Monday, December 03, 2007

"Media fear fatigue"

Arthur Greenwald, one of my classmates, wrote to our listserv:
If I were to characterize overall audience reaction to [a Yale program on global warming and sustainability] it would go like this: "Holy crap! That sounds really serious. I'm glad Yale is doing something. What's for dinner?" In other words, there was genuine interest but no coherent call for alumni reaction let alone action.

The problem is only partly that so few privileged North Americans are directly threatened by global warming. Perhaps worse is the perception that things will improve now that Al Gore and others have finally persuaded everyone that the problem is real.

I fear that's just not true.

I've met a discouraging number of bright, well-informed people who think the problem has been overstated by alarmist scientists or even fabricated by "tree huggers" with a "political agenda." Such views often mirror the partisan babble of Fox News and the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

But there's a more worrisome phenomenon - when otherwise sensible people are automatically skeptical or hostile to scientific warnings because of what might be called media fear fatigue. Americans live in a media environment where every new threat, regardless how minor, is hyped with alarmist headlines. The skepticism is reinforced every time a new medical study contradicts previous findings, or some data is indeed proved to be overstated.

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At 1:23 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Hi! Apparently, I won your NaBloPoMo giveaway. If you can get me your e-mail address, I can send you my address. Thanks for your generosity!



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