The monkey and the organgrinder
At Wikipedia, the fight against pseudoscience and Republican antiscience across a range of articles from global warming to passive smoking to Intelligent design to AIDS reappraisal, is continuous and bruising.. Editors have learned to detect bogus sources of information almost immediately. One of my fellow-editors at passive smoking pointed me to an interesting letter to Science (paywalled, but I’ve quoted the important nit), shedding unintentional light on the way the disinformation machine operates. It’s from William G. Kelly of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness the front organization founded by legendary Phillip Morris shill, Jim Tozzi (Kelly is employed by Tozzi’s lobbying outfit, Multinational Business Services
Responding to criticism of the infamous Data Quality Act (for more on this see the Crooked Timber seminar on Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science) Kelly offers a classic non-denial denial, saying
Neither Phillip Morris (a multiproduct company) nor any other tobacco company (or nontobacco company for that matter) played a leadership role in the genesis of the DQA. While working with the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness in Washington, DC, I was personally involved with the development of the DQA, and no industry entity contributed to its formulation.
While we’re at it, can I point out that Henry II was nowhere near Canterbury Cathedral when Thomas Becket met with his unfortunate end. The whole point of having people like Tozzi and Kelly, and groups like CRE is that corporations don’t have to play a leadership role in promoting their own interests in Congress.
This kind of thing is the reason why I’m so unimpressed by Cass Sunstein’s arguments about political polarisation and the Internet. The Republicans had established a complete parallel universe long before the Internet was a significant factor, and the Internet, through efforts like Wikipedia and Sourcewatch has done much more to expose this than Sunstein’s “fair and balanced” mass media. The suggestion that presenting the lies of groups like CRE (or CEI, Heritage, AEI, TCS and the rest of the alphabet soup) as one half of a ‘debate’ over scientific, social, economic or political issues promotes some sort of useful consensus is just silly.
fn1. Between them, Steven Milloy’s aptly-named Junk Science and Tom Bethell’s Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (apt if you scan it as “incorrect for political reasons”) give the anti-science position on all four issues, though Bethell doesn’t appear to cover passive smoking and Milloy avoids AIDS reappraisal. These writers provide the basis for mainstream Republican views on most scientific, environmental and health issues, propagated through thinktanks and media outlines like CEI, Cato, Fox News (all of which have employed Milloy), Regnery, Hoover and the American Spectator (which have published or employed Bethell).