In This Episode
This week, Mary and Amy are joined by Evlondo Cooper, a journalist at media watchdog – Media Matters, to chat about the connections between the shrinking local new landscape and right-wing climate disinformation campaigns that have been lying on the Green New Deal, Build Back Better, and the IRA.
Mary Annaise Heglar Hey, hot cakes. Welcome to Hot Take. I’m Mary Annaise Heglar.
Amy Westervelt And I’m Amy Westervelt.
Mary Annaise Heglar How’s the weather down there in Costa Rica today, Amy? Any torrential downpours today?
Amy Westervelt It has actually been raining all day here, but like a gentle rain. So no, no thunder, more like massive amounts of rain on the roofs. So that’s good. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar I got to say, what I listened to last week was the recording. I was like, Oh my God, is he okay?
Amy Westervelt Did she have to evacuate during that? I know sometimes it gets it gets really crazy, but I know that you’re battening down the hatches for for hurricane season to continue.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Picking up, right. What’s happening in New Orleans?
Mary Annaise Heglar It’s been very rainy because there’s this system out in the Gulf. It’s like at way, way, way south Texas into Mexico. So we’re getting, you know, some rain from that. And it is this rain is angry, my friend. It’s like that sideways, angry ass rain. And so I learned today that in my living room, the rain can get in the window.
Amy Westervelt Oh, no. Oh, no.
Mary Annaise Heglar It wasn’t. It’s it’s not bad. I was just sitting next to the window and I was like, Where is that coming from? So yeah. But yeah, we we are bracing ourselves for the high hurricane season. Next week is the anniversary of Katrina and Ida, and the season has been eerily quiet up until now, but that can change any minute now. I’ve heard that there is like some dusts from the Middle East in the in the air that’s been keeping the storms from forming. But seems like that dust has moved out of the way. So it’s kind of, you know, anybody’s guess what happens from here.
Amy Westervelt Wow. Yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s it’s scary when you have those big disasters just sort of waiting in the wings. Mm. Actually, our guest today is from New Orleans and was there when Katrina hit, too.
Mary Annaise Heglar He was. That’s right. We’re going to be talking to Evlondo Cooper, who is a senior reporter at Media Matters and someone whose work we’ve been following for a while now. So really excited to have him on.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, yeah, he’s great. He does a really great job kind of keeping tabs on what the right wing media is saying about climate and some of the narratives that pop up around different aspects of climate policy and things that the fossil fuel industry is getting up to. We’re not going to be talking to him about the hurricanes necessarily. We’re more talking about how climate has kind of become a favorite talking point in the, quote unquote culture war.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm. Yeah, but I’m sure the hurricanes will come up because, like, how can it not? Right.
Amy Westervelt That’s right. That’s right. It’s, it’s in the air.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, literally.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar And with that, I think it’s time.
Amy Westervelt It’s time to talk about climate. Okay. Evlondo Cooper. Welcome to Hot Take. Thanks for doing this.
Evlondo Cooper Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be on.
Amy Westervelt Could you before we start, just explain a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah. So I am a senior writer researcher for the Climate and Energy Program at Media Matters. And Media Matters is a progressive, nonprofit organization that comprehensively monitors, analyzes and corrects conservative misinformation in the US media. Our program works to improve media coverage about the climate crisis, energy policy and environmental justice. We also monitor right wing media for misinformation narratives as well as push kind of corporate mainstream media to do a better job in their climate and environmental justice coverage.
Mary Annaise Heglar Wow. I have a quick follow up question to that. So it seems like you do a lot of watching what’s going on on the right wing and on Fox News. How is your soul after that?
Amy Westervelt How many hours a week do you have to spend listening to like Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan?
Evlondo Cooper I don’t want to have any stolen valor here. I mean, really, a lot of the researchers at Media Matters, they do an amazing job. Their diet is FOX all day.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, dear.
Amy Westervelt Oh, wow.
Evlondo Cooper Including some of the the darkest domains of the Internet. You know, we usually we keep an eye on Fox. We have people flacks up for us. So I don’t want to pretend like I’m having to ingest this all day. But when narratives do pop up, we are monitoring very closely and it can be dispiriting to see how they, you know, discuss or dismiss climate change.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. I mean, I guess what I’m asking is, are y’all okay?
Evlondo Cooper Yes. We have a very.
Mary Annaise Heglar I just worry. I worry.
Evlondo Cooper No, honestly, we have our organization as the organization is very concerned about our well-being. They have a bunch of programs and outreach. The supervisors and managers are very considerate and people need time off, especially when.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper Kind of heinous events happen in our society. So yeah, you know, as far I can’t speak for any individual, but I do think that our organization does a good job of giving people the space to step away when they need to from some of these, like, horrific news cycles.
Mary Annaise Heglar Good. That’s that’s really good to hear.
Speaker 1 Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, I mean, we wanted to talk to you because there’s been just a really noticeable increase in the last couple of years and especially I think this year of right wing media really kind of dragging climate into the so-called culture war. So yeah, I just am curious to hear like when did you first start to see that? And like what did it look like when it kind of first started to appear?
Evlondo Cooper Yeah, I think like most things, I joined Media Matters in October 2017, I want to say. And so like most things, it was a Trump phenomenon.
Amy Westervelt Mmm.
