Listeners were treated to media manipulation this week as Sean Hannity became a paid mouthpiece for the fracking industry. Last week, the Journal News described how Hannity took to the airwaves to say NY Governor Andrew Cuomo held off on controversial fracking permits to appease his “left wing” base.
In reality, Cuomo ordered state health reviews after an outpouring of 80,000 comments last year as the public rose in protest, finding taxpayer funded studies had baldly omitted the downsides of the practice. And a new Siena poll published just yesterday shows public opposition to fracking is on the rise.
We would find out just days later that Mr. Hannity’s latest advocacy for fracking also happens to coincide with a paid ad campaign in favor of the fracking industry, reading live ads for the film Frack Nation.
This is (again) an ethical conflict of interest, blurring show content with paid issue ads. In July 2011, we reported how Hannity and his mentor Rush Limbaugh were accused by the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Politico and The Economist for apparent violation of Section 317 of the 1934 Communications Act, entitled ”Announcement That Matter Is Paid For”. Muddying the lines between advertising and program content is frowned upon – unless you are, like Hannity, paid to “crystallize public opinion”.
Till now, Hannity has largely avoided the fracking debate, mentioning the destructive drilling process only fleetingly in a repetitive list of other “drill baby drill” initiatives. His specific criticism of Cuomo on this issue seems quite oddly timed.
But it gets worse. As part of a purchased spot heard Wednesday, Hannity described the Frack Nation documentary as “crowdfunded” through Kickstarter, even though no grassroots movie promotion campaign has ever reached a radio audience of 10+ million in primetime drive with live reads by the #1 top rated host in the time slot.
So this is a whopping lie, endorsed by Hannity as he reads from a script, failing to mention the rights to the movie have been secured by right wing billionaire Mark Cuban, whose cable station will feature the film. The market value of Hannity’s air time was not disclosed, and the Kickstarter solicitation never mentioned any funds going to advertising or promotion. So where did the money come from? How does Kickstarter feel about being mentioned in this deceptive ad copy?
Hannity’s shilling for moneyed interests is no surprise, but the fracking debate is serious – most people are unaware of the future costs our children will bear to inspect and repair millions of abandoned fracking wells decades from now. After wells are depleted, they sit there forever as up potential causeways for water contamination as erosion or land shift compromise concrete casings.
According to internal documents, the industry is already hiding that 6% of wells leak right from the outset. They prefer to discuss job creation, but don’t explain who will be paying the salaries of the ‘neverending’ repair crews.
Hannity has no compunctions about environmental karma, and is sure his children’s inheritance will provide for a lot of pristine bottled water. But his shivering cowardice in discussing the science behind fracking on the air is a theft of taxpayer resources, sabotaging public airwaves for payola talk radio that clearly does not serve the public interest.
If you actually attended official hydrofracking hearings held around the state by the DEC, you saw it’s a far cry from industry propaganda about safe drilling and jobs and the happy-ever-after. In the “boring” public hearings, we learned that gas drilling corporations have been using non-disclosure clauses in financial settlements with homeowners to prevent the truth about contamination from reaching the press – and the official scientific reviewers.
This led to the blockbuster “Drilling Down” series by the NY Times, revealing contamination has occurred going way back to 1984, but frackers’ gag money kept the EPA from acknowledging water contamination until December, 2011. In New York, the expansion of fracking has happened so quickly, studies say overwhelmed state inspectors have to leave about 75% of drilling sites completely unmonitored.
So, can we trust the drilling firms to self-police? According to the Times, these energy companies have continually deceived regulators and at times, their own investors, in pursuit of ever increasing profits. Landowners who lease to fracking firms have complained bitterly about exploitation in positively vampiric lease terms and legal bullying, as well as intentional deception in contractual fine print.
The biggest fracking firms have also evaded nearly $10 billion in state taxes thanks to a sneaky filing loophole carved out in Delaware. The jobs promised are actually temporary and often given to experienced workers from outside the region.
The industry also conceals the chemicals in the fluids they shoot into to the Earth, misstates the environmental impact of their truck traffic and greenhouse gases released, and they downplay the risks of irreversible poisoning of our children’s drinking water, risks which will increase over time after their wells are abandoned. Indeed, our water is already being tainted by the runoff concoction used in the drilling process.
Our children deserve a world where public airtime is not censored to prevent routine dissemination of public safety information. If you understand media manipulation, this ad buy, and Hannity’s endorsement is ostensibly a move by industry surrogates to pressure Andrew Cuomo and NY state legislators to hurry permit approvals, so they “pay the piper” using the nation’s biggest bullhorn to ‘soften up’ the public.
What’s their rush? As science answers questions, experts say the only way permits can be approved is if it’s done before the final studies are released.
For real people, Wednesday marks the day that the fracking industry entered national talk radio syndication, lying about sugardaddy funding in paid ads instead of providing simple, balanced informational programming. If you want to know what a scientific debate on fracking and public policy sounds like, click here for a one hour event held in Ohio. It’s long and wonky, but in the end, you don’t want fracking anywhere near where you live.
Hannity Sympatico With Obama on Fracking
Ironically, Hannity is in rare agreement with the Obama administration on this issue. Per this recent Associated Press account, Obama’s EPA was accused of suppressing a study they commissioned when it found a homeowner’s water became tainted with methane after fracking. What’s scariest for those who don’t want to take chances with New York water is when Republicans and Democrats agree, brought ‘together’ by industry money.
Hannity and Obama both diminish the science and the will of the people. Laughably, Hannity doesn’t even seem to realize he’s on Obama’s side – in this video, he clearly lies about Obama’s support for fracking.
Last May, Obama “gave ground” to the industry, allowing fracking on federal lands as part of his “all the above” energy strategy, but more recently his EPA regulators enjoined NY officials, seeking to overwrite NY’s rules for ameliorating toxicity and radioactivity in fracking wastewater.
The NY plan is to mix polluted fracking wastewater with sewage and release it into local bodies of water, but the EPA has announced it will develop it’s own federal standards, reacting in part to the contamination of drinking water in Pennsylvania by fracking wastewater.
Though Hannity has taken up the issue on his show, it’s a good bet he will not allow scientists, environmentalists, conservationists or other articulate citizens to share anti-fracking evidence on the air. With a long history of censoring dissent through radio trickery, it’s doubtful he’d let a guest or caller give a dissenting perspective out, but the information has slowly and surely come out anyway.
Public hearings held last year were mobbed, and overwhelmingly against fracking, providing a wealth of information about sensible alternatives and the lack of transparency by drillers.
For those concerned about NY’s children, consider leaving our kids solar farms instead, to provide free, clean energy instead of costly abandoned wells to inspect in perpetuity. But looking even farther ahead, to a day when solar and hydro capacity is more fully built out to generate New York’s electricity, we still have more to gain by conservation than fracking because of the massive water and energy consumption, the need to treat wastewater, the inestimable risk and the continued release of methane.
These environmental costs and tradeoffs are already part of the usual gas extraction process. But we’ve also seen the potential for catastrophe, from well rupture to water migration, from triggering seismic activity to mile high death plumes, from noxious air to ground pollution, from radioactivity to seepage of cancerous chemical cocktails.
This is a choice for or against dirty air and water, and we again see this week Hannity has chosen to profit now from pollution and let the kids worry about the environment later.
Originally posted at OpedNews.com