Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The accuracy of the MSM

Yesterday, your humble Devil spotted that BBC Environmental Analyst, Roger Harrabin, had claimed that Al Gore was an environmental science graduate. However, I could find no evidence of this and so I emailed Harrabin for clarification. He has replied.
Thanks
He talks at length about his university teacher an environmental scientist
I'll look into it
RH

And then...
DK

I have had a cursory look on the web and it looks as though he took courses in science but did not graduate in it. I will change the wording on the Online article asap then try to unpick the full details when I have finished the other stories I am chasing. Thanks very much for pointing this out - really valuable feedback.

RH

Harrabin has now altered his article to read thusly.
Remember that Al Gore, who first studied climate science when he was at university, has been trying to alert the public to climate change for a quarter of a century.

Except that there is no evidence for this either. As Wikipedia says, Al Gore first majored in English at university, not climate science or, indeed, any kind of science.

I have emailed Roger Harrabin again.
Roger,

Thank you for your quick response and the alteration to your article. However, the paragraph now reads that Gore "first studied climate science when he was at university" but he actually first majored in English (before moving to a Government major).

[I know that Wikipedia is not utterly reliable, but one would have thought that -- given his current career -- any reference to Gore having any meaningful qualifications in this area might be a priority.]

Is it possible that he studied climate science at some elementary level, such as at high school? In which case, I am afraid that I do not consider that to be worth mentioning in a credible comment piece: there is a substantial difference between school-level and degree-level science.

I appreciate that you are busy, but I think that it is important get the facts right.

Regards,

DK

P.S. It is worth remembering that Gore is known for being a little... um... flexible with the actualite.

But my favourite Gore memory lapse is his account of being sung to sleep with the lullaby Look for the Union Label, written in 1975. How sweet: being sung to sleep by your parents at the age of 27.

DK

You see, this is why we need the MSM: because they have armies of researchers and conscientious journalists to check the facts...

16 comments:

Ed said...

I thought the BBC prided itself on never uttering a word without it being "double-sourced" ??

Kit said...

"I have spent much of the last two decades of my journalistic life warning about the potential dangers of climate change"

It is Roger Harrabin use of the word "warning" made me uneasy - wouldn't "reporting" be more appropriate for a journalist.

Trixy said...

Harrabin or Hairbrain?

Anonymous said...

While not being fond of Gore, remember that in the US you have to take certain courses outwith your major. Everyone - no matter what your major is - will study basic science and mathematics courses.

In this context, it's very likely that Gore took some sort of introductory course ("Environmental Science 101"?), so it is probably literally true that he studied environmental science at university. However, it's also misleading since most "101" classes are so basic as to be irrelevant and often work at a lower level than even the English 'A' Level or Scottish Higher.

Be wary of Americans who claim to have studied Subject X at college. They'll often have studied less of it in tertiary education than you would in a British secondary.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Yes, I suspected that he may have taken something that basic -- equivalent to a British university "outside course" -- but that does not lend him any qualifications. To even imply that it did is to be highly misleading.

DK

ayayay said...

Here's an account of his academic career
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A37397-2000Mar18

Anonymous said...

>Yes, I suspected that he may have taken something that basic -- equivalent to a British university "outside course"<

I dunno what those are. What are they? I know that some of the Scottish Ancients continue to run a system that's not totally dissimilar to the American where you take a variety of "level 1" courses in addition to your main subject(s).

>but that does not lend him any qualifications. To even imply that it did is to be highly misleading.<

Ha! And what exactly did you expect from the Beeb? Foolish boy! But, seriously, the big question is whether this is deliberate deception in pursuit of an agenda or simply the result of the usual BBC incompetence/laziness.

My money's on the latter, I have to say. I don't think Harrabin has the intellectual wherewithal to attempt formulate and attempt any real deception in this way.

Either way, our money at work. Makes you proud, so it does.

Peter Risdon said...

Gore studied under Roger Revelle, the "father of global warming" - or not. It ended in tears, and the libel court.

Harrabin really ought to know this.

Basically, Gore misunderstood the climate science course and his teacher. Really. So when Revelle and Fred Singer published a piece in Cosmos arguing that global warming wasn't alarming and we shouldn't panic, then Revelle died suddenly, Gore had the indecency to suggest he had been senile when the Cosmos piece was written. A Gore acolyte then turned up the heat, wound up in the libel courts and apologised to Singer as part of a settlement.

Imagine my surprise, then, when said acolyte turned up on my blog a couple of months ago, repeating the libel.

John Trenchard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Trenchard said...

damn right DK. how would we survive without thorough and complete fact checking of the MSM? The MSM who gives us the full picture. The wonderful MSM journalists who give us the FULL and complete aspect on a story, enlightening us on what is going on in the world.

I mean just the other day , General Sanchez tore into President Bush and lambasted his entire Iraq policy.

oh wait... maybe not

darrell said...

I thought the BBC prided itself on never uttering a word without it being "double-sourced" ??

Well, they checked it with a guy named Mike, and then again at AlGoreIsGod.com. How can you be so cynical? What do you think they are, biased? Come now.

D

Raymond Woodbury said...

According to "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" (2007, 238) by Christopher C. Horner, Gore's university classes included "Natural Sciences 118," in which he received a C+, and "Natural Sciences 6 (Man's Place in Nature)," in which he got an (ungentlemanly) D.

Horner cites the Washington Post in 2000 but is not more specific. He presents only those grades on a table, so if he aced NS101-117 and/or NS1-5, we know not.

Werner Patels said...

Al Gore a science graduate? People, don't make me laugh. He's a modern-day snake-oil salesman who manage to bedazzle the Nobel committed and pocketed a little award (which is now forever tarnished and degraded because of him).

If I were less polite, I'd say Gore is a con-artist and a fraud -- but I wouldn't say that, would I?

Werner Patels said...

I really shouldn't be blogging at 2:15am (local time).

One 'd' got away from me and inserted itself where it wasn't supposed to go.

Correction of the above:

...who managed to bedazzle the Nobel committee...

GDK said...

I can, in complete honesty, say I studied classical Greek at school.

To what extent those studies equipped me to pass any sensible comment on matters Grecian - past or present - is a totally different matter

Emily said...

As somebody pointed out above, in the US, most universities follow a liberal arts program where you have to take a couple of years of general subjects before moving on to your specific major. Being a graduate of a US university, and given the requirements of the BBC for proficiency, I would like to humbly offer them my expertise on the following subjects: psychology, anthropology, sociology, biology, literature, history, economics, French, art (history and applied), theater, fisheries, botany, geography, algebra, architecture, philosophy, film and television studies, journalism and theology.

Sure, I only majored in one of those, but I studied them all...