On MSNBC's Countdown, fill-in host Brian Unger denounced the baseless attacks -- including Nazi references -- against the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, which chronicles former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to raise awareness about global warming. Noting that these attacks ignore the scientific facts put forth in the movie, Unger characterized them as "swift-boating."
On the May 31 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, fill-in host Brian Unger, a commentator on National Public Radio's Day to Day, denounced the baseless attacks -- including Nazi references -- against documentary film An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), which chronicles former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to raise awareness about global warming. Noting that these attacks ignore the scientific facts put forth in the movie, Unger characterized them as "swift-boating," referring to the attack ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) during his 2004 presidential campaign. He added that "Third Reich analogies are the nuclear bombs of oratory, rhetorical, or literary devices," which "obliterate any logic or reason within miles of the hurler."
Unger pointed out that global warming skeptic William M. Gray, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, stated that "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews," according to a May 28 Washington Post Magazine article. Unger also highlighted an unnamed pundit who compared An Inconvenient Truth to Joseph Goebbels's Nazi propaganda films. Unger may have been referring to Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, who, as Media Matters for America has documented, called the film "propaganda" and added: "You don't go see Joseph Goebbels's films to see the truth about Nazi Germany. You don't want to go see Al Gore's film to see the truth about global warming."
From the May 31 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
UNGER: Third Reich analogies are the nuclear bombs of oratory, rhetorical, or literary devices. They obliterate any logic or reason within miles and the hurler of the Hitler bomb almost always looks worse than the intended recipient of the blast. Seinfeld's soup Nazi episode gets the only waver. The latest target of the Hitler comparison: Al Gore and his global warming film. And anyone who has a beef with it should probably base their criticism on the science and not the mindset of old Adolf.
In our third story on the Countdown: the swift-boating of Al Gore -- the former vice president's wake-up call on climate change, leading to some unfortunate analogies and a debate that seems lacking in substance. The documentary itself, An Inconvenient Truth, making an impressive debut at the box office, raking in an average of just over $70,000 per screen over the holiday weekend. The No. 1 film, X-Men III, averaging less than half of that. As a result, the counterattacks beginning in earnest. Meteorologist Bill Gray making little mention of the weather in his rebuttal. Quote, "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews." Which doesn't even make sense.
Then there's the pundit who compared the Gore movie to Joseph Goebbels films about Nazi, Germany. The Fox News analyst who said that global warming was bogus and dreamed up by environmentalists to stop economic development. And in true swift-boat fashion, the campaign-style attack ads produced by a conservative think tank that is funded largely by the energy industry.
ANNOUNCER [clip]: There's something in these pictures you can't see. It's essential to life. You breathe it out, plants breathe it in. It comes from animal life, the oceans, the earth, and the fuels we find in it. It's called carbon dioxide -- CO2. The fuels that produce it have freed us from the world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love. Now, some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then? Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.
UNGER: Time now to suspend this lesson on photosynthesis for a closer look at the politics involved here with the White House correspondent for the New York Daily News Ken Bazinet.
Thank you for joining us.
BAZINET: Hi Brian. Good evening.
UNGER: For five years now, Al Gore has been, you know, little more than a political punch line at times. Why go to all this trouble of attacking him now? I mean, are conservatives legitimately scared of a Gore comeback here?
BAZINET: I don't -- I don't know that they're necessarily scared of a Gore comeback, but I think it's the message. It's sort of a -- it's a wine whose time has come, I think. In 2000, when Al Gore was talking about climate change and global warming, I don't think people by and by could state their position, articulate how they felt about it or even tell you what it was. I think now, in 2006, we're at a place were people actually do have an opinion of this. They go on the Internet and they want to try and find out what does climate change have to do with hurricane season, for instance. What exactly are greenhouse gases? So, I think the timing of this really is -- is what's essential. I don't think it's so much the messenger as it is the message.
UNGER: It feels, though, that this is a personal attack. The politics of global warming has -- of course, you know, the science has long been in dispute. Is this more personal?
BAZINET: Well, I don't think that Al Gore has sort of manufactured himself to become a candidate overnight, but I do think that he can lay claim to this issue. But again, I want to get back to my -- to really, my first answer. They're attacking Al Gore because he's the perfect messenger. He can articulate this. I spoke with someone who attended a screening of this film, and one point that she made was that he really does a good job of simplifying things that are very complicated to, I think, the untrained mind. I think that's very dangerous. If you can say in a simple declarative sentence what the problem is, back it up with science, I think that really you have a hot potato there and I think that the right is very concerned about that, potentially those folks who are on the payroll of big oil at this point, I believe.
UNGER: The swift-boating of John Kerry helped secured four more years of George W. Bush. Anything that it would suggest that it won't work this time?
BAZINET: Well, first of all, what ballot is he on? And, you know, second of all, I think that there is probably more science to back up Al Gore's case at this point. I'm not sure that this will work to destroy Al Gore as much as it's going to cause an awful lot of people who, you know, quite frankly, he wasn't on their radar screens, but now he will be. Any time you hammer someone, I mean, people want to know why. So, I think it's a real risk move and I think that's why you don't necessarily see so-called mainstream Republicans jumping in on this, but rather sort of the fractured right at this point.
UNGER: Big box office does not mean a film like this will have any real lasting impact at the ballot box, Fahrenheit 9/11 being a recent example of that. Is it too soon to be hailing the success of An Inconvenient Truth?
BAZINET: I think -- I think it's not necessarily too soon to hail it, but I think that you can measure it, both dollars and cents wise -- people, obviously, showing up at the theaters -- but also, let's see whether or not he's able to, you know, get people talking. If he's able to galvanize, for instance, part of the true left, I mean, that can work to the advantage, obviously, of those Democrats, those progressives who are on the ballot this fall. So, I think, you know, yes, the jury's out, but we're already talking about this.
UNGER: Ken Bazinet, thank you very much for joining us.
BAZINET: My pleasure.