There are those among us with integrity and strength of character. They attract our respect and inspire us. Then there are those who are just, well, transparent. They meet our minimum expectations. As certain activists try to shift the debate toward ensuring that everyone is transparent, we assess people less frequently on the basis of their moral fibre. This blog will examine how transparency is value neutral, indicative of a lack of trust and allows for a wide range of double standards by Machiavellian operators. I have found that most of the activists who demand transparency are inherent hypocrites: transparocrites!
Activists like Corporate Europe Observatory’s Martin Pigeon, Le Monde’s Stéphane Foucart, US Right to Know’s Carey Gillam, IARC’s Kate Guyton and Members of the European Parliament like Bart Staes and Maria Heubuch have made a good living banging on about the need for transparency … for others … well … namely for people and organisations they don’t like and don’t trust. They are not themselves transparent. They are transparocrites.
As discussed in the last blog, transparency is not a tool to build trust; it is a trap to undermine trust. These mal-intended little activist zealots know this and would rather be accused of being a hypocrite than fall into their own transparency trap.
Parliamentary Rules are for Losers
Members of the European Green Party have been staunch advocates of transparency on lobbying activities within the European Parliament, touting how open and proactive they are.
Well, … not really! Not if it concerns the Green Party’s own Machiavellian dirty deeds!
Certain Green Party MEPs like Bart Staes are so strict on the right to access all information that they even resorted to using the EU equivalent of a FOIA (Ask the EU) to demand that EFSA release proprietary documents related to the glyphosate assessment. Little did we know at the time that this access to information request was being made by the MEPs on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (who then took these EFSA documents to their scientist).
Bart Staes seems to know his way around the Ask the EU access to documents system (which grants public access to any email exchanges with EU officials). As a Belgian, when I contacted my MEP, Mr Staes, for an official request in his function as a European official (to invite him to speak to my university students), he replied to me via his Belgian Green Party email address, groen.be. I was stunned: my official and open correspondence with my Belgian Green Party MEP suddenly became confidential and inaccessible to the European taxpayer. If he had used his europarl.europa.eu email address, others would have been able to demand access to these mails.
And Bart never did reply to my request for him to be transparent on how much the European taxpayer had to shell out for the Green Party’s invitation to the American lobbyist and Monsanto witch-hunter, Carey Gillam, to come to Brussels to show us hopeless Europeans how to beat up on the Big M! While the European Green Party talks big about transparency, for Bart, the rules evidently don’t apply to him.
Then there is the German Green Party MEP, Maria Heubuch (the one who introduced a motion in the Parliament to deny Africans access to agritech). She had the temerity to confront EFSA director, Bernhard Url, in the European Parliament (see intervention at 15:33) and lecture him for what she perceived as EFSA’s lack of transparency.
“You said an awful lot about trust: trust in the institutions, trustworthy assessments. … If you want to build trust, then transparency is the key word. … These are all matters where access itself can create more trust because it can usher in more transparency. And there has to be no link with industry.” (EP interpreter’s translation)
Fine words from Heubuch and we should give it some consideration … if she ever would have thought she, herself, needed to be, well, … transparent. Like Bart Staes, Heubuch is well aware that any emails she sends from her europarl.europa.eu address would become accessible via the Ask the EU freedom of information site. So last year when she decided to attend the secret NGO activist meeting in Berlin to prepare a strategy to block the Bayer-Monsanto merger, she used her Gmail account to keep up with the activist NGO subversive strategy and progress in their attack on industry. You can find her personal email here. Yes Maria, access does lead to transparency and, as you say, “more trust” … so why don’t you offer access to European citizens?
Saint Martin of the Corporate Europe
One of the first blogs I had written as the Risk-Monger was entitled Corporate Europe Hypocrisy examining how CEO, a small front-group for the Transnational Institute, could make its mark attacking front-groups; how a pro-transparency NGO could work so hard to hide its tracks; how a group of activists trying to expose industry funding would accept money from almost anyone (regardless how unethical their objectives might be). This motley crew of anti-industry, anti-trade Machiavellian anarchists has a single-minded purpose: to interfere with the main institutions of the European Union, block innovations, trade and development. They have never seen an initiative out of Brussels they did not hate and try to stop.
