Golly, Where Have We Heard This Before?

From Douglas Gansler, former Maryland State attorney general, seen within his January 4, 2017 “Did Exxon launch a climate science ‘disinformation campaign’?” Baltimore Sun op-ed:

Exxon’s apparent disinformation campaign came right out of the tobacco companies’ playbook. Exxon even turned to some of the same groups that the tobacco industry had used to promote uncertainty about the dangers of smoking — this time to play up the uncertainty in climate science.

Coming from a man of his legal expertise status, that’s one damaging statement. But wait, that description sounds really familiar. Is Gansler mentioning something without saying specifically where it came from?

Perhaps this situation description could have been credited to Al Gore, if Gansler picked it up from the Q&A session at the end of the big ‘Exxon Knew’ March 2016 press conference conducted by NY State AG Eric Schneiderman, where Gore said this in response to a reporter asking about the comparison of the global warming issue to the tobacco industry lawsuits settlement situation:

I do think the analogy may well hold up rather precisely to the tobacco industry. Indeed the evidence indicates that … these journalists collected, including the distinguished historian of science at Harvard Naomi Oreskes, who wrote the book The Merchants of Doubt, … that they hired several of the very same public relations agents that had perfected this fraudulent and deceitful craft working for the tobacco companies.

The current Maryland AG Brian Frosh was right there in attendance, after all. Perhaps he relayed this to Gansler.

But perhaps Gansler is a National Public Radio listener / online content reader. From the NPR Fresh Air program’s May 2012 review of Steve Coll’s “Private Empire – ExxonMobil and American Power” book, we hear / see this:

“This not only borrowed from some of the tactics that the tobacco industry had used to delay public understanding of the dangers of smoking; in some cases there were even overlaps of individuals and groups that were engaged in this communications campaign,” Coll tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.

It’s a plausible scenario. Maybe Gansler was also reminded of this NPR broadcast while watching Al Gore’s Q&A answer, since Gore mentioned Steve Coll by name moments before, making the basically the same assertion Coll made nearly four years earlier.

Who knows, perhaps the assertion was doubly reinforced to Gansler if he happened to see California Governor Gary Brown’s pages about climate change, and what they specifically said about “deniers”:

The same strategy was used cynically for decades by the tobacco industry after research showed that cigarettes caused cancer. In fact, some of the same individuals who have spoken out against climate science also claimed that cigarettes were safe.

Perhaps the Governor Brown bit was the triple reinforcement to Gansler, if he earlier happened to watch the PBS Frontline October 2012 “Climate of Doubt” program (*ahem* the one plagued with problems), where Steve Coll repeated the details:

JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Borrowing tactics used on behalf of the tobacco industry, advocacy groups were enlisted to confuse the issue and shut down new federal regulations.
STEVE COLL: Well, some of them actually came out of campaigning on behalf of the tobacco industry. The explicit goal that was written down as part of this campaign was, “Let’s create doubt, create a sense of a balanced debate, and make sure that these lines of skepticism and dissent become routinely a part of public discussion about climate science.”

Wow. The tobacco industry’s goal was to spread doubt. Where have we heard or seen that before? We’ve heard that ‘media balance’ thing somewhere before, too …….

Meanwhile, is it not possible that Gansler is also a US House hearings watcher? From the March 28, 2007 Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight’s “Shaping the Message, Distorting the Science: Media Strategies to Influence Public Policy” hearing, we have this from a Dr. James McCarthy:

A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists provides an explanation. Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air documents how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics as well as some of the same organizations and personnel to cloud the scientific  understanding of climate change and to delay action.

( wait a minute – isn’t that the same James McCarthy who is said to have tipped Ross Gelbspan to the corruption of skeptic climate scientists? And wasn’t it Sheldon Rampton, the person testifying alongside Dr McCarthy, who got Gelbspan’s “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” phrase entered into the Congressional record? )

Maybe Gansler caught the May 2006 Vanity FairWhile Washington Slept” article, which said,

Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chaired the 1994 hearings where tobacco executives unanimously declared under oath that cigarettes were not addictive, watches today’s global-warming deniers with a sense of déjà vu. It all reminds him of the confidential slogan a top tobacco flack coined when arguing that the science on smoking remained unsettled: “Doubt is our product.” Now, Waxman says, “not only are we seeing the same tactics the tobacco industry used, we’re seeing some of the same groups.

( wait a minute – Gelbspan’s name is seen in the screencapture image for that paragraph, right above it. Plus, this Vanity Fair piece’s author got in trouble for incorrectly attributing Gelbspan’s phrase to somebody else, didn’t he?) And wait another minute, the reason the ‘tobacco industry’s goal was to spread doubt‘ bit looks familiar is because Al Gore said a “Doubt is Our Product” leaked memo phrase out of the old tobacco industry is no different than the “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” leaked memo phrase, which he said Gelbspan discovered. )

Ummm… Gore. Did he ever have anything to say about this tobacco playbook situation? Why, yes. Back in April, 2004 in what appears to be a transcript of a speech titled “The Climate Emergency”, he repeated the ‘same people’ bit, but was much more specific on what the tobacco industry playbook tactic was:

… some of the very same individuals who are doing this now (i.e., trying to persuade people that global warming is not a problem) were some of the same people who took money from the tobacco companies after the Surgeon General’s report came out warning of the dangers of smoking.

The tobacco companies hired these scientific camp followers to go out and try to confuse the public into thinking that the science wasn’t clear.

Back in the March 17, 1995 “Remarks by the Vice President,” it’s possible that the ‘done by the same individuals’ part of the talking point had not yet been formalized,

… we have political extremists — some of them in our own country — who would have the United States evade and ignore tough issues like global climate change, ozone depletion, or any number of threats to human and environmental health.

… This is an intellectually, politically, and morally bankrupt position which must be resisted. It is similar to the position that was taken for so long by the tobacco industry in the face of mounting medical and scientific evidence about the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

( wait a minute – 1995?? Gore 2016 is where we started out in this exercise. )

Astute first-time readers of this post see a pattern forming. Baltimore Sun article writer Douglas Gansler’s assertion about an oil industry plot mimicking a tobacco industry plot is not as simple as it appears.

Long-time followers of my work not only see where I’m going with this, but know where I’ve already been, regarding other baseless talking point repetitions. When it comes to the ‘same tactics used by the tobacco industry’ talking point by itself, from my mega-notes pile of web links / keywords, I could repeat another 85 examples of that. Do an internet search of keywords within that talking point, and countless results are seen — with every single one of them devoid of any hard evidence backing up the accusation. Now, we’re left wondering whether Gansler is a deliberate participant or an inadvertent dupe in the spread of elemental misinformation stemming from the same small clique of people associated with the 20 year+ character assassination efforts aimed at skeptic climate scientists. Efforts, I should add, centering around a baseless accusation.

It can’t be emphasized enough: When every angle of the ‘corrupt skeptics’ smear falls apart as easily as this, serious top-level investigation should be undertaken to find out when and how these narratives were created, and how they get promulgated today.