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In this episode, you’ll find out:

  • How one PR firm corrupted science and made the public believe smoking is healthy–and how the same thing could happen today. (5:46)
  • Can you trust university research? Here’s how to figure out if you should trust their advice or run the other way. (7:38)
  • The government’s role in public health deception and how easily they can be influenced. (13:30)
  • Why you should be skeptical about “grassroots organizations” trying to inform you about health. (23:35)

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Get to the bottom of what's truly healthy in this crazy complex world so you can take back what is rightfully yours. Welcome to the health sovereign podcast. This is your host Logan Christopher.

00:20 Hello and welcome. Today we are diving into what is often called the tobacco playbook. If you want to understand health in this modern day and age, unfortunately you kind of have to understand the tactics used by industry such as was used by the tobacco industry in order to distort science and distort public opinion. Like I said, it is unfortunate that this is the case, but that doesn't mean that it is not the case. This playbook is used by industry after industry, not all of them, but certainly a good amount and we'll be getting into examples today, so we're going to be covering some of the history, some of the facts of what happened with tobacco, and then showing a whole bunch of other cases how many other people have used some of these same Paktika. Before we get into that, I want to say please share this podcast with people.

01:17 If you are enjoying it and you think other people would benefit to tell them about it, share it on social media, posted on Facebook, however you want to do it. Share this out there as well as leaving reviews. That would be great. So a lot of this, I'm going to be reading quotes from a published article called inventing conflicts of interest, a history of tobacco industry Paktika. This covers a lot of stuff and I'm actually shortly going to be reading a book that dives into more detail. So perhaps this will be a multi-part series. As I said, very important to understand this information so that you can see that you can not get roped in by science, which really isn't. Science masquerades as science and how so much can be distorted through these methods. The tobacco industry is programmed to engineer the science relating to the harms caused by cigarettes marked or watershed in the history of the industry and moved aggressively into a new domain.

02:19 The production of scientific knowledge, not for purposes of research and development, but rather to undo what was now known that cigarette smoking caused lethal disease. If science had historically been dedicated to the making of new facts, the industry campaign now sought to develop specific strategies to unmake a scientific fact unquote, so you have to understand science as an ideal is focused on what is true and only on what is true. However, science is done by human beings and human beings are corruptible, plain and easy. Sure. There's a handful of them that are not and we'll get to some examples of people that were not corrupted through these tactics, but a lot of them are through various ways, both more overt and covert. So when this was understood that for profit reasons, we could downplay this science, we could muddy the scientific waters. That is what tobacco sought to do and tobacco was not the first industry to do this.

03:25 You can see examples going back further, but they were in are the most well known for this. That's why it's often called the tobacco playbook because this is what they did. They're the biggest example. You can see it clearly because in the end it was all revealed in many other cases, it has not been revealed. That information is there. If you dig deep, you can find it. But tobacco is where it came into the light eventually. Next quote, if public relations could engineer consent among consumers, so two, could it manage the science? Although medicine and science had never been sacrosanct from a range of social and commercial interests, the tobacco industry campaign crossed into new terrain to build a powerful network of interests and influence in quote. So another thing worth understanding is that public relations, PR propaganda as it used to be called this was a burgeoning field around the twenties 1920s not the 2000 twenties that we're entering into here.

04:30 So this was a new field and it was revealed that, Oh, with advertising, right, we can mass market our products, we can change public opinion, we can get people to buy into such things. We could through the right kind of ad, get women to take up cigarettes and become a big group of people that would smoke as well. When previously women had avoided doing so. So this part of the quote, if public relations could engineer consent among consumers, so two, could it manage the science? And that's really what it was. It was to take this PR to take propaganda and use it within the scientific field within scientists themselves, but also to then spread this science out to the lay people out there, quote public relations. Man Hill understood that simply denying emerging scientific facts would be a losing game. This would not only smack of self-interest, but also ally the companies with ignorance in an age of technological and scientific hedge Amani.

05:28 So he proposed seizing and controlling science. Rather than avoiding it, he'll advise that the companies should now associate themselves as great supporters of science. The companies in his view should embrace a sophisticated scientific discourse. They should demand more science, not less in quote, so heal, and this is the guy we're going to be talking about through this. He was part of the PR firm, Hill and Knowlton that was hired by the tobacco industry, started with one tobacco company and then basically they all kind of grouped together in working with PIL and his public relations firm in order to run with this program. Science is a great thing. Like I know I bash on science a lot because it does need bashing on it because most people do not understand these facts. When you understand how science can be so easily and so often manipulated. This is, like I said, very important stuff.

