New York Post gets the Yes Men treatment

From the Centre for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch blog:

New York Post Suspends Climate Skepticism … For Just a Moment

Ahead of a major United Nations conference in New York on climate change, the high-profile pranksters, the Yes Men, distributed 100,000 copies of a “special edition” of Rupert Murdoch‘s New York Post. The tabloid-style headline screamed “We’re Screwed.” The lead article for the spoof edition reported on a little-covered report by New York City on the potential impacts of global warming. “This could be, and should be, a real New York Post. Climate change is the biggest threat civilization has ever faced, and it should be in the headlines of every paper, every day until we solve the problem,” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men. The New York Post, long noted for promoting the views of climate change skeptics, responded to the fake 32-page edition with a media release headlined ‘”witless spoof in flawless format.”

As the Yes Men have illustrated so brilliantly, it is actually not that difficult for the media to report climate change effectively, engagingly and with the prominence it so clearly deserves. If we want to understand why it doesn’t, we should be looking into the economic and political factors underlying its production. Take, for instance, the ownership of New York’s major tabloid organ by a proprietor who voiced his support for the impending attack on Iraq in these terms:

“The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in any country. …

“We’re keeping our heads down, managing the businesses, keeping our profits up. Who knows what the future holds? I have a pretty optimistic medium and long-term view but things are going to be pretty sticky until we get Iraq behind us. But once it’s behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else …”

How quickly talk of Murdoch’s own business interest glides into thoughts on the global economy, into the prospect of securing cheap oil through war. Murdoch’s business is a major beneficiary of the fossil fuel-based economy – and the papers he owns and oversees reflect his views. As the former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil told a House of Lords committee last year:

“If you want to know what Rupert Murdoch really thinks read the editorials in the Sun and the New York Post because he is editor-in-chief of these papers. … Although he is not named as the editor-in-chief of the Sun and the News of the World that is in reality what he is.”

And is Murdoch afraid to use his titles as a political battering ram? Recent developments suggest not.

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