The science of spin: targeted strategies to manufacture doubt with detrimental effects on environmental and public health

Safer Technology Aotearoa New Zealand

The telecommunications industry has adopted strategies used by other industries that market products which pollute the environment and harm the health of humans and other species. Does the Telecom industry and the scientists it funds utilize all 28 of the unique tactics discussed in this open access paper published in the journal Environmental Health: (1) to manufacture doubt about the preponderance of the peer-reviewed science which finds exposure to low-intensity wireless radiation harmful, and (2) to justify the continued adoption of inadequate radio frequency safety limits by the WHO and most national governments?

Goldberg, R.F., Vandenberg, L.N. The science of spin: targeted strategies to manufacture doubt with detrimental effects on environmental and public health. Environ Health 20, 33 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-021-00723-0.  Published online March 26, 2021.

Abstract

Background

Numerous groups, such as the tobacco industry, have deliberately altered and misrepresented knowable facts and empirical evidence to promote an agenda, often for monetary benefit, with consequences for environmental and public health. Previous research has explored cases individually, but none have conducted an in-depth comparison between cases. The purpose of this study was to compile a comprehensive list of tactics used by disparate groups and provide a framework for identifying further instances of manufactured doubt.

Methods

We examined scholarly books, peer-reviewed articles, well-researched journalism pieces, and legal evidence related to five disparate industries and organizations selected for their destructive impacts on environmental and public health (tobacco, coal, and sugar industries, manufacturers of the pesticide Atrazine, and the Marshall Institute, an institute focused on climate change research, and other scientists from the era that associated with those in the Institute). These documents provided evidence for a list of tactics used to generate pro-industry spin and manufacture doubt about conferred harm. We then identified trends among sets of strategies that could explain their differential use or efficacy.

Results

We recognized 28 unique tactics used to manufacture doubt. Five of these tactics were used by all five organizations, suggesting that they are key features of manufactured doubt. The intended audience influences the strategy used to misinform, and logical fallacies contribute to their efficacy.

Conclusions

This list of tactics can be used by others to build a case that an industry or group is deliberately manipulating information associated with their actions or products. Improved scientific and rhetorical literacy could be used to render them less effective, depending on the audience targeted, and ultimately allow for the protection of both environmental health and public health more generally.

Open access paper: http://bit.ly/scienceofspin

Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

Website:          https://www.saferemr.com

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