06:24 So science as an idea when it is done right, it is amazing for uncovering the truth. And it was this idea that had really become widespread throughout, definitely in the U S but across the world. And even to this day, really scientists still held as the ideal, the ultimate arbiter of truth, even though we see these problems over and over again. So we can't say like, Oh no, forget science. Science is not important. Or you can't say, who cares about science? None of that works now. None of that would work back then. So he was saying that we need to jump on the bandwagon. We need to say yes, science is great and basically what he comes to say is that we don't have the science. The science is not clear. That is a phrase that is used over and over and over again. Quote Hill's proposal offered the potential of a research program that would be controlled by the industry yet promoted as independent.

07:25 This was a public relations master stroke. He'll understood that simply giving money to scientists through the national institutes of health or some other entity, for example, offered little opportunity to shape the public relations environment. However, offering funds directly to university based scientists would enlist their support and dependence. Moreover, it would have the added benefit of making academic institutions partners with the tobacco industry in its moment of crisis end quote. So it's all about the money. Really. The thing we always need to look to is the money. Where is the money coming from? Where is the money flowing to? Not the only factor involved. And there's other ways that people can be compromised, but money tends to be the major factor in so much of this and how the money flows is very important. So the tobacco industry could not just give money straight to a national institutes of health, which is kind of the big governing body, which focuses on science, but instead they created an institution that basically would then fund scientists directly and through academic institutions, through colleges, universities, medical centers, places where scientists work and did research.

08:46 And this funding is what drives things. So it's not necessarily straight up bribing a person like personally giving them money, but you are them work four years if they study certain things. So there's multiple ways that money flows, which is not just directly a straight bribe. And again, this is very important because it's actually seldom used that way where there's just a straight like cash payout. Yeah, sometimes we do see that, but more often not. It is how funds are shifted. How research is funded, leads to the research that is desired. Oftentimes, not always, but very often. Another quote here, the tobacco industry research committee TIRC a group that would be carefully shaped by Hill and Knowlton to serve the industries collective interests would be central to the explicit goal of controlling the scientific discourse about smoking and health and quo. So we have this tobacco industry research committee.

09:46 This is the group that was completely industry funded and industry led and as part of this PR firm, in order to drive the science in the direction desired, this is what we often see with other companies. There are these groups that drive science in a certain direction, not the direction that the science shows things to be true, but the direction that is desired and the more money that is funneled through such organizations, the more effective this can be because funding drives science and if funding is driving science, it's often driving certain results in that science. Again, I'm not saying that this is how science should be done, just that this is how science is actually done in many cases. Another important point is how this being a PR campaign, right? It's not just about the scientist, but then spreading it through mass media. Next quote, the firm's systematically documented the courtship of newspapers and magazines wherein it could urge balance and fairness to the industry.

10:55 They offered members of the media along list of independent skeptics to consult to ensure balance in their presentations. The problem in this formulation was that science was treated as the analog of common political debate and social controversy. At that time, few journalists had any sophisticated scientific education or training by fashioning a controversy Hill and Knowlton successfully secured media coverage that maintained by its very nature that tobacco science was unresolved. In quote, few key points here. They offered members of the media along list of independent skeptics to consult to ensure balance in their presentations, so perhaps that busy these media people that they used, there were smokers themselves and they didn't want to believe that it was unhealthy and so they legitimately believed that the science was unsettled, that it was not causing cancer. That's one possibility. Through a variety of funding methods, media people could also be bought.

11:56 Advertising could occur in papers and magazines for instance by the tobacco companies that would be threatened to be polled if these independent skeptics and it's independent quote unquote, cause they're not really independent. We're not used in the coverage. And so what it's saying here is that journalists will often provide both sides of a story. Probably used to do this far more than they do today. In doing that, just because there was some people that they could talk about here, it seemed like it was a controversy. If you have a side saying that yes, tobacco causes cancer and aside saying, no, tobacco doesn't cause cancer, it looks like there may not be consensus that it may not be true. And even if it's just one person or a couple people saying on the know part to the average person out there reading the media without being able to understand science, to look at the studies themselves, it's hard for them to decide.

