DDT propaganda machine

January 23, 2010

Media Check carries edited excerpts from a book by Daniel Gutstein from last year, Not A Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy (Key Porter, 2009) by Donald Gutstein, Key Porter (2009).

In the excerpted chapter Gutstein details how nefarious interest groups conspired to ruin the reputation of Rachel Carson and environmental protection activists with false claims about DDT and environmentalist aims.

The problem with the coverage of the DDT issue and with the eco-imperialism charge is that they are based on falsehoods that the media did not investigate. Former CBC-TV National News anchor Knowlton Nash once said that “…our job in the media… is to… provide a searchlight probing for truth through the confusing, complicated, cascading avalanche of fact and fiction.” In this case, the media let their audiences down; fiction prevailed over fact.

Despite what the pro-DDT organizations alleged, DDT was not banned for use in mosquito control and could continue to be used in 25 countries in malarial regions. In these countries, limited amounts of DDT can be sprayed on the inside walls of houses to combat malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “The environmental community is collaborating with the World Health Organization to ensure that the phase-out of the remaining uses of DDT does not undermine the battle against malaria and the well-being of people living in malarial zones,” the United Nations Environmental Programme reported when the treaty came into force.

Has anyone read the book?  Has anyone seen it?  (So what if it’s aimed at Canada?)

More thoughts:  Years ago, when Jan Brunvand first achieved some fame cataloging urban myths, it occurred to me that his books should be required reading in the very first survey classes in journalism school.   Maybe they should be required reading in political science, rhetoric, and philosophy, too.

Gutstein’s book would be a good reader for a class on reporting, or investigative reporting, or science reporting, or political reporting.  I’m not sure where it would fit in to a science curriculum, but I wish more scientists came out of undergraduate years aware that they can get hammered by these hoax-selling, axe-grinding disinformation machines.  All those reports about how Rachel Carson is the “murderer of millions?”  They coarsen dialog, they misinform, disinform and malinform the public.  They do great disservice to citizenship and voters, and ultimately, to our democratic institutions.

It’s not enough to have a counter, good-information plan.  These people must be convinced to stop.

More:


Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?

September 24, 2008

This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »


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