Evlondo Cooper We do an annual broadcast study and we could very clearly see that, you know, coverage would spike when Trump would say something ridiculous about climate change or dismissive. And so he drove a lot of those climate media cycles, in which a lot of that stuff was harmful because they were just repeating and amplifying without debunking or refuting some of the a lot of most of the nonsense that he was saying. And so since then, we’ve you know, since since then we’ve kind of see it. We see it we’ve seen it become entangled, like I said, in these larger culture war issues, most recently, the Inflation Reduction Act, there was a clear sense of, you know, they were trying to find an angle to come at it. So it was the, you know, the IRS agents and it was the Green New Deal and EVs. And so, like, there’s this sense of marrying these issues under the thing of climate change is fake. You know, inflation is fake. None of it’s real. Everything that’s being done is designed to keep you downtrodden and depressed and and dispirited and broke and it’s becoming more explicit. You know, you know, we’ve seen that anecdotally. We’ve seen the trend become much more explicit as of late, where even in Sri Lanka, I mean, other foreign countries, we’ve seen right wing media people try to tag what’s happening there as the Green New Deal. You know, they’re doing the green deal in Sri Lanka and it’s the same New Deal is the one they want in America. And it’s just oh, you know, all you can do is document and shake your head.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Actually I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that when I read that article of yours and it was just like, is there anything they won’t blame on the Green New Deal? So how did they thread that needle?
Evlondo Cooper Not good. You know, that’s the thing, I think there are legitimate good faith concerns about ESG.
Mary Annaise Heglar ESG?
Amy Westervelt Environment, sustainability or no environmental, social and governance. This is like the green finance stuff.
Evlondo Cooper Yes, yes. The green finance.
Mary Annaise Heglar Very sexy. Okay.
Evlondo Cooper I’m sorry, I blanked on that one. Yeah. Green financing. And so there are legitimate concerns about, you know, the corporations that are pushing it, that there were legitimate concerns about how some of the sustainability practices in Sri Lanka were implemented, for example. But they don’t care about anything. They flatten everything and they make it the most horrible thing. But they’re real. The real issue isn’t so much of what happened in Sri Lanka, I don’t think Tucker Carlson, or most of them give a damn about what’s happening in Sri Lanka. It’s to tie that to American climate policy and say, you don’t want that in America. If these elitists do that in America, we’re going to see the same kind of hollowed out of our agricultural sector and the same kind of rioting and in general, societal collapse. So.
Amy Westervelt Right.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah. They don’t really care about what’s happening in these places. They don’t really care about, you know, doing sustainability in a way that adheres to principles of climate and environmental justice. They just want to say, that’s bad and you don’t want that here for the for their audience.
Amy Westervelt It totally reminds me of like when the when the Green New Deal was first announced. Just how wild.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, my God.
Amy Westervelt Like the right wing media went about it, you know? And it’s like. And it’s like. I feel like it’s just continued to show up. Like, the. The like they’re going to take your cheeseburgers and you’re going to live in permanent lockdown, you know, like you saw it come again and COVID, right? It was like, oh, if you don’t like COVID lockdowns, you’re going to hate the Green New Deal.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Okay. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper My colleague, Ted McDonald, just updated a study in the 160 days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Fox Networks mentioned the Green New Deal 564 times.
Mary Annaise Heglar Wow.
Evlondo Cooper To me, this gets at another media trend that we’ve been documenting. And it’s really dispiriting. The fact that we can, you know, right wing media Fox is going to do what it’s going to do. The problem is we watched them fill a vacuum left by other cable news and broadcast news coverage. Fox was basically allowed to define with the Green New Deal it was. And now they can deploy it as a shorthand for any kind of policy that they don’t like. So like, for instance, like you mentioned earlier, calling the IRA the Green New Deal is beyond absurd. But because they define the issue and because the other networks aren’t actually telling you which you know about the IRA specific climate pilot policies, how they’re going to affect people’s everyday lives with the Green New Green New Deal would be in comparison to that, different iterations of the Green New Deal. Fox basically is allowed to kind of fill that void of coverage and shape the narrative on a lot of climate policies.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. In our newsletter we often track, you know, how climate coverage has gone up and down month to month. And one of the things that, like we have to you have to keep an eye on in that sort of analysis is all the coverage is not good. And so sometimes the coverage will jump on television. And I’m blanking on the name of the observatory that we follow Amy, do?
Amy Westervelt Yes. MCCO, the Media and Climate Change Observatory. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yes, yes.
Amy Westervelt Out of Boulder. Yeah. That Max McCoy his and his team do an awesome.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. They do great work and there are often be this section in there being like, look, some of this coverage jump is because Fox News is is going apeshit over this so the right wing media is going apeshit over this and it’s like but it’s kind of embarrassing to think that Fox News is having more attention paid to climate change than CNN or MSNBC because those networks are like, oh, it’s too difficult to cover.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Evlondo Cooper I mean, CNN and MSNBC. Are doing a better job of reporting on climate change impacts and harms, particularly with regards to extreme weather. But they do a terrible job of contextualizing climate change and other issues such as politics and economics. Meanwhile, Fox rarely connects an extreme weather event to climate change or climate science, but it would definitely tell its viewers how a given policy will absolutely ruin their lives. So.
Amy Westervelt Right.
Evlondo Cooper That dichotomy that we see, you know.
