Joe Romm's Hairball

Uh oh, looks like Joe Romm has coughed up another media hairball. This time, it’s the New Yorker that has gone off message in Rommian land.

So let’s say there are legitimate points of contention with this editorial by David Owen. All you Rommians surely must see how the “indispensable” one completely undermines himself when he starts off writing that Owens’ piece is

so bad, so filled with long-debunked right-wing talking points, it would barely qualify for the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Hey, case closed, right? Further down Romm asserts that Owens “undoes all of [Elizabeth] Kolbert’s good work.”

Really? Kolbert’s three parter (and eventual book) couldn’t have been all that effective if Owens’ short comment piece “undoes” all that “good work.”

In typically dismissive fashion, Romm boils his criticism down to bile size and repeats it ad naseum throughout: Owens is simply “parroting right-wing talking points.”  The latest signature Rommian media rant closes with this familiar rhetorical flourish:

Please let The New Yorker and David Owen know that you don’t think they should be contributing to humanity’s self-destruction.

Sound familiar?  Haven’t we heard this tune from Romm and other climate advocates before?

For as long as I’ve been paying attention, religious social conservatives have been blaming the imminent end of the world on The New York Times and The New Yorker. Joe, you’re in illustrious company.

9 Responses to “Joe Romm's Hairball”

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    Well, that was… really badly reasoned.  At this point I think you’ve well and truly broken the irony meter with these seemingly reflexive over-the-top attacks on Romm for his (allegedly) over-the-top-attacks.

  2. Steve Bloom says:

    OK, I read the Owen piece.  Add a more aggresive rhetorical style and it really would qualify for the low end of the WSJ editorial pages.  He goes off the rails right at the start:

    “The speakers in Copenhagen were united by a sense of urgency””and for good reason, given the poor record of most participating countries in meeting their Kyoto targets for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.”

    This is actually wrong in several ways, but in particular do you notice something missing?

  3. Keith Kloor says:


    I’m not arguing the merits of the Owens piece.  All I’m saying is that Romm’s style of attack undermines any legitimate criticism he makes.

    I just fail to see how Romm’s modus operandi  works as a means of persuasion. And he’s smart enough to know this, I believe. So I’m starting to think his real intent is to intimidate establishment voices (and influentials) that depart from his views on how AGW should be dealt with.

  4. Steve Bloom says:

    I would agree that part of his intent is to provide ammunition to help remove some of the less constructive voices from the public discourse on climate.  His ability to do so directly is limited, although in this case I would hope that the responsible editor at the New Yorker might be sufficiently embarassed by this episode such that it’s not repeated.  I looked at Owen’s cv, and what they did in this case was equivalent to picking some random guy off the streets to write the piece.  Content aside, it seems like bad journalism.   

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    Have a look at <a href=””>this</a>, Keith.  It sums up what has recently become a common view among climate scientists and people who follow the science closely.  I think Joe exhibits considerable forbearance in light of this.

    Speaking of science, I just noticed this recent <a href=””>news</a> we find out that coral reefs may not survive 2X pre-industrial CO2. 

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    Oops, I forgot about the code problem here.

    First link (Monbiot column)

    Second link (coral reef loss)

  7. I think Owen’s piece was quite elegant.

    I found the closing statement a bit too gloomy and final. I think leaving a glimmer of hope might have been more responsible.

    Also, Romm’s point that the underlying threat wasn’t really mentioned I think is reasonable. It depends on what the audience is thinking. Under the onslaught of trivialism launched by the Times of late, though, it probably is not a safe assumption that most readers have a realistic perspective. On the other hand, if one assumes that everyone needs to have everything explained from scratch every time, it’s hard for us to get very far.

    That all said, though not especially original, the questions Owen raises are very real and very cogently presented. This is not in the same realm as the Romm piece or the Times’ recent kid gloves treatment of the sadly absurd Mr. Dyson.

    The problem is exactly that the economics of the situation are very severe, and require a fundamental rethinking of what economics itself means. It’s not surprising that Owen fails to see this; many people don’t. Once you’ve crossed the Rubicon to understand the profound foolishness of our current trajectory, you are obligated to rethink economics. Pretending otherwise cannot work. The sort of green advocacy that says we can just switch over to carbon free existence without significant cost is bound to fail because the costs are going to be real and substantial.

    Normally I find the press-imposed symmetry between economics and the environment overwrought, but in this case I think there is a real question. Is Romm not every bit as obligated to acknowldge Owen’s real point as Owen is to point out the consequences of inaction?

  8. Keith Kloor says:


    You’re going off the Romm rez. Somebody is gonna rap your knuckles soon.

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    It’s your fantasy Keith

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