What is CNN for?

Plus, how conservatives are marrying climate denial with denial of indigenous suffering.

“I know you think what I do for a living is nothing. But it really isn’t nothing. I just did it badly.”

-Meg Carter, The Absence of Malice.

Usually, when a presidential debate airs on television, I watch it at the bar down the street. Afterward, I usually come home and write something about it. Then I usually go to sleep.

But I couldn’t do the usual things after the fourth Democratic presidential debate, which aired on CNN last night. I was too angry.

I just kept thinking: How could the moderators not ask anything about the climate crisis?

What do these people think their job is even for?

Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis.

In recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, every issue this week is devoted to indigenous climate topics.

Monday’s edition featured a Native American journalist who spoke about the need for increased media coverage of tribal affairs. “If we want this planet to survive, we have to lean on the people who know the land best,” he said. “The people who have fostered the land for thousands of years.”

Tuesday’s edition explained the importance of Brazil’s indigenous peoples to protecting the Amazon rainforest; spelled out how Brazil’s far-right government is enabling the destruction of both for short-term economic gain; and listed some companies who are benefiting.

Today’s edition will explore how some American conservatives are reacting to the growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day—and how those reactions increasingly mix climate denial with denial of indigenous suffering.

But first, we’ve gotta talk quickly about that debate. WHICH WAS TOTALLY FINE, EVERYTHING IS FINE.


Everything is not fine

Remember when CNN did that seven-hour marathon-style Democratic presidential forum on climate change last month? Remember how hopeful it made some of us—myself included—that broadcast journalists were finally starting to give the climate crisis the attention and seriousness it deserves?

Right. So about that:

I am so tired of writing this story. By now, our journalistic institutions should have more than enough information to determine their duty to consistently and relentlessly press presidential candidates on an issue that stands to affect millions of the most vulnerable people in America and across the world. Their job is to balance what the public wants to know with what they need to know. The climate crisis tops both of those lists.

I don’t know what more I can add to that—which is why I couldn’t do my usual thing after I got home from the bar last night. I couldn’t figure out what to write.

But a sentence kept repeating itself in my head: “What Is Journalism For?” After awhile, I remembered it was the name of a chapter in Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s influential book, “The Elements of Journalism.” So I pulled the book off my shelf, and it reminded me:

“The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”

Then, a few pages later, it reminded me:

“We are seeing for the first time the rise of a market-based journalism increasingly divorced from the idea of civic responsibility.”

And I just thought I’d share those things with you, because I think the latter in particular might help explain the lack of persistent, intelligent climate policy coverage—not just at CNN, but across many media institutions in America.

It also may explain why we’re still seeing rampant climate denial spread on mainstream information platform run by profit-driven companies like Spotify, Apple, and Google.


Meanwhile, in conservative media…

CNN may have ignored climate change this week, but popular conservative podcasts didn’t.

Curious about how the right might be reacting to the rise of Indigenous Peoples Day over Columbus Day, I took a listen yesterday to a few daily news podcasts on the Westwood One Podcast Network, which broadcasts conservative political shows and is owned by Cumulus Media.

I found a lovely blend of climate science denial and denial of indigenous suffering. Here’s some of what I heard:

  • “What are [indigenous people] suffering?”

    On Monday’s episode of The Michael Knowles Show—one of the Daily Wire’s podcasts—Knowles played a clip of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking out about climate change. “I speak to you as a daughter and descendant of colonized peoples who are already beginning to suffer,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

    Knowles responded: “What is she suffering? Last I checked she’s getting $300 haircuts and living in a posh apartment in Washington, D.C. and going on television all the time. She said “I am suffering.” She said, “I am a member of an indigenous peoples group and we are suffering. What are you suffering? What are other people suffering?”

    Knowles continued: “There is no evidence that the world is going to end in 12 years. Not one little bit. That’s not scientific. ... The worst global warming prediction is that the earth will warm about 2 degrees over a century. There is no evidence that this will pose any problem for humans. Certainly won’t pose any problems for Americans.”

    Knowles then said that Christopher Columbus was “one of the greatest men to ever live” and that “Columbus is being wiped out of our history books for absolutely no reason.”

  • “You’re supposed to believe that these indigenous people lived a perfect green life…”

    On The Savage Nation podcast, Michael Savage claimed that Indigenous Peoples Day is a liberal-led scam to convince people that Native Americans were eco-friendly people, when in reality, they were obsessed with genital torture.

    “The leftist idiots want us to believe that the indigenous people … lived a perfect green life like a [Missoula, Montana] ad, that they were gentle on the earth, that they treated each other with dignity. … [But] what they did to each other makes what the Crips and the Bloods do to each other benign by comparison. 

    They tortured [each other] … rhe entire population including children had to watch. They cut them with knives, beat them with sticks, jabbed them a thousand times. Ripped out their fingernails. Captives were scalped alive and made to eat pieces of their own flesh. Genitalia of male captives—which should be of some issue to you—amongst these green people, were the focus of considerable attention, and culminated with a section of the genitals cut one section of the time.”

  • “We’re all sinners. Every historical figure has flaws.”

    On the Dan Bongino show, Bongino said Columbus should be excused for atrocities committed against indigenous peoples.

    “Columbus changed the world. So don’t buy into this nonsense about changing it to Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s Columbus Day, and it’s going to stay that way in this country. We should be very proud as Italian Americans of those accomplishments.”

You can find this wonderful content on these profit-driven mainstream media platforms.

EVERYTHING’S FINE.

OK, that’s all for today—thanks for reading HEATED!

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Questions or comments about today’s issue? E-mail me: emily@heated.world

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