Saturday, February 17, 2007

Scepticism an Australian value

Australia’s Finance Minister, Senator Nick Minchin, has admonished fellow Aussies not to become swept up in global “panic” over climate change.

Minchin quite rightly notes that “there is never a finality to almost anything in the scientific world.” He goes on to urge that, therefore, the adoption of a “healthy scepticism” on the topic is warranted.

What’s more, “scepticism is one of the all-time great Australian attributes.” And furthermore, “it is more likely that those of a conservative disposition will have a greater quotient of inherent, and I think healthy, scepticism.”

Thus, according to Minchin’s line of reasoning, climate change “panic” is un-Australian, un-conservative, and almost certainly un-Liberal.

How are you doing with your scepticism quotient, Australian readers?

I’m happy to say mine’s doing just fine. I take every single word uttered by the Minister with a big fat grain of salt.

Where Senator Minchin is inclined to see “panic” in some quarters, I tend rather to see thoughtful concern, tempered perhaps with more than a little impatience at the glacial rate of response by the national leadership.

One also has to ask: Where was all this Government’s healthy, conservative, Aussie scepticism when it bought all those “Iraq has WMD” and “Saddam in league with Osama” lies back in 2003? Those ninnies accepted the “finality” of cooked-up intelligence, “panicked” and went to war because of it.

Ah, I can hear the sceptical Senator counter, but then we were dealing with a potential threat to the world as we know it. Whereas, with climate change, it’s ... um

Well, duh!!

Speaking of healthy scepticism, it’s reported here that news director Bill Dupuy of KSFR public radio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has directed his staff to “ignore national stories quoting unnamed sources.”

Effectively immediately and until further notice, it is the policy of KSFR’s news department to ignore and not repeat any wire service or nationally published story about Iran, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia or any other foreign power that quotes an “unnamed” U.S. official.

What we have suspected and talked about at length before is now becoming clear. “High administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity,” “Usually reliable Washington sources,” and others of the like were behind the publicity that added credibility to the need to go to war against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dupuy has urged other news outlets to do likewise. One wonders if Senator Minchin would approve of such a sceptical approach as this.

It may be a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Such a moratorium on carrying news citing unnamed sources would rule out a lot of the reporting of people like Seymour Hersh, who broke a number of big stories, from the My Lai atrocity during the Vietnam War, to the Abu Ghraib abuses in Baghdad, and much else.

In closing, my advice: Do your own thinking. And tell Minchin to rack off.


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