1. #1 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 20, 2006

    Gore was answering a question about what the right mix is between talking about the dangers of global warming vs the solutions to it

    I think there’s a fine line here, and I’ll have to disagree with your point above. It looks like the question was

    “Do you scare people or give them hope? ”

    That question MAY be interpreted as “dangers vs solutions”, but Gore answered it as “over-represent the dangers before talking about solutions”. That’s not the same as a “mix”.

    That leaves out what is “under-represented”. Saying you’re giving an “over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is” means that there are under-represented facts showing how it is NOT dangerous. Perhaps that is the “mix” that Gore inferred from the question. In that case, I believe it is disingenuous to only provide one side of the story, as Gore appears to be doing.

  2. #2 Tim Lambert
    May 20, 2006

    I believe it is disingenuous to only provide one side of the story, as nanny appears to be doing.

  3. #3 nanny_govt_sucks
    May 20, 2006

    What “one side” is that, Tim?

    I simply think that there is a fine line in your interpretation of what Gore said and the “mix” might be “dangerous vs non-dangerous facts” instead of “dangerous facts vs solutions”.

  4. #4 hank
    May 20, 2006

    He’s talking about the script and order of presentation.
    They used:

    danger, danger, danger, danger; solution; solution; solution; solution.

    You call that disingenuous, compared to scripting the sequence:
    danger; solution; danger; solution; danger; solution; danger; solution?

    I don’t think so.

    Look at the sites that completely deny any danger or the need for any solution — and applaud any activity as long as it’s pure corporate capitalism. That’s disingenuous, aimed at misleading both the libertarians and the liberals.

  5. #5 ericnh
    May 20, 2006

    I would love to know exactly how global warming is not dangerous, and what those “under-represented” facts are, nanny. Here in New England we just had a nice demonstration from Mother Nature of just how dangerous a little extra rain can be. No levees were breached, dams didn’t break — it just rained hard for several days, enough to overflow rivers and streams to damage 14,000 homes and businesses. Seems to me rising oceans from melting glaciers and ice packs would not only be more destructive, but more permanent, too.

  6. #6 David Roberts
    May 20, 2006

    It’s amazing the hubbub this one quote is causing — people seem eager to believe that not only would Al Gore exaggerate the danger, but he would openly tell me he’s exaggerating the danger. Why on earth would he do that?

    Here’s a comment I left on my own post:

    People seemed determined to misinterpret this.

    Look at it this way. You have a council on global warming. Its job is to speak to the American public on the subject.

    On that council, you have two groups represented. One group is called “factual representations of how dangerous it is.” One group is called “discussions of how we can solve the problem.” If the council was convened to speak to Europeans, the latter group would be given greater representation, since most Europeans are already convinced there’s a problem. But since the council is meant to address Americans, who are not yet convinced there’s a problem, the first group is over-represented.

    In other words, Gore meant he has to spend longer explaining the problem and less time discussing solutions when he’s speaking to American crowds.

    It was extremely clear in person — and, I think, fairly clear in transcript — that Gore’s meaning had nothing to do with exaggerating the danger. Nothing. Once and for all.

  7. #7 Dano
    May 20, 2006

    Losing postitions call for desperate acts sometimes, David. If they didn’t have mendacity, what would they do?

    Best,

    D

  8. #8 Stephen Berg
    May 20, 2006

    RE: “Do you scare people or give them hope?”

    As Richard Clarke said during the 9-11 Commission hearings, “it takes body bags before action is taken in the United States.”

    That means multiple Hurricane Katrina-scale disasters will have to occur before the government and people of the US get off their asses and do something to combat global warming.

    The trend is to wait until it is too late. Nanny, quit helping your “side” in its stalling tactics, or else you will be complicit in the destruction that follows in the wake of GW.

  9. #9 Ian Gould
    May 20, 2006

    “It’s amazing the hubbub this one quote is causing — people seem eager to believe that not only would Al Gore exaggerate the danger, but he would openly tell me he’s exaggerating the danger. Why on earth would he do that?”

    As I’ve noted before there is a growing tendency, primarily but not exclusively found in the United States, to view material wealth as a demonstration of both wisdom and virtue.

    It seems to arise from a combination of certain trends in American Protestantism (starting with Max Weber’s “Protestant Work Ethic” and culminating in the Prosperity gospel) with the Know-nothing “If you’re so smart collidge boy why ain’t you rich?” right-wing anti-intellectualism so ably represented here by Nanny.

    If Americans are rich it’s because of their own virtue, intelligence and hard work – not because of a fortunate accident of birth.

    Further, wealth must continue to accrue endless into the future as continuing evidence of their virtue.

    Anythinf which threatens that, threatens their fundamental sense of self-worth and must be false. Once you KNOW global warming is false (or will benign) its a simple matter to assemble or manufacture the “facts” to support that view.

    The sad thing is if Nanny’s lot actually studied economics (not the irrational populist pigswill that passes for “supply-side economics”) they’d realise that an effective response to global warming is far acheaper than they imagine.

    But Exxon Mobil says different and they’re rich so therefore they must be both wise and virtuous.

