Fox News Attacks SpongeBob!

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? And why is he being swift-boated by Fox & Friends?

Mr. SquarePants’ global warming book and video are “indoctrinating children,” and the U.S. Department of Education has been duped into “pushing his global warming agenda.” The hard-hitting investigative journalists at Fox have discovered that the cartoon star and Department of Education were actually “blaming man for global warming.” Instead of being balanced, like Fox always is, “they did not tell kids that this is a disputed fact.”

No shit; this is for real. I feel bad for the writers at The Onion, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, though, because reality containing this much self-parody has to be job-threatening to anyone trying to make a living at satire.

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At one point during the discussion on yesterday’s Fox & Friends show, an on-screen headline read “SPONGEBOB’S BIAS: CARTOON BLAMES MAN FOR GLOBAL WARMING.” Here are few snippets of what was being gravely intoned (while the banner ran across the bottom of the screen) by co-hosts Dave Briggs, Gretchen Carlson, and Steve Doocy (text with comments as reported by Media Matters):

CARLSON: The Department of Education using SpongeBob SquarePants now to teach kids about global warming. The government agency showed kids this cartoon and handed out books that blamed man for global warming, but they did not tell kids that that is actually a disputed fact. Oops! [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

  • Department of Education: “We’ve Never Shown Any Videos” At The Reading Events. Contrary to Carlson’s claim, Tim Tuten of the Department of Education said that the SpongeBob video was not shown at the reading events. “We’ve never shown any videos ever, so I have no idea where that is coming from,” he said. Tuten added that participants were permitted to choose one of dozens of diverse books to take home with them and the SpongeBob book was one of those options. [Phone conversation, 8/3/11]
  • Doocy Claims Unnamed “Parents” Think SpongeBob Book Pushes “Over-The-Top Green Agenda.”

    DOOCY: The Department of Education giving kids free books about SpongeBob. Seems like a good idea right? Well some parents don’t think so. They say the books are being used to push an over-the-top green agenda regarding global warming. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

    Carlson On SpongeBob: “He Is Only Looking At It From One Point Of View.” On Fox & Friends Carlson also said of the Nickelodeon show:

    CARLSON: We all know that SpongeBob is popular with the kids and for the life of me I still keep trying to figure out why it is. My kids watch limited TV but every time they chose that show, I’m like, ‘Why?’  Anyway — it’s hard to even follow sometimes. Anyway now maybe that will be a good thing because SpongeBob is talking a lot about global warming, and he’s only looking at it from one point of view. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

    Fox’s Dave Briggs: Global Warming Is “Unproven Science.”

    BRIGGS: It’s unproven science. And again, this is public education system that we all pay our tax dollars for and the SpongeBob book says that it’s a manmade problem that requires human intervention.

    DOOCY: Right. They’re presenting it as fact.

    BRIGGS:  As fact. Meanwhile, the schools there — I mean, we’re talking about 14th in the world in reading, 17th in the world in science, 25th in math. So we’re forcing an issue that is not yet proven — we can’t even teach our kids the adequate math, reading and science at this point. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

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    On the subject of what scientists think about whether climate change is caused by humans, Media Matters summarizes the “unproven issue” SpongeBob is forcing as our schools fail us:

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  • National Research Council: “Preponderance Of Scientific Evidence” Indicates That Humans Are Changing The Climate. In a recent report, the National Research Council stated: “[T]he preponderance of scientific evidence points to human activities — especially the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — as the most likely cause for most of the global warming that has occurred over the last several decades.” [National Research Council, 5/12/11]

  • American Chemical Society: Climate Change Is “Largely Attributable To Emissions From Human Activities.” According to the American Chemical Society: “[C]omprehensive scientific assessments of our current and potential future climates clearly indicate that climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities, and potentially a very serious problem.” [American Chemical Society, accessed 8/3/11]

  • AAAS: “Global Climate Change Is Real” And “Is Caused Largely By Human Activities.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science said in a 2009 statement: “The vast preponderance of evidence, based on years of research conducted by a wide array of different investigators at many institutions, clearly indicates that global climate change is real, it is caused largely by human activities, and the need to take action is urgent.” [American Association For The Advancement of Science, 12/4/09]

  • American Meteorological Society: “Humans Have Significantly Contributed” To Climate Change. In a February 2007 statement, the American Meteorological Society said “there is adequate evidence” to conclude “that humans have significantly contributed” to climate change and that “further climate change will continue to have important impacts on human societies, on economies, on ecosystems, and on wildlife through the 21st century and beyond.” [American Meteorological Society, 2/1/07]

  • Geological Society Of America: “Human Activities … Account For Most Of The Warming Since The Middle 1900s.” From an April 2010 position statement of the Geological Society of America:

    The Geological Society of America (GSA) concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s. If current trends continue, the projected increase in global temperature by the end of the twenty-first century will result in large impacts on humans and other species. [Geological Society of America, April 2010]

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    Please comment and share this post, and check out the very solid work being done by Media Matters for America.  See you at Krusty’s.

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About Scott Brophy
Scott Brophy is a philosophy professor whose work is focused on the intersection of philosophy and public policy, especially on environmental issues, law, and education. He has also taught philosophy of science, logic, and the history of philosophy. He has served as a consultant for educational programs and schools throughout the U.S. and abroad, and as an adviser to several philanthropic foundations.

One Response to Fox News Attacks SpongeBob!

  1. Sean Bender says:

    Why are people who have trouble following the plot of Spongebob Squarepants desiginating themselves as scientific experts?

    This conflict over global warming science seems to reflect a general tendency of the Republican Party: valuing the baseless opinions of the “common man” over the well-reasoned conclusions of “elites,” like scientists or academics.

    Perhaps this illustrates a fundamental problem with democratic governance. As Socrates observed, by giving uniform weight to every opinion (even unjustified ones), democracies encourage unenlightened rule by the mob (or, to be more accurate for modern society, by the corporations that control the mob).

    Theoretically, this problem could be prevented through education. However, when that same mob gets to decide which truths are taught, a Catch-22 emerges. How can we expect our education system to produce effective voters when those voters are taught that Creationism is a superior theory to evolution, as happened in my home state of Kansas?

    China’s semi-authoritarian regime is capable of bypassing mass ignorance so that it might now be the world’s lead investor in green energy, according to the recently released annual report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Meanwhile, the U.S. is throwing its money at fracking, a technology that doesn’t even have the support of the very people who are advocating it (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/26/us/26gas.html?_r=2&hp).

    Maybe Terry the Fracosaurus is cuter than Spongebob?

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