Disreputable publishers: Falsehoods in print

May 1, 2008

Our usual free press in history discourse suggests that the press, especially the newspapers, were more partisan in the early days of our republic than they are now. American Aurora tells the story of newspaper editors being thrown in jail during the administration of John Adams, for example, for their excesses (which may merit being known as “rabid” excesses).

Regnery Publishing is today at least as inaccurate, if not as completely vitriolic, as any of the nasty newspapers published in the John Adams administration. Regnery is the publisher of Jonathan Wells’ mostly fictional, all incorrect account of biology, Icons of Evolution, for example.

Regnery once again pushes the bounds of propriety with a new book by Iain Murray with a title that tells all the author thinks he knows: The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You to Know About–Because They Helped Cause Them.

You can bet the conservative and anti-science, and anti-environmental protection blogs will light up with this book.

I see from the index on Amazon that I get a mention. I hope Murray claims I caused one of those disasters. You can bet that if he says it, the opposite is true.

In the past couple of months I have had a couple of opportunities to spend some time in libraries and with databases. Checking out the citations from Steven Milloy’s “100 things” about DDT list, I discovered not a single citation relating to DDT’s effects on birds was correct; those articles that did exist concluded opposite what Milloy claims. Some of the articles simply didn’t exist. Bet Murray doesn’t question a single claim from Milloy.

And, did you know that DDT problems were common items for newspapers through the 1950s? You won’t learn that from Murray’s book.

Update, May 2: I have a copy of the book (Regnery did not provide it); it’s worse than I had imagined. Examples: The quote from this blog is criticized as being inaccurate; the quote describes Bush administration policies in 2004 and corporate actions in Uganda to discourage DDT spraying which continue. Murray’s rebuttal discusses Bush administration actions taken two years later, but fails to note that they have not yet worked.

Worse example: Murray has an entire chapter accusing “environmentalists” of being asleep at the switch for damages to fish and other wildlife due to birth control pill residues in the water; he fails to mention that DDT causes exactly the same problems. He fails to note that DDT and especially DDE are endocrine disruptors usually cited as culprits in these cases. He fails to note that the issues are at the top of the list of environmental organizations involved in fish, river conservation, and pesticide safety issues. Regnery’s name is rapidly becoming synonymous with”wildly inaccurate and politically skewed.”

Alas, that’s what I got from a skim of the book before this evening’s meetings.

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