Recently, the leader of this transient pack of wolves has fallen on the shoulders of Martin Pigeon, fighting to screw European science, to screw European innovation and to screw European trade. He has been using his role of instigator to raise fears about extremely small cancer risks (from burnt toast to glyphosate). Does Martin take these risks seriously? He smokes about a pack of cigarettes a day (but still he bashes Big Tobacco as well!). Conflicted or oblivious? Neither, I’m afraid. Martin is a 9-to-5 activist. When the time-sheet shuts down, so do his ideals and values.
What CEO has come to exemplify is an unbridled hypocrisy, and no one has captured that capacity to surrender all values and ideals in order to win more so than Pigeon. Martin defends CEO’s practice of paying off journalists as he fights to protect “democracy”. He then works directly with activist journalists on his payroll like Stéphane Horel and Stéphane Foucart to plant stories in Le Monde about how those evil corporations are “ghost writing” articles in the media. Martin’s greatest achievement to date has been to deny the President of the European Commission from having access to scientific advice. Why? Because it was not in his wolf-pack’s interest. But recently, Saint Martin crossed the line from mere transparocrisy to pure awfulness.
In last month’s Portier Papers scandal, it was revealed that the disgraced American activist scientist, Christopher Portier, had done most of his consulting work in the spring of 2017. This work was funded by two American litigation law firms suing Monsanto, with Portier under non-disclosure clauses and being paid (as of June, 2017) a cool 160,000 USD. But for whom was Portier’s work actually done?
When Martin Pigeon finally got his hands on the EFSA glyphosate research documents, he needed a scientist to pour through the 3000 pages and find some junk that he could use in his campaign to trash the reputation of an important EU institution. But Martin had no budget for such a large task. As revealed in the Portier Papers, Portier was employed by the two American law firms to protect the scientific credibility of IARC, and this meant attacking EFSA and the BfR. His contract was dormant until CEO, with the help of Bart Staes and other Green Party MEPs (see above), was able to deliver the EFSA documents. So Martin Pigeon knew that the scientist he was using to manufacture doubt in EFSA was bought and paid for by two slime-ball law firms with obvious malicious intent and under contractually-enforced secrecy. Did Martin know this activist scientist was freely at CEO’s service the year before when Portier failed to disclose his conflict of interest when authoring his “Facebook Age of Science” letter to Health Commissioner Andriukaitis?
So to sum up, Martin Pigeon campaigns to expose scientists who consult for industry, but if the scientist is paid by law firms profiting from suing the hell out of industry on the basis of secretly contracted (and poorly fabricated) scientific data, and CEO can benefit from these services, then Martin judges this as legitimate and keeps his mouth shut. Transparocrisy at its finest!
Postscript: If you think this little shit could not be any more awful, just wait. When the Portier Papers scandal emerged, Martin Pigeon interviewed Portier (I suspect they talk every day) and got his activist buddies in Le Monde to coordinate with him to fashion a counter-offensive – that this was simply Monsanto’s vicious smear campaign on their esteemed scientist. Martin knew full well that he and Portier were working under the marching orders of two slime-ball litigation law firms profiting from any doubt they could burden on EFSA’s reputation. And yet, when caught out, Saint Martin chose to further attack Monsanto, further diminish EFSA, knowing that Monsanto had nothing to do with my exposé. Then, of course, he desperately turned on me for spreading falsehoods on Portier (because, according to his twisted imagination, my publishing screenshots from Portier’s sworn deposition was “spreading lies”).
One reason we are writing this factsheet to defend Dr Portier is because he helped us a lot in our work. We have therefore analysed the accusations in great detail. He assessed the quality of the raw data we had obtained from EFSA, and performed an analysis of this data which revealed very important limitations in the EU agencies’ work on glyphosate.
And another reason you wrote that factsheet, Martin, is to cover your own lily-white ass. (Sorry Seppi, it is gonna be a bitch to translate that one, but please try your best!)
