Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: I mean, we know that still 80 percent of people get their news and information from television. And what role does American TV play in this?

GEORGE MONBIOT, AUTHOR: It plays a critical role. I mean, TV is the gatekeeper of public consciousness. And it’s been a very effective gatekeeper, particularly in the United States. It’s not just that it’s biased against this particular idea, it is biased against ideas, it is biased against understanding.

JAY: There’s direct censorship, there’s intervention, there’s pressure on media. How much do you blame this in terms of Americans not feeling this sense of urgency?

MONBIOT: Oh, I blame the media for people not feeling a sense of urgency, rather than the people not feeling the sense of urgency for the media. The problem begins with the media, and the media is censored as heavily as the media was in the Soviet Union. That sounds like an extreme statement. It’s not censored by the state, or very little by the state, hardly at all. It is censored by money. And listen, the big corporations, the big media corporations, have one thing in common: They are run by multimillionaires. And multimillionaires have one thing in common: They want a better world for multimillionaires. By and large, a better world for multimillionaires is a worse world for the rest of us. So they have to persuade us that a better world for them is a better world for us, and they do so by lying. And the lies primarily are lies of omission: they cut out anything, which is inconvenient to the worldview that they are trying to create.

JAY: I think that’s too general. It’s easy. But I think it’s more the kind of self-censorship that goes in the heads of journalists. It’s partly what’s good for my career and what isn’t, and that’s situated in the environment you’re talking about.

MONBIOT: Yeah. Precisely. I’m not saying that the proprietor comes along and says, �Thou shalt take the following line.� That’s not how it works. Journalists by and large are intelligent people. They know where their interests lie. They know that if they take a particular line, they get on in their work, and if they don’t, they don’t get on.

JAY: And in terms of ordinary journalists and others working in big media organizations, I don’t think even today people get�. Like, there’s been such an organized campaign to throw pressure on the fact whether human activity even causes global warming, never mind even getting to the debate of how urgent it is.

MONBIOT: Do you have a science degree?

JAY: No.

MONBIOT: I’m not singling you out. I went to a meeting of senior television journalists about a year ago. A hundred and fifty of us there. And the chairman of the meeting says, �How many people here have got a science degree?� And three of us put our hands up. This is a big part of the problem, that the people who run the media generally have a humanities background, and they have very little idea not of what science says, because none of us can be expected to have a broad idea of what science says�it’s moving and shifting all the time, it’s very, very complex�but of what science is. And journalists have enormous trouble distinguishing between those reputable scientists like James Hansen, who you mentioned, and these Exxon-sponsored mountebanks who are basically just working for a public relations agency in coming up with a whole lot of totally meaningless figures without any research behind them, any publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, saying it’s not happening. And journalists have been bamboozled by this because of their lack of expertise in knowing what science is.


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