Amy Westervelt Well, yeah. Because then there’s just that huge vacuum that it’s it’s easy for Fox to to fiddle with that stuff. I don’t know if you’ve seen this Evlondo, too, that even before Russia officially invaded Ukraine, there was all of this coverage of how, quote unquote, climate policy was driving up gas prices. And you saw like the American Petroleum Institute president on all of the cable news shows saying this. And like almost none of the at least from what I saw, almost none of the reporters that he was talking to pushed back on that and said and even asked him to explain what policies in particular and how exactly that was increasing gas prices. So I feel like there’s like I don’t know, it’s twofold. It’s like there’s a lack of time spent on it, but then also sort of a lack of, I don’t know, I guess like knowledge or like education about, you know, how disinformation works and like how to try to to push back on on some of the messengers of it.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah. It’s, it’s appeal to credential ism and it’s, you know, and both sides of both sides of rhythm. So, you know, he’s the president of API. Of course, he’s going to have some insight into how this works, not seeing that he’s basically a paid propagandist, for the fossil fuel industry.
Speaker 1 Exactly.
Amy Westervelt Yeah, it’s weird because it’s like, you know, they would they would never have like the head of Greenpeace on, for example, without a million caveats about how, you know, they have an agenda and it’s this does that and whatever. But like the president of API is just presented as sort of like an impartial expert on the oil and on how oil and gas works, you know, not as yeah. The industry’s top paid spokesperson.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper That was an example. You know, I think it kind of I think they went to the well one too many times. But at that point, the administration came out and specifically made a case about record oil profits. And so we did see a little bit of an uptick in kind to try and holding the fossil fuel industry somewhat accountable, at least mentioning the fact that, you know, every few segments we’d see a mention of record oil profits. And of course, that dies out once the you know, once the news cycle dies out. But that’s an instance of where the administration messaging sometimes can be beneficial in moving the news cycle in a different direction. It just happens far too rarely.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Do you? Who do you kind of see covering climate the most in in right wing media? Is it like is it Tucker Carlson or is it. I don’t know. Yeah. Who who is it?
Evlondo Cooper I would say definitely Fox.
Amy Westervelt Mm mm.
Evlondo Cooper You know.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh, wait. You watch OAN and the others, too.
Evlondo Cooper Luckily I don’t I don’t have to watch every now and our wonderful team.
Amy Westervelt The media matters researchers team.
Mary Annaise Heglar Oh my god, we got we got to send you guys a fruit basket or something.
Amy Westervelt These poor people, these poor folks. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Get y/all some grapefruit.
Evlondo Cooper We got people on OAN, we got people on Sinclair. We got people on Fox.
Amy Westervelt Oh, wow.
Evlondo Cooper What was the one that just got kicked off that people on that went to a lot of the people for going to work billboards. I mean, we’re behind for you know, if you imagine Infowars, the Bannon’s war room.
Mary Annaise Heglar Thank you for your service.
Evlondo Cooper I’m appreciative every day because, you know, I watch some of this stuff sometimes just to dip my toe in and see what’s going on. And, you know, it’s it’s like unreality over there.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper But the most consistent kind of climate denial or fossil fuel cheerleaders are definitely Fox News if you want to see unmitigated praise of the industry. Fox Business.
Amy Westervelt Oh wow.
Evlondo Cooper I’m starting to see much more on social media. I don’t want to name specific accounts, but I am seeing I mean, yesterday, I don’t know if you saw this. There is no climate emergency was trending based on this article written in some right wing publication that allegedly had 1000 scientists signed saying that there’s no climate emergency. And that was really amplified on social media. So I think it’s coming out from coming from all sides now. But I guess the most mainstream right purveyor of this stuff is still Fox.
Amy Westervelt Mm hmm. That makes sense. Are you seeing podcasts start to do this more? Like, does Media Matters monitor audio audio as well? Because I know, like, I definitely have seen a fair bit from Joe Rogan and that’s someone that you’ve covered before in the past, too. And I wonder if you’re seeing any kind of trend towards like an increase in that or if it’s just sort of yeah, gets covered from time to time. But Ben SHAPIRO and Joe Rogan only dip their toe in now and then.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah. I did a few pieces rebutting some stuff that Rogan had on some people we had on. We have people monitoring. Like, for instance, Sean HANNITY has a radio show. He says something inane about climate. Every day he tries to fancy himself as being above kind of culture war stuff, but he definitely dips his toe into kind of making a connection between climate and other issues. And what they do is they reframe it as the domain of elites. You know, so there’s always this hypocrisy around climate action. Whereas if they just, I don’t know, dug a little bit beneath the surface, they see. Everyday working class people that are working on these on these issues at the grassroots level, doing basic things. We’re trying to improve, I don’t know, their land, air and water quality, you know. But the caricature is a much more useful as a cudgel. So they very rarely, you know, dig beneath the surface. But we do have people monitoring a lot of different podcasts, especially the biggest ones. And, you know, they flag notable climate stuff when we see it. But like you said, they only kind of dip in and out of there. It’s not consistent, at least not yet. God willing, it won’t ever become.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper It’ll be just another front, you know, on this on this fight that we’re monitoring.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Can we go back to the IRA for a quick second? Because I remember in the lead up to the IRA and before it got signed, it was kind of like this idea that if you criticize it, especially in the semesters, was often directed to environmental justice advocates. Was that if they criticized that, then that would give the right wing ammunition to attack it and therefore undermine the bill. But what it seems like is that the right wing found the ammunition anyway because they always find the ammunition anyway. So what are the criticisms again that you’re hearing about the IRA?
