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Will-ful double standards on statistics — and the Village’s tolerance of it

July 9th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Washington Post group writer George Will stands out in multiple ways.  In terms of his writing, two arenas seem to rouse his greatest passion:

  • baseball and
  • global warming science denial.

These two passions are highly interlocked, not because baseball players will have to deal with ever hotter summers in the future nor the debate about whether global warming is contributing to increasing home runs but because these are two environments where there is a tremendous amount of data to examine and where statistics play an important role in our understanding. And, this is also an interesting arena due to how it can illuminate the extreme double-standards that exist not just within George Will’s brain and words but within the larger media world and even in our society.

As brought to my attention by Scarecrow, yesterday’s on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos,  George Will quickly explained the situation for sweating Americans (who had the electricity to be able to watch their televisions)

You asked us — how do we explain the heat? One word: summer. I grew up in central Illinois in a house without air conditioning. What is so unusual about this?

Now, come the winter, there will be a cold snap, lots of snow, and the same guys, like E.J., will start lecturing us. There’s a difference between the weather and the climate. I agree with that. We’re having some hot weather. Get over it.

We need to “get over it” because all that is going on is that “we’re having some hot weather”?

Don’t pay attention to your lying eyes as to breaking high temperature records (with so many more red dots than purple ones on the map) because this is just “one word: summer.”

Is there anything, in fact, “unusual about this”?

George grew up in central Illinois. It is not hard to check the temperature records, nowadays, for that area — for example, Champaign, Illinois. What do we find for, for example, the 2 July – 7 July period? Every single hot temperature record was broken this year there — and by over 10 degrees.

And, George asks “What is so unusual …”

So far in 2012, across this country, high temperature records are falling at a rate ten times higher than cold temperature records (and leading to the likelihood that it 2012’s summer will be hotter than the Dust Bowl years). Simply put, this has not occurred in George Will’s lifetime … and such a lopsided breaking of temperature records hasn’t occurred since such statistical analysis began over 100 years ago.

As for George’s growing up in central Illinois “without air conditioning”, I challenge George or anyone who supports Will’s willful deceit to provide an extended period of 95+ degree temperatures during his youth such that lack of air conditioning might actually have represented a threat to health.

Lots of Snow Last Night

A correspondent sent me a note about this:

Being from southern Illinois, I can tell George that he never went through a summer like this during his lifetime in central Illinois. I just had this same argument with my 80-year-old mother, who insisted that she remembers all the 4th of July’s that were over 100 degrees. Bull pucky! I went back over the temperature records and the highest temp on July 4th for the past 50 years was 97 degrees, and the average was 87!

This year it was 104.

“Bull pucky” indeed.

George Will’s selective memory about growing up reminds me of the parentreacting to the child talking about how difficult it is to walk through a three-foot snow bank. The 6-foot tall dad says, “this is nothing. When I was your age, I had to walk through snow up to my shoulder when I walked to school.” And, the father points his hand to his neck, two feet about the head of his 3 foot 6 inch tall son. Hmmm …

George’s selective memory is conducive to a quick data check and, well, found to be totally wanting.

The casual “oh its summer” provides a perfect example of the power of the will-fully deceiving debater. When Will made the comment, what journalist had Weather Underground’s data base for central Illinois memorized in their head to be able to call “Bull Pucky” on George?

Now, let’s link back to the start of this post … there is also baseball.

Interestingly, yesterday, George had a chance to deal with baseball in a near equivalent to the climate question.

Every baseball fan talks about the golden age of baseball, and it’s always when he was about 12 years old. I have news for you: This is the golden age.

George didn’t argue, as he did with climate, that there was ‘nothing special’ going on even though the contrast between ‘today’ and (for example) 1952 is far less stark and clear with baseball.

Just imagine a situation where home run records were falling virtually every day. And, there were a swath of players batting above .500. And, … high resolution sports statistics and advertising screenJust imagine George Will stating “oh, this is nothing. When I was a kid and the professionals weren’t so pandered to, they were doing just the same thing. Nothing unusual here.”   With an obviously falsifiable statement like that, George Will would be crucified by anyone with even the most cursory knowledge of the sport. And, in the face of repeated statements that were so easily proven false, Will’s audience — and ability to rake in money by being on ABC’s This Week and having a huge number of papers running his OPEDs — would falls off the cliff.

Yet, when it comes to climate science, this isn’t exactly George’s first time out the gate with such easily proven false statements. Time after time, those who actually pay attention to reality have had to call out “Bull Pucky” on George’s will-ful deceit. And, even with this, George remains accepted into ‘polite company’ despite his willingness (even passion) to confuse and deceive.

While baseball is without question a far more serious issue than climate change’s impacts on our economy, weather, health, national security, environment, and future prospects, the double standards remain rather shocking.

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Tags: global warming deniers · journalism

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 “Welcome to the rest of our lives” // Jul 9, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    […] Will-ful double standards on statistics — and the Village’s tolerance of it […]

  • 2 Hot graphics — global warming in images // Sep 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    […] provides a stark way of seeing that, yes, summers in the U.S. really are getting warmer (no matter what George Will says). One of the surest signs that the planet is getting warmer is the fact that record high […]

  • 3 #BigAussieHeat: Down Under sweltering // Jan 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

    […] the United States isn’t unique with its George Will’s and, remember, Rupert Murdoch comes from ‘Down Under’ and seeks to misinform […]