The Konformist

October 2001

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Stossel and his Industry Mouthpieces Are at It Again

by Barbara Keeler & Robert Sterling


In 2000, John Stossel gave ABC News a black eye with his falsehoods, half-truths, and industry-funded mouthpieces on his Feb. 4 "20/20" report, "The Food You Eat," essentially a hatchet job on organic food production. After the truth came out, he was forced to apologize on the air.

Not that he reformed. John Stossel's ABC assault on environmentalists relies on industry-funded "experts" incorrect "facts," selected and twisted facts, and the exclusion of facts that might call his allegations into question. In addition to misinformation, Stossel builds his case almost exclusively on logical fallacies: straw men, card-stacking, red herrings, begging the question, glittering generalities, band wagon, and if I forgot any, the chances are Stossel did not. He raises logical fallacy to an art form, presenting unqualified or biased sources, representing opinions as facts, offering overgeneralizations or faulty generalizations, attributing effects to incorrect causes, using faulty comparisons, either/or reasoning to force interviewees activists and viewer to choose between two extreme positions, resting arguments on unsound premises, offering irrelevant ideas or facts as support for his conclusions.

The first straw man he fashions, an alleged environmentalist claim that humans should return to primitive living, becomes the framework of his argument. He spends the rest of the program taking shots at his own straw man. He argues against what "many people say." Apparently he cannot find anyone idiotic enough to actually make the statements he wants to counter, so Stossel makes them himself, prefaced by "many people say." He overgeneralizes to say that environmentalistS claim wE should not "tamper with nature" AT ALL, rather than in selected cases such as releasing new potentially destructive transgenes to multiply throughout the food supply and earth's ecosystems. The straw man/rebuttal strategy is repeated throughout.

Stossel baits adults and children alike with yes and no questions, and cuts them off before they have time to explain or defend their out of context quotes. Cutting well-informed activists short, he takes time to draw out the least articulate and informed. He gets kids to make statements that I can support with facts, but makes the statements sound ridiculous, suggesting that the kids are brainwashed parrots. In fact, kids said nothing that the brainwashed parrot Barbara Keeler has not written, that has not been reported in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, and little that Senator Barbara Boxer has not stated in different and better words. Unlike the Senator and Keeler, the kids did not have the time, preparation, or the language skills to present a full case.

Stossel used a few selected facts, such as that certain measured pollutants are lower in LA than they used to be, to prove that the country is less polluted, ignoring a. the areas and pollutants that are much worse than before, and b. that the improvement is the result of environmentalism, and the exercise of the same strategies the environmentalists continue to push. Environmental concern elected the politicians who pushed the strategies through, with industry fighting them every step of the way.

Stossel's scientific experts' funding sources were not revealed, One industry-funded mouthpiece, Patrick Michaels, alleged that a huge amount of funding motivates scientists to say emissions are a factor in global warming. Laughable, when you see where the money is really coming from. Here are Stossel's experts.


1.Sallie Baliunas, Staff Astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Institute. Adjunct Professor at Tennessee State University. Chair of the Science Advisory Board of the Marshall Institute.

( April 30, 2001) Scientific advisor for the Greening Earth Society (Front group for Western Fuels Ass.).

( April 30, 2001)


2. Patrick J. Michaels, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia. Virginia State Climatologist. American Association of State Climatologists and Program Chair of the Applied Climatology Committee of the American Meteorological Society. Funding from and/or was underwritten by the Western Fuels Association (a consortium of coal interests), German and American coal interests, Cyprus Minerals Company. (Ozone Action, (3-1-2000); and Ross Gelbspan, The Heat is On (Perseus Books, 1998 updated.), pp. 40-3, 202-11). Scientific advisor for the Greening Earth Society which is funded by the Western Fuels Association.

( April 30, 2001)


3. Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (in other words, he has a job because they fund his position.)

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a "nonprofit" institution, established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., then President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation.

Lindzen seems to feel slighted by his failure to find a publisher or respect for a paper he wrote about greenhouse gasses and global warming, saturated with illogical argument and short on information other than what one can find in a middle school earth science textbook. The few "facts" are often at odds with what the rest of the scientific community has established by actual measurement. He ridicules the methods used to assess conditions in the future-- extrapolation and computer models--without mentioning that all the alternative explanations for current climate phenomena rely on the same strategies. Whether hypothesizing data from the past or projecting into the future, scientists must extrapolate from known facts and, in this day and age, run it by the computer.

The other scientist is from NASA.

These scientists are presented as experts on global warming, about which they present no data. Their function is to snigger and "tsk" about what environmentalists supposedly say, bleed for the terrorized children, make unsupportable economic predictions, and talk about who agrees on what. None of the above requires even a high school diploma.

The only data presented about global warming flits by so fast that the viewer cannot tell that it is entirely unclear what it is measuring--not average daily temps because the temps on the graph are below freezing.

Another expert, former Greenpeace activist Pat Moore, quit GP to work for the timber industry, supposedly on a matter of principle. Maybe the principle had to do with how much he should be paid. He is presented as an expert on deforestation, global warming, and genetic engineering.


[The other expert on genetic engineering, Lee M. Silver, promotes cloning in his writings (most notably in the book Beyond Eded) predicting only the wealthy will afford cloning, and soon we will split into an uncloned working class and a cloned ruling class. These views are not aired on ABC--only his "expert" comments on genetic engineering and cloning.]

Stossel cites a "hysteria" about global warming. Personally, I remember more public hysteria when an unpopular Barbie doll hit the market.

BGH, he claims, is safe because the FDA, NIH, and AMA say it is. In fact, AMA does not, and FDA's approval was so flawed that it prompted three government investigations.

Stossel suggests that environmentalists, with their piddling resources, numbers, and funding, are driving the agenda of the scientific community, whereas environmentalists really need to fight every step of the way against massive industry funding--100 million a year by the biotech org alone for PR, and billions to fund scientists. The fossil fuels industry spends as liberally. If environmentalists had the power Stossel claims, the country would not have arsenic standards degraded, and GE organisms throughout the food supply.

Stossel and ABC have some dubious connections of their own. As the segment was produced, ABC was receiving a percentage of sales from "Stossel in the Classroom," educational materials published by the Palmer R. Chitester Fund .based on Stossel's ABC reports On the Board of Associates of the Chitester Fund sits Herb London, the President of the Hudson Institute, employer of Stossel's main hatchet man against organics, Dennis Avery. The Hudson Institute receives funding from chemical and agribusiness companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and ConAgra. The Chitester Fund itself relies heavily on contributions from organizations regarded as ultra conservative, and boasts a board of high-profile right wingers.

The Chitester Fund relies on contributions from the Olin Foundation. Olin also gave to the Hudson Institute $125,000 in 1993 and $300,000 in 1994. The Olin Foundation was created and is still controlled by the Olin Corporation, a top producer of agricultural chemicals. Furthermore, Olin was, along with Occidental Chemical and Dupont, one of the major firms involved in the Love Canal environmental scandal in Niagara Falls, NY.

The question remains if ABC, Stossel, or his sources are "bought" by their financial ties with industry. What is obvious is that such an interbreeding of interests is potentially corruptive, and Stossel's programs about agribusiness and the environment do not exactly rule out such a corruptive influence. The viewing public deserves more truth, better balance, and less industry bias than Stossel's programs have provided.

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