12:53 So this was part of that PR campaign to one, push the science in a certain direction, but then push the public awareness of the science that they were doing to do this next quote. After its founding in 1958 the tobacco Institute quickly emerged as one of Washington's most powerful, well-healed and effective political lobbies. Just as the industry had made critical innovations in advertising and public relations and now pioneered new and aggressive approaches to managing its regulatory and political environment. Here we see that it is not just the authority figures of science that are manipulated. It is not just the authority figures of media and journalists that are manipulated. It is also that the authority figures of politics are manipulated the most powerful, well-healed, and effective political lobby. Hmm. Do you think that lobbying still has a big, big massive impact on today's legislation, on what happens in our government and allows the corporatocracy, the rural by corporation to come to fruition?

14:11 Lobbying is such a huge part of this and we see that this was integral even back then in 1958 with tobacco. So it is through the threefold science media and politics that we see that this manipulation can really a cure. Because once again, as I said before, those are all authority figures. This is different people where we get our information from and they talk about each other. The journalists talked about the politicians and the scientists. The politics talked about the scientists and part of their public opinion is coming from the media. All of these are tied together and presents a unified front. May not be unified in the sense that, yeah, there's other scientists, there's other politicians, there's other media people that are saying that, no, this is really a problem, but there is some media, some politicians, some scientists all saying that, no, it is not, or the science is not settled.

15:13 That is a critical point. Next quote. Trusting science, confidence in the media and the social responsibility of corporate enterprise. We're all substantially harmed by Hill and Knowlton's efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry by making signs, fear game in the battle of public relations. The tobacco industry set a disruptive precedent that would affect future debates on subjects ranging from global warming to food and pharmaceuticals and quote. That's basically the summation of what we've covered here. Once again, this was not done. Tobacco was not the first ones. They may have done it super well, but they had some flaws. They didn't do it well enough that they were not caught in the end. It took a long time though, so understand this. With tobacco selling cigarettes, this is, I don't know how much they sold per year, but I'm guessing somewhere close to in some years, billions of dollars worth of cigarettes.

16:10 Obviously this is in the industry. It would be spread throughout the big companies that are selling such cigarettes, so part of this game is one, if we can avoid getting caught at all that is ideal, but even to just delay the inevitable, that is tremendously profitable because what do we see nowadays? Cigarette smoking has gone down dramatically because this information is now widely accepted and the tobacco industry is no longer allowed to advertise, which is actually one of the reasons that they're one of the most profitable industries because they're not spending any money on marketing. You know, people are still buying their products. So this delaying tactic for them worked so well in just allowing them to become more profitable, to make more money and understanding that with more money, they could then funnel that into more science, more media manipulation, more lobbying and politic manipulation that we could continue this in certain directions.

17:15 So they did eventually get cut. How many other industries see the success of this and then follow suit? A lot of them. So now we're going to switch gears and look at some of these other examples. This information comes from the union of concerned scientists website. They have what they call the disinformation playbook. So another name for this tobacco playbook. And specifically they detail out five different moves that are done. You have number one, the fake, which is conduct counterfeit signs and try to pass it off as legitimate research. Number two, the blitz harass scientists who speak out with results or views inconvenient for industry number three, that diversion manufacturer uncertainty about science where little or none exist. Number four, the screen by credibility through alliances with academia or professional societies. And number five, the FICS manipulate government officials or processes to inappropriately influence policy.

18:26 We saw the fake, the blitz, the diversion, the screen, and the fix all with tobacco. Now let us look at a few other examples. Once again, this all comes from the union of concerned scientists website. I will have a link to that in the show notes for this episode so you can go and see the finer details of these examples. So the fake how Georgia Pacific knowingly published fake science on the safety of asbestos industry groups use cherry pick signs to avoid regulation of chromium. Merck manipulated the science about the drug, Vioxx fossil fuel companies distorted the science about the dangers of benzene, DuPont and threeM concealed evidence of P F a S risks. So what do we see all these chemical companies, drug companies, all these people manipulating the science itself and many different ways of doing this. Not just the statistical manipulation but the way the trial is set up.

19:27 The poor use of placebo controls cherry-picking so many different ways this can be done and it's done over and over again. And this is why science is in question because it is done like this. So often examples of the blitz the NFL tried to intimidate scientists studying the link between pro football and traumatic brain injury. Syngenta harassed the scientist who exposed risks of it's herbicide atrazine and that was dr Tyrone Hayes, how the fossil fuel industry harassed client scientist Michael Mann, Glaxo Smith Kline tried to silence the scientist who expose the dangers of its drug Avandia. In some cases there's independent scientists out there that are saying like, Oh, this is really a problem and there are a variety of tactics that can be used in order to minimize or harass what they are saying. In the case of dr Tyrone Hayes with the herbicide atrazine. He was actually hired by Syngenta and he did not find what they wanted them to find.

20:34 So they then discredit him, him. And even now you can punch his name into a search engine and you'll likely see some of the really what should be libelous things they said about him. Examples of the diversion, how fossil fuel lobbyists used AstroTurf, front groups to confuse the public. And in case you're not familiar with the AstroTurf name that is describing a quote unquote grassroots organization. So a true grassroots organization is where there's legitimately like people, citizens that are getting together and doing that in order to exert some sort of public opinion and AstroTurf being fake grass is one that is actually set up. Funded has an agenda by the industry itself. So it takes on the appearance in order to mold itself and shape public opinion because we often think, Oh, if there's a union of concerned parents for this thing, then it must be legitimate.

21:35 And they probably have the reasoning for that. And since I don't have time to look into it deeply, I'll just kind of go along with what they're saying. So this is what a AstroTurf organization is about. Some other examples, corn refiners association used front groups to spread disinformation about sugar and health. The indoor tanning association used misleading ad campaigns to this sort skin cancer science, how the American chemistry council sold uncertainty about formaldehyde risks. So this is once again, manufacturing uncertainty about science when little or none exists. This is muddying the scientific waters and then spreading that information out. Examples of the screen, how Coca Cola disguised its influence on science about sugar and health, Purdue pharma and the opioid epidemic. The fossil fuel industry hid the truth about its funding of fracking research and the case of ExxonMobil and the American geophysical union. So we see that this is done with academia, with universities, but also these associations, these larger groups that we think should be independent.

22:42 If they're getting funding through one of these industries, then oftentimes that is going to influence the information that they pass on to people. And finally, the fix about government officials being used. How Dow chemical influence the EPA to ignore the scientific evidence. Pfizer pressure the FDA to downplay the risks of it's our cynical animal drug, how the NRA suppressed gun violence research, BP and other companies exploited a regulatory agency to continue negligent offshore drilling and we all know what that led to. So once again, these are just the headlines literally of articles pulled from that website. I invite you to go deeper. This is important information to understand because without an understanding of the tobacco or the disinflation playbook, we take science at face value and to actually get to the bottom of science. Is it funded by people? Cause sometimes these conflicts of interest are not even listed on there even though they should be to understand like, okay this is a grassroots organization.

23:44 Is it really? Is it funded by the industry who is in the pocket of these big industries? When it comes to our politicians or the associations we are in the information age, the information economy, that means that this information is one of the most powerful tactics out there. And it is used regularly in a variety of ways. In order to manipulate health opinion to manipulate the information about what is healthy. We have to understand this if we want to be health sovereign because that involves knowing and being able to act in the right manner. So with all this, this information out there purposely put out for the purposes of profit, we have to be able to wait through that and that's a hard thing to do. So understanding the tactics, you can at least be aware of what is going on and therefore any new information that's presented.

24:43 If it doesn't line up with things that should be making sense, principle-based sort of things, then you can look a bit deeper and find out what may be really going on. That's going to wrap it up for now on this, we may be revisiting this topic in the future. There's so much to understand here and so deep to dive and who has the time for this in this day and age, but unfortunately that is this day and age. That is how the world is working right now. So learn about it, understand it, be able to perceive it out in the world. And that is one thing you must do now to be a health software and I'll talk to you next time. Forget fat. How about you base your health on sound principles that have existed for millennia? That's what my book powered by nature, how nature improves our health, happiness and performance is all about if you want a special deal, my company lost empire herbs will give you a $30 gift card to buy a $20 book. Plus every sale will support indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest. To find out more and pick up your copy at poweredbynaturebook.com.

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