Reporteritis is the disease, or rather psychiatric condition, common among journalists, brought on by exposure to important people and events. The exposure causes the journalist to feel that he too is as important and as knowledgeable as the people on whom he is reporting.
It is a terrible, wracking malady, awful to see. Meet the Press’s ex David Gregory is perhaps the most prominent sufferer and awareness-raising poster boy for the disease. (The poor fellow has been observed at restaurants haranguing staff “Do you know who I am?” He may have reached the fatal stages.)
Journalists, opinion-page editors, and reporters are only the public face of the condition. It strikes, perhaps even more mercilessly, the bien pensant, too. The closer a person believes he is, or desires to be, part of the “in” crowd, the more susceptible he is. (When it infests non-reporters, the disease is called the same name.)
Take global warming as an example. For decades, climatologists have told us that temperature would be high, yet temperatures were always low. This discrepancy infallibly (as in infallibly) indicates that the climatologists have done something, we know not what, wrong.
Now a climatologist dedicated to the belief that temperatures are rising will, it is true, seek to evade the evidence of actual observations, by inventing for himself all sorts of besides-the-point explanations, such as the warming he promised is on “hiatus”. He will refuse to see that he originally promised a lack of “hiatus”, and was therefore at fault.
But this is excuse-finding, the standard reaction of people who cannot admit error, a common human failing. Most climatologists will eventually come to see their error (as long as their careers do not hinge on perpetuating that error).
No, what is of interest are the civilians who latch onto global warming with even stronger conviction than climatologists. First a clarification: Global Warming is ambiguous, and easy to equivocate. To a physicist it means warming caused by mankind, a strictly scientific matter. But to most others, it means why the government should take over.
So that when a non-climatologist hears “global warming” and expresses warm interest or visceral hatred for it, it is not the banal science of cloud-model parameterizations he has in mind, but how the government will benignly and beneficently, or brutishly and blindly, intrude on citizens’ lives. The science to these people is largely besides the point, and is anyway too difficult to master.
Still there is no disease. That only comes when the equivocation occurs, when people think they know as much science as climatologists because they desire or despise government excess. Thus there are a minority of folks who loathe massive state control who claim global warming is a “hoax”. Yet these folks, small in number and without power, forget that hoaxes are not easy to perpetuate and that sincere self-deception is far better explanation of scientific error than organized malfeasance.
The real trouble comes from those in power. Take psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton who wrote an article for the far-left New York Times entitled “The Climate Swerve”. Now, nowhere in his resume does Lifton show any background in physics, and though like anybody he might have picked some up along the way, he has nowhere indicated that he has a systematic understanding of the subject.
Yet his ignorance does not stop him from writing, “Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable.” And “Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth.” And much more along the same lines.
The reason I say Lifton, who is not intellectually challenged, might suffer from reporteritis is that he feels he is part of climate science merely because he has written about it. The equivocation is there. But he must be as aware of the trivial criterion of scientific success and failure as anybody. That climate models have failed consistently can only mean they are faulty, and therefore their implied threat of doom is improbable at best.
Still, there is sits, his glasses slumped on his nose and he lectures us sadly on why aren’t “doing something.”
Since the disease is contagious, Lifton is only one of many, those who “believe” in global warming, not because they understand the science, but because they desire its “solution.”