Province: In Staunch Defence of the Right to be Wrong

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Blog readers in Europe and Asia must forgive us North Americans our obsession with media commentators who continue to dissemble on climate change. And those in the U.S. must forgive our specific outrage with a local rag called the Vancouver Province (the DeSmogBlog is based in Vancouver).

But the Province distinguishes itself on two counts:

First, you can’t beat it for the sheer brainlessness of its editorial position (Let’s look on the bright side of climate change).

And second, few papers are so willing to stand up for the right to free speech, even when the speaker is fiercely determined to remain personally uninformed and continues to say things that any interested Tenth Grader could dismiss as hopeless hokum.

The most recent proof of this comes (again) from Province columnist Alan Ferguson, who in this withering column denies the expertise of “experts”and decries the hypocrisy of politicians.

Well, on the latter point we can find some room for agreement. Former Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin should be ashamed of themselves for their abrogation of Canada’s Kyoto responsibilities. And Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is being too cute by half to suggest that he understands the dangers of climate change and then to insist (after subsidizing a muscle car factory) that no economic impact should ever be felt in Ontario’s robust auto sector.

But Ferguson’s point is not to seek matters of agreement. It is to dismiss climate change and to deny the need to address it – and to do so without offering a shred of evidence, or even argument. (“We could start by demanding to be charged $5 a litre for our gasoline, which is what it will cost to solve our pollution problems. OK, I just plucked that figure out of our thinning air.”)

I’m all for protecting the right to free speech. But what about the value of intelligent speech? What about the responsibility of a newspaper to assure that the fully protected ramblings of its columnists are at least true?

I suppose for that kind of standard we would have to look a little up-market from the Province – say, to the National Enquirer.

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