  10. #10 Steve Bloom
    May 20, 2006

    Stephen, Nanny will have absolutely no problem coming up with a post-hoc rationalization.

    I wanted to point out that the sentence in question, even when taken out of context, cannot be interpreted to give the Fox spin. “I believe it’s appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is.” “Over-representation,” meaning to give more emphasis to something, modifies “presentations,” not “factual.” “Factual” and “how dangerous it is” then inform us as to the contents of those presentations. There is no possible way to use the rules of English grammar to have that sentence mean anything else.

  11. #11 Ian Gould
    May 20, 2006

    Oh come on. Steve, the denialists are rewriting large chunks of physics; statistics and ecology – why not grammar too?

  12. #12 Steve Bloom
    May 20, 2006

    Depressing but true, Ian. OTOH, quoting Gore from today’s BBC story on his appearance at Cannes: “Reality proper has a way of insisting itself upon you.” We must but be patient.

    I will be so bold as to predict first prize for the Gore film.

  13. #13 Ken
    May 21, 2006

    An over-representation of factual presentations compared to over-representing misrepresentations? I expect it’s the emphasising how dangerous it is that gets up noses, especially from someone who aspires to the US presidency and who might change a status quo that’s intrinsically transient anyway.

  14. #14 Carl Christensen
    May 21, 2006

    yikes, no matter how good the Gore film is, if it wins 1st prize in anything, I dread hearing the right-wingers foaming at the mouth & speaking in tongues over it, a la when Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911″ won at Cannes.

    They make it seem like a few documentary films are some evil liberal conspiracy. Of course 24-hours a day of Faux News & Hannity & Limbaugh & Coulter every day, and “CO2 is life” right-wing think tanks babbling & burbling are just fine & dandy! ;-)

  15. #15 hank
    May 22, 2006

    “An Inconvenient Truth is screening at the festival out of competition.”

    So it won’t win a prize — because it’s not in competition for a prize.

    When you hear the claim that if it was a good movie it would have won a prize, remember — it wasn’t in competition.

    Not that that’ll stop them, eh?

  16. #16 Millimeter Wave
    May 22, 2006

    nanny wrote:

    That question MAY be interpreted as “dangers vs solutions”, but Gore answered it as “over-represent the dangers before talking about solutions”. That’s not the same as a “mix”.

    That leaves out what is “under-represented”. Saying you’re giving an “over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is” means that there are under-represented facts showing how it is NOT dangerous. Perhaps that is the “mix” that Gore inferred from the question.

    I can’t see any way to interpret what he’s talking about other than the mix of problem space versus solution space.

    It seems completely clear, from the context of the question being answered, that what he’s suggesting to be under-represented in the discussion is talk about solutions, in preference to over-representing talking about the problems.

  17. #17 Carl Christensen
    May 23, 2006

    Gore’s quote seems clear enough even out of context, it’s the right-wing Hannity/Michaels spin that obfuscates it. So Gore said “over-representation of factual presentations” — they are still factual, and over-representation means “do a lot of ‘em.” It doesn’t mean it’s “falsifying” or anything they imply. At worst it would make a wearious for, say, George Bush to have to attend yet another presentation on global warming science! ;-)

    ————————————-

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=2&q=overrepresented

    o·ver·rep·re·sent·ed ( P ) Pronunciation Key (vr-rpr-zntd)
    adj.
    Represented in excessive or disproportionately large numbers: “Some groups, and most notably some races, may be overrepresented and others may be underrepresented” (Scientific American).

    ————————————-

    Of course, when these hacks were doing “over-representation of NON-factual presentations”, to whit, the many lies & half-truths for everyone to go leaping into Iraq, nobody was supposed to mind that. Indeep you’d be called “a treasonous traitor” to imply otherwise. It’s the “factual presentations” they have a problem with! ;-)

  18. #18 President Barbicane
    May 26, 2006

    Maybe I don’t understand the problem, here. Al Gore admitted he exagerates global warming. It is dishonest to “overrepresent the dangers” of global warming.

    I appreciate that many people in the US don’t believe in global warming, but the best way to convince them on the issue is by presenting a balanced argument. In a balanced look at the issue, by definition, you don’t overrepresent anything.

  19. #19 rtl
    May 29, 2006

    This obviously depends on your bias when reading the quote. To me it’s clear that Nanny is correct and most of you are wrong. Since Gore clearly thinks we are in a bubble of unreality, he thinks it’s ok to exaggerate. Since it’s not his place to make that judgement, I think his statement is dangerous. This statement isn’t a surprise, because we all know that’s what he’s up to. You think it’s justified. I don’t.

  20. #20 Dominion
    May 30, 2006

    It has always been a surprise to me just how hard it is for right wingers to read and comprehend plain English.

    Or would one of you care to explain just how one “exaggerates” a factual presentation?

  21. #21 Carl Christensen
    May 30, 2006

    Can you right-wing [deleted. No personal attacks on other commentors please. Tim] understand the dictionary definition of “overrepresent” that I placed a few posts above? Again “overrepresent” implies “redundancy”, not “falsification.”

    I suppose it’s because you get confused because your fascist leaders like George Dumbya Bush both overrepresent AND falsify (i.e. the “case” for the Iraq war etc).

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