When the political pot calls the kettle black
Both sides in the ongoing uproar over restrictions on the sale of products containing the chemical additive bisphenol-A, better known as BPA, may have equally valid arguments -- but the media, as happens too often, appears to have taken sides.
A recent article in the Morning Sentinel purports to be a "brief history of BPA"
in Maine, which is one of only eight states to pass restrictions on the product. The article appears at first glance to be a legitimate effort to explain the situation, but the effort keeps sliding off track.
The best example, perhaps, is the introduction into the story of a vocal BPA critic, one Mike Belliveau of the Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC), which describes itself as a Maine-based non-profit group. The Sentinel story describes EHSC as a "non-profit group that works to promote use of safer chemicals."
In the article Belliveau is critical of another non-profit agency called the Statistical Assessement Service, which is affiliated with George Mason University, because it has done a study that claims to show that if BPA is used correctly it is not harmful.
The article then goes on to suggest at some length -- quoting Belliveau -- that the George Mason study may be faulty because major donors to the university include the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation which spends "millions supporting right wing ideological interests" and "trying to manipulate public opinion on behalf of corporations and government."
""It's part of an actual, deliberate strategy by the chemical manufacturers to what's called to 'manufacture doubt; this comes from the tobacco industry playbook," Belliveau said. Tobacco companies funded studies, he said, just like the chemical industry has done on BPA, so they could use them to sway public opinion.
Okay, so it ends there? According to the Sentinel article, which drops the subject, it does.
But actually there's much more to the story. It's called the other side. And that is something that is too frequently missing in Maine news stories. In this case the Sentinel has created a classic "pot calls the kettle black" case.
The EHSC, Belliveau's organization, turns out to be as left-wing ideological as Koch is right-wing. Perhaps more so. But the Sentinel article doesn't touch on that even though the comparison is crucial to a balanced story.
Strings lead from the EHSC in Maine directly to San Francisco, home of what is perhaps the nation's leading funder of left-wing causes. On the EHSC website, tucked away at the bottom of the Directors and Advisors page, is this:
The Environmental Health Strategy Center is a Maine based organization that operates as a project of the Tides Center, a national 501(c)3 organization that employs the staff and provides management and financial services to the Center. The Tides Center Board of Directors is responsible for all of our legal, taxation, and regulatory issues..."
That leaves little doubt about who is pullng the EHSC strings.
It's the very same Tides Center that liberal mega-foundations and macro-wealthy lefties like George Soros use to channel huge amounts of cash to left-wing anti-consumer groups such as Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council. And, of course, to such radical groups as Move-On.org, whose nasty "Gen. Betray-Us" ad will live in infamy.
The Center serves as a conduit through which the shadowy Tides Foundation -- shadowy because legally it doesn't have to report the money it receives -- accepts donors' money and passes it through the Tides Center to finance various left-wing causes. Thus the original donor is never publicly identified.
Now all of this really is legal, as are the Koch donations. But too often journalists, as in this case, seem to be much more certain about the motives of those who fund right-wing causes than they are about those whose donations prop up the "progressive" left.
If Koch is identified as a right-wing organization, as it is in the Sentinel article, than the Tides-sponsored EHSC should be clearly identified as left-wing. That would provide much needed context for Belliveau's critical comments.
As it stands, the article is a good example of the kind of unfair reporting that has already sent the media spiraling to new lows in public perception.