Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Balance" or disinformation?

According to today's Independent (UK daily newspaper), the BBC has decided to withdraw a major program on global warming titled "Planet Relief," (see the Independent at arguing that it is "not the BBC's job to lead opinion on the global warming issue."

This politicization into "opinion" of what is now overwhelming scientific evidence is very familiar to those of us who live in the United States. Calls for "balance" have resulted in a tiny minority of mostly non-scientists wielding influence in terms of air time or print space disproportionate to their numbers. Their claim to equal time with the scientific community results in a distortion of the truth that amounts to a disinformation campaign, which the BBC has unfortunately decided to join.

Librarians, like journalists, need to critically examine the notion of balance. Adherence to the Library Bill of Rights should not be a pretext for librarians to stand back from this crucial issue. Is it possible that one of the reasons that the library community has so far failed to take a concerted stand on global warming (just as in the past it unfortunately failed to take a major stand on civil rights) is because we are afraid of entering the political fray? If so, then the disinformation campaign has succeeded. The fact of global warming is not a matter of opinion.

Far from "leading opinion" the BBC program would have been reporting on what is already standard knowledge among scientists. Balance requires that information agencies like the mass media and libraries bring this vitally important information to the public as much as possible, not that they give equal time to a minority of nay-sayers who are the modern equivalent of flat-earthers.