weather icon Cloudy

Deception industry keeps growing

I spent part of a day last week writing an article about how the National Republican Senatorial Committee gets material for its attacks on Harry Reid from the Washington Free Beacon.

Then I had to explain that the Beacon, which poses as a news site, is actually a 501(c)4 formed by the Republican organization Center for American Freedom.

Then I added that one of the Beacon’s stories about Reid had been praised by the National Legal and Policy Center — which, itself, is described by SourceWatch as “a front group and industry-funded conservative political and policy lobbying organization.”

SourceWatch, in turn, was formed to provide information on the proliferation of organizations posing as something they are not, such as anti­-environmental groups with names like “People for the West.”

Keeping the lines straight is becoming unbelievably difficult. There are hidden money and front groups everywhere.

At one point the science on the hazards from high fructose corn syrup was pretty clear­cut. Then the industry went out and rented itself a bunch of “scientists” who cranked out some studies to confuse the issue that have proliferated all over the Internet, often on conservative sites that believe business can do no wrong.

The same thing happened to Rachel Carson after the publication of her famous book “Silent Spring” in the 1960s, though repeated studies show her findings were sound in spite of junk science “studies” produced by the money of the pesticide industry. But that was a relatively primitive hatchet job.

Since then, the techniques of attacking science have become more sophisticated and professional. There’s a whole Falsehood­-Industrial Complex to peddle lies and misinformation. And unlike scientists, its operatives don’t need to prove their claims. They just have to cloud the issues.

Then I read this essay (http://tinyurl.com/k7aapc2) that deals with how common hidden money behind scientists is becoming.

A couple of years ago two scholars wrote a book, “Merchants of Doubt,” about how some of the same scientists who questioned the cancer link for the tobacco companies later produced denialist studies for other industries on acid rain, pesticides, the hole in the ozone layer, second-hand smoke and climate change. There is now a documentary, “Merchants of Doubt,” that can’t seem to get into regular theaters.

Climate science is undercut by “studies” well funded by fossil fuel corporations and investors, and efforts to discredit transgenic food are well funded by the organic foods industry.

Three years ago something called the American Energy Alliance spent $325,000 in Nevada to attack Barack Obama’s energy policy. SourceWatch reported it supported “deregulation of utilities, climate change denial and claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless.”

Six years ago a group called “Nevada’s Coalition for a Democratic Workplace” was invented by national anti-­worker groups and sponsored locally by organizations like the Nevada Association of Employers, Associated Builders and Contractors, the Reno-­Sparks and North Las Vegas chambers of commerce, Associated General Contractors, plus the Nevada Prosperity Project and others who hardly represented workers.

Eight years ago an outfit called Americans United for Change ran home state advertising against U.S. Rep. Dean Heller over his Iraq stance, though AMFC has nothing to do with Iraq. It is a 501(c)(4) organization founded in 2005 “to fend off President George Bush’s top policy priority at the time: privatizing Social Security.”

I don’t know how people are expected to keep up with it all, given how difficult it is even for someone like me with journalism research tools that are, nevertheless, still challenged by all the dishonesty and camouflage. Phony studies are manufactured and groups are formed faster than anyone can follow them.

But if these things are honorable, you have to ask why their sponsors try so hard to conceal their nature.

Dennis Myers is a veteran Nevada journalist.