George Will: He Isn't Even Phoning It In, He's Cutting and Pasting

I kinda suspected--but didn't bother to prove--that George Will was recycling parts of his anti-global warming balderdashery, particularly his strained paragraph about global cooling in the 1970s, replete with misleading references.

Well, Brad Johnson has done the work: It appears Will has a rotating (and very limited) set of global warming talking points that date back to 1992. Once in a while, he simply rejiggers the column. Wow.

The George Will scandal grows larger now. Not only is he not constrained by, or answerable to, facts; but for a national columnist, such recycling is pretty stunning. I don't know if it's true, but I keep reading that Will's column appears in some 450 papers. I wonder what they think of this methodology.

Moreover, the fact that these are in many cases 1992 talking points, and the global warming issue has changed dramatically since then, underscores just how little George Will must value having any actual knowledge about it. He made up his mind in the early 1990s, and from then on, global warming was bogus. End of story. Never mind the developing science, or the many substantive and scholarly refutations of the "global cooling" myth that have since been published.

This is the great conservative "intellectual" we're talking about.

Let's face it: There are a hell of a lot of people out there who can write a better, more original column than George Will. And they might even hit the factual accuracy bullseye as well. So you really have to wonder where this puts the Washington Post--does this stuff really live up to their standards?

I'm doing my Science Progress column this week about the whole George Will fiasco, because I see it as a profound and in many ways saddening moment in the relationship between the old media and the blogosphere with respect to science. More on that soon....

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This is the great case study in right wing misinformation. George Will has the *appearance* of cultured authority. The bow tie, the glasses, the tweed jacket, the professorial voice. The viewer out in the heartland sees him on Sunday talk shows and thinks, almost subliminally, that they're getting a gourmet meal of seasoned, elite opinion. Probably, even a lot of the chattering class thinks they're getting opinion that's respectable, researched.

But little do they know that what they're really getting is a MacDonalds Happy Meal of cold, greasy talking points served up quite a while ago by right wing think tanks and politicos. The bow tie and glasses are just neat props that come in the box.

By Jon Winsor (not verified) on 24 Feb 2009 #permalink

The aggravating thing about this is that there seems no way to take Will to task over this in the mainstream media. All the outrage appears to be on blogs and in specialized media. Is there any way to get this into his face where he will actually have to respond to this in public?

George Will is also a very good polemicist so it becomes difficult to give the impression that you have defeated him in debate.

Must. Stop. Reading. Mainstream. News.

1. Nice post.

2. for comments (like ashutosh), it is "traditional" media. There are an awful lot of 'bloggers' who are in the mainstream while, to be honest, people like Will aren't.

3. There have been some 'traditional media' responses, with commentaries and LTEs in many of the 450 papers but no blanket statement that covers the 450 papers where Will's column is syndicated.

4. Trying to keep up with the blog / such commentary at:… About to add this post to that list.

It's not limited to columnists "on the right".

NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is just as bad, in my opinion.

Friedman made up his mind long ago that "globalization is good" and that "invading Iraq was the right thing to do" and nothing is going to make him rethink either of those theses.

And regarding the statement that "you really have to wonder where this puts the Washington Post--does this stuff really live up to their standards?".

After all their bogus reporting in recent years (eg, prewar reports on Iraqi WMD (sic) ), I would ask another question "Does the Washington Post actually still have standards?"

By Dark tent (not verified) on 24 Feb 2009 #permalink

Actually I think Friedman constantly rethinks his positions, but what he is really doing is simply parroting the conventional wisdom of the time and making himself sound like some kind of global pundit who has reached his conclusions after some kind of deep, independent thought. This review skewers him better than any other that I know of.

The aggravating thing about this is that there seems no way to take Will to task over this in the mainstream media. All the outrage appears to be on blogs and in specialized media.

Yet another reason I will be pleased, pleased, pleased if the doom sayers are right, and traditional media is soon to go extinct.

OK, so he's repeating himself, so what? What I want is an analysis of what he's saying, not one that shows that he's just saying it again. You said: "the global warming issue has changed dramatically since then". Are you going to include some very precise, well-doumented rebuttals in the Science Progress column? When will it be available?
I suspect that Will's column will appear in my local paper this weekend and I want to be able to immediately write a LTE in reponse.

By Karl Sniderman (not verified) on 24 Feb 2009 #permalink

Funny thing is, Chris.......

That's what I thought of your silly book, the GOP war on science.... and the silly repetitive crap you write about now. Like there's so many more people that could put up a convincing story than you.