There continues to be controversy over George Will’s recent column on climate change. As many bloggers I linked to point out, Will’s scientific claims were not accurate. The Washington Post’s ombudsman has responded to the controversy today.
While I commented briefly and linked to those presenting the evidence that Wills was wrong, I did not get upset over this as many others did. This was an opinion column. It would be nice to live by Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s dictum that “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” Realistically those who present different opinions will often include facts which we do not believe hold up. This is going to be true in a conservative newspaper such as The Washington Post and certainly will be true from their conservative columnists. It was far more alarming when newspapers such as The Washington Post dropped the ball in their actual reporting in the run up to the Iraq war.
To be shocked that there are inaccuracies in a column by George Will on global warming strikes me as somewhat like Captain Renault saying he is shocked to see gambling going on in Casablanca. Still, while I fully expect this from conservative columnists, once the ombudsman is involved I would expect a stronger statement regarding the inaccuracies in the column (even if giving some acceptance of this in an opinion piece). In this day and age of instant response, inaccurate information of this type should have led to the posting of factual information to counter it.
Climate Progress provides more information on the pertinent facts. Andrew Sullivan points out a major error made by George Will and writes, “You can’t use scientific evidence whose source believes it points to global warming to argue that it points against it – without some clarification, at least.” He also points out why toleration of this will not work:
The blogosphere responded at light speed. And the WaPo then had to pretend that it somehow exists in another more acceptable zone of media – and undertook its investigation and correction process independently of the vulgar – but factually accurate – blogs.
Memo to WaPo: your days of thinking like this are over. If you don’t want to go the way of the Rocky Mountain News, wake up and smell the competition.