Evlondo Cooper Justice advocates were justifiably, in my opinion, upset about a lot of the tenets of the bill. They were upset about how the bill was championed. And I see it on both sides. You have long term activists who want to celebrate a victory, but then you have people who feel like the victory always comes at their at their expense, literally, you know. So I did see that. And I think, you know, and I saw some good faith, really kind of vigorous disagreement, conversations about it. And I think that’s good. You know, I don’t think that the right wing has ever, ever, ever well, they’re very rarely concerned about the kind of good faith disagreements that activists have. In fact, let me use those disagreements as a cudgel. Right. Because even acknowledging those disagreements, that kind of small schism did acknowledge the reality of climate change, the reality of needing massive sums of bills and policies to address it. They rather pretend that it’s the Green New Deal and it’s going to take your hamburger away or that, you know, people are saying EVs are literally the solution to climate change. You know, they it’s much easier for them to paint with broad strokes and caricatures and actually dig down into the the real substance of the disagreements that a lot of people have with the IRA, in particular. And I was surprised, you know, because to me, that’s a you know, it’s an easy lane, but. They just rather go the you know, they rather go to other out where, you know, this is a socialist take over.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right.
Evlondo Cooper You know, Biden’s a radical socialist.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right.
Amy Westervelt Right.
Evlondo Cooper Because he’s getting tax credits for EVs.
Amy Westervelt Right. Yeah. I saw that in in in one of your pieces Evlondo, that like there was this consistent messaging that basically, like average taxpayers were being asked to foot the bill for the like $75,000 electric vehicles of, you know, elitists who care about climate change. And it was like, wow, this is just wildly untrue. But they’re going with it, huh?
Evlondo Cooper It’s it’s so wildly untrue and it was a much easier lane for them to take. But they, like you said, they went with that just as easily, just provable lie. You know, the language is right there in the bill. So they don’t they don’t care about them being affordable. They don’t care about the the concerns about mining and indigenous communities for these rare minerals that are needed. They don’t care about any of that. EVs are for the rich and the rich want to have an EV to get social credit and they don’t care about the poor and middle class. Like that’s the narrative that they want to push because it’s easy and convenient and lazy, frankly, narrative. And so even writing these pieces all the time where, you know, I tell my team like we deserve better competition sometimes because I would like to really grapple with some of these issues in a way. But right now we’re just kind of knocking down lies. But I think the problem is there’s such a volume of misinformation, deliberate, disingenuous information coming out of. Right. Fox News that even if we’re batting down lies and like people do this, you know, online and in print, you know, a lot of shows, podcasts like theirs is try to, you know, get people to correct information and and kind of grapple with the complexities and nuances of different things. But the volume is like a firehose. And so we’re just really trying to, you know, back down as much as we can without, you know, at least shift the narrative or encourage other networks, other corporate news sites to provide some context when there isn’t.
Mary Annaise Heglar And yeah. It also seems like not only is there so much misinformation, but that misinformation is so much more seductive. You know, I would love to believe that climate change isn’t real. You know, I would love to believe that we need to do anything about this. I would love to believe that, like these people are just, you know, saying this because they want to take away my burger is like, that’s such a better story. I feel so much, you know, more ease. But the truth is so much harder than that. And I think that’s why so many people flock to, you know, the right wing is because I love to believe that my problems are not my problems. It’s all somebody else’s fault. Yes, please. Great.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Yeah. I don’t have to change anything. Nothing has to change. Actually. Fantastic. I love it.
Evlondo Cooper It’s a small sliver. You know, a poll at the polls show that even, like bare majorities of Republicans want the government to take climate action because people cannot anecdotally deny what they see in their own lives, in their own backyards and communities. And also, if if the right if the right wanted to make a good faith argument that we’re just questioning the science of of climate, then what about environmental pollution, which they never talk about? They never talk about pipeline leaks in water pollution in, lead, in, in, and millions of people’s homes.
Amy Westervelt Air pollution.
Evlondo Cooper Land pollution. They never talk about actual, you know, the real systemic harms that are being covered literally materially by the products that we put in our land, air and water. The fossil fuel industry and chemical and other industries are literally poisoning communities around the country. You never hear that part of it, that other side of it. Well, you don’t know about climate, but we know that these products kill people and make them sick and they die. They shorten their lifespans. So that’s why I think it’s all disingenuous bullshit because a true populist, a true champion of the working class would talk about, you know, what’s going on in some of these communities that are really being harmed by these products.
Mary Annaise Heglar Right. I mean, I think that’s why they don’t give them solutions. They give them scapegoats because it’s just so much easier to hate people than it is to hate systems. And it’s kind of what’s really scary to me is it seems like they’re priming them to want climate action, but not climate action, that is climate justice or not climate action that encompasses other people. So it’s like I think they will eventually get to the point where they really want the government to act on climate, but only for white folks, only for them and to keep everybody else out of it because they’re so distrustful of everybody else.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Right. The only like, quote unquote solution that you ever hear Fox News pundits propose is basically eco fascism. And, you know. Yeah, like that’s the solution, I guess. Yeah. Like you said before, Mary, it’s not all not all proposed climate solutions are the ones that we’ve on.
