The New Journalism: Bad Fiction?
So,...huh. Did the petroleum jocks know that State of Fear is, in fact, a novel? Yes, reported the New York Times, they did.
"It is fiction," conceded Larry Nation, communications director for the association. "But it has the absolute ring of truth."(The absolute ring of truth? What the hell kind of oxymoronic nonsene is that? He may as well have borrowed from Stephen Colbert and just declared it chock-a-block full of "truthiness.") The Times continued with quotes from two scientists who strenuously beg to differ with Mr. Nation's assessment.
The book is "demonstrably garbage," Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford climatologist, said in an interview yesterday. Petroleum geologists may like it, he said, but only because "they are ideologically connected to their product, which fills up the gas tanks of Hummers."Ah, but profound ignorance will carry you a long way in some circles. Let's not forget that Mr. Crichton was invited by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to testify before Congress as an, ahem, expert on global warming.
Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who directs the Harvard University Center for the Environment, called the award "a total embarrassment" that he said "reflects the politics of the oil industry and a lack of professionalism" on the association's part.
As for the book, he added, "I think it is unfortunate when somebody who has the audience that Crichton has shows such profound ignorance."
Over at the excellent Scientific American Observations blog, Editor John Rennie lamented that, in handing Crichton its journalism award, "the AAPG will probably make a number of people assume that it is in fact just shilling for industry." But, as a reader subsequently pointed out, one look at the association's policy position on climate change and it's hard to draw any other conclusion. Which isn't all that surprising, really. As Upton Sinclair, a journalist and novelist of another era put it (and as Al Gore quoted him in his film): "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depeneds upon his not understanding it."