Denial-a-Palooza: Does German Media Really Believe There is No Link Between Cigarettes and Lung Cancer?

Tue, 2012-11-27 13:13Kevin Grandia
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Denial-a-Palooza: Does German Media Really Believe There is No Link Between Cigarettes and Lung Cancer?

A US group called the Heartland Institute will be in Munich, Germany this week holding a conference that has become known as “Denial-a-palooza” where a small group of unqualified “experts” gets together to talk about their conspiracy theory that climate change is a “hoax.” This year, Heartland Institute is partnering with the Germany-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE) to host the “Eighth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC8)” November 30 - December 1.

Usually Heartland holds Denial-a-palooza in the United States, but I suspect the group is taking their event overseas where the media is less likely to know the long and sordid details of Heartland's other efforts to attack conventionally accepted scientific conclusions. Not to mention Heartland's offensive Unabomber billboard campaign and a long list of other outrageous stunts. 

Perhaps the Heartland Institute is banking on the German media's failure to Google search for evidence of the group's long history of attacks on science and efforts to confuse the public about climate change and an array or other threats to public health and the planet.

Long before Heartland started raising money from dirty energy interests like the Koch brothers, they were taking money from tobacco companies to downplay the health risks of tobacco smoke.

In fact, the President of Heartland, Joseph Bast, even self-published a book called “Please Don't Poop in My Salad” where he, according to a review on Heartland's Smokers Club site:

“… uses common sense, real science, and the (almost) lost art of of critical thinking to refute and debunk the outlandish claims and comments made by anti-smoking fundamentalists.”

In a 2007 document on Heartland's website, Bast claims that:

“The public health community's campaign to demonize smokers and all forms of tobacco is based on junk science.”

Of course, nowhere in these articles does it mention that, in the last two years alone, Heartland has received $200,000 in funding from tobacco giants Altria (previously named Philip Morris Companies Inc) and Reynolds America.

In a 1999 letter soliciting funding from the tobacco company Philip Morris, Bast wrote:

“Because Heartland does so many things that benefit Philip Morris' bottom line, things that no other organization does, I hope you will consider boosting your general operating support this year to $30,000… We rely heavily on companies like yours…” [my emphasis]

So here we are more than a decade later and Heartland is trying to convince the public that climate change is nothing to worry about, using the same playbook of doubt and confusion that Heartland uses to suggest that tobacco smoke is not a health threat.  As it turns out, tobacco products have ravaged a generation of people with lung cancer, emphysema and all sorts of other horrible and preventable diseases.

Bast is banking on the media overseas not knowing what media here in North America knows about Heartland's shady corporate front group operation. Here, they are an organization completely discredited in the eyes of major media.

So my question now is: Will media in Germany fall for Bast and the Heartland's latest attacks on reputable science and scientists? Will German media cover this year's Denial-a-Palooza with a hefty dose of skepticism, or give them a platform to wrecklessly spread more confusion and doubt?

What do you think?