Who's The Biggest Source Of Climate Lies On Facebook? Would You Believe It's Breitbart?
A new report finds that Breitbart, the rightwing news aggravator that helped energize the "alt right" and bought Steve Bannon so many polo shirts that he had to wear them two at a time, is the most influential purveyor of climate misinformation on Facebook, so there's another achievement the far-Right site can brag about. The report, from the British nonprofit group the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), says that just 10 rightwing publishers were responsible for some 70 percent of climate denial posts circulating on Zuckerberg's Folly.
CCDH calls the group the "Toxic Ten," noting that some of them actually run multiple Righty sites, like Townhall Media, which publishes not only Townhall but also PJ Media, Red State, and Twitchy. Russian government counts as one entity, bringing us a pair of serial climate misinformers, RT and Sputnik News. And two of the Toxic Ten have have connections to Exxon Mobil, which is notorious for funding climate misinformation: Townhall was founded by the Heritage Foundation, which took Exxon funds, and the Media Research Center (NewsBusters, CNS News) was founded by Brent Bozell and has also been funded by Exxon. Very trustworthy news!
The threat of climate denial is quite real, even as polls are finally showing that most Americans accept the scientific reality of climate change and think government should take action to sharply reduce greenhouse emissions. Complete climate denial — the insistence that climate science is entirely a hoax — is increasingly becoming a fringe position among Republican politicians. Many are instead saying that sure, it's real, but instead of doing anything that might hurt polluting industries, we should instead "adapt" somehow, because gosh wouldn't it be sad if pipeline companies have to lay people off?
That said, plenty of wingnut media sources are still sticking with complete denial or muddying the waters by conflating climate issues with other things that freak out the Right, like the Breitbart article in that image up top that argues that instead of promoting electric trucks, Kamala Harris needs to be personally stopping illegal border crossings.
The CCDH report notes a similar apples and oranges Breitbart story from March of this year that suggested that if the Green New Deal were passed, then the lockdowns used to limit the spread of COVID would come back, because that's just how mean liberals do. That article warned (without evidence) that "Every major environmental figure [and] climate activist has praised the COVID lockdowns as essentially a model for what we should be doing with climate," because there's nothing liberals love more than controlling people by ending all economic growth.
So who are the other members of the "Toxic Ten," in terms of their influence on spreading misinformation on Facebook? Breitbart's at the top, followed by
2. The Western Journal, which has in the past spread Islamophobic panic, including the lie that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim who "hates Christianity." It pushes stories claiming that real climate science doesn't show any need to reduce carbon emissions.
3. Newsmax, the place that grew in popularity because it embraced Trump's election lies more vigorously than Fox News. It frequently goes with full climate denial, and tells readers to not "worry too much about CO2 baking the planet."
4. Townhall Media (Townhall, PJ Media, Red State, Twitchy). Lots of COVID denial and misinfo, big fan of horse paste, and publisher of articles like "10 Climate Alarmist Predictions for 2020 That Went Horribly Wrong," which claims there's " little concrete evidence" of any link between carbon emissions and global climate. Several of those "horribly wrong" predictions involve a range of decades, with the 2020s at the low end; somehow the fact that glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park are merely massively declining but not altogether vanished "disproves" climate science.
5. Media Research Center (NewsBusters, CNS News), which claims its goal is to counter "leftist bias in the news media and popular culture." It gets assloads of money from rightwing billionaire Robert Mercer, and sponsored a 2017 climate denial conference held by those fun climate deniers at the Heartland Institute. MRC is a big fan of cherry-picking data to attack mainstream reporting on climate, and routinely labels climate scientists as "alarmists." A May 2021 article claimed there's nothing to data showing that the hottest years on record keep breaking each other's record, and that such reports are merely "political statements designed to persuade the public that the government needs to take action on man-made climate change." Everything's fine, and actually maybe extreme weather events are declining. The chief source for those claims happened to be the same climate denier Breitbart cited in in its piece claiming climate action will result in renewed lockdowns.
6. The Washington Times, the Moonie News source that accuses scientists of "crying wolf" over climate, and which ran an "Energy and Environment 2021 special report" that was mostly sponsored content by fossil fuel companies.
7. The Federalist Papers, which is actually different from the similarly named "The Federalist," somehow. Full on lowest-common-denominator climate denial, including one dumb article claiming that six memes completely disproved all of climate science, which is "based on a lie."
8. The Daily Wire, aka Ben Shapiro's internet anxiety clearinghouse. Along with paranoia about immigration and COVID, the site has insisted that "there is no evidence that [climate change] will pose any problems for humans" and that climate science utterly disregards the scientific method, but instead seeks to bully everyone into silence.
9. Russian State Media (RT and Sputnik). Disinformation on everything from COVID to US elections, including false claims that the pandemic is being used by "doom mongers" to spread fear about climate as well.
10. The Patriot Post, which in addition to touting fake coronavirus cures and suggesting that LGBTQ people are genetically inferior because they have Neanderthal and chimp DNA, also insists that there isn't really any scientific consensus on climate change posing a threat, and that climate science must be ridiculed out of existence.
In addition, the CCDH takes Facebook to task for failing to label some 92 percent of climate lies from these sources as climate misinformation at all, a category that Facebook announced earlier this year would direct readers to reliable climate information. Further, CCDH notes, almost all of the "Toxic Ten" garner revenue either through Facebook or through Google advertising, despite pledges from both companies that they would demonetize climate denial.
But don't worry! Social media companies say they're really going to clean up their acts, eventually, the end.
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