Junk Science Puts Thacker Against Milloy, American Chemical
Society, White House
When scientific studies are released and reported through media
channels, the media's audience most likely takes for granted that a
journalist quotes a legitimate subject matter expert. Not so said
journalist Paul Thacker. Corporate special interests lie at the core of
media control in science reporting Thacker concluded.
Thacker was a science reporter for the Environmental Science and
Technology journal, the media arm for the American Chemical Society, and it was
after he was fired that he exposed evidence of an entire industry built
upon spinning science propaganda through the media and Internet in
order to benefit corporate interests.
Before American Chemical Society fired Thacker, he considered himself
to be simply a general news reporter for the organization's small trade
The events leading up to Thacker's firing can be traced back to his
investigation of website junkscience.com (Junk Science 'All the junk
that's fit to debunk.') The website is dedicated to science-related
discussion and republishing FOX News and a few other 'rumored to be'
media outlets which have bought into the Christian Right movement, but
most of all junkscience.com is meant to debunk myths involved in
scientific issues of the day.
Junkscience.com has been alive
for quite sometime and the website's content questions scientific
methods and results in determining the research on climate change (or
global warming.) The website asks for reader donations via PayPal. The
website was registered in February 1996 and is currently operated by
Steve Milloy of Washington DC, a young man who also goes by the name
Steven Milloy and Steven J. Milloy. Barry Hearn is listed as the
Milloy also publishes on CSR Watch and SRI Watch, websites dedicated to
monitoring the anti-business movement. FOX News lists Steven
Milloy as an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the
Competitive Enterprise Institute. FOX links to junkscience.com.
Thacker alleged that Milloy has financial ties with oil companies and
was on the payroll of Philip Morris. Thacker charges that Milloy "was
on the Philip Morris payroll as a science consultant at the same he was
discrediting studies on the dangers of second-hand smoke in his role as
a columnist for FOX News." (Read Think & Ask's story on how anti-smoking
advocates spin science to push their agenda.)
After publishing his research on Milloy, Thacker moved on to
investigate cases in which organizations promoted industry arguments on
environmental issues. In an 8 March 2006 article called “Hidden Ties,”
he wrote about a group called Project Protect, which appeared to be
made up simply of concerned Oregon citizens. Project Protect advocated
legislation promoting the cutting of trees to prevent forest fires.
As Thacker discovered through IRS documents, however, Project Protect
was a $2.9 million media campaign. “This ‘grassroots’ organization,” he
wrote, “has clear ties to timber corporations – an industry likely to
benefit financially from legislative reforms.”
In reading Thacker's story, and for the record, Think & Ask points
out that the story did not address responsible forestry practices.
Thacker did not discuss the history behind forestry techniques in the
United States, which is now blamed on more destructive forest fires
since active fire suppression began in 1910. While research shows
deforestation by man --rather than natural forest fire-- is detrimental
to the environment, so too has been governmental fire suppression.
The forestry service is now faced with a monumental task of returning
national forests to their natural state pre-1910. White House reforms
under President George W Bush have indeed favored timber companies
under the guise of "healthy" forest legislation as Thacker concludes,
but what should have come of Thacker's article is how --and despite
special interest lobby groups-- nothing has actually changed in
forestry management despite legislation.
Next, Thacker said his reporting on the Weinberger Group upset his
employer, the American Chemical Society, in particular one of the
Society's board members. The board of American Chemical Society
is made up of academics, but also has members from Occidental Chemical
Corporation, Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline, 3M Corporation,
Genitope Corporation, the National Research Council, and Sandia
The Weinberger Group is a
and consulting firm specializing in helping Fortune 500 corporations
across the emerging life sciences industry. Recently, Weinberger
acquired BCG Europe to expand its reach across the United Kingdom and
Western Europe where governments hold much stricter regulations on
corporations than is the case in the United States.
Without naming the Society's board member, Thacker said the member
objected to the Weinberg Group story. Thacker said he examined a
proposal made by the Weinberg Group to chemical giant DuPont in the
company's defense strategy regarding chemical PFOA, a chemical DuPont
uses in the production of Teflon.
The story was completed around the time DuPont was facing pressure from
the Environmental Protection Agency and a civil-action lawsuit by West
Virginia residents who claimed to suffer serious health effects from
exposure to PFOA.
According to Thacker, the American Chemical Society board member said
the journalist was muckraking rather than reporting news.
Several months later, Thacker unearthed evidence that the White House,
under President George W Bush, tried to prevent scientists from
speaking out about the link between climate change and the increasing
strength of hurricanes. (Think & Ask reported on
this topic before
Thacker's story however. )
Environmental Science and Technology editors refused to use Thacker's
story on the White House, so Thacker submitted it to Salon.com --an
elitist website based in San Francisco, CA-- which is widely
known for a liberal editorial slant on news.
Once the article appeared on salon.com 19 September 2006, the
Environmental Science and Technology trade journal fired Thacker.
On his personal website however he does not mention having worked for
Environmental Science and Technology. From 1998 through present day he
reports being a freelance journalist and lists more than two dozen news
organizations for which he wrote stories.
New York City's WNET (PBS Thirteen) will televise the full story of
Thacker's investigations on 10 November 2006 at 10 p.m. Eastern
Standard Time under the special Air:
America's Investigative Reports.
The broadcast will be narrated by Sylvia Chase and is in part funded by
Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Park Foundation, The Popplestone
Foundation, The Jacob Burns Foundation, The Betsy and Jesse Fink
Foundation, Tracy and Eric Semler, and Scripps Howard Foundation.
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