Mary Annaise Heglar <A.D.>
Amy Westervelt No, I’m curious to hear you talk about what you’ve seen on that front. We’ve we’ve definitely talked before on this show about Tucker Carlson’s obsession with the great replacement theory and eco fascism in general, but I’m curious to hear what you’ve seen.
Evlondo Cooper We’ve we’ve monitored an increase in that, like he talked about great replacement and we see kind of people are nibbling around the explicit idea of eco fascism. But what they’re proposing is definitely laying the groundwork for this idea of, you know, some variation of climate change is real. We have people from the Global South trying to invade our country because they literally can’t farm or eat. You know, they can’t they don’t have any food to eat anymore. And then the ramifications were internal migration. You know, I grew up in New Orleans. I was born I moved back there and I was there when Katrina happened. And the discourse around people displaced because of a climate driven disaster. Internally displaced and what people were saying about, you know, colonies, refugees and, you know, stuff like that. You know, think about that on a mass scale. Think about large parts of the Southwest can’t live where they are anymore because of drought conditions having to move mixing. I think they’re laying the groundwork for a very dangerous ideology where it would be easier to use the solutions we have in place to tackle the issue now instead of whipping people up into a frenzy when and if the inevitable happens. Yeah, it worries us a lot. We try to keep our eye on it and we try to rebut it when we can. And I think it is going to start as climate. As the climate disaster worsens. You’re going to start seeing much more explicit calls for eco fascism in the future.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yup. Yeah. Did you notice any of that? You know, when Tucker was covering things like the Buffalo shooter or was the other one the El Paso shooting and those sorts of events?
Evlondo Cooper No, his I didn’t notice. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any, you know, kind of tangential things that were said. We we notice his eco fascism comes in the form of being the conservationists maintain a key. He professes to love nature and wants to maintain nature. It’s but it’s also a form of NIMBYism that can easily trip into eco fascism, so.
Amy Westervelt That’s so interesting because there’s that there’s like a group that’s like they call themselves. I think it’s like Progressives for Immigration Reform. Have you heard about these guys that like that’s their whole thing is this like kind of old school, very Nazi tinged, like, we love nature and we want to protect it. And like, immigration is a threat to it. You know? Sorry. I’m sorry I interrupted you, but. Yeah. Go on, go on. This is grossly interesting.
Evlondo Cooper And I think you’re going to see these things coalesce. I mean, Tucker is explicitly, you know, talking about great replacement and in his conservation in quote unquote. And so I think, you know, I because I didn’t see I haven’t seen anything explicit doesn’t mean it was something that I missed or we missed. But I’m thinking you’re going to see much more explicit marrying of these ideologies as as the climate worsens and as people are driven from their their homes to seek refuge in places like America. It’s inevitable.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And thank you for bringing up Katrina, because I think when I first got involved in climate, it was it was because of Katrina, and like, I remember hearing people say, well, climate change is the thing that unites us all. It is a threat to all of us. It’s the great equalizer and yada, yada. And it was like, am I the only one in this room who remembers Katrina? Because that shit looked real unequal. Oh.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar And like, I don’t I don’t see that necessarily getting better. And, you know, also just want to acknowledge that the anniversary is coming up next week. And it’s a pretty somber time here in your hometown.
Evlondo Cooper It is 17 years, I think. I mean, it’s it’s hard to.
Mary Annaise Heglar This year is 17 and one year after Ida.
Evlondo Cooper And see that’s that’s the thing. You know getting like eco fascism manifests in different ways. You know, even how the areas that were destroyed by disaster get rebuilt, you know? Mm hmm. You know, because at the time, people thought there’s going to be at least I did this kind of climate policy utopia where we’re going to be able to hop on a trolley or some kind of a mass transit system and get from Metairie to New Orleans without having to get on I-10 and be stuck in traffic for hours. You know.
Mary Annaise Heglar It sounds beautiful now. Beautiful utopia.
Amy Westervelt Utopia. Yeah. But in fact, it was like disaster capitalism, almost immediately.
Evlondo Cooper And.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper You start thinking about how you know, what that looks like internally. And that’s the other from out of the fear of eco fascism that, you know, who’s going to get resources, who’s gonna be allowed to rebuild, who’s going to be excluded, who’s going to become sacrificed? You know, it just manifests as ways and manifests in myriad ways that are very concerning.
Amy Westervelt You see it in like the climate gentrification stuff in Miami to where like all of a sudden all of the, you know, the the higher ground areas that for years were, you know, were basically red zoned for poor people. And immigrant communities are now becoming desirable. And lower income people who are mostly black or brown are being pushed like literally into the sea. I mean, it’s gross. It’s really gross. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, when we talk about like I’ve I’ve talked to a few people recently about how to plan to move people. Managed retreat is that is the term I find it like terrifyingly bureaucratic that term. You know, it sounds so, so innocuous. But it’s like we’re talking about moving entire communities and like who we we have no map for, like who’s going to be making those decisions. I have no I don’t have a lot of optimism for them being, you know, very, very filled with with thinking about equality or talking to the actual communities themselves.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Yeah. Quick plug for the new HBO documentary Katrina Babies that comes out this week about a lot of that. Yeah. Especially about the kids. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. That’s so interesting. Anyway, yeah, I do. I feel like the internal migration stuff doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. And it’s. It’s very, very interesting and kind of scary the way it it’s it’s being approached so far. Have you seen any good examples of media, you know, sort of effectively counteracting these right wing narratives like what, you know, what are you seeing there? And and then like, what do you think would help?
