SpongeBob SquarePants Makes An Enemy

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG & JILL FITZSIMMONS

Fox News repeatedly criticized a SpongeBob SquarePants book and video about manmade global warming because "they did not tell kids that that is actually a disputed fact." In reality, it is not controversial among the mainstream scientific community that humans are changing the climate.

Fox Blasts Nickelodeon For "Pushing A Global Warming Agenda"

CNS News Reported That Education Department Offered Free Books, Including SpongeBob Global Warming Tale. In an August 2 article, CNSNews.com reported that during a July Department of Education event promoting reading, children "were treated to free books," including a SpongeBob SquarePants book that "promotes the idea that global warming is manmade." [CNSNews, 8/2/11]

  • Glenn Beck's Website Asked If Ed. Dept. Is "Indoctrinating Children." On August 2, Glenn Beck's The Blaze promoted the CNSNews story and asked: "Is the U.S. Department of Education indoctrinating children to accept man-made global warming as fact?" The Blaze also embedded a 2005 SpongeBob video with the same storyline as the book. [The Blaze, 8/2/11]

Fox's Steve Doocy: "Clearly Nickelodeon Is Pushing A Global Warming Agenda." On the August 3 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said:

DOOCY: The Department of Education invited a bunch of DC kids in and they had this festivity and they handed out these particular Nickelodeon books where clearly Nickelodeon is pushing a global warming agenda. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Fox's Gretchen Carlson: SpongeBob "Blamed Man For Global Warming" But "Did Not Tell Kids That That Is A Disputed Fact." Fox & Friends aired clips from the SpongeBob video and co-host Gretchen Carlson said:

CARLSON: The Department of Education using SpongeBob SquarePants now to teach kids about global warming. The government agency showed kids this cartoon and handed out books that blamed man for global warming, but they did not tell kids that that is actually a disputed fact. Oops! [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

  • Department of Education: "We've Never Shown Any Videos" At The Reading Events. Contrary to Carlson's claim, Tim Tuten of the Department of Education said that the SpongeBob video was not shown at the reading events. "We've never shown any videos ever, so I have no idea where that is coming from," he said. Tuten added that participants were permitted to choose one of dozens of diverse books to take home with them and the SpongeBob book was one of those options. [Phone conversation, 8/3/11]

Doocy Claims Unnamed "Parents" Think SpongeBob Book Pushes "Over-The-Top Green Agenda." On Fox & Friends, Doocy said:

DOOCY: The Department of Education giving kids free books about SpongeBob. Seems like a good idea right? Well some parents don't think so. They say the books are being used to push an over-the-top green agenda regarding global warming. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Carlson On SpongeBob: "He Is Only Looking At It From One Point Of View." On Fox & Friends Carlson also said of the Nickelodeon show:

CARLSON: We all know that SpongeBob is popular with the kids and for the life of me I still keep trying to figure out why it is. My kids watch limited TV but every time they chose that show, I'm like, 'Why?' Anyway -- it's hard to even follow sometimes. Anyway now maybe that will be a good thing because SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming, and he's only looking at it from one point of view. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Fox's Dave Briggs: Global Warming Is "Unproven Science." On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Dave Briggs added:

BRIGGS: It's unproven science. And again, this is public education system that we all pay our tax dollars for and the SpongeBob book says that it's a manmade problem that requires human intervention.

DOOCY: Right. They're presenting it as fact.

BRIGGS: As fact. Meanwhile, the schools there -- I mean, we're talking about 14th in the world in reading, 17th in the world in science, 25th in math. So we're forcing an issue that is not yet proven -- we can't even teach our kids the adequate math, reading and science at this point. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Fox: SpongeBob Shows "Bias" By Blaming Humans For Global Warming. The following on-screen text aired on Fox & Friends:

Fox&Friends Onscreen Text[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Notion That Humans Are Changing Climate Is Not Controversial Among Mainstream Scientists

National Research Council: "Preponderance Of Scientific Evidence" Indicates That Humans Are Changing The Climate. In a recent report, the National Research Council stated: "[T]he preponderance of scientific evidence points to human activities -- especially the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere -- as the most likely cause for most of the global warming that has occurred over the last several decades." [National Research Council, 5/12/11]

American Chemical Society: Climate Change Is "Largely Attributable To Emissions From Human Activities." According to the American Chemical Society: "[C]omprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem." [American Chemical Society, accessed 8/3/11]

AAAS: "Global Climate Change Is Real" And "Is Caused Largely By Human Activities." The American Association for the Advancement of Science said in a 2009 statement: "The vast preponderance of evidence, based on years of research conducted by a wide array of different investigators at many institutions, clearly indicates that global climate change is real, it is caused largely by human activities, and the need to take action is urgent." [American Association For The Advancement of Science, 12/4/09]

American Meteorological Society: "Humans Have Significantly Contributed" To Climate Change. In a February 2007 statement, the American Meteorological Society said "there is adequate evidence" to conclude "that humans have significantly contributed" to climate change and that "further climate change will continue to have important impacts on human societies, on economies, on ecosystems, and on wildlife through the 21st century and beyond." [American Meteorological Society, 2/1/07]

Geological Society Of America: "Human Activities ... Account For Most Of The Warming Since The Middle 1900s." From an April 2010 position statement of the Geological Society of America:

The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s. If current trends continue, the projected increase in global temperature by the end of the twentyfirst century will result in large impacts on humans and other species. [Geological Society of America, April 2010]

Fox Cites Scientists "On Both Sides" To Claim There Is A "Big Question" About Global Warming

Doocy On Manmade Global Warming: "There's A Lot Of Scientists That Say It's This. Others Say It's That." Suggesting that kids should not be taught that humans are changing the climate, Doocy said:

