EU Referendum

Media: the cynical view


I seriously don't want to write about the OMG version 3.0 of the coronavirus which seems to have reached global circulation in record time (even if it seems to have been around much longer than was initially thought).

From very early on, Covid primeTM seems to be following the typical (and expected) pattern of epidemic viral diseases – increased infectivity combined with reduced virulence, which is the final cover for such diseases as they fade into to background to become endemic illnesses of very little concern.

As such, it is very difficult to avoid the suspicion that the government response (along with some others) is a massive over-reaction, the timing of which conveniently diverts attention from other, more pressing problems, - especially with the legacy media which is so easily distracted by the soap opera of the ongoing booster campaign.

At times such as these, it becomes necessary to watch even more closely for what is not being widely reported, a task which is inevitably more difficult by dint of the fact that the material isn't being widely reported.

An important endeavour in this respect is to follow through climate-relevant information, filling the post-Cop26 vacuum with stories which don't fit the warmist narrative – an endless source of entertainment as this winter is already cofounding the worst predictions of the keepers of the faith.

Some of the greatest entertainment comes from the contrast between the earnest warmist propaganda and the real world reports, which brings me to a recent article in the New Scientist, widely cited elsewhere.

This is headed with the legend: "Orcas are spreading further into the Arctic Ocean as sea ice melts", telling us that, "Orcas – also known as killer whales – used to be unusual visitors to the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, but they are becoming more common there, which might be bad news for local ecosystems".

The story is down to Brynn Kimber at the University of Washington and her colleagues, who have found more and more orcas in the ice-covered Arctic waters near Alaska there in recent years - a region that these mammals tend to avoid because sea ice makes it "difficult to access and also leaves the mammals at risk of becoming trapped below the surface".

To track orca populations, Kimber and her team used underwater acoustic recordings of north-western Arctic waters. They collected data between 2012 and 2019 from four recorders that were attached to anchors dotted around the area, ranging from the northerly edge of the Chukchi Sea to the more southerly Bering Strait, just off the Alaskan coast.

We are the told that the researcher found that in the southern regions near the Bering Strait, orcas now make a regular appearance each summer. What's more, they were arriving in these areas up to a month earlier in the summer of 2019 than they did in the summer of 2012, possibly due to earlier ice disappearance.

In the northern Chukchi borderlands, they also found that orcas were present more frequently and consistently by 2019, again perhaps due to reducing ice cover.

I suppose it was just bad luck that Kimber chose to publish shortly after the Anchorage Daily News reported: "November ice extent in Chukchi Sea is well above average of past 30 years".

This comes from climatologist Rick Thoman who, with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, has Chukchi Sea ice data going back to 1979. Current sea ice extent in northern Alaska waters is the highest it's been in November since 2001.

Interestingly, we find that this is not just a function of the colder temperatures – although these do help. According to Thoman, in addition to the persistently cold pattern since early October, there have been sustained northern winds. Thus, he says, "we didn't have our thumbs on the scales with very warm waters that had to be extracted out".

This wind shift possibly accounts for the fact that sea ice formation at the opposite end of the Artic Ocean, in Hudson Bay, is lower than average, leaving the wibblers clear to wail that "Arctic sea ice is disappearing and it’s harming polar bears".

That story, though – along with others of its ilk – is over a month old, geared to extract maximum impact for the Cop26 eco-fest, but the wailing has died down somewhat as the ice is returning and the iconic polar bears are heading out to resume feeding before winter sets in.

While reporting the slow development of the ice in the Bay, however, the reported, this sudden freeze was picked up by the legacy media in late November, with the news that ice-breakers were on their way to rescue the trapped ships.

Some indeed have been freed and the research and expedition ship Mikhail Somov is reported safely back in her home port of Arkhangelsk, as of 2 December – not that this news has reached the legacy media.

There are fascinating details here as it appears that the ship was not released by ice-breakers. Instead, in one instance, the gas carrier Boris Davydov, sailing from China to Sabetta, on 23 November, came to its rescue. On the following day, the ship once again got iced-in, this time near the entrance to the Nordenskiold Archipelago. Its rescuer this time was gas carrier Rudolf Samoilovich.

With that, and especially with the lack of any reports to the contrary in the legacy media, one might think that the crisis was over – all's well that ends well. But in one of the remotest regions on earth, where news is very hard to get, it seems that the situation is very far from normal.

We can glean this from a very recent report from The Maritime Executive which tells us that Atomflot has mobilised its two heavy icebreakers, the brand new Arktika and the veteran 50 Let Pobedy, which are on their way to provide assistance to trapped vessels.

With three other Atomflot nuclear icebreakers said to be already on station - the Vaygach, the Taymyr and the Yamal, this suggests that the problems are rather more serious than are being admitted. Leonid Irlitsa, First Deputy Director General for Navigation at Atomflot concedes only that: "It is the first time that we are providing icebreaker assistance at this time of the year".

Doubtless, there are more important stories that our legacy media could be reporting but, when one sees the torrent of trivia that daily fills the pages of the British press – and clutters their websites – it is very easy to take the cynical view that readers are being fed a diet of garbage to keep them from addressing the more substantive issues.

But there is some sense also that hard-edged technical stories of the likes of ice-clearance in the Northern Sea Route are too complex for today's media reporters, who are more at home with soft-focus "nature" stories about killer whales and not-so-cuddly polar bears.

Either way, we need to be acutely conscious – as always – that the media narrative is precisely that, a narrative. But what we are being told is rarely the extent of what we need to know.

Also published on Turbulent Times.