Monday 11 March 2013

The Tobacco Industry Is More Honest Than Stanton Glantz

Like a punch-drunk boxer incapable of realising his time is up, one by one the dinosaurs of the global tobacco control industry continue to embarrass themselves. The latest to put his foot hilariously into a super-sized gob is Stanton Glantz.

Snowdon yesterday described how his recent laughable 'study' led to questions being asked of a shame-shrunken state agency official as to why this geriatric wacko was handed $678,952 of taxpayer cash - ear-marked for health research - to produce an insane political conspiracy theory.

In short, the rebuttal could only stretch to an admission of guilt for not checking out the old duffer's antics properly.
Dr Collins: Of course we thought we were funding a different kind of research when these grants were made.
It is only getting worse for Mr Glantz's long-tarnished reputation now, though. The barbs just keep on coming.

You can pick out whichever you think are the most delicious from this article by the assistant editor of a serious technology journal, with "shoddy", "mediocre" and "muckraking" featuring prominently, but I personally enjoyed this bit.
But this particular scandal is about more than the wasting of taxpayer dollars on frivolous research. It is also about the misuse of science for partisan political purposes, which corrupts both our political and our scientific institutions. 
The kind of politicized “science” on display in Glantz’s paper is distinct from what we normally talk about when we talk about “politicized science.” That term usually refers to scientific claims that are distorted or exaggerated, by either scientists or politicians, to support some preferred policy. This year’s State of the Union speech had a classic example of this kind of politicized science when the president said that it was the “overwhelming judgment of science” that Superstorm Sandy and other recent extreme-weather events were caused by climate change. (Not so.) Another good example is the pseudoscience purveyed by the notorious Tobacco Institute (an entity dissolved in 1998 following the tobacco settlement), such as the “research” trying to cast doubt on the epidemiological science that links smoking to cancer and other diseases. This sort of politicization of science is a serious and complicated problem, because having reliable and objective scientific advice is essential for policymaking.
I do believe Glantz just got compared to the tobacco industry whose methods he is apparently so disgusted by. How delightful.
In the case of the Glantz paper, however, scientists are not distorting scientific claims to support their policy preferences. This paper does not make anything resembling a scientific claim that would be relevant to policy decisions about tobacco regulation. And even if it were true that tea-party organizations were “astroturf” laid down by the tobacco-industry lobby, that in itself would not be a reason to enact any tobacco-control policies. Instead of offering evidence to support their preferred policy positions, Glantz and his co-authors make insinuations about political groups they oppose in order to cast these groups in an unfavorable light.
No, sorry, my bad. Glantz is being described as worse than the tobacco industry whose methods he is apparently so disgusted by. Even more delightful!
They even imply that the Tea Party’s advocacy for “private property rights, consumer choice, and limited government” merely echoes “tobacco industry arguments.” Private-property rights and limited government are certainly very important principles for the Tea Party, and a strong commitment to them does stand in the way of the extensive regulations that tobacco-control advocates would like to see enacted. But that does not mean that these principles are mere rhetorical devices utilized to advance corporate interests — indeed, these principles are at the core of Western democracy.
In fact, scrap that last bit too. He's not only worse than tobacco companies whose methods he is apparently disgusted by, he is also taking the right presidential piss out of key principles of the US democratic system. And doing so by playing fast and loose with public money as if it's his own personal stash.

I look forward to the next time the senile fantasist talks of tobacco industry corruption on his hysterical (heavily-censored) blog.

Of course - whether it be lizards under the poles or Mayan predictions of apocalypse - there are always the easily-gulled willing to believe any cult woo.


Tony said...

Even the most cursory of glance at his blog was enough to convince me that he is 100% batshit crazy.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Thanks for the news update and analysis Dick! Nicely done!

John Banzhaff jumped on the Glantz bandwagon and was quoted in at article at The Blaze:

A well-documented peer-reviewed study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and appearing in a just-released scientific journal, documents how nonprofit organizations closely associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to major tobacco companies, and continue to mouth tobacco industry objections to bans on smoking and to taxes on cigarettes.

My response which for some unknown reason was blocked by The Blaze, was this:

Try rephrasing the main ending paragraph of the article to make a point: "Well-documented web-published analyses, independent and funded by no one and appearing on news boards and Free Choice sites around the internet, document how nonprofit organizations closely associated with the Antismoking Movement have longstanding ties to Big Pharma producers of NicoGummyPatchy products, and continue to mouth pharma industry promotion of smoking bans and excessive tobacco taxes."

The shoe fits rather well on that foot, wouldn't you say?


Dunno why they wouldn't put it up. I submitted it three times (the third was after consulting with the original author of the article) but to no avail.


Ivan D said...

Isn't Tobacco Control a BMJ production? This speaks volumes about the plummeting standards at the BMJ and is another nail in the coffin of peer review as any kind of standard. Peer review in public health is less meaningful than elections used to be in the USSR.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Ivan, to see more about the disgraceful standards and practices in the way the BMJ deals with research counter to its opinions, read my article at: