Friday, December 4, 2009

Giving Back?

In the aftermath of the Climategate scandal, a movement is afoot in Hollywood. Two members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Roger L. Simon and Lionel Chetwynd, have requested that Al Gore give back the Best Documentary Oscar he won for “An Inconvenient Truth.” Both men are conservatives, and their point is that since Climategate blew the lid off efforts to suppress research showing the planet has been cooling and to make it look like there was global warming. I appreciate what the Academy members are trying to do, but I don’t agree with them.

There were two Oscars given to “An Inconvenient Truth”: Best Documentary, and Best Original Song. The individuals who won the Oscars are director David Guggenheim, and musician Melissa Etheridge, respectively. We can argue about the merits of asking either one to willingly give up their Oscars, but I will firmly be against it. To me, Guggenheim and Etheridge are guilty of nothing more than being willing victims. Do their contributions to “An Inconvenient Truth” warrant stripping them of the highest American cinematic honor? Absolutely not.

Although Gore didn’t win an Oscar, he did win a Nobel Peace Prize (along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) due in large part to his environmental activism. Should Gore be stripped of the Nobel Prize? I would argue so, but only partially because of his role in the perpetuation of AGW. The main crux of my argument is that Gore’s actions do not represent the true purpose of a Nobel Peace Prize. Fighting global warming is nice, but does it actually bring about peace? That’s a pretty big leap of logic for anyone to make, and I’m afraid Gore simply lacks the credibility to make it.

However, there is one aspect of Simon and Chetwynd’s efforts that should be addressed separate from the debate over whether the Oscars for “An Inconvenient Truth” should be returned. What they’ve done with a simple request is throw open the curtains on bodies that give awards so that we can see what their motivations are. With the Nobel Committee and the Peace Prize and the Academy with the Oscars, it seems politics is more of a factor than performance. Granted, the aforementioned awards are subject to personal biases and conjecture, but those are flaws built into the decision-making process, flaws that are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. When these bodies give away awards for clearly political purposes, they diminish their credibility with all but the select few sycophants who will nod in agreement with anything they do, regardless of how wrong it may be.

If Simon and Chetwynd make the Academy look at itself and really think whether the awards they give are for performance or politics, that would be some real giving back I can get behind.

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