The Assault on Science and the Environment by Corporate Propaganda: Part Two
Once upon a time, whenever stricter environmental regulations were proposed, corporate execs would immediately start fluttering pink slips in a menacing manner. Regulations and unemployment, they'd have us believe, were synonymous, while environmentalists were hysterical radicals seeking to inflict job loss on us all. But then the public—which really does care about the environment--grew more skeptical and the job loss gig didn't quite do the trick. Corporate propagandists (CPs) sought a new chink in America's armor and soon found one: the Internet. It is everything a saboteur could want: anonymous, unregulated, and unchallenged, with open access to Americans of all ages and economic classes.
Now, CPs attack environmental safeguards from behind the "green smokescreen" (an appropriate corporate oxymoron!) of Internet front groups that purport to be pro-environment and highly scientific. These groups have engineered their own version of "environmental science" in which "green" really means money and anything that regulates industry is "environmentally" unfriendly.
Take the Greening Earth Society, for example. Although the name implies a group dedicated to restoring wildlands, their "greening" refers to the "greenhouse effect"--these folks WELCOME global warming! At GES, you will learn that CO2 is a great gas we just can't get enough of, that global warming will turn Earth into a veritable garden of Eden, and that those thousands of articles written by climate researchers around the world all rest on shaky ground.
Instead, we can rely on the word of GES's staff of three scientists, headed by Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist with Harvard-Smithsonian. But, hey wait! What does astrophysics have to do with climatology? Isn't that sort of like a sports clinic where the top therapist is a botanist? When I wrote GES to ask how much and by whom Baliunas and others are paid, they responded that they didn't have to share that information. However, they did admit that their major funder is the Western Fuel Association! (Which doesn't sound awfully green to me!). WFA is a $400-million consortium of coal suppliers which has dumped millions into "shaping" the "new environmentalism"
A little more digging and I discovered that the although the other two scientists at GES, Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia and Robert C. Balling of the Arizona State University are both climatologists (in name, anyway), they have made a killing the pollution business, collecting fat fees from WFA. Between them, these poster boys for big business scooped up a cool $315,000 in less than four years in exchange for their "expert" testimony debunking global warming. Balling is also a hired mouthpiece for Cyprus Minerals, a mining company that funds the aggressively anti-environmental group "People of the West." That these "scientists" are allowed to continue teach young people at two major colleges is beyond my understanding. But then, maybe their schools get kickbacks in exchange for letting the two creeps keep their credentials so they can continue being "scientific experts."
But GES has nothing to do with science as everyone from Archimedes on down have understood it. A sample GES FAQ: "Saying CO2 is a pollutant is like saying water is a poison." This statement is as unscientific as saying that because arsenic is found naturally in rocks, it isn't toxic (though Bush apparently subscribes to this theory). GES publishes "World Climate Report," which despite the solid-sounding name, is a sorry rag filled with dated, misrepresented, or unattributed information and misinformation, carefully selected by our WFA "scientists." GES has many link tentacles writhing away to other propaganda sites, including fossilfuel.org, which is actually a subsite of Western Fuel Association.
This incestuous pattern of links and researchers pervades the world of front groups—a good two-thirds of the global warming sites appear to have WFA at their rotting roots. Baliunas, Balling, Michaels and a stable of less than a dozen other corporate scientists (you can always find a few if your budget's big enough) are used and reused as "experts" when testimony debunking global warming, a blurb for a corporate science book or other back-scratching is needed. For example, Fred Seitz, a materials scientist (another "botanist") who created the infamous 17,000-signature petition against Kyoto (more on that in Part III), can be found at the bizarre junkscience.com site, talking up resident CP Steve Milloy's latest science-bashing book. Steve Milloy, in turn, who also works for the ultra-right wing, tobacco and energy-industry-funded Cato Institute, has his books plugged by GES and several other bogus sites. The Cato Institute, in turn, has also published Michaels' knuckle-dragging masterpieces: "CO2: A Satanic Gas?" and "The Case Against a UN Global Warming Treaty." But then, these are the same people who brought you such research papers as "Two Cheers for the 1872 Mining Law" (a paper in support of the law that allows companies to buy up the mining rites on federal lands for next to nothing). Other repeating names include Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, and Mark Millet (who isn't even any kind of scientist--he is a power industry consultant!). Singer gets his cash on the side as an expert from Shell, Exxon, ARCO and several other fuel corporations while Lindzen is on the take from WFA. The alert surfer soon deducts that the number of "experts" willing to peddle this crap even for hefty payouts is pretty darn small. As a result, their tireless efforts are spread quite thin—transparent, in fact.
In fossilfuel.org, we are treated to a long and tedious Q and A interview with the head of WFA, Fred Palmer, who tells us that any regulations on the fuel industry are cruel and unusual. Besides, says Palmer, another CO2-depleting ice age will probably happen again some day, so "the precautionary principle might dictate that we put more CO2 into the air to prevent CO2 levels from being driven down so low it extinguishes plant life."
