We already know true journalism is dead, with but a few courageous reporters carrying the last beacons of light in the apocalyptic landscape of the Fourth Estate. In recent years, however, newspaper editorial boards have vastly overstepped their boundaries in commentary on issues of which they know nothing. We really should change the name of the Opinion Editorial to Informed Opinion Editorial. After all, do we really want the Village Idiot telling us what he thinks?
Specifically, I refer to an irresponsible screed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which they call on the FDA to ban bisphenol-A (BPA), a common building block of in plastics found in great abundance in our everyday products.
It’s bad enough that any outside entity should try to exert influence over the FDA’s decision-making process. Thankfully, the FDA ignored the Journal Sentinel, and just announced that it considers BPA to be safe, while reasonably calling for continued studies.
This doesn’t change the importance of rags like the Journal Sentinel from meddling in something they know nothing about, and hoping to influence an independent body. The ramifications of the Journal Sentinel‘s behavior go deeper than the message it’s sending. By attempting to pressure a body charged with protecting the public, it sets a dangerous precedent that affects each and every one of us.
“The Medium is the Message”
Remember the axiom from Marshall McLuhan that we all learned in high school? It means that the content you receive from a medium isn’t what’s important, but rather how the medium – in this case a newspaper – changes society’s attitude towards something. In this case, the Journal Sentinel attempted to change society’s attitude – so that we permit and even expect a newspaper to influence public policy…even when the facts underlying a policy decision have not even been determined!
Let’s face it – 100% verifiable facts are hard to come by. We don’t have time to learn the truth ourselves. Instead, we desperately want somebody to do the hard work for us, and rely on them for our enlightenment. Regrettably, we have been trained to turn to the news media as that source. Somehow we have been led to believe that all journalists are the second coming of Edward R. Murrow, crusaders for the balanced presentation of facts.
That’s our critical mistake, because by trusting in news media, we give up our power. We give up on actually finding the truth. Instead, we have turned our thoughts over to a corrupt source. We have become willing participants in the great mind-control experiment of modern society.
Worse, the media knows this. They know that people desperately want a source of unbiased information that they can rely on. However, the media also knows a deeper truth: that we don’t actually want unbiased reporting. We want content that reinforces our ideology. And they are happy to deliver it by the spoonful to us – baby birds chirping madly, mouths open for any worm that Mama drops in, whatever its source.
That’s on us, folks. We gave up our power. Instead, we must become our own incarnation of the great journalist-turned-filmmaker, Sam Fuller. He said, and I paraphrase, “Why should I believe what Joe said? Do I know Joe? If I don’t, and I didn’t see something happen with my own eyes, then why should I believe him?”
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As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel knows we have given over our power to it, it has free reign to write whatever it wishes. The medium is the message, and the message is this: “Let us make important decisions for you. Believe only what we say. Believe only those studies that say BPA is harmful. Stick with us. We know the facts. Most importantly, we’ll keep you afraid and reliant on us for the Truth – or at least, our version of it. And don’t worry, we promise to be honest with you.”
The message that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wanted to spread is, “We’re all going to die! Or get cancer! Or both!” Of all human emotions, fear is the easiest to create, the hardest to shake, and the most damaging to society. Bertrand Russell, the social activist and the founder of analytic philosophy, told us, “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of theherd.”
In this case, the fear is that of BPA. It’s exactly the same as the Bogeyman – the fictional creature that kidnaps children. Create a monster to be blamed so as to control the populace.
By creating the BPA Bogeyman out of fear, the Journal Sentinel wins advocates, and then turns those advocates into an army of brainwashed townspeople to attack anyone the Bogeyman, and anyone who harbors it, or tries to dispel it. Suddenly, an angry mob is born with pitchforks and torches, and with it comes political pressure. In order to achieve its ends, the mob starts hammering on the FDA to do something before the BPA Bogeyman gets us!
Lest we forget, however, the FDA exists to protect the public health by examining the safety of various products in an unbiased environment. The Journal Sentinel aims to displace the trust we have in a body of world-class experts and instead put that trust into the clutches of the Journal Sentinel‘s editorial board. It’s the equivalent of hopping into a clown car as it careens down a busy residential street at high speed.
Why might the Journal Sentinel be doing this? Perhaps it’s a pathetic attempt to boost falling circulation (Down 10% for the six months ending in October, and 25% since 2005). Fearful as newspapers are, and should be, of their imminent demise, they stoke the flames of drama as best they can. The higher the drama, the higher the readership, and the slower the inevitable collapse of print media.
Or perhaps they realize that their medium, which once offered a significant message, no longer has relevance (because of their bias). Given how far they’ve overstepped their bounds, one also wonders if there isn’t something mercenary going on behind the scenes.
The greatest enemy of fear is the truth. So what is the truth about BPA? It’s a plastic that’s laminated on your glasses to keep them from shattering. It’s also used in sports helmets and goggles; your car’s headlight lenses; injected into all of your DVDs, CDs, and Blu-ray discs; injected into your iPod cases; used to help soften baby bottles; applied to your laptop cases; and even used to protect large display signs; and is a protective coating used on the interior of metal cans to prevent corrosion and contamination.
BPA has been in use since the 1950’s, 3 million metric tons of it are produced annually, and its safety has been repeatedly proven.
Dozens of studies have been conducted — in both short and long-term animal tests, multi-generational exposure studies, reproductive effects, and examining cancerous effects. Weight-of-evidence analysis, including studies done by the FDA; the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; The UK Dept. of Trade and Industry; The Japanese National Institute of Health Sciences; and Society of Plastics Industry, Inc all clearly conclude that BPA does not migrate in any significant amount from, or cause adverse effects from, exposure through consumer products.
You would have to cram 1,300 pounds of food that was in contact with a BPA-lined can or bottle, every single day for your entire life, into your body in order to exceed the EPA’s safety levels of BPA.
And, as mentioned, the FDA has confirmed its safety. To be perfectly straightforward, the FDA specifically stated that they had ‘some concern’ about BPA. This level of concern merely states that there are insufficient data from studies in humans to reach a conclusion on reproductive or developmental hazards presented by current exposures to bisphenol A, but there is limited evidence of developmental changes occurring in some animal studies at doses that are experienced by humans. It is uncertain if similar changes would occur in humans, but the possibility of adverse health effects cannot be dismissed. You may choose to interpret this according to your own level of fear. In my experience, and based on other products earning this level of concern, BPA is safe for humans.”
Could the Journal Sentinel‘s agenda be more mercenary? Despite the litany of studies that showed no adverse affects from BPA, junk science entities like the Environmental Working Group play on the fears of BPA to their own benefit. They use the terminology of fear to make their case, that BPA “endangers the futures of millions of Americans (never mind that after 50 years of BPA exposure, we don’t hear about “BPA babies”).”
What is the EWG’s motivation? They represent the organic agriculture interests in this country. They hope to create fear of traditionally manufactured foods in an effort to convert more people to the organic way of life – thus generating more revenue for the industry.
The FDA’s Mandate
The FDA wisely shut out influences from both sides of the BPA debate. They did their own due diligence. They should’ve been left alone while the FDA alone while they conducted their research.
The mere thought that the anti-BPA thugs attempted to influence this process is revolting. It’s reminiscent of gangster’s hitmen threatening to kill a witness. This reprehensible behavior should be enough to convince anyone that the motives of the anti-BPA movement are not altruistic.
At the end of the day, regardless of what source you believe, we all have a choice in our lives. If you don’t like something, don’t use it. And if you are afraid of something, you are better off asking who has put that fearful thought in your head, and why you chose to believe it, rather than go hunting for the non-existent Bogeyman.