Saturday, February 03, 2007

BBC Biased Environmental Correspondent

Tibor R. Machan

Reporting on a meeting at which various organizations came together to address the issue of global warming, climate change, and the possibility of having to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the BBC’s environmental correspondent, Richard Black, wrote how US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman declared that energy companies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, well, they cared about the environment. As Bodman reportedly put the point, "I believe that the people who run the private sector, who run these companies: they too have children, they too have grandchildren, they too live and breathe in the world. And they would like things dealt with effectively."

In response to this the reporter for the BBC offered this: “Call me cynical if you will, but my first thought was, so you mean, what, corporations like Enron? Or Arthur Andersen? Or WorldCom? And I was not alone. Mr Bodman had momentarily silenced an entire press corps.”
Now just consider the companies Mr. Black mentioned as he considered Mr. Bodman’s comment—Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom. All of these have recently committed some kind of corporate crime, or have been charged with criminal conduct, although one of them has recently been nearly completely exonerated from all criminal culpability. Now imagine another scenario. A representative of the Roman Catholic Church offers a declaration that the church cares about young people, their education, their upbringing, their future. Mr. Black, who is in the audience when this declaration is made, writes about this as follows: “Call me cynical if you will, but my first thought was, so you mean, what, the Roman Catholic clergy, like those in Boston and San Francisco and Los Angeles, care about children? And I was not alone. The Roman Catholic spokesman had momentarily silenced an entire press corps.” Or consider the following: At a conference of university medical systems a representative of university hospitals declares that these institutions are concerned about the health of the citizenry in their neighborhoods, whereupon Mr. Black reports, “Call me cynical if you will, but my first thought was, so you mean, what, hospitals like the one at UCLA or UC Irvine care about patients? And I was not alone. The university hospital spokesman had momentarily silenced an entire press corps.”

Now perhaps my own response to Mr. Black’s report will not be fully appreciated by most people, probably because they have not followed the scandals involving Roman Catholic priests who have molested children entrusted into their care or the scandals at university hospitals where body parts have been selling on the black market and other gross malpractice has occurred, for instance, involving obtaining livers to be used in transplants. This would be understandable. The mainstream media is far more eager to report malfeasance in the business community than in the Roman Catholic clergy or at university medical schools. Yes, at first the news did make headlines but it never became the grounds for widespread condemnation of either the clergy or university medical care as such. The scandals were treated, rightly, as exceptions to the rule.

If Mr. Black and his colleagues took a count, they would learn that among all the major corporations doing business throughout the globe, only a very, very small minority is involved in malfeasance. Therefore to indict the integrity of all of them, to be cynical as Mr. Black and his fellow journalists reportedly were, is irresponsible and unprofessional. Might it be something of an indictment of professional journalism, perhaps? But it is best to recall that those who go into environmental journalism are a minority and tend to be ideologically motivated and, frankly, largely anti-business, not fully representative of journalists.

As to whether Mr. Bodman and others in the business community are justified in being concerned over greenhouse gas emissions, that’s a different topic. Perhaps they, like millions of other people, are victims of a hoax or the exaggerations of environmentalist doom-sayers. Whatever the case, the idea, conveyed by BBC reporter Richard Black, that people in corporate commerce must all be like a certain few corporate villains is disgraceful. It is completely unbecoming of someone in his own profession!

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