Kevin Vranes had a great post yesterday about tribalism in the climate wars. He subtitled it “get over your tribalism instincts already”, which the commenters apparently skipped past in their zeal to read what Kevin had to say.

Kevin didn’t rise to Chris Mooney’s bait, so I don’t know if he was obliquely criticizing Mooney when he said journalists “should not need to rely on labels to get your message across”, but I’d argue that journalists should cover the tribes rather than self-identifying as part of them.

That’s why I found Chris’s post earlier this week about the Time global warming piece so disturbing. Chris’s criticism wasn’t that the Time team had misinformed its readers by committing journalistic malpractice on the hurricane question. His criticism was that time had given the other tribe, the one he’s not in, ammunition to debunk the article: “Jeez, Time, make it easy for them, why don’t you.” (Emphasis added, and no obliquity here, Chris. I’m criticizing you.)

I realize the kind of journalism Chris does is different than the kind I do, but whatever kind of journalism you’re doing must be about informing readers rather than about the journalism’s place in tribal wars. You can’t do that if you, as a journalist, openly self-identify as a member of one of the tribes.

To be fair, (“on the other hand….”) down in the comments Chris makes a much more reasoned point:

Nonsense, science writers have a duty to depict science accurately. There are many ways of telling a good story and informing the public without misrepresentation of what’s known or causal misattribution.

That’s the tribe I think you belong in, Chris – the tribe of science writers – not the “us vs. them” climate wars tribal colors you implicitly donned in the initial post.


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