In discussing Roger Bate’s response to my article with Tim Lambert in Prospect defending Rachel Carson against the slurs of the DDT lobby, I thought it would be best to leave aside the question of Bate’s links to the tobacco lobby (already discussed in comments to an earlier post) and focus on Bate’s substantive concessions that the supposed ban on antimalarial use of DDT was mythical and that the Carson-inspired ban on agricultural use of DDT was beneficial.
Unfortunately, a number of our more gullible local delusionists took this as an admission that Bate had never really been a tobacco lobbyist and that they hadn’t really been suckered by a particularly nasty piece of tobacco industry PR, in this case a diversionary attack against the World Health Organization. (Here, for example is Currency Lad at Club Troppo). If they had taken a moment to think, they would have realised that picking a fight with Tim Lambert over a question of fact is a very silly thing to do, especially now that he has access to that gift that keeps on giving, the tobacco archives.
This post from Tim (promised as the first in a series) lays out chapter and verse on Bate’s dealings with the tobacco lobby (and even finds a mention of his offsider, Richard Tren).
A few side points;
1. According to this antismoking group, the tobacco lobby spent $100 million in 2006 alone in largely unsuccessful efforts to fight US bans on smoking. With a budget of this kind it’s unsurprising to find them spending the odd million on diversionary campaigns on seemingly unrelated environmental issues.
2. Following its exposure in the lawsuits of the 1990s, Big Tobacco largely abandoned its network of bogus scientits (Milloy, Seitz, Singer and many others) and hired thinktanks (Cato, Heritage, Marshall, TASSC, IPA and mony others), but most of them moved straight on to the ExxonMobil payroll. As Cindy Baxter observes, public pressure has forced Exxon to dump some of the worst of these groups, but the company is dragging its feet.
3. The fact that so many people could be fooled by industry propaganda on issues where the scientific evidence is clear requires some explanation, and two obvious explanations are available. First, the majority of those who have been fooled are on the political right, and are being told what they want to believe. This is usually an easy sell, enhanced by the more general insulation from reality that prevails on the US right in particular. Second, the tobacco industry is selling a product that has been known for decades to kill a large proportion of its consumers. This takes real expertise, and this expertise is transferrable to other fields. If you can persuade someone to ignore scientists warnings of a long and painful death from smoking, persuading them to ignore climate scientists worries about future generations is child’s play.
4. A general hint to anyone who wants to take the antiscience side in any debate on environmental issues. If you want to quote someone on your side who was active in the 1990s, check the tobacco archive first. It’s ten to one on that they were on the Big Tobacco payroll. If they’ve been active any time in the last decade, do the same check for ExxonMobil. The odds are much the same. If you still want to rely on these sources, feel free, but don’t expect me to take your viewpoint seriously.