The politics of product destruction

Jean Card Writer and Communications Consultant
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In the politics of personal destruction, facts are often rudely pushed aside in favor of the dirt. Exposing the personal shortcomings of a candidate, government official, or would-be judge is cheap and easy. We’re often disgusted by it, but it works. Both sides of the political aisle have engaged in this practice and the media are all-too-often willing accomplices, particularly when a progressive or “consumer-friendly” interest is at stake.

A similar practice has developed in the realm of man-made products. From petroleum products to breast implants, pesticides to SUV’s, science is rushed at best and fraudulent at worst.

Of late, we’ve seen this formula applied to a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), an additive that enables plastics to be shatterproof and clear. The so-called consensus, breathlessly advocated in the media, has been that BPA is so dangerous that it needs to be banned by the FDA. Immediately.

Without waiting for the FDA’s determination, at least two major newspapers—the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times—went ahead and editorialized and/or wrote heavily-opinionated stories in favor of an FDA ban. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s impatient criticism was as recent as just a few days ago—on Jan. 6—when they criticized the FDA of moving too slowly on the BPA decision.

This attitude of “hurry up and do what this newspaper says is right” took a hit on Friday when the FDA announced that they will continue to do more research, but, basically, they think that BPA is safe.

How embarrassing for the Los Angeles Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel! I’m sure they will apologize for acting as if they knew better than scientists on this issue.

Yeah, right.

The lesson here is simple: The media should refrain from acting as a jury when it comes to scientific and product-safety issues.

Furthermore, they should take another look at how the liberal left is engaging in politics of product destruction. The left’s strong tendency to label the fruits of capitalism as “bad,” and bodily health and a pristine planet as the only unquestionable “goods” are often proven, well, just wrong. The progressive moral code should therefore be brought into question, not promoted, by the media.

Whether or not you believe that the mainstream media has a liberal bias, you might recognize that the media latches on to product-related scares as lustily as they cover the latest personal business of public figures. Tiger Woods comes to mind. They cover it because it sells, period.

As we have seen many times over many years—from the warnings of a global ice age in the 1970s to the most recent hysteria over global warming, the media sometimes goes so far as to confuse themselves for something they most certainly are not: a jury. Their breathless verdicts that anything-scary-is-true gives fuel to trial lawyers and puts enormous pressure on lawmakers and regulators.

This is precisely what happened with BPA and the members of the media who passed down early “rulings” now have egg on their faces.

Barring the media taking a responsible approach to journalism—and perhaps admitting they are occasionally hasty on some conclusions—consumers must be wary of such media pronouncements. They are rooted in an agenda steeped in ideology, not consumer protection.

Ms. Card is a freelance writer living in Alexandria, Va. She is a former cabinet-level speechwriter and has served in the U.S. departments of Labor, Treasury and Justice.