Corporate sponsored bad science

November 20, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More

Michael Moore is well acquainted the the track record of corporations who want to spread misinformation in order to crank up profits:

[W]hen “Sicko” was being released in 2007, the health insurance industry’s PR firm, APCO Worldwide, discussed their Plan B: “Pushing Michael Moore off a cliff.”  But after looking into it, it turns out it’s nothing personal! APCO wants to push everyone off a cliff.

APCO was hatched in 1984 as a subsidiary of the Washington, D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter — best known for its years of representing the giant tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris. APCO set up fake “grassroots” organizations around the country to do the bidding of Big Tobacco. All of a sudden, “normal, everyday, in-no-way-employed-by-Philip Morris Americans” were popping up everywhere. And it turned out they were outraged — outraged! — by exactly the things APCO’s clients hated (such as, the government telling tobacco companies what to do). In particular, they were “furious” that regular people had the right to sue big corporations…you know, like Philip Morris. (For details, see the 2000 report “The CALA Files” (PDF) by my friends and colleagues Carl Deal and Joanne Doroshow.)

Right about now you may be wondering: how many Americans get pushed off a cliff by Big Tobacco every year? The answer is 443,000 Americans die every year due to smoking. That’s a big cliff.

With this success under their belts, APCO created “The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition.” TASSC, funded partly by Exxon, had a leading role in a planned campaign by the fossil fuel industry to create doubt about global warming. The problem for Big Oil speaking out against global warming, according to the campaign’s own leaked documents, was that the public could see the “vested interest” that oil companies had in opposing environmental laws. APCO’s job was to help conceal those oil company interests.

And boy, have they ever succeeded.


Category: advertising, Propaganda, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    This is no surprise to anyone who would read or watch Michael Moore in the first place.

    And the name "Michael Moore" is enough of a left wing incantation to prevent moderates and conservatives from actually considering his ideas.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    So, Dan, is smoking good for you and do you believe climate change caused my human activity is "the biggest hoax ever?" because Michael Moore is involved in criticizing Big Tobacco and Big Oil for business as usal…maximizing profits and not giving a rat's ass about the human costs?

  3. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    It seems to me that whenever science and politics are combined, science is corrupted by political influence.

    Politics leverages operant bias to achieve its goals. Politicians can play upon prejudices we may not know we have, to nurture those biases in a way that manipulates the people to support a desired policy. Science in the interest of politics is always bad science as researchers tend to dismiss non-supporting results as either errant or as insignificant. Research conducted under political biases then rewards the researchers with recognition and pay for the desired results, and it also punishes researchers that investigate topics which might be politically detrimental.

    In simpler terms, bad science is encouraged on both sides of any politicized topic. There are respectable climatologists on both sides the debate over the role of CO2 in the current global warming trend. there is also a considerable contingent of climatologists who think that we need a better understanding of how the climate trends works, and favor a more vigorous study of climatology.

    Proponents of the anthropogenic CO2 mediated global warming hypothesis are too quick to dismiss the dissident scientists as shills of the fossil fuel industry, and lump them in with the denialists. Likewise the opponents of the anthropogenic CO2 mediated global warming hypothesis harbor a similar attitude of the former group.

    In the end it all boils down to what you want to believe, and that is determined more by the effectiveness of the cheerleaders than by the skill of the team.

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