One of the most predictable lines of attack on President Obama by Fox News and other right-wing media is to latch unto his commitment to mitigating the catastrophic effects of anthropomorphic climate change, and suggesting that his commitment to fighting terrorism is lax in comparison. The idiocy of that argument has been demonstrated numerous times, but since the right keeps bringing it up like a meal of rotten clams, it still needs to be debunked.
The latest regurgitation of this nonsense came when Obama spoke at a press conference with the President of Argentina. He was asked a question about the post-Brussels optics of his decision to stay in Cuba and attend a baseball game. Obama expanded on his previous statement asserting that allowing the terrorists to disrupt our lives would be counter-productive, and that the message we need to send is that “You do not have power over us.”
Obama: Groups like ISIL can’t destroy us. They can’t defeat us. They don’t produce anything. They’re not an existential threat to us. They are vicious killers and murderers who perverted one of the world’s great religions. And their primary power, in addition to killing innocent lives, is to strike fear in our societies, to disrupt our societies, so that the effect cascades from an explosion or an attack by a semi-automatic rifle. And even as we are systematic and ruthless and focused in going after them, disrupting their networks, getting their leaders, rolling up their operations, it is very important for us not to respond with fear.
That profound and powerful statement was contorted into an expression of indifference by the spinmeisters at Fox News with help from CNSNews, a division of the uber-rightist Media Research Center. The problem they had with Obama’s remarks was that they were followed by his support for advancing a positive agenda, including solutions to the very real global threats posed by climate change.
Obama: So it’s important for the U.S. president and the U.S. government to be able to work with people who are building, and who are creating things and creating jobs, and trying to solve major problems like climate change, and setting up educational exchanges for young people who going to create the next great invention or scientific breakthrough that can cure diseases. We have to make sure that we lift up and we stay focused as well on the things that are most important to us.
The Horror! President Obama had the audacity to advocate a path forward that seeks to prevent suffering from disease and worldwide climate-related disasters. Anyone with a clear perspective understands that these are real threats that will affect millions of people. And while terrorism is unarguably agonizing and barbaric, it’s impact is much more narrow in terms of victims. What conservatives want is to terrify people by focusing on the immediacy and bloodshed of incidents like those in Brussels. Which is, ironically, the same thing the terrorists want.
However, most experts on terrorism and international security (including four of the past Secretaries of Defense, three of whom are Republicans) have concluded that climate change, unlike terrorism, is an existential threat. The military has been crystal clear for years about the very real consequences of a world where water and arable land become scarce, and nations erupt into chaos and war. Last year the Rolling Stone published an extensive examination of The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk. Among its many documented examples of the threat certified by numerous military analysts is one that ought to be persuasive to the conservative Republican deniers:
“In 2003, under Donald Rumsfeld, former President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, the Pentagon published a report titled ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.’ Commissioned by Andrew Marshall, who is sometimes jokingly referred to within the Pentagon as Yoda — and who was a favorite of Rumsfeld’s — the report warned that threats to global stability posed by rapid warming vastly eclipse that of terrorism.”
You might think that with Rumsfeld warning about the dangers of climate change from a national security perspective, the naysayers at Fox would keep their mouths shut. You would be wrong. And that’s because their goals have nothing to do with solving problems. The Fox propagandists are tightly focused on bashing the President to the exclusion of any other objective, including the best interests of the American people and the rest of the world.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.
For the record, Obama didn’t just bring up climate change at the press conference to rattle conservative cages. The issue was one of the key subjects on the agenda for his trip to Argentina. And during the visit Obama and Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri agreed to take significant measures to cut carbon emissions from air flights and integrate solar and wind power into electricity grids.
What’s more, the criticism from the right that Obama has not properly prioritized the fight against terrorism in his public statements was put to rest the very same day in these remarks which Fox News neglected to report:
“I’ve got a lot of things on my plate. But my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world. The issue is how do we do it in an intelligent way. But what we don’t do, and what we should not do, is take approaches that are gonna be counter-productive. So when I hear somebody say we should carpet-bomb Iraq or Syria, not only is that inhumane, not only is that contrary to our values, but that would likely be an extraordinary mechanism for ISIL to recruit more people willing to die and explode bombs in an airport or in a metro station. That’s not a smart strategy.”
In conclusion, Fox News is blatantly disinforming their dimwitted audience when they try to portray Obama as disinterested in terrorism, when in fact it is one of his highest priorities. And they are likewise disinforming their audience by leading them to believe that climate change is not an existential threat, in particular when compared to terrorism. But what they are doing mostly is advancing the interests of terrorists by helping them to spread the fear that is at the heart of their strategy.