Regular readers of this blog know that I have a habit of looking at issues that We the People blame on Them (you know who “They” are) and suggesting that “They” are the ones that you – and I – shave with every morning.
That’s probably how come there are so few of you regular readers. And there will probably be even fewer of you after this post. But I’ll risk it. Because Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground website (I’ve mentioned him here before) has written, I think, the second most important bit of Internet information on human interaction with planet Earth that there is.
(This is number 1. It’s a video series, it’s long, and it’s a fairly standard university-style lecture without fancy bells or whistles. But watch it, all eight parts, and pay attention. It’s every bit as true today as when it was first presented, a decade ago. Do not view the comments unless you have a hard head and a strong stomach – they are prima facie evidence that our species deserves nothing more than to go straight to Hell, without passing “Go”, without collecting $200.)
Masters writes, in his blog entry, which is about equal parts book review and his own distilled scientific judgment, about “manufactured doubt” – the industry that spreads disinformation about scientific evidence, when that evidence threatens the profitability of corporations whose products put humanity at risk. He documents the role that the “manufactured doubt” industry played in delaying or derailing efforts to limit the damage created by tobacco products, asbestos, and various toxic industrial chemicals including the chlorofluorocarbons responsible for the destruction of atmospheric ozone.
And, most recently, its attempts to safeguard the profits of the fossil fuel industries by debunking the evidence for anthropogenic global warming.
Masters gives details about the “bag of tricks” that the practitioners of “manufactured doubt” use to achieve their ends. Including the disparaging of peer-reviewed science and, at both the professional and personal levels, of the scientists who produce that science – impugning, among other things, that the scientists are “just another bunch of hired guns” whose findings are for sale to the highest bidder.
A disparaging that’s easy for the “manufactured doubters” and their corporate sponsors to do, since so many people with scientific credentials (some fairly substantial) are prepared to be just this type of hired gun. But what else to expect, Jerry, when jobs in, and funds for, non-corporate research are so scarce (thanks in part to these very same “manufactured doubt” campaigns), and the opportunities for selling out are so lucrative, amounting to a doubling or even more of the standard academic salary?
Now, all this reads like a diatribe against corporate moguls, doesn’t it? But then, Masters flashes the mirror. He states:
I believe that for the most part, the corporations involved have little choice under the law but to protect their profits by pursuing Manufactured Doubt campaigns … The law makes a company’s board of directors legally liable for “breach of fiduciary responsibility” if they knowingly manage a company in a way that reduces profits. Shareholders can and have sued companies for being overly socially responsible …
He cites the sad case of Henry Ford, who:
… was successfully sued by stockholders in 1919 for raising the minimum wage of his workers to $5 per day. The courts declared that, while Ford’s humanitarian sentiments about his employees were nice, his business existed to make profits for its stockholders (emphasis added).
This, dear readers, is not the revelation of a global corporate-mogul conspiracy against the “common man”. Much as those who see their own profit opportunities in such rabble-rousing would have you think otherwise.
This is your 401k telling the corporate moguls what they must do.
Masters did not end his post with any cosmic conclusions. He is, after all, a scientist, and as a scientist (rather than a propagandist such as are the “manufactured doubt” generators), he offers conclusions cautiously, and only those supported by evidence, as much and as rigorously-tested as is to hand at the time of writing. Besides, Masters has a large blog, and probably is wary of doing any more damage to his readership – and his company – than a post of this sort risks already.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba, on the other hand, has a small blog, and therefore little to risk. So I write what my conclusion is, on the basis of this evidence – and take some comfort that the message is the same as the one that scientist and science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov set down in his Bathroom Law:
The goal of preserving a planet suitable for human habitation, and the goal of preserving the individual liberty of humans living on this planet, are incompossible.
– O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.