Business leaders were thrilled that Pope Francis so strongly supported capitalism in his speech before the joint session of Congress on September 24. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the CEO of one of America’s largest corporations said, “By proclaiming business ‘a noble vocation’ and encouraging the ‘harnessing of the spirit of enterprise,’ Francis showed he is one of us!”
Independents also were ecstatic that the Pope supported their cause — the abolition of political parties. Speaking on behalf of the Nonpartisan Society of America, Sofia Left-Right said, “The pontiff was clear. He said that we must ‘confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.’ Clearly, the Pope wants America to return to the one party system of George Washington!”
This is silly, of course. No one really claimed that Francis is a diehard capitalist or an independent, or even promoted those points of view. However, as the Reuters reported, “Presidential candidates from both sides of the divide held up the Pope’s comments as evidence that the leader of America’s 70 million Catholics agrees with them.”
Most desperate to show the Pope was on their side were climate activists and their allies in the press. So desperate, in fact, that they simply made up what they wish Francis had said to Congress, but in fact never did.
Sporting a “Faith Alliance for Climate Protection” t-shirt at the demonstration on the National Mall, Dave Parsons told CBC News’ Paul Hunter, “I was very pleased with what he [Francis] said. He said what needs to be said: we’re responsible [for climate change], and he said it’s caused by humans and I strongly believe that.”
Fellow demonstrator Sierra Club activist Susan Stillman said, “He did a great job. He did what I expected him to do. And I hope Congress will take it to heart and do something. We gotta’ act on climate.” Hunter nodded in agreement.
Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL) told a similar story on their Web site asserting, “When Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday, he spoke to several important problems facing the country, not the least of which was climate change.”
Global warming campaigners at 350.org even issued a press release proclaiming the fabricated news: “350: Pope Francis’ Speech Underlines Need for Real Leadership on Climate Change.”
None of this was unexpected, of course. Groups like Sierra, CCL and 350.org often stretch the truth to their advantage, although rarely going so far as to create news that never happened.
What was unusual, however, was the extent to which mainstream media went to prop up the illusion that Francis boosted action on climate change in his speech to Congress.
The Washington Post led the way in a piece entitled “The Pope asked Congress to do one specific thing: Address climate change. It won’t.” The newspaper proclaimed, “On every other topic, the Pope pointed indirectly at the path he’d recommend. On climate change, he called Congress to do something concrete.” The Post captioned a video on their site, “Pope Francis calls for ‘responsible action’ on climate change.”
The Guardian was not far behind in the fabricated news department, asserting in their September 24 article, “Pope’s climate change appeal boosts hope for bipartisan action in Congress,” that “He [Francis] re-affirmed that human activity was driving climate change, and that political leaders needed to act.” Like the Post, Guardian editors created a make-believe caption under a photo of the Pope speaking to Congress: “Pope Francis calls on the US – and Congress – to lead the charge in efforts to combat climate change.”
And so it continued throughout the press. USA Today, PBS, CNN, and CNBC all fabricated the news to make it appear as if Francis had, to quote CNBC, “urged lawmakers … to take ‘courageous actions’ on global warming.”
The New Republic was one of the few media organizations that got it right. Rebecca Leber, a staff writer for the magazine, said simply, “Pope Francis never once mentioned the words ‘climate change’ in his address on Thursday.”
The closest the Pope came to addressing climate change was when he told Congress:
“I call for a courageous and responsible effort to ‘redirect our steps’ and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
This could have referred to any number of environmental problems — ocean pollution, species extinction, air pollution in developing countries, and so on. Yet none of the groups fighting against those very real problems made up news to make it seem as if the Pope boosted their causes. Only climate campaigners, and their opportunistic allies in the press, did.
The public are used to yellow journalism — climate activists and their media friends exaggerating climate concerns and not reporting information that could sway the public against the UN’s futile, but dangerous attempts to control climate. Their lack of reporting of the ‘out clause’ for China in the coming UN climate change agreement to be signed in Paris in December is an example. Not mentioning how the US was shafted in the recent agreement between the President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China concerning their respective post-2020 actions on climate change is another.
But their fictional reports about last week’s papal address to Congress crossed a new threshold. Today’s activists, both inside and outside of the press, are following a strategy much like that of media which fabricated news stories designed to fuel the public’s passion for war against Mexico in the late 19th century. Today’s historians regard the Spanish-American War as the first press-driven war. Future historians will regard today’s war on coal and other fossil fuels as also press-driven, devoid of any serious science, engineering or economics foundation. Shame.
Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.