Wayne Adult Community Center

Feature article from the June, 2001 Newsletter

"Trust Us, We're Experts"

That is the title of a new book, whose subtitle is: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future.

The book reveals that many of the "independent experts" quoted in print and interviewed on television and radio, are not independent at.  In fact, they are in the pay of companies that want to play down the hazards, or to tout the virtues, of their products.

One of the most egregious examples is a recent network television interview with a representative of the American Council on Science and Health (“ACSH”).  The ACSH  claims to be devoted to consumer education.  In the interview, its representative proceeded to state that organically-raised fruits and vegetables (that is, those raised without artificial fertilizers and pesticides) are likely to contain a potentially deadly bacterium.

It was not mentioned that the ACSH is heavily funded by the commercial food industry.  Furthermore, although the ACSH represents itself as a debunker of unscientific claims, the claims of diseased organic products are not based on any scientific evidence.  It turns out that the interview was actually part of the commercial food industry's attempt to frighten the public away from organic foods.
When the New York Times eventually published an article revealing the deceit, the TV network was forced to broadcast a retraction.

How could that incident have happened?  How could a trusted news medium have failed to investigate the expert and his sponsor?  Well, unfortunately, journalists and news organizations are seldom thorough in checking out the sources of their information.  What is worse, the line between news and advertising has become increasingly fuzzy as more and more TV, newspaper and radio outlets are gobbled up by a few huge conglomerates that sometimes make news stories an extension of their sales efforts.

So, what can we do?  First of all, we can be skeptical whenever a so-called expert reassures us that a substance is safe, or warns us against something that competes with a major industry’s product.  (That major industry might even be the orthodox medicine community.)    We can ask ourselves where the expert's employer gets its money.  In the case of the ACSH, even a careful reading of the mission statement on the organization's Web site suggests its true motives.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, the authors of "Trust Us …",  have also written "Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! : Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry".
Bill Shapiro


10/13/2001 900