The right thing to do: Global warming and the conservative press

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The right thing to do: Global warming and the conservative press

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Title: The right thing to do: Global warming and the conservative press
Author: Poff, Michele
Abstract: Deemed an issue of the ideological left, global warming is a contentious issue in today’s political landscape. In 2006, environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, narrated by former vice-president Al Gore, was released. In it, Gore admonishes human behaviors that he argues contribute to global warming through unchecked emissions practices, placing blame for these behaviors on personal and political ethics of self-interest. I argue that this invokes values of individualist conservatism, or a worldview driven by personal advancement and acquisitions. At the same time, I argue that Gore reflects and reinforces an ethic of morality and adherence to tradition, which correspond with a worldview of traditionalist conservatism. Thus, he drives a wedge between the two different strands of conservatives, encouraging traditionalists to admonish their individualist conservative brethren. The result is a move toward transcendence of global warming from the fray of political contention to a higher moral order, and an issue of broader, human concern. In this dissertation, I examine these ideological dynamics surrounding global warming in two essential sites. First, I conduct a textual analysis of An Inconvenient Truth to identify its dominant themes, both explicit and implicit. This is followed by a two-step analysis of the conservative press. I first conduct a content analysis of global warming coverage in the conservative press. In this analysis, the themes identified in the film have become variables in the content analysis. I then conduct a textual analysis of religious conservative periodical Christianity Today to ascertain any reconstruction of global warming within this Christian culture after the film. Since news media both reflect and shape public opinion, we can gain much insight to conservative culture by examining these discourses. In both news media analyses, I aim to ascertain whether and to what extent the themes of An Inconvenient Truth have penetrated these discourses, and hence the conservative culture(s) they serve. Findings suggest that indeed, the themes of An Inconvenient Truth made their way into the conservative discourse in significant ways. This research has important implications for news media dynamics, information processing, conservative ideological dynamics, and the (re)construction of issues with a political identity.

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