Evlondo Cooper I think and we you know, it’s it’s a hard landscape for us to cover what we do. We do try to dip in when we can. I think we’ve seen a lot of.
Amy Westervelt Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper We’ve seen a lot of bad local coverage, you know, through Sinclair. But I think we’ve seen a lot of good local coverage. A lot of it comes from meteorologists, you know, who and it’s a small step, but, you know, you know, most people will never see climate science connected to something that’s happening in their community, especially not on national TV or cable news TV. Having, you know, local trusted reporters, you know, report about extreme weather impacts with what the science is that’ll look like in ten, 15, 20 years. Different environmental justice issues when they arise. That gives me some hope because. You know, part of the reason why I think it’s important to keep an eye on the media and to keep judging the media is that I don’t think it’s too late to come out to galvanize the public towards meaningful climate action, to demanding meaningful climate action. I think the more informed people are, the more informed about not just the consequences, but the potential solutions, knowing that there are solutions that exist that could have a meaningful impact, positive impact on their lives. And I think you see a lot of that and local coverage. I think some of the national meteorologists have been doing a good job of just making the connection between climate change and extreme weather. And now we’re pushing for them to just do one more little acknowledgment and say, you know, science isn’t the continuous burning of fossil fuels is what is driving these, you know, harmful climate impacts and just letting you know. And so we can start having some accountability for the fossil fuel industry because this stuff is not happening in a vacuum. That that’s my biggest hope, is that we can move from climate science to climate accountability and saying, you know, this is why this is happening. This is the industry and the people that are driving this crisis. Here’s why we need to transition away from that yesterday.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm.
Evlondo Cooper And I think, you know, you’ve seen some of that at the local level. You see some of it at the at the national level. On some cable news outlets. You have people that they try to do a decent job every now and then, but I don’t think it’s consistent enough to really break through.
Amy Westervelt Mm hmm. You know, it’s interesting, though, too, because I think that the local level is where I think it’s easier to reach people across a broad political spectrum like it is, especially at the national level, especially in the cable news realm. I just feel like the people who are watching cable news are self-selecting into ideologically tinged news channels. Like, you know, no one who is an avid Fox News watcher is just going to switch over to CNN and see what they’re saying about climate. You know, it’s just not realistic. But they might watch their local news at night. And like, that’s where I think you might be able to kind of to reach some folks who are otherwise only consuming a steady diet of, you know, Fox News or maybe oann. Yeah. You know, we don’t have any more like a national news broadcast that everybody watches, right? Everybody just sort of chooses their own media diet. That that.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt I think affirms what they already believe. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar I think C-SPAN might be the closest to it or NPR.
Amy Westervelt That’s right.
Mary Annaise Heglar But even their.
Amy Westervelt NPR’s are terrible. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar Okay.
Amy Westervelt Sorry.
Mary Annaise Heglar I don’t I don’t own a radio.
Amy Westervelt <A.D.>.
Mary Annaise Heglar But I want to go back real quick to you mentioned Sinclair, and I’m not sure all of our listeners will know what that is or what it’s done to local media. So could you take a quick second to break that down?
Evlondo Cooper So Sinclair is a conservative media conglomerate that has, you know, kind of made their way into a lot of different local news cars. They’ve bought up stations all around the country. And what we found is that, you know, not only, like, very extremely conservative, but there were times where they would push out a single message to all of the look that all the local broadcasters had to repeat. You know, a couple of our videos a few years ago, you know, that was showing like all these different newscasters literally reading the same script about some kind of contentious issue. So that’s who Sinclair is. They were huge Trump backers. They are very tied to the fossil fuel industry. They are very supportive of the industry. They routinely deny climate. But it’s interesting that that’s kind of the corporate philosophy, and you see it manifesting in different ways at the local level. We have people here, we’ve done a lot of work trying to highlight the work that Sinclair does, highlight its corporate ties, highlight it’s kind of almost dictatorial control over what their local news stations can report on and how they report on it. So that’s who Sinclair is. And so you can check, you know, if people want to know, you know, who’s providing them their news. If it’s not ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS. You know, it could be Sinclair. And, you know, I would encourage them to find a more reputable channel to get their news from.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Yeah. I learned about them through the John Oliver Show, Last Week Tonight, which has been doing really stellar coverage on climate, too. So shout out to them.
Amy Westervelt Yes. Yes, totally. I feel like it’s important to note, too, that, you know, Sinclair buying up local news stations happened right alongside a whole bunch of local newspapers going out of business. And we just had another round of that happening thanks to Gannett. So, you know, like the the loss of local news coverage is a really big problem here, too, because I think a lot of people do tend to trust their local news sources, maybe more than the national. I feel like you get less of the like, oh, the media are just all liars at the local level than you do at the national level. So, you.
