Yielding to Dishonesty

The New Yorker has a new issue out in which they talk about the terrible drought of 2012 and its effect upon corn crops — in the context, oddly, of 2013 being the best year in history for US corn crops.  After opening with how great the harvest is right now, they talk about disaster last year:

In 2012, drought struck nearly eighty per cent of the nation’s farmland, and the growing season was the hottest and driest in decades.

That 80% number sounds bad. How bad was it? They use this anecdotal bit made to sound like a factoid:

“Last year was the worst corn harvest in a century.”

All because of climate change and “extreme weather” of course.  There are several things about this claim that struck me, right off:

  1. It is a quote, apparently tied to one farmer’s personal experience — as if he has personal experience of a century of corn farming.
  2. If it is true of this farmer and his predecessors, he’s doing it wrong (as you’ll see).
  3. The New Yorker can get away with this because it’s not their assertion, it’s a quote.
  4. And, taken (as they intend) to refer to US corn production, it is entirely false:


You can see the dip in the penultimate year; it’s arguably the worst year of the prior six — not even the last decade, let alone century.  The above is total production; the yield-per-acre curve is similar.

But there’s another aspect: Because of the perceived scarcity and the use of corn for the ill-conceived “biofuel,” the corn price average in 2012 was much higher than the year before ($6.92 versus $6.10, or 11% higher), to the point where the actual value of the 2012 crop was within 7% of 2011.

The New Yorker has a solution to this disaster, and they flog it heavily in the article: a company called “The Climate Corporation.” The author is quite sold on this company, and makes that evident. Their first description:

The Climate Corporation sells weather insurance, but it is an insurance company the way Google is an encyclopedia company.

Yes, they will protect farmers from Extreme Weather!

Ah, but that was Friday, and the New Yorker went to press.  Monday (November 4), the New Yorker was forced to admit that this company they’d been hawking to their unsuspecting green customers was in fact just bought by Monsanto, a company referred to multiple times in Monday’s piece as “the most evil company in the world.”

What to do? Their integrity is at stake! Well, what could have motivated the sale of this company, largely owned by the venture capitalists who funded it two years ago?  How about a purchase price of $940 million? Yes, that might do it.

So, faced with such honorable motives, the New Yorker proceeded to print a 2,600+ word defense of Monsanto. One hitch in all of this … the letter (from the just purchased CEO) makes the comparison with Google, who at one time everyone thought was evil because they were thought to be giving emails to the government. Google kept repeating their “don’t be evil” mantra and things quieted down.

That scenario, just written, neglects to mention that Google actually has been giving email access to the government, as revealed earlier this year — even worse than imagined. And has “inadvertently” (they say) given data to China’s communist government so that they can imprison dissidents — though Google insists that they were “hacked” by China, despite earlier admitted cooperation with them.

One really IS evil, the other not so much

So — Google really is as evil as people thought. And this nearly billion-dollar transaction to acquire The Climate Corporation (founded largely by former Google employees) doesn’t quite solve the Monsanto problem, which the letter attributes primarily to the decision not to change the name.

It’s almost funny, to see how far climate catastrophists will go to preserve the Correct Story, no matter what the cost to their personal integrity — starting from the very-well-funded line that current weather is “extreme.”

As a footnote to all of this, I actually like Monsanto. But I am keenly aware of its perception by environmental True Believers — until they get enough money, or feel that it supports the Cause to abandon their principles. And with all appropriate irony, I note that the author of both New Yorker pieces also wrote a book called Denialism. He thinks he’s talking about skeptics.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Citizen Tom

    Good post! Displays the bias in what might otherwise be effective propaganda.

    As I write, we are experiencing record cold in Virginia. It is funny how “Global Warming (now “Climate Change”) works.

    What explains the ethics lapses? I don’t think the issue is strictly speaking is a problem of journalistic integrity. I suspect it has more to do a widespread human failing, the love of money.

    1. Corporations are generally amoral. They exist to make money legally. Too many stockholders look at the profit line, and they don’t care about anything else.

    2. News organizations are generally either owned by corporations or they are corporations. News organizations exist to peddle propaganda. When it is for a product, we call it advertising. When it is for a political position, we call it editorializing. Absent a bias, both forms of propaganda are acceptable.

    3. There is money to be made in hawking global warming.

    Do I hate corporations? No. Am I against making a profit? No. I just think we have chartered to many corporations and government has given them too many advantages. Unfortunately, because politicians can accept political donations, they can be legally bribed.

    So why do I have an issue with corporations? I am for limited government. Because corporations are creatures of government, they are an obstacle to limiting government.

    Anyway, I would interested in reading your thinking on this.