The Global Warming Information site (also GES-linked) offers nifty ideas for teaching kids about global warming and CO2. For example, it urges you to take your child to a greenhouse to show them the benefits of the greenhouse effect: "Ask the greenhouse manager to explain how the conditions in the greenhouse help the plants." Or, better yet, show them how much fun a warmer, high-CO2 earth would be by telling them "it will be like living in the age of dinosaurs with lots of CO2 making lush vegetation!" (Or better yet, I thought, why not just put a bag over your kid's head for about an hour--they'll experience plenty of CO2 that way!).
We next move to a paper presented in a Global Info. Page sublink, where we find a vague "research" article entitled "Texas Paper on Greenhouse Gases," which "proves" that global warming is a myth. However, the author of this marshmallow is Glenn R. Schleede, president of Energy Market and Policy Analysis, Inc. and former VP of New England Energy, Inc., which drills for oil and gas. His highest degree is in "advanced management." This site links the Consumer Alert site. Very clever! The term "consumer alert" on the Internet is a preface used for a variety of real advisories, such warning consumers about salmonella in a shipment of chicken somewhere. Thus, naming your site "Consumer Alert" is bound to grab attention and deceive! The site is actually a stopover to a smorgasbord of Bush agenda sites, carefully designed to appear as solid, down home, and all-American: the Heartland Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Defenders of Property Rights, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Townhall.com, Center for Market-Based Education, etc. It's obvious these folks want you to believe they are all working together to make a better tomorrow for America! The common thread running through them all is that everything on the planet should be "market-based," including schools, conservation, and allowable levels of pollution. Welcome to the United States of Exxon!
To move things along (there's a daunting amount of material out there!), here are some samples of other green smokescreen sites:
TOWNHALL.COM: At a site that sounds like it should be a forum for small-town issues, we find a clear pro-corporate agenda. For example, the primary "news" in a recent edition was an editorial blasting the editor of "Science" magazine for daring to criticize Bush on his U-turn away from the Kyoto Protocol.
HERITAGE FOUNDATION: "Need a quote? Need to book a quest? Need basic information?" the site asks, and stands ready to steer the corporate journalist in the "right (and we do mean RIGHT) direction" toward a stable of hand-picked speakers and "research materials." HF even has a spot telling journalists what the current "hot topics" are (so that's who tells the corporate media what's new and what's not In its topic listings, the HF tellingly lumps "energy and environment" together. (There is a pro-drilling ANWR site that uses the same tactic.) One of HF's recommended articles: "Global Warming and Hot Air."
NATIONAL WILDERNESS INSTITUTE: There's not one ecologist or biologist on their list of advisors. However, it does have Richard Pombo (R-CA) who admitted taking money from Monsanto (producers of potentially environmentally deadly bioengineered crops) during a critical vote on a regulatory issue affecting the corporation a few years back. Pombo has made it plain he sees no distinction between big business and the environment-- in his article "The Jihad against Microsoft" the plight of the huge corporation is compared to that of wildlands! The group's only concrete activities, despite its grandiose name, appears to be writing a letter complaining about sludge dumping in the Potomac and proposing a list of endangered species for the Washington, D.C. area. (I hope they put environmentalists on the list).
FOX NETWORK's JUNKSCIENCE.ORG: As a "biostatistician" with a legal degree, head writer Steve Milloy is truly scary: he's a lawyer who knows how to lie with statistics! While blasting the "scare tactics" of bona fide scientists, Milloy cranks out such gems as "The DDT Ban is Genocidal," in which he hysterically asserts that "Millions of third-world children are about to be condemned to certain death from malaria by international and environmental elitists." (He'd apparently rather see them die slowly later from DDT poisoning!). In another article, Milloy raises the question: "All agree that [arsenic] kills, but the question is, just how much it takes to do so." (Why don't you find out for us, Steve?). Other junkscience recommended reading includes: "EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature," "Hot Talk, Cold Science," "Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists," "The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming," and that all-time classic: "Slow Burn: The Great American Anti-smoking Scam."
READING MATERIAL SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE SITES: The article titles speak for themselves! "CO2tton!" (the joys of global warming agriculture), "CO2 and the Biosphere: The Incredible Legacy of the Industrial Revolution" (how factories and trashing the ecosystem have improved the environment), "Is This a Great Atmosphere or What?" (I'd opt for "or what?"), "1996: A Preview of Cooler Days Ahead" (written just two years before the hottest year on record!), "The Climate of Fear: Why We Shouldn't Worry about Global Warming," "Free Market Environmentalism," and "Environmental Gore" (clever, huh?).
The overriding impression I am left with after my odyssey into the world of front sites is that corporate propagandists are colossally arrogant bastards who believe that Americans are merely hungry game fish in their personal pond--we're not too bright and we're likely to grab any bait thrown at us. The problem is, these folks are trying to make darn sure their bait's the only fish food available.
(Note: Following Part I, we are proud to say that the Planet Education website completely overhauled its Global Warming materials section, eliminating the "skeptics page". Also, we have noticed that several front sites tried to "hide" by eliminating some statements we cited or switching links around. To keep them from hiding, we will begin featuring the "link of the week," randomly opening pages from front sites to public scrutiny.)
STAY TUNED FOR PART III: The Good, the Bad, and the Bogus: How to Spot the Difference
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