DOOCY: While there is no disputing the fact that the earth is getting a little warmer, the big question is, is it manmade or is it just one of those gigantic climactic, you know, phases that we're going - for a while we're cold and then we get warmer and then we get colder and warmer. Is it - which one is it? The science on both sides - there are a lot of scientists who say it's this. Others say it's that. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Vocal Minority Of "Experts" Also Denies Second-Hand Smoke Risks, HIV-AIDS Link

Tobacco Industry Recruited Scientists To Obscure Health Effects Of Second-Hand Smoke. From a 2009 article in the European Journal of Public Health:

Denialism is a process that employs some or all of five characteristic elements in a concerted way. The first is the identification of conspiracies. When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes that something is true, it is argued that this is not because those scientists have independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion. It is because they have engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The peer review process is seen as a tool by which the conspirators suppress dissent, rather than as a means of weeding out papers and grant applications unsupported by evidence or lacking logical thought.

[...]

The second is the use of fake experts. These are individuals who purport to be experts in a particular area but whose views are entirely inconsistent with established knowledge. They have been used extensively by the tobacco industry since 1974, when a senior executive with R J Reynolds devised a system to score scientists working on tobacco in relation to the extent to which they were supportive of the industry's position. The industry embraced this concept enthusiastically in the 1980s when a senior executive from Philip Morris developed a strategy to recruit such scientists (referring to them as 'Whitecoats') to help counteract the growing evidence on the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This activity was largely undertaken through front organizations whose links with the tobacco industry were concealed, but under the direction of law firms acting on behalf of the tobacco industry. In some countries, such as Germany, the industry created complex and influential networks, allowing it to delay the implementation of tobacco control policies for many years. [European Journal of Public Health, January 2009]

Those Who Deny Link Between HIV And AIDS Also Claim To Have Scientists On Their Side. From a July 2009 New Scientist report:

The origins of the AIDS denialism movement can be traced back to 1987, four years after the discovery of HIV. Peter Duesberg was then a renowned researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who had shown that some cancers were triggered by retroviruses. In March that year, Duesberg performed an about-face, publishing an article in which he questioned his original finding that retroviruses caused cancer, and also whether HIV (another retrovirus, although not one that he had studied) caused AIDS.

At the time, HIV science was in its infancy, and Duesberg was not the only mainstream scientist to speculate whether AIDS was actually caused by lifestyle factors such as taking drugs, for example. Indeed, New Scientist published Duesberg's manifesto of dissent in 1988.

"Duesberg did get laypeople's attention, and they, in turn, got him scientific attention," says University of California sociologist, Steven Epstein, author of Impure Science, a book on AIDS research. "Credibility was cycled back and forth."

As the clinical and epidemiological evidence linking HIV with AIDS accrued, however, support for denialism among mainstream scientists fell away. In the mid-1990s came the clincher. Cocktails of ART [antiretroviral therapy] were found to halt the replication of HIV and reverse and prevent the development of AIDS. By the end of 1996, doctors in the west were witnessing the "Lazarus effect": AIDS patients who had been mortally ill were rising from their beds, putting on jackets and ties, and reporting for work.

[...]

Denialism in the west continued to limp along, attracting a following of conspiracy theorists, attention seekers, peddlers of pseudoscience and HIV patients in denial. The movement's leaders vary in their credibility. Duesberg's most vocal supporter is David Rasnick, a former biochemist who makes much of his research background, as he once studied a group of enzymes called proteases. HIV possesses a protease enzyme, and protease inhibitors represent a key class of ART drugs. However Rasnick only worked on rat proteases, never on HIV's.

Then there is Henry Bauer, a retired chemistry and life sciences professor at Virginia State University in Petersburg, who edits the Journal of Scientific Exploration. This publishes research on such topics as alien abductions and telepathy. Before dabbling in virology, Bauer was a leading authority on the existence of the Loch Ness monster. [New Scientist, 7/31/09]

Anti-Vaccine Movement Also Supported By "'Contrary' Expertise." From a May 2009 article in PLoS Biology:

Until the summer of 2005, Sharon Kaufman had never paid much attention to the shifting theories blaming vaccines for a surge in reported cases of autism. Kaufman, a medical anthropologist at the University of California, San Francisco, knew that the leading health institutions in the United States had reviewed the body of evidence, and that they found no reason to think vaccines had anything to do with autism. But when she read that scientists and public officials who commented on the studies routinely endured malevolent emails, abusive phone calls, and even death threats, she took notice.

[...]

Kaufman thinks the problem is more immediate than bridging the gap between lay and expert understanding of risk. Parents treated theoretical risk as fact even as scientists tested, and ultimately rejected, the possibility that thimerosal might harm children. Thinking the institutions that were supposed to protect them from risk failed, Kaufman says, people now do their own research. But instead of leading to more certainty, she explains, "collecting more information actually increases doubt."

With the explosion of "contrary" expertise online, Kaufman says, "many parents see even the most respected vaccine experts' perspective on the issue as just one more opinion." The bulk of antivaccination Web sites present themselves as legitimate sources of scientific information, using pseudoscientific claims and emotional appeals, according to a 2002 study in Archives of Disease in Childhood. Making matters worse, the study found, nearly all sites adopted an "us versus them" approach, casting doctors and scientists as either "willing conspirators cashing in on the vaccine 'fraud' or pawns of a shadowy vaccine combine." Parents' intuitive views about vaccines were elevated above "cold, analytical science." Accounts of children "maimed or killed by vaccines" were common--a finding that may help explain why those who advocate immunization receive death threats. [Public Library of Science, May 2009]

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