, 25 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
Let me tell you a little story about how media logic and news routines have muddied public understanding of the threat of climate change, and therefore slowed action by 10-15 years during the crucial opportunity to avert catastrophe. A thread👇🏻
First mistake was treating climate change as a story of conflict between people. Media’s obsession with politics and personality meant an environment story was moulded into a conflict between ‘activists’ who want to take action and ‘business as usual’ vested interests who don’t.
Having chosen this conflict frame, everyone who warned of climate change was characterised as an ‘activist’. This includes scientists who have spent whole careers mapping the link between rising emissions and dangerous changes in climate.
Once you’re framed as an ‘activist’, subtle assumptions are made about your character in the story. For instance, you’re suddenly emotional, sanctimonious, preachy, shouty, have no understanding of economics and can’t be trusted to make smart decisions.
The other side of the conflict frame - let’s call them the deniers - were slotted into the opposite of ‘activist’ - the status quo. Not surprisingly, the status quo represent conservative political and business groups.
These business groups by the by are the ones who - coincidentally - make billions from fossil fuels and don’t want climate action to force them to pay for the cost of the damage they’re doing to the environment.
The status quo group always had an advantage over the ‘activist’ side of the conflict because they have literally bottomless pits of money to throw at their argument.
They funded denial in every form they could get their hands on. TV pundits. Disinformation campaigns. Whole media organisations (hello Rupert) were dedicated to convincing the public there was absolutely no reason to believe those whingy activists - there is no climate change!
So there we had two camps to happily mould into two opposing political groups that slotted nicely into the media logic of the conflict frame. This is where we’ve been on climate change coverage in the media for 10-15 years - as long as we have been talking about climate change.
Media logic dictates that ‘conflict’ frames must be treated as ‘he said / she said’. This is what media folk call ‘balance’. This meant every time one of the pesky activists got a chance to say ‘the world is facing catastrophe’, the status quo got a chance to say ‘no we’re not’.
The other important thing about media logic is journalists are taught they’re not allowed to judge either side’s contribution to the conflict frame as this is partisan bias. So, even where journalists themselves worried about climate change, they were careful not to take sides.
The other thing journos don’t do when using the conflict frame is explain the credibility of each side’s argument. They don’t explain that the status quo has a VESTED INTEREST in climate denial. The IPAs funding sources are never revealed.
I’ll never forget sitting in Q&A audience when well known climate denier Jo Nova was on panel. I had a Q ready to ask - ‘is it true you receive funding from big oil and mining interests?’ Wasn’t given a chance to ask it. Ended up on the panel myself, that’s a different story.
I’ll also never forget having a little nervous breakdown listening to Fran Kelly badgering Mark Butler about Labor’s climate policy - ‘but what is it going to cost?’ This was Fran using status quo conflict frame to say economy can’t afford climate action. We can’t afford not to!
So we see the same thing happening in the media this week with conflict between personalities dominating the media frame. Here’s a great example - it’s Greta Thunberg at the UN versus the oil and mining funded status quo again! Greta versus vested interests.
These guys are attacking Greta because they know this will fit perfectly into the media logic of ‘he said / she said’. When we focus on personalities who don’t agree, without any context about the strength of their arguments, we end up GETTING NOWHERE. Status quo loves it!
Imagine if conflict frame was thrown out years ago and instead, climate frame was ‘impact’. The news value of impact dictates if an issue has impact on a large group of people, it should be described to those people in a way that makes them understand its impact on their lives.
I argue that climate change is the biggest impact news story of a generation, but it’s never been framed in this way. Well, in fact it has started to be this week. Here’s an example👇🏻(10-15 years too late)
My research into political narratives shows that once media use a particular narrative about an issue, they get stuck in that narrative like trains on a track. Media logic dictated that an ‘activist said / status quo said’ conflict frame worked best for climate change.
This narrative prevented us talking about climate change as something that impacted us all - literally every living thing on the planet. It allowed the big polluters to take a legitimate side in the narrative, where using an impact frame they are clearly the villains of the story
This narrative also gave political permission to conservative politicians to take the status quo side and to sit legitimately there against climate action. Abbott’s GREAT BIG TAX campaign won him an election. He was treated as legitimate in his opposition to climate action.
Australia was the first country in the world to cancel a working emissions reduction policy. Abbott’s success emboldened other political deniers, funded by the status quo, to do the same. Hello Trump. Hello Boris. Hello no meaningful action in addressing climate change.
The news media is more important than most who work in it believe. The public don’t know anything about climate change except what they see on the news. When they see two sides squabbling over its very existence, it’s so easy for them to ignore it as just another conflict.
Scott Morrison narrowly won an election without a climate change policy. The status quo wins again. The conflict frame has to go - it’s late but hopefully not too late. The impact frame stops giving the status quo vested interests a chance to legitimise their arguments. End.
Post script: ‘Climate activists’ - as I said!
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to 💧Queen Victoria
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!