Evlondo Cooper You know, there’s nothing like an investigative report on some industry that’s polluting or some say, like the investigative capacity of the media. Investigative journalism piece to me is, I think, the biggest blow to accountability. And it’s basically eroded at the local level at this point. I don’t I can’t think of very few local papers that are doing kind of giant investigative journalism pieces anymore.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. I mean, that’s why I like I think, you know, organizations like Floodlight and ProPublica that are trying to to funnel money into local investigative work are really important. But, you know, yeah, there’s I mean, even at the national level, there’s such a hollowing out of resources for investigative work. And like as someone who does investigative journalism, I can say it takes a lot of time and that requires resources. And like no one has those resources right now. There’s maybe you know, I feel like the other thing that we’re seeing, too, as a result of that is like that you basically get one big investigative piece, you know, every quarter, maybe from like one of the four white guys at big national media outlets, I mean, who are like allowed to do those pieces anymore. It’s a little bit dispiriting just how how little of it there is and how little funding there is for it. And certainly not like big teams, you know, doing stuff. I think, you know, Chicago, Minneapolis, there’s a few cities still that have pretty robust local papers, but man, they’re not.
Evlondo Cooper Looks like yours. I mean, Grice put out a huge investigative piece a few days ago.
Amy Westervelt That was great. Yeah.
Evlondo Cooper It’s just, you know, there was a heyday of that. You know, I feel like maybe I’m just I just think for the accountability piece, I think that’s just that’s what’s missing from that because. You know, without accountability, nothing really changed the same. People keep running the same scams and getting away with it and polluting, you know?
Amy Westervelt Yeah. Can we talk about that a little bit, too? Actually, because I feel like I know I get this very annoying to me, accusation a lot of like of just trying to always point blame at oil companies and like, you know.
Mary Annaise Heglar But they’re always doing shit.
Amy Westervelt I know. I’m like, well, like, the thing is, they’ve never actually been held accountable.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt So I don’t feel like there’s like too much of that, you know, and I. Yeah, I wonder like if you, what you see in that, in that vein Evlondo, if, like, if I don’t know if you see a kind of a, an aversion to accountability as somehow like, you know, seeking to place blame or, you know, punish certain companies more than than others or something.
Evlondo Cooper I think, this is just me, my my personal thought. I think the. I think it speaks to the the new media landscape at least you know cable and broadcast that it’s it’s it is kind of an elite domain you know and I think it’s, it’s gauche to go out there, you know, just bash, quote unquote, bash an industry or to to call them out. There’s also probably, you know, material financial concerns about because a lot of these companies advertise on these channels, you know, a lot of philosophy, you know. You know, you see Chevron pushing greenwashing on all the cable networks, honestly. And so, you know.
Amy Westervelt And constantly and politically.
Evlondo Cooper And sponsored by literally.
Amy Westervelt Yes.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm.
Evlondo Cooper And so, you know, I don’t want to say that that’s a causation, but it’s definitely a correlation, I think, between the willingness for at least these corporate networks to hold these industries accountable. And we’re pushing for that accountability because, I mean, frankly, honestly, you know, if there was this much evidence about any other industry, I think that industry would have written nationalized and driven out of business by now. You know, but meanwhile, they’re still allowed to operate with basically impunity, even in a, quote unquote, historic climate bill. There are huge carve outs to keep that industry, you know, funded for years. Yes. Profitable for years. Yeah. And even beyond and even beyond just driving CO2 in the atmosphere that’s causing all these aberrant and dangerous extreme weather impacts. They literally pollute the land, air and water of some of the most vulnerable communities in the country without any oversight or accountability. So we’re pushing hard for the media to start holding the fossil industry accountable. And I love what y’all do on social media and podcast newsletter.
Mary Annaise Heglar Cyberbullying.
Evlondo Cooper You’re punching up, definitely. So I don’t think you can. Like I don’t know. I would like I wouldn’t want to see that kind of I don’t want to see this tenfold hundredfold, you know, in every, every and everywhere. It should always be these are the industries causing the harm. So I love I love it.
Amy Westervelt It’s weird. I, I feel like there’s like a, there’s a thing that happens. And I think we’ve talked about this on here before, too, where if you if you do push for accountability, it’s sort of this immediate like, oh, you’re an activist or you’re an advocacy journalist and therefore less credible. Like, I yeah, I don’t know, I, I’ve heard this from journalists who are worried about being painted with that brush. And I know, like, I’ve had people say that to or about me as like that and a way to try to discredit some of the reporting that I’ve done. And it’s very like it’s very effective. It’s effective and it’s stupid, I think, you know.
Speaker 4 I mean, like, like we talked about API, the API president earlier. I mean, is he an advocate?
Amy Westervelt Right. Definitely bias.
Evlondo Cooper Yeah. I think the propagandist, you know I mean. So t.
Mary Annaise Heglar He is, yes.
Evlondo Cooper Calling, like speaking the truth about something, about an issue, about a company, about an industry, to me, isn’t isn’t activism. It’s it’s actually journalism. I don’t know, like.
Mary Annaise Heglar Mm hmm.
Evlondo Cooper You’re a journalist, and you’ve been reporting what you see in the world. So it’s a weird that’s a weird charge to me. And.
