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Media Malpractice By: Wesley J. Smith
The Weekly Standard | Friday, June 20, 2008


THERE IS A SURE-FIRE WAY to make the news these days: Just issue a press release beginning with the words, "New scientific study shows," and have it assert a conclusion that the MSM fervently want to believe--especially if the resulting story would serve to debunk or refute a Bush administration policy. Slam-dunk! Your press release will become news!

You are skeptical, you say? But what other explanation is there for the decision by CBS and MSNBC to post on their websites a ridiculous story about a new scientific "finding" that global warming is causing an increase in the world's earthquakes--an item that was even linked for a time on the Drudge Report.

Now I am not a scientist, but the idea that a few alleged degrees of warming--with none apparently in the last decade--could cause an increase in earthquakes seemed pure quackery to me. So, I decided to perform Google and Yahoo searches of the "scientist" who had issued the finding, one Thomas Chalko, MSc, Ph.D. In less than five minutes I found that Chalko was perhaps the last person who should be quoted on the purported impact of allegedly man-caused global warming.

Chalko is best described as a pseudo-scientist--at least when it comes to the fields of global warming and earthquakes about which he was quoted by CBS and MSNBC as an authority. He is not a meteorologist. Nor is he a geophysicist or seismologist. His website reveals that he is into "self healing," "vibrations," and alien visitations. Thus, he writes:

Awaken the perfect healer: your own body and mind. Living should be a wonderful experience. The best and most important things in life should be free and effortless. Our bodies should stay in a perfect state of health for as long as we want. This is not a dream. You can choose to aim for it with your own effort.

Chalko's "aural" workshop promises to explain "how to see your own aura," and "the meaning of the aura and its colors." Chalko also writes in the online NU Journal of Discovery--which he founded and for which he appears to be the only writer--that global warming could cause the earth to explode:

If the [earth's] under-cooled solid core reactor [due to global warming] continues to accumulate heat, despite the above described cooling mechanisms, conditions for its meltdown may occur. The meltdown will begin in the center of the planetary core reactor. Since the core is eccentric and spins, the molten part will be subject to centrifugal forces that will eventually segregate and stratify various radioactive isotopes present in the core according to their density. If the molten area of the core becomes large enough, one of the isotopes may reach the critical mass. In such a case, the geothermic energy that was scheduled to be released over billions of years will be released in a fraction of a second and the planet will explode.

One doesn't have to be a scientist to know this is beyond nutty.

Wait it gets even worse. The story published both by CBS and MSNBC is a verbatim copy of an article on Chalko's website, which announces: "Earthquakes 5 Times More Energetic Than 20 Years Ago." The article begins:

New research complied by an Australian scientist Dr. Tom Chalko shows that global seismic activity on Earth is now five times more energetic than it was just 20 years ago. The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of "global warming" is comprehensively and urgently addressed.

Now, here is the headline and opening of CBS's June 18 story (now removed) purporting to be from the AP (but I couldn't find an AP story on Chalko's prediction): "Today's Quakes Deadlier Than In Past." The entire story is exactly as it appears on Chalko's site, beginning with:

(AP) New research compiled by Australian scientist Dr. Tom Chalko shows that global seismic activity on Earth is now five times more energetic than it was just 20 years ago. The research proves that destructive ability of earthquakes on Earth increases alarmingly fast and that this trend is set to continue, unless the problem of "global warming" is comprehensively and urgently addressed.

Ditto MSNBC, only MSNBC went even further, linking to a Chalko article in NU Journal of Discovery, and even included his personal contact information!

The media love to repeatedly parrot the liberal meme that the Bush administration is scientifically ignorant. But the Chalko non story shows that many in the MSM are the true scientific ignoramuses--as well as true believers. Even if a story that is patently ridiculous comes across their transoms supporting their mass-think, and, better yet, purports to be based on a "scientific study," why bother with fact and source checking?

No wonder the public is fast losing faith in what the media tell them. File this debacle under Stupidity in the Media.


Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow in bioethics at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His blog, Secondhand Smoke, can be accessed at www.wesleyjsmith.com.


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