Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Silence Is Golden

The television station manager turned to the two reporters in his office. He had just been brought in from corporate headquarters and he didn’t mince words. The date was April 16, 1997.
“We paid three billion dollars for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.”
These words were directed to Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, two award winning investigative journalists, who worked for WTVT in Tampa, Forida [FOX network station owned by Rupert Murdoch]. The topic was a series of four investigative news reports on the dangers posed by rBGH -- recombinent Bovine Growth Hormone made and marketed by Monsanto under the name Posilac.

... The reports documented, in detail, the damage Posilac was causing to Florida’s dairy cows and farmers and the potential health effects in humans who drink milk from cows using rBGH.
“It (Posilac) has made the milk on your table one of the first genetically engineered foods to ever to be fed to your family,” reported Jane Akre in the second report.
Two days before the scheduled debut of the series, and after thousands of dollars of advertising in other media promoting the investigate report, WTVT cancelled its airing. At the April meeting with the station manager, Steve and Jane were given a choice. They could stop their efforts to get WTVT to broadcast their reports. Or they could lose their jobs.
Wilson and Akre responded that if the station aired a false or misleading report, it would be their duty to file a complaint with the FCC.
“I am an investigative reporter but I am also a mother,” said Jane Akre in an interview. “Steve and I believe parents and consumers deserve to hear all that is known about what my daughter puts on her cereal every morning.”
In September, 1997, the two reporters were fired without cause. And their series on rBGh has never been broadcast.

... The firing of Steve Wilson and Jane Akre for standing up for the truth is not an anomaly. Today, our access to accurate information “about how our food is produced” is under systematic corporate/right wing assault.
The stakes are very high for the purveyors of factory engineered food and animals. For the massive industrialization of our food supply -- with its accompanying implications for water quality, animal welfare, biodiversity, land use and human health -- needs consumer acceptance to succeed.
And therein lies the problem for the Monsanto’s of the world. Consumers, everywhere, are deeply suspicious of bioengineered foods and opposed to animal factory production. And the news about the effects of industrialization continues to get worse as science documents more and more destruction cause by the imposition of monoculture technologies on incredibly fecund and diverse nature.
In this situation, information poses a clear threat to the profits of the agribusiness corporations behind this profound change.
Label of genetically modified products must be avoid at all costs. (The Hudson Institute calls food labeling un-American). Independent farmers must be made servile and captive to corporate interests. And criticism, of the kind written by Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, must be silenced.
The intimidation reaches right into Maryland. A co-op of dairy farmers, who have worked closely with the Chapter’s Water, Food and Farm Campaign, recently were threatened by Monsanto with legal action when they distributed Sierra Club literature in milk checks to member farmers.
It is very insidious. For a threatening letter from a powerful New York law firm is often enough to silence citizens regardless of the legal basis for the challenge. This form of behavior is corporate intimidation, pure and simple.

Disinformation & John Stossel.
Another industry tactic is to sow doubt about the alternatives to industrialized food production.
On February 4, 2000, John Stossel produced a report for ABC’s news magazine program 20/20, “The Food You Eat!” to look at the claim, by many folks, that organic food was safer than conventional food which include a growing amount of biotech inputs.

...Stossel used the Big Lie techniques pioneered by that friend of liberty, Joseph Stalin. (The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.)

...Dennis Avery & the Hudson Institute.
So what is going on here? The answer is that John Stossel’s report is part of a concerted effort by the corporate sponsored Hudson Institute to sow disinformation about food production in much the same way tobacco corporations sought to discredit their critics.
The Hudson Institute was founded by Herman Kahn (author of “nuclear war isn’t so bad” book On Thermonuclear War) and is a bastion of pro-corporate libertarian thought.
Dennis Avery, Director of the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, appears on John Stossel’s report and is the source of much of its misinformation. Avery made the news recently by authoring the landmark Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastics, an example of how demented corporate self-interest can be.
John Stossel, although posing as an objective, if hardhitting, reporter is very close to the Hudson Institute. Stossel markets reports like “The Food We Eat” program directly to schools through an organization called “Friends of John Stossel in the Classroom.”

Reaching into the classroom.
This extreme libertarian outreach is funded by the Palmer R. Chitester Fund which, in term, has Hudson Institute members on its Board. The project uses the appearance of John Stossel’s “objectivity” to promote distrust of government and an end to regulation of the environment and food production.
Through the Chitester Fund’s website, libertarian activists are encouraged to contact local schools to promote the Stossel videotapes.
It is possible that Stossel makes substantial income from this work.

The stakes are high!
When a supposed journalist that John Stossel uses his position to promote a radical agenda in the guise of news, more than the safety of our food supply is at risk.
When a corporation like Monsanto can use its legal resources to bully, threaten and intimidate citizens and silence reporters from a legitimate consideration of issues related to animal factory production and biotechnology’s use in food production, more than our jobs are at stake.
There is a bumpersticker circulating quietly in the public interest movement that reads, “Don’t tell the truth, it may cost you your funding.”

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