"Turn the water back on!" exhorts Sean Hannity, 14 times or so, despite the fact that no one turned the water off. His mendacious catchphrase was repeated seven more times by teabagging flunkies in the faux documentary, "The Valley Hope Forgot." The word "drought" was uttered by Hannity exactly once.
Depression-era symbolism resonates in California, a state with 12.2 percent unemployment. So Fox News fabricated a narrative taken from the plot of Chinatown to complement Dustbowl images from The Grapes of Wrath.
Chinatown fictionalized the history of the Owens Valley Land Grab, wherein corrupt government officials diverted water away from local farmers to enhance the value of developers' real estate investments in the San Fernando Valley. Hannity leaves no doubt about who, in his fantasy, turned the water off. "I would like to put aside politics," said Hannity, "because if Barack Obama allows -- tells his environmental extremists in his administration to stand down and turn the water on, he will get the first credit from me, OK?"
Facts are not welcome in the parallel universe of Fox News. The last time California had a drought this bad, it had ten million fewer people. For the last three years, the statewide runoff has been 40% below average. Eight of the last ten years have been the hottest on record, and regional disputes over water rights have become increasingly contentious everywhere. Just ask people in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. According to network policy that prohibits the acknowledgment of inconvenient truths, the words "climate change" and "global warming" were banished altogether.
As a pretext for assigning blame, Hannity referenced a court order that dictated how the state must intermittently limit diversions out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta toward the agricultural region further south. But compliance with that order had been preempted by a subsequent injunction.
Even if the plan to limit diversions were put in effect, water flow to the agricultural region would have been reduced by 9% below the historical average. The lion's share of water flow reductions, more than 75%, was traceable to the drought.
Hannity's pretext follows the standard right-wing narrative that says environmentalists are job killers. "Farms in this once fertile area have been dried up all because the government has put the interest of a two-inch minnow before all the great people that you see out here tonight," he said.
Except the issue is not really a single freshwater fish, the delta smelt. Nor is it merely the dramatic decline of other fish, including longfin smelt, threadfin shad, juvenile striped bass, green sturgeon and Central Valley Chinook salmon. It's the safety of California's drinking water. The near extinction of the delta smelt is symptomatic of the health of the entire ecosystem of the delta, which receives 50 percent of California's total stream flow and provides drinking water to two-thirds of state residents. Excessive pumping of water out of the delta reverses the natural river flow, so that salt water from San Francisco Bay intrudes into the delta, which is below sea level. The drought exacerbates the problem. Last April, the environmental group American Rivers summed up the situation as follows:
The largest watershed in California is on the verge of collapse, threatening the water supply for 25 million people, placing the capital of the nation's most populous state at high risk of flooding, and damaging a once productive and healthy ecosystem that supported the nation's most diverse salmon runs. Climate change, population growth, water supply demands, and endangered species listings have brought this outmoded water and flood management system to the brink.
None of this would ever be disclosed by Fox News, where dishonesty and demagoguery have gone viral. Roger Ailes has one overriding mission, to prevent any intelligent discussion of the vital issues of our day.