Big business, it seems, will stop at nothing in order to bamboozle consumers into purchasing their products:
The sugar industry paid prestigious Harvard scientists to publish research saying fat – not sugar – was a key cause of heart disease, newly unveiled documents reveal.
At the time, in the 1960s, conflict of interest disclosure was not required.
It meant sugar chiefs could work closely with researchers to re-draft and re-draft their paper until it was ‘satisfactory’ – without having to report their involvement.
The result shaped public health approaches to nutrition for years.
The findings, revealed today in a special report in JAMA Internal Medicine, has sent shockwaves through the research community.
‘I thought I had seen everything but this one floored me,’ said Marion Nestle of New York University, who wrote an editorial on the new findings.
‘It was so blatant. And the “bribe” was so big.’
‘Funding research is ethical,’ Nestle said.
‘Bribing researchers to produce the evidence you want is not.
The warped research appeared in a 1967 literature review in The New England Journal of Medicine.
It pointed to fat and cholesterol as the dietary culprits of heart disease, glossing over evidence from the 1950s that sugar was also linked to heart disease.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. It goes on all the time.
What makes this case particularly disturbing, however, is that it was Harvard scientists who sold their integrity down the drain and, moreover, who didn’t balk at misleading people into compromising their health.
It’s gotten so you don’t know if it’s safe to trust any media messages anymore.
Sharyl Attkisson, an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C., gave an eye-opening talk about how fake grassroots movements are funded by special interest groups to manipulate and distort media messages.
Here’s an excerpt:
So, consider this fictitious example that’s inspired by real life say your watching the news and you see a story about a new study on the cholesterol lowering drug Cholextra, the study says Cholextra is so effective that doctors should consider prescribing it to adults and even children who don’t yet have high cholesterol.
Is it too good to be true, you’re smart, you decide to do some of your own research – you do a google search, you consult social media, FB and Twitter, you look at Wikipedia, WEBMD-a non profit website, and you read the original study in a peer reviewed published medical journal – it all confirms how effective Cholextra is. You do run across a few negative comments and a potential link to cancer but you dismiss that because medical experts call the cancer link a “myth” and say that those who think there is a link there are quacks and cranks and nuts. Finally, you learn that your own doctor recently attended a medical seminar, the lecture that he attended confirmed how effective Cholextra is so he sends you off with some free samples and a prescription. You’ve really done your homework.
But what if all isn’t as it seems? What if the reality you found was false – A carefully constructed narrative by unseen special interests designed to manipulate your opinion. A Trumanshowesque reality all around you. Complacency in the news media combined with incredibly powerful propaganda and publicity forces mean we sometimes get little of the truth.
Here’s the thing:
Special interests have unlimited time and money to figure out new ways to spin us while cloaking their role. Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these Interests than traditional lobbying of Congress. There is an entire industry built around it in Washington. What is Astroturf? It’s a perversion of grass roots as in fake grass roots. Astroturf is when political corporate or other special interests disguise themselves and published blogs start Facebook and Twitter accounts, publish ads letters to the editor or simply post comments online, to try to fool you into thinking an independent or grass roots movement is speaking. The whole point of Astroturf is to try to give the impression that there is wide spread support for or against an agenda when there’s not. Astroturf seeks to manipulate you into changing your opinion by making you feel you’re an outlier when you’re not.
One example is the Washington Redskins name. Without taking a position on the controversy if you simply were looking at news media coverage over the course of the past year or looking at social media you’d probably have to conclude that most American’s find that name offensive and think it ought to be changed.
But what if I told you 71% of American’s say the name should not be changed? That’s more than two thirds. Astroturfer’s seek to controversialize those who disagree with them. They attack news organizations that publishes stories they don’t like, whistleblower’s who tell the truth, politicians who dare to ask the tough questions, and journalist’s who have the audacity to report on all of it.
Sometimes Astroturfer’s simply shove, intentionally, so much confusing and conflicting information into the mix that you are left to throw up your hands and disregard all of it including the truth. Drown out a link between a medicine and a harmful side effect, say vaccines and Autism, by throwing a bunch of conflicting paid for studies surveys and experts into the mix confusing the truth beyond recognition.
And then there’s Wikipedia. Astroturf’s dream come true. Built as the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit the reality can’t me more different. Anonymous Wikipedia editors control and co-opt pages on behalf of special interests. They forbid and reverse edits that go against their agenda. They skew and delete information in blatant violation of Wikipedia’s own established policies with impunity always superior to the poor schleps who actually believe that anyone can edit Wikipedia only to discover they are barred from correcting even the simplest factual inaccuracies.
There’s much more, so watch the video of Sharyl Attkisson’s entire talk. You’ll most likely lose your innocence forever. I certainly did.