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L.A. Times starts banning opposing views from letters page

Just ahead of the lights going out for the last time?

Follows on Popular Science ending comments on the Gospel According to Popular Science, with apparent approval from New Scientist

This is classic:

Before going into some detail about why these letters don’t make it into our pages, I’ll concede that, aside from my easily passing the Advanced Placement biology exam in high school, my science credentials are lacking. I’m no expert when it comes to our planet’s complex climate processes or any scientific field. Consequently, when deciding which letters should run among hundreds on such weighty matters as climate change, I must rely on the experts — in other words, those scientists with advanced degrees who undertake tedious research and rigorous peer review.

And those scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists — said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn’t whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.

But how would this guy know if he doesn’t listen carefully to the other side? The history of science is, among other things, a history of the 5% being right. There are lots of reasons for that; our many articles on the crumbling peer review process offer some insights into why it happens that way today.

One academic fumes,

“The free press in the U.S. is trying to move the likelihood of presenting evidence on this issue from very low to impossible,” J. Scott Armstrong, co-founder of the Journal of Forecasting and a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told FoxNews.com.

Chill, brother. (So to speak.) What used to be the “free press,” unable to cope with the way the Internet has obliterated its gatekeeper role, is largely morphing into public relations agencies for causes and politicians it supports. Expect more of this bannination stuff.

Folks, today, “free press” is spelled I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T.

Note:  Anthropogenic global warming (that guy’s shutdown button) is only one of many controversial issues.

Dollars to donuts, we’ll soon be hearing that science is settled on a bunch of other issues too, so your letter won’t be published on those issues either if you doubt or disagree.

The key thing to see here is that the LA Times no longer wishes to function as a public newspaper – in which case its job would be to capture the controversy as it happens in public, even if the journalists are strongly committed to one side. The paper wishes to act as a soapbox for an ideology it is comfortable with.

For a newspaper, this is one of the stages of dying.

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5 Responses to L.A. Times starts banning opposing views from letters page

  1. …said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming.

    Does this mean they are 5% uncertain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming or that they are 5% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are not driving global warming?

    Global worming is a fact, Fact, FACT! The only debate is over the mechanisms.

    After all, it could be we meat-eating humans rather than our fossil-fuel-burning humans that are the cause of global warming.

  2. So, in this tough economy,
    …..what is stopping the LA Times from hiring (or contracting out) some scientists with good credentials (but with varying views on big issues)…to critique the letters?

    What scientific theory should be left unchallenged?

    When do you say “It’s settled. Taking no more objections.”

    In science, that should be…never.

  3. News:

    Sadly important.

    For some time, I have said that a letters tot he editor approach is a useful possibility if one is concerned about unfettered com boxes in an age of trolls and cranks.

    This is not that, as a responsible professional editor and journalist should know that on some issues, there are indeed dissenting small schools of thought or views that should have a legitimate right to sit at he table. If there is a known debate among the pros, then use the panel or at least the pro-con approach or even a formal debate.

    Do I need to say, controversy sells?

    Then, in that context, the ordinary person can take his say from teh floor through the letters columns, and one can judge such letters on quality of expression, substance on the merits, aptness, etc. No brainers.

    But this is not what is happening here.

    What I suspect is happening, is that there is deep polarisation and the journalists and editors of the likes of this paper move in circles that are overwhelmingly on one side of the issue, presented as the “consensus.”

    By definition, science does not move by consensus, but by observationally anchored evidence and reasoning.

    And citizens have a right to hear both or the various sides of key disputes, with counsel also onteh subject of policy pruidence in light of the diversity involved.

    To seek to delegitimise, denigrate, stereotype and scapegoat one side and shut it out, is in this context — given the weight of media presence involved — outright censorship. And no, consensus of a dominant school is not to be equated to “fact,” and disagreement with one side’s interpretation is not to be equated to errors of fact. 9A sadly familiar sleazy rhetorical tactic.)

    And BTW, if you want to hear the other side of the climate issue at reasonably popular but serious enough level, I suggest Watts Up With That?, as a first point of reference.

    KF

  4. They only see/hear what they want to. It’s no coincidence that climate alarmists and darwinists attack their critics the same ways:

    - silence/censor them
    - ad hominem comments
    - outright lies (e.g holocaust deniers)

    Science has now become politicized and if the data doesn’t suit a certain political agenda, ignore it.

  5. Its hilarious.
    They can’t take the chance their readers might be persuaded out of the truth.
    If the issue is in debate amongst the people and its popular then banning one side is saying the people have no intellectual right to disagree with the papers conclusions about climate change.
    They are censoring because they get so much traffic on the debate.
    They are afraid of public debate.
    If it was a dull subject with no public interest there would be no need to chill the debate.
    They truly believe they lead public opinion with what they allow for public debate.
    They are not bystanders in society but combatants under the deception of neutrality.
    Been this way for a long time.

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