Jonathan Chait | Media Matters for America

Jonathan Chait

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  • Media Incorrectly Equate Biden's 1992 Comments "Bemoaning Politicization" Of Hypothetical SCOTUS Nomination To GOP's Ongoing And "Unprecedented" Obstruction

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    Media outlets have dubiously likened Vice President Joe Biden's 1992 speech suggesting the Senate Judiciary Committee might not hold confirmation hearings for a hypothetical Supreme Court vacancy following a resignation during an ongoing presidential campaign to the unprecedented determination by Senate Republicans that they will not consider anyone President Obama nominates after Justice Antonin Scalia's death.

  • "They Built This": Media Call Out National Review's Anti-Trump Feature For Ignoring Right-Wing Media's Role In Trump's Rise

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media figures are calling out National Review's feature of conservatives criticizing current GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, noting that the magazine and conservative media as a whole created the conditions for Donald Trump's rise by "engendering an oppositional mode towards government," being "hostile to immigration and immigrants," and bashing "political correctness."

  • New York Magazine Highlights How Right-Wing Media Moved The Goalposts On The Paris Climate Change Agreement

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait criticized right-wing media outlets for claiming the Paris climate agreement is toothless after previously denying the reality of man-made climate change.

    Conservative media personalities criticized the Paris conference leading to a landmark December 12 climate change agreement to limit global emissions. Right-wing media outlets and figures, such as Fox News' Stuart Varney and The Daily Caller, claimed any agreement would have "little... impact" and argued that lowering global temperatures by a "minuscule amount" would cost America "an enormous amount of money." Fox News in particular demonstrated its hypocrisy over the issue by falsely implying that those at the Paris agreement were hypocrites for having a supposed large carbon footprint the Paris summit and dismissing the "hoopla" over the event due to any agreement being non-binding, while at the same time pointing to record level Alaska snowfall to dispute climate change. A Fox host also falsely claimed global temperatures have "stabilized or gone down a little bit," and Fox's Laura Ingraham claimed that the summit is about "bringing America's economy down."

    In a December 20 article, Chait pointed out how conservative media were moving the goalposts on the issue, writing they had "shifted their emphasis from denying the science to denying the possibility that policy can change it." Noting that conservative media previously "objected to previous climate deals precisely because their 'mandatory' character presented an unacceptably onerous burden," conservative media were claiming "the absence of that unacceptable feature makes the new agreement worthless." Chait also called out outlets like National Review, Fox News, and The Daily Caller for misrepresenting a MIT climate study to downplay the agreement's impact:

    Most conservative energy on climate change over the last quarter-century has gone into questioning the validity of climate science. Conservative intellectuals have invested enough of their reputations into this form of scientific kookery that it cannot be easily abandoned. Instead, as the evidence for anthropogenic global warming grows ever more certain, and the political costs for Republican presidential candidates of openly questioning science rise, conservatives have shifted their emphasis from denying the science to denying the possibility that policy can change it. A National Review editorial last year dismissed the notion of an international agreement to limit climate change as a metaphysical impossibility, on the grounds that reducing coal usage in one place would axiomatically increase it elsewhere. As The Wall Street Journal editorial page asserts, "If climate change really does imperil the Earth, and we doubt it does, nothing coming out of a gaggle of governments and the United Nations will save it." Having begun with their conclusion, conservative are now reasoning backward through their premises. 

    Accordingly, a new data point has taken hold on the right and quickly blossomed. One study by MIT finds that the Paris agreement would reduce the global temperature increase by a mere 0.2 degrees by 2100. The entire right-wing media has eagerly circulated the finding. "Current analysis by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- not exactly a nest of fossil-fuel conservatism -- suggests that the emissions cuts being agreed to in Paris would reduce that estimated warming by as little as 0.0°C or by as much as 0.2°C," announces a National Review editorial, thrilled to have an empirical basis for the conclusion it previously asserted as an a priori truth. The same study has been recirculated by places like the Daily Caller, Fox News, and elsewhere. Rich Lowry, writing in the New York Post, reports, "The best estimates are that, accepting the premises of the consensus, the deal will reduce warming 0.0 to 0.2 degrees Celsius."

    In fact, this study is just one estimate, not estimates plural. There are many other studies, and while Lowry's column does not reveal what process he used to deem the MIT study "the best," we can probably guess that it has something to do with MIT being the one that supports his preferred conclusion. In fact, the MIT study does not produce the conclusion its gloating conservative publicists claim on its behalf.


    So MIT's conclusion of emissions levels over the next 15 years is right in line with other estimates that assume Paris will do a great deal to limit climate change.


