If you missed the MSNBC/Chris Hayes documentary The Politics of Power on August 16, you may never have the chance to see it again in its entirety.
Sure, you can watch the final fifty-nine seconds of the documentary on MSNBC.com, and a four-minute clip from the program, plus a few "web extras". But, for some reason, the rest of the special --- a rare hour-long cable news documentary on the climate crisis and its fossil fuel industry-funded deniers --- has yet to be posted online. Anywhere. At least anywhere that we were able to find.
The BRAD BLOG has made repeated inquires to MSNBC, as well as to Chris Hayes and whoever monitors All In's Twitter feed, as to why the documentary, which aired during Hayes' normal All in With Chris Hayes time slot, has not been made available in full online. That, despite the fact that Rachel Maddow's documentary, Hubris: Selling the Iraq War, was posted on MSNBC.com almost immediately after it first aired on February 18, 2013. As of this writing, we have yet to receive a response from MSNBC or Hayes or All In as to whether or when the doc might be made available online, or why it hasn't been so far.
Now, why would that be?...
A week or so after it aired, we were able to find a transcript of the August 16 documentary posted online. Reading through it, one can appreciate why the piece received high praise from former Vice President Al Gore --- and why certain entities might not be happy with the prospect of the video being widely available and, who knows, maybe even going viral.
Consider these remarks from the film's transcript [emphasis added]:
For the next hour, we'll show that climate change is happening, and the root of the problem is our dependence on fossil fuels. The story of our energy use is fascinating, where we get it, what type it is, and how much we use. And that needs to change.
HAYES: "Bloomberg Businessweek" magazine puts it even more bluntly, across the globe, a disturbing statistic. Carbon emissions from the consumption of energy are up 48 percent since 1992.
We`ve heard it many times before, but it bears repeating, because some people still don`t get it. When coal, oil, and natural gas are burned to create energy, the process pumps carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. They don't dissipate. They stay there, creating a sort of blanket that traps heat in.
If the heat stays in, the planet gets warmer. If the planet gets warmer, the ice caps melt. If the ice caps melt, they can no longer reflect the sun's rays. That means the rays are absorbed by the dark water. Warmer water means the seas expand, rise, and fuel super storms, like Sandy.
HAYES: Not surprisingly, some of the funding for climate change denial comes from the very industry with the most to lose, fossil fuel companies. One of the largest financial backers of the climate denial movement was ExxonMobil. Its annual reports show that from 1998 to 2007, ExxonMobil gave millions of dollars to organizations that cast doubt on the scientific validity of climate change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s obvious why they want climate change not to be true. As long as climate change is not true, then we can keep selling coal, natural gas, and oil. So, remove the cause and your business is preserved.
HAYES: In 2008, ExxonMobil announced they would discontinue contributions to groups that could, quote, "divert attention in the important discussions on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner. In fact, ExxonMobil is funding research devoted to mitigating the increase in greenhouse gases.
Yet there remain numerous deep-pocketed billionaires and corporations still supporting climate change denial.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s really disheartening, as a climate scientist to hear the misrepresentation of the science. And reminds me of what happened with tobacco.
HAYES: In 1994, they said their product was not addictive, despite the evidence proving the opposite.
JOSEPH TADDEO, U.S. TOBACCO: I don't believe that nicotine or our products are addictive.
ANDREW TISCH, LORILLARD TOBACCO: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.
EDWARD HORRIGAN, LIGGETT GROUP: I believe that nicotine is not addictive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cigarette industry created 50 years of pseudo science to convince legislators, regulators and smokers that smoking was not harmful. Is the fossil fuel industry now paying for pseudo science to convince policymakers they're not to blame for climate change? Of course they are.
MORGAN: There is a window of time where we need to act, and once you go past that window, if the emissions keep going up, you lose the Arctic. I have to hope that people think about how they're going to protect their homes, their families, their kids, and get down to business, because we don`t have that much time.
HAYES: It's hard to believe, but just 50 years ago, an oil company ran an ad, actually boasting that each day it sold enough energy to melt 7 million tons of glaciers. Today, those melting glaciers and arctic ice no longer symbolize economic progress, but are the proverbial canary in the coal mine of climate change.
But why are we in this situation to begin with, and what`s keeping us from taking the necessary option to solve it?
It turns out the politics of power is really about the politics of fossil fuels.
HAYES (voice-over): In the United States, 80 percent of our energy comes from fossil fuels --- coal, oil, natural gas. And which one do we use the most? Oil.
In 2012, we used almost 7 billion barrels of oil to fuel nearly all of our transportation, provide half of our industrial energy needs, and make chemicals, plastics, and synthetic materials found in nearly everything we use today. In fact, the U.S. is the world`s top energy consumer, and much of it is imported, often from volatile nations.
Not the sort of thing that might give comfort to the fossil fuel companies that advertise --- a lot --- on MSNBC and MSNBC.com.
To be fair, MSNBC.com did post a series of so-called "web extras" related to the documentary, including extended interviews with former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, as well as author Steve Coll and solar-energy entrepreneur Jigar Shah. There's also a nice bit about energy efficiency at One World Trade Center, the tower being built at the site of the World Trade Center. Yet, the entire documentary --- easier to take in via video, for those not inclined to plow through text transcripts --- remains missing in action nearly two weeks since its only airing.
What does Hayes think of MSNBC.com's, shall we say, tardiness in posting the full documentary, particularly after the cable net was so quick to post's Maddow's much-lauded Iraq documentary? We don't know. As mentioned, he has yet to reply to our queries.
Hayes did respond, the very next day after it was posted, to an outstanding piece by Boston Phoenix alum and current Nation magazine contributor Wen Stephenson (Hayes remains "Editor-at-Large" at the magazine) about the need to place greater emphasis on both climate science and political science. But he has, perhaps understandably, not weighed in on why MSNBC.com is taking so long to allow the rest of the world to see the film.
The transcript indicates that The Politics of Power went further than usual (by corporate-media standards) in pointing to the root cause of the climate crisis: the burning of fossil fuels, and the power of the fossil-fuel industry to stymie legislative and executive action to reduce carbon emissions. It was, we concede, a courageous decision to air the piece in the first place. However, those who weren't able to watch on August 16 appear pretty much out of luck. Rightly or wrongly, observers might well conclude that MSNBC has invoked the first commandment of corporate media: Thou shalt not offend advertisers.
You may recall that in 2007, Michael Moore pointed out the role pharmaceutical advertising plays in inducing corporate media to avoid serious discussion of the problems facing the American health-care system. The same could be said for Big Oil's heavy advertising, and the role it clearly plays in inducing corporate media to avoid serious discussion of the climate crisis. Is it really too far-fetched to suggest that MSNBC.com might have made the call not to post the full documentary online, so as to avoid any (further?) backlash from the fossil fuel companies that advertise so heavily on MSNBC and MSNBC.com?
Granted, the newly launched Al Jazeera America is also keeping its widely praised climate coverage offline. In fact, they're keeping all of their coverage offline, as noted by environmental reporter Todd Woody:
That's a legitimate explanation. Or, at least it's an explanation, which is more than we've been able to spark from MSNBC to date as to why The Politics of Power is seemingly being blacked out.
UPDATE 10/2/2013: MSNBC's 'missing' climate change documentary finally found! Sort of...