The piles of documents released as a result of litigation against Phillip Morris and Exxon are gifts that keep on giving for those of us interested in the process by which the Republican parallel universe has been constructed. Previous research has shown that the core proponents of global warming delusionism including Stephen Milloy, Fred Singer and Fred Seitz got their start as shills for PM, denying the risks of passive smoking. A string of rightwing thinktanks including Cato, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute helped to promote these hacks and the lies they were paid to peddle.
Now it’s turned out that one of the hardiest of parallel universe beliefs, the claim that Rachel Carson and the US ban on DDT were responsible for millions of deaths in the third world, arises from the same source.
One of the great puzzles of the DDT myth has been that it appeared to arise from pure ideological animus against Carson and the environmental movement – DDT is not patented so there were no profits to be obtained from pushing it. It turns out that the DDT campaign was pitched to the tobacco industry as a diversionary attack on the World Health Organization which was playing a leading role in campaigns against smoking. The leading figure in the exercise was Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute and its front organization, Africa Fighting Malaria.
So, far from helping to save lives, the bloggers and commentators who’ve pushed the myth of the DDT ban have been the (presumably unwitting) dupes of an industry even deadlier than malaria (CDC estimates that tobacco kills 5 million people a year compared to 1 to 3 million for malaria.