    It is also certainly possible that global willpower to reduce emissions will weaken, or collapse entirely. Future events cannot be proven. Only rigid dogma like American conservatism (or, for that matter, Marxism) gives its adherents a mortal certainty about the fate of government policy that a liberal cannot match, and should not want to.

  • NY Mag's Jonathan Chait Highlights How Right-Wing Media Helps Push The GOP To Deny Climate Science

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait explained how conservative media personalities helped coerce the GOP into climate-science denialism.

    In a December 1 article, Jonathan Chait discussed the way right-wing media has bullied the GOP to adopt climate-science denialism or face the "AM radio interrogation" from conservative radio hosts. Chait wrote that "GOP politicians that understand climate science [are] cowed into submission by an angry minority," and media figures like Fox News contributors George Will and Charles Krauthammer, and The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. 

    Though it was surely not his intention to do so, David Brooks' column today has made an airtight case for why no sane person would support any Republican candidate for president next year.Brooks begins his column by conceding that climate-science deniers have a hammerlock on public discourse within the party. "On this issue the G.O.P. has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship," he writes, "a vast majority of Republican politicians can't publicly say what they know about the truth of climate change because they're afraid the thought police will knock on their door and drag them off to an AM radio interrogation." Brooks uses this observation as a launching point to tout glimmerings of moderate (or, at any rate, less extreme) thought within the party. 


    In fact, as terrifying as the reality depicted by Brooks may sound, matters are actually worse. Brooks presents the situation as a "vast majority" of GOP politicians that understand climate science cowed into submission by an angry minority. Perhaps the vast majority of Republican politicians who confide their private beliefs to Brooks feel this way, but this is probably not a representative cross section. It is clear that a large proportion of party elites proclaim themselves to be climate-science skeptics for reasons purely of their own volition. Nor is this sentiment confined to talk-radio shouters. Esteemed chin-strokers and collectors of awards, like George F. Will and Charles Krauthammer, broadcast their disdain for the findings of the climate-science field.


    Here is a typical example at hand in Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens's offering today, which dismisses climate change as an imaginary problem. "The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880--as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies--melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice--to press the political point." 


    Parties operate by coalescing around mutually agreeable policies. The presidential nominee may downplay the most outlandish anti-scientific conspiracy theories, but the party's agenda will have to accommodate the beliefs expounded by the likes of Smith, Inhofe, Will, Krauthammer, Stephens, and many others. 

    This week conservative media personalities also attacked the U.N. climate summit in Paris. Conservative radio and Fox News host Sean Hannity called those who believed in climate change "idiots." Fox host Bill Hemmer  pointed to increasing snowfall in Alaska to dismiss the summit entirely. And radio host Rush Limbaugh said that the climate summit is "an attack on capitalism" and is "about weakening the United States."

  • Overcompensation

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The New Republic's Jonathan Chait writes of his membership in Journolist:

    For people like me, the national debate mostly revolves around a liberal-moderate-conservative axis, and more hard-left or even traditional liberal views are fairly marginal. Journolist brought people like me into contact with a lot of those sort of liberals, and my main response was to realize that I'm a lot less liberal than I had thought.

    This relates to something I've long argued: Many journalists think they're more liberal than they really are, which leads them to produce journalism that favors the Right. When a slightly liberal person who thinks his reporting should be as down-the-middle as possible mistakenly believes he is very liberal, the result is going to be reporting that often favors conservatives. It's a classic case of over-compensation.

    In a town in which the Brookings institution and The New Republic have long been considered liberal entities, a lot of slightly-left-of-center journalists haven't, as Chait says, spent much time around people with "hard-left or even traditional liberal views." Both the "Left" and the "Center" are further to the left than they think. That might not matter as much were more journalists to adopt Jay Rosen's suggestion that they transparently report from their own perspective rather than trying to report from where they think the center is.

  • More on TNR's National Magazine Award

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's The New Republic's Jonathan Chait:

    In my field, we have something called the National Magazine Awards. Magazine writers tend to be both obsessed with who wins and convinced the process is a pathetic joke. This isn't just sour grapes, either. The last time The New Republic won a National Magazine Award, it was for publishing Betsy McCaughey's infamous anti-Clintoncare screed "No Exit," which is probably the worst article in the history of TNR. It's as if the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Timothy McVeigh.

    Which, of course, raises the question of why TNR hasn't given back the award -- and why its editor claims the magazine has "recanted" and "apologized" for "No Exit," even though it has done nothing of the kind.