Framing the Dialogue

Opinion (o – pin – yen)

Opinion is defined as:

“A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof”

Synonyms:  view, sentiment, feeling, belief, conviction, persuasion

What does Einstein think?

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

Can you use it in a sentence?

Reporters can express their opinions either by what they print or do not include in thier articles.

Can you give me an example?

Example 1:  The City & Region section of the paper today feature an article “celebrating” the 30th anniversary of the accident at Three Mile Island nuclear facility in 1979.  Over the years when I saw a report about the events of those days, they generally focus on the malfunctions and “what could have happened.”  If you are intellectually honest, there were a lot of good things that happened that prevented really bad things from “actually” happening.

Unfortunately the article (Section C, Page 1, with a very large photograph of a concerned citizen) is dominated by many anecdotal accounts from citizens and activists.  The woman pictured, “keeps photos of disturbing things she said followed in the region:  a poodle born without eyes, a two-headed calf, plants with flattened stems and misplaced blooms.”  This newsworthy information was provided twice (the photograph caption and the body of the article). 

While the article did quote official reports from the NRC about the effects of any releases, it presented them in a way that diminishes the findings:

“The NRC estimates 2 million people were exposed to radiation averaging one-sixth the amount from a chest X-ray.  The effects on people and the environment were ‘negligible,’ it said.”

Rather than quote the entire segment of the report, the reporter chose to rephrase the report and only include the word “negligible” in quotes.  This is a trick used to question the assertion of the report.  That crosses the line between opinion and news.

The article did include a nice time-line named “Milestones in nuclear development” where some interesting facts could have been expanded.

  • 1957 – The first full scale nuclear power plant in Shippingport begins service
  • 1971 – Construction begins on what will be the last nuclear power plant built in the United States.

The fifty-plus year old Shippingport facility is still in operation.  We passed so many regulatory impediments that we cannot build new facilities and must rely on older plants.  The last nuclear power plant was started in 1971.  Consider how technology has changed since our newest nuclear reactor was built. 

In 1971:

  • Intel released the first microprocessor (you know that thing that is probably now in your toaster)
  • Texas Instruments released its first personal calculator (the plans for that last facility was probably designed using slide rule technology)
  • Apollo 14 lands on the moon
  • The first contact lens becomes commercially available
  • Oh and a movie ticket cost $1.50

Example 2:  The MSN biography for Hardball’s Chris Matthews states that,

“Over the trajectory of his life, preeminent television broadcast journalist Chris Matthews built formidable careers as a news correspondent, presidential speechwriter, published author, and newspaper bureau chief. The winner of the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.”

I did not see the word “opinion” anywhere in his biography.  Anyone who watches the show and does not consider it an opinion show is delusional.  Would Edward R. Murrow ever admit that he “felt this thrill going up my leg” when reporting on a political speech.

Example 3:  ABC News’ John Stossel seems to successfully straddle this boundary.  Mr. Stossel describes himself as a libertarian and his writing and news segments highlight an alternate viewpoint than you typically experience at mainstream media outlets.  He, however, bridges the opinion/news divide by using facts.  What a concept.  Read one of John’s books.

Example 4:  IThe biggest opinion-driven issue facing the world today may be man-made global warming.  If you have read some of my posts you know that I am a skeptic who craves a real debate between experts, not opinions by celebrities and ex-politicians.  Many alarmists use the phrase consensus when preaching about the science of warming. 

Consensus is defined as majority opinion.  The science that I was taught in school is based in fact, not consensus.  Politicians are prepared to spend trillions of dollars of our money on the opinion of some opinionists (I cannot bring myself to call them scientists).   The opinionists also discount any data that might disprove their consensus. 

The Science and Public Policy Institute caught the BBC red-handed in a case of opinion journalism:

“The BBC published an article by its “environment analyst”, commenting on an announcement by the World Meteorological Organization that 2008 was likely to be the tenth successive year in which global temperatures had not risen. The BBC’s story stressed that the stasis in global temperatures was only temporary and that anthropogenic “global warming” would inexorably resume.

The truth: The BBC opens its story with the words “Global temperatures will drop slightly this year …” However, the BBC somehow fails to mention that, according to the UK’s Hadley Centre for Forecasting and the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, global temperatures have already been falling for more than six years, and that the downtrend, far from being slight, is equivalent to 0.4 degrees Kelvin (almost 1 degree F) per decade:

The downtrend that the BBC somehow failed to mention: Since late 2001, the trend of global surface temperatures has been firmly downward. “Global warming” stopped in 1998; and, though it may resume in future years, the rate of warming is self-evidently less than official forecasts had shown, and is very likely to be harmless.

Next, the BBC uses a favorite tactic, citing unnamed “experts” as a way of falsely giving apparent legitimacy to what are in fact its own biased opinions. It says, “Experts say we are clearly in a long-term warming trend.” So we are. Since the end of the Maunder Minimum in 1700, global temperatures have recovered from the Little Ice Age at a near-linear rate of 0.5 degrees K (almost 1 F) per century (Akasofu, 2008)”

“The BBC, as usual, fails to point out that temperatures in the Arctic were warmer in the 1940s than they are today; that the Greenland ice sheet actually thickened by 5 cm (2 inches) per year in the decade 1993-2003 (Johannesen et al., 2005); that most of the Antarctic continent has been cooling for half a century (Doran et al., 2002); that there has been no increase in ocean temperatures in recent years (Lyman et al., 2006); that global temperatures were warmer than today in the Mediaeval Warm Period (McIntyre & McKitrick, 2005), in the Roman Warm Period; and, for at least 2000 years, in the Bronze Age Holocene Climate Optimum. The BBC’s story also fails to mention that global surface temperatures, as inferred from oxygen isotope ratios in ice-core samples from Antarctica, were at least 5 degrees Celsius (9 F) warmer than today’s in each of the four previous interglacial periods (Petit et al., 1999, etc.).

The BBC goes on to say that the unidentified “experts” predict a new record high temperature within the next five years. However, it somehow fails to point out that not one of the computer models relied upon by the IPCC predicted ten years ago that global temperatures would be lower in 2008 than they were in 1998.”

Why have we not seen a reporter step up to Al Gore and simply ask him to prove that there is man-made global warming.  They could also ask the same question of Barack Obama, John McCain and George W. Bush.  We should all be very afraid when these folks agree on something.

That’s just my opinion!

One CommentsLeave one

Leave a comment

Use basic HTML (<a href="">, <strong>, <blockquote>)