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JunkScience Puts Thacker Against Milloy, American Chemical Society, White House : Published November 2006 All Rights Reserved


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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 publication.

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 website's editor.

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 Labs. 

The Weinberger Group is a lobbyist and consulting firm specializing in helping Fortune 500 corporations win litigation across the  emerging life sciences industry. Recently, Weinberger Group 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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