Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Bloggers Debate Global Warming and Scientific Ethics

PEJ New Media Index February 20-24, 2012

Over the past three years, global warming has consistently proven to be one of the most debated and divisive subjects in the blogosphere. And last week, a new development in the conflict created another firestorm. Peter Gleick, a well-known scientist and advocate for the existence of climate change, admitted he used a false identity to obtain internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank that questions the

existence of global warming. What ensued was a passionate and often angry conversation about the science of global warming, ethics, and the motives of those on both sides of the debate. While many bloggers weighed in, voices of climate change skeptics were more numerous. For the week of February 20-24, the controversy involving Gleick, labeled by some as “FakeGate,” was the top news story on blogs, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Since PEJ began tracking social media in 2009, there have been 14 weeks when global warming has been among the top five most discussed subjects among bloggers. And in most of those instances-as was the case last week-skeptics filled a larger segment of the conversation than defenders of the science. To critics of global warming science, the episode brought back memories of the “ClimateGate” scandal of November 2009 when emails leaked from a British research unit raised questions about the methods used by some scientists to defend climate change. Gleick’s unethical actions, they argued, were further proof that global warming militants need to use dishonest methods to defend their views. Those who believe in global warming, on the other hand, focused more on what the documents revealed about the Heartland Institute-including the organization’s funding and their plans to influence public education. There was a split among those global warming believers, however, as to whether Gleick’s questionable method justified the means.

Gleick and the Heartland Institute

[confession is]

The Rest of the Week’s News on Blogs

The other subjects to gain attention among bloggers last week were a mix of technology and politics. The No. 2 subject involved information about new Google products. Of particular interest was a NY Times report about the development of Google-made glasses that will stream information about what a person is seeing to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time. The glasses will automatically convey details about the locations and people someone is viewing. The product, rumored to be released by the end of the year, will cost between $250 and $600. Various stories about the presidential campaign finished third. Bloggers highlighted several controversial statements made by Republican candidate Rick Santorum in 2008 including a claim that Satan was systematically destroying America and that anyone who turned the basis of Christianity into a “liberation theology story” had chosen to “abandon Christendom.” Bloggers also took note of a Forbes story quoting billionaire Sheldon Adelson as declaring that he might give up to $100 million to Newt Gingrich or other Republicans to support their campaign efforts. Rumors about the iPad 3, which is due to be released in early March, including a photo of the product’s logic board with an “A5X” system of a chip, were the fourth largest subject. And a scandal involving Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu, who became a national figure due to his strident opposition to illegal immigration, was the No. 5 subject. Babeu’s former boyfriend claimed the sheriff threatened him with deportation if he refused to conceal their long-term relationship. In a press conference, Babeu acknowledged he was gay, but denied allegations that he had threatened his partner. The Rest of the Week’s News on Twitter On Twitter, famous musicians and multiple efforts to spread advice and goodwill led the week. Tweets from the British-Irish boy band One Direction, including pictures of the group on tour, were the most linked-to subject last week.

The issue of bullying was the No. 2 subject as many tweets linked to a blunt message about the hazards of teenage harassment. “The boy you called lame,” warned the posting, “He has to work every night to support his family…Re-post if you are against bullying.” Several tweets using the hashtag #ConfessionNight made up the third-biggest subject. Among them were advice involving love and sex including one message that read, “True love does not come by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” The fourth topic included tweets and videos from the Korean boy band Super Junior. And the fifth subject was a video message from professional wrestler CM Punk condemning singer Chris Brown for his checkered past including an incident of domestic violence. Chris Brown has drawn criticism on social media before as one week earlier when he was the focus of much of the conversation on blogs regarding his appearance at the Grammys, where he won the award for best R&B album.


For the second time in a month, events in Russia dominated the most viewed news videos on YouTube. (The country was also the focus of some of the most popular videos the week of January 30 – February 3.) Two of the clips included the use of digital video technology to create satirical videos focused on prominent politicians. The top video, which was also the No. 1 video the previous week, was a digitally altered 50-second clip called ‘The Arrest of Vladimir Putin.’ The fake news report in Russian showed the Prime Minister locked inside a cage while on trial for corruption and terrorism.  The video was created using video footage of the 2010 trial of former businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The No. 2 video was a February 13 Russian presidential debate that included representatives of the candidates. Nikita Mikhalkov, a film director, spoke for Putin, while billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov was represented by his 55-year-old sister, publisher and philanthropist, Irina. The No. 5 video was a fake movie trailer featuring clips of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the right-wing nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the 2011 action movie ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.’ Zhirinovsky, known for his inflammatory statements, was in the YouTube top news videos the week of January 30.

Most Viewed News & Politics Videos on YouTube

For the Week of February 18 – 24, 2012

1. A digitally altered 50-second Russian-language video clip showing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on trial for corruption and terrorism using news footage from the 2010 trial of businessman Mikhail Kodorkovsky
2. A Russian-language video showing a presidential debate between Nikita Mikhalkov and Irina Prokhorov as substitutes for Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Prokhorov
3. A video showing Pentti Arajarvi, husband of Finnish president, caught on camera glancing inappropriately at the Princess Mary of Denmark during a dinner hosted by the Queen of Denmark
4. An ABC World News report on the death of singer Whitney Houston
5. A fake movie trailer in Russian titled ‘Zhirinovsky. The Protocol Phantom’

About the New Media Index The New Media Index is a weekly report that captures the news agenda of social media, with a focus on blogs, Twitter and YouTube. These platforms are an important part of today’s news information narrative and shape the way Americans interact with the news. The expansion of blogs and other social media sites has allowed news-consumers and others outside the mainstream press to have more of a role in agenda setting, dissemination and interpretation. Through this New Media Index PEJ aims to find out what subjects in the national news the online sites focus on, and how that compares with the narrative in the traditional press. A detailed description of the NMI methodology, which was recently modified in August 2011, is available here. *For the sake of authenticity, PEJ has a policy of not correcting misspellings or grammatical errors that appear in direct quotes from online postings.

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