Amy Westervelt I think it’s weird, too, because like if you I don’t know, like if if you have that information and you don’t sort of point to the logical conclusion that that information leads to, then that’s also a bias. You know, it’s like, well, sugarcoating it or making it seem like, oh, sure, these companies have a role, but so do lots of other companies, you know. I mean, it’s.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah
Speaker 3 Like that. That’s a bias. It’s frustrating, but it’s so baked in to the the media, the media landscape and really like sort of a lot of the quote unquote rules of media, which is annoying, too, because it’s, you know, I’m going to get on my soapbox here for just 10 seconds and say that it was the fossil fuel industry, like actually created a lot of those rules. You know, it was it was oil companies that really, like, pushed for the sort of, quote unquote, objectivity that we see today. And that created false equivalence. And and it’s irritating to see journalists still not sort of getting breaking free of that and doing their jobs.
Evlondo Cooper Also being aware of the fact that Exxon’s own scientists in the seventies and eighties were just as accurate as the IPCC scientists and researchers have been. I mean, it’s it’s incredible the gap between what they knew and what they said. And they should never, ever be credulous about anything this industry says. Ever.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s really important to consider that they knew all of that stuff. When the BP oil spill happened, when they went to the Iraq war, when they the first Iraq war, even like they knew all of this stuff. So this whole idea of like, oh, we got to give the industry time and they didn’t know and it’s all bullshit. They knew. They knew better than anybody else.
Evlondo Cooper Drugs and subsidies.
Amy Westervelt Yeah. My favorite, like my, my favorite example of this beyond of course, like the memos and all of the stuff that the scientists were doing is that these companies were taking out patents in the seventies and eighties for all of the infrastructure that they would need to continue drilling for and transporting oil in a warming world. So, you know, offshore platforms engineered for sea level rise, oil tankers like designed to navigate a melting Arctic. Seventies and eighties patents. It takes a long fucking time to develop technology and then patent it. And they were getting those patents in the seventies and eighties. So the idea that they need more time, like they had all the time in the world to prepare their own industry for what’s happening now. But they didn’t afford the rest of us that time. And I don’t understand why. Yeah, you would continue to have, you know, the API president who, you know, helped coordinate a lot of that stuff too, by the way, you know on as a credible source on anything that yeah. Anyway.
Evlondo Cooper You know, do they think that they will escape the consequences of their actions? Like in terms of the long term climate impacts, not they’re never going to be brought before a court, but where they actually exist.
Amy Westervelt I mean, I think they do you actually, though. I think they think that I think like a lot of these executives and also I think a lot of the sort of like billionaire libertarian folks like the Peter Tiels of the world, I think, see a future where they’re basically aristocrats and like, you know, they’re able to afford.
Evlondo Cooper Bunkers.
Amy Westervelt Yeah long termism. Exactly it’s that whole thing of like well you know, well like me and mine will be fine. I think they do believe that. Yeah, it’s gross.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, really.
Evlondo Cooper It’s a politician in their pocket. You definitely have enough money to get a bunker. So, you know, what do you. What are you doing?
Amy Westervelt Exactly. Or a rocket ship. Yeah.
Mary Annaise Heglar These are all terrible ideas, and they won’t work. But, you know, I think they’re dumb enough to believe them, so hey, you guys are right on target. Well, I feel like there’s so much more we could talk about. So Evlondo, we we hope to have you back to talk to us again in the future. But I can’t resist the urge to ask Louisiana native, why is Louisiana the state that’s nearest to every other state in the United States?
Evlondo Cooper Oh, what do you mean? Uh-oh. I’m like?
Mary Annaise Heglar Think about it., it’s a thinker?
Evlondo Cooper Oh, dear. Why is Louisiana the nearest to area? Tell me. I don’t know. I am stumped.
Mary Annaise Heglar Because it’s the Bayou State.
Evlondo Cooper Oh, no. You’re right there.
Amy Westervelt Classic. Mary Hagler pun.
Evlondo Cooper It was right there.
Mary Annaise Heglar I meant to tell you that you could ask Amy for help. But.
Amy Westervelt So good.
Evlondo Cooper Tag my life line
Amy Westervelt Nice.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah. You can practice for next time. You can practice for next time.
Evlondo Cooper I will be ready
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah.
Amy Westervelt Thank you so much Evlondo, this was great. We’re super excited and we will definitely have you back.
Evlondo Cooper Thank you. This was fun. I really enjoyed talking with y’all.
Mary Annaise Heglar Yeah, this is great. Thank you. Hey, hotcakes. It’s Mary. We are pretty clear on this show that you don’t need to understand all the science to care about or even to understand climate change. But at the same time, we understand that you might have a few questions about the climate science. You might have a few curiosities. So we are planning a special mailbag episode where we will go through your scientific questions and more. And you can send those questions to HotTake@Crooked.com., that’s email@example.com.. We’re planning to have this episode in sometime in September, and we will be inviting on a fantastic climate scientist to help us talk through these things. So again, saying your questions to hottake@crookedMedia.com. Hot Take is a Crooked Media production.
Amy Westervelt It’s produced by Ray Peng and mixed and edited by Jules Bradley. Our music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos. Thimali Kodakarra is our consulting producer and our executive producers are Mary Annaise Heglar, Michael Martinez and me, Amy Westervelt
Mary Annaise Heglar Special thanks to Sandy Girard, Ari Schwartz, Kyle Seglin and Charlotte Landes for production support and to Amelia Montooth for digital support.
Amy Westervelt You can follow the show on Twitter @RealHotTake sign up for our newsletter at Hot Take Pod dot com and subscribe to Crooked Media’s Video Channel at YouTube.com/Crooked Media.