Yes, you read that right. Thanks to Marc Morano, people on opposite sides of the climate debate are now hearing each other out. They read each other’s rants, missives, spin, arguments and counter-arguments. If you think the public discussion of climate change is best served by a free flowing exchange of information and perspectives, then Morano’s Climate Depot is one of your gateways, like it or not.
I can hear the gagging among climate advocates right about now.
So be it. To appreciate Morano’s value, you have to appreciate the value of an aggregator. Remember, we all live in our own private web ghetto. As Nicholas Kristof noted in a March column:
When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.
I think Kristof makes a mistake in lumping “news and opinion” sites together, but he’s right in observing that most of us read blogs that reinforce our own views and prejudices. An aggregator counters that tendency. Even an aggregator like Morano who has an obvious political agenda and bias. Yes, he links to stories and blog posts that he believes will undermine the legitimacy of climate change science and advocacy. The purpose of Climate Depot is clear: to create and build the impression that A) global warming concerns are unfounded and, B) to stop mitigation efforts underway in the political and policy realm.
So when linking to general news media stories and posts from climate advocates, Morano spins an angle–through a catchy headline–that he hopes will frame the reader’s interpretation of the linked-to piece or post. Some climate bloggers, like Joe Romm, make this easy work for him. Romm, who is smart and knowledgeable, is also often preachy and hyperbolic. If you’re a climate skeptic and you read Romm via Climate Depot, your worst biases about climate advocates are probably going to be reinforced.
But if, on the other hand, you read Michael Tobis, who Morano has linked to prominently numerous times in recent weeks, then you might be pleasantly surprised to find a civil, logical, and eloquent voice. That’s certainly not the impression Morano wants you to walk away with. He always prefaces his links to Tobis by labeling him a “climate fear promoter,” in an effort to bias your reading of his post. But those Morano-directed readers have also engaged Tobis in comment threads and have found an equally civil and reasonable forum. That’s valuable–this sort of engagement beyond the actual post. You don’t see that happening at Romm’s shop because he either censors his critics or bites their heads off in the comments section. It seems that blogging is a blood sport to Romm.
You can bet that Morano knows this aggregator gig cuts both ways. Yes, he’s got a a huge audience and a platform. His message is amplified in ways he could never achieve in his previous incarnations. But in order to thrive, Morano has to link out. Thus his readers are now being exposed to and engaging with the other side’s arguments. That could be dangerous. That’s why Morano continues to write his own pieces and trumpet them on Climate Depot. The party line has to be represented.
And make no mistake: Morano is doing his best to create an echo chamber by linking often and regularly to anti-environmental blogs such as Planet Gore and Tom Nelson. In fact, if Morano opts at some point to fill up his page with only those types, he will cease being a true news aggregator. His traffic will go down and his mission aborted.
But if he truly believes his side will win out, then he has nothing to fear by offering all perspectives of the climate debate and will continue to link to people like Michael Tobis, and not just the Joe Romms. I have no idea how Tobis feels about the traffic he’s been getting from Morano. He’s probably ambivalent. But I’d wager he relishes the opportunity to speak to people that don’t belong to his choir.
The question is, will it matter? Can people who disagree so fundamentally find common ground?
That might be too much to ask, but Nicholas Kristof, in that same column, offers an excellent starting point:
So perhaps the only way forward is for each of us to struggle on our own to work out intellectually with sparring partners whose views we deplore. Think of it as a daily mental workout analogous to a trip to the gym; if you don’t work up a sweat, it doesn’t count.
It may be hard to swallow, but Marc Morano is doing his part to help develop that healthy habit.