What would make someone like CEO’s Martin Pigeon give up everything he stood for, sell out and work for a bunch of non-transparent, money-grubbing American litigation snakes? How badly did Martin want to give it to Monsanto that he was willing to forsake his own integrity, reject transparency and go after the shill-bucks he, allegedly, so despises?
Or was Martin just a two-bit 9-to-5 activist doing his job like any old hack?
A Cancer on Transparency
If every there were an international organisation so arrogant and unscientific, it would still pale in comparison to the zealots and activist scientists running amok in IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Here is part of the litany of double standards that this transparocritical agency seems to live by (see sources to these transparocrisies here).
- Scientists in IARC like Kate Guyton and Kurt Straif continuously claim that they are open and transparent (unlike those “industry shills” in EFSA and the BfR) and yet they tell scientists who participate in panels in the US to not share documents or respond to the American freedom of information (transparency) process.
- IARC say they only use documents and research available in the public domain (in keeping with their “transparent evaluation process”). Actually, this is a bald-faced lie. They say they only use peer-reviewed documents, in the case of the glyphosate monograph, when non-published data like the US Agricultural Health Study would interfere with their desired “probably carcinogenic” conclusion. If, however, non-published, proprietary data would help IARC seal the deal on a cancer verdict, they then make their panel members sign confidentiality agreements.
- We hear regularly how the IARC monograph working group process is open, but it seems IARC members go back and edit the documents after the working groups conclude their meeting. Unlike EFSA, IARC do not release draft documents so, in most cases, we do not know how often this non-transparent post-process editing practice happens. But they tell us it’s not too often.
Rather than being open in the selection process of their monograph working group panel members, IARC draws upon their “Old Boy” network of friends and activists. On the glyphosate monograph, for example, Kurt Straif selected an American litigation consultant, Christopher Portier, as special adviser even though he had done no research on glyphosate prior to the meeting.
- As IARC likes to regularly raise the WHO flag, they should then be committed to the UN’s multi-stakeholder engagement process. Not only has this agency systematically excluded industry cancer researchers from their panels and events, they have worked regularly in close relationship with anti-industry NGO activists from USRTK, CEO and GMWatch as well as activist journalists like the ‘Stéphanes’ Horel and Foucart.
- What is most infuriating is that IARC has not openly declared what their real intention with the glyphosate debacle has been: to replace the European regulatory risk assessment process with a hazard-based approach relying on the precautionary principle. When IARC wants their “monograph programme to stimulate change in how chemicals are reviewed”, their goal is to undermine the present process, create public distrust in how European authorities regulate and open the process to a more activist, citizen-science driven process. Not only have IARC been deceptive in their intentions, they are also, quite frankly, scientifically stupid!
My head is spinning when I think of the arrogance of these hypocrites within IARC. They have surrounded themselves with an activist tribe that needs them to succeed in order for the campaigners to win in their battle, first against glyphosate, then GMOs, and ultimately to transform the scientific risk assessment process into a fluid, socially-based, activist-driven series of selective hazard assessments.
IARC have been emboldened enough to refuse to attend a US Congressional hearing into the scandals surrounding IARCgate, because they just can’t seem to stomach openly discussing their “transparent” practices in front of a democratically-elected committee representing their largest funder. No one should feel sad about the defunding of a morally vacant agency incapable of showing respect.
IARC is a transparocritical train wreck.
Christopher Wild’s replacement can’t start soon enough. Hopefully it will be someone who understands what transparency actually means!
Our Blockchain Trust Trap
Why do we tolerate these transparocrites?
As we enter the blockchain economy, failure to be transparent undermines the entire trust system. Blockchain (whether it underwrites sharing a ride, a sofa bed or a cryptocurrency with a complete stranger) relies on everyone fully watching and rating everyone else (no one is trusted unless we all can see you). In other words, it is a trust system emerging out of a post-trust society (thanks Ragnar!).
Without transparency, the sharing economy would collapse. Transparency is a functional tool that allows these emerging open institutions to operate. A recent New Scientist cover story focused on how most people today, with blockchain, find it easier to trust complete strangers than experts or authorities. When Uber, for example, failed to report several cases of sexual abuse, they lost legitimacy and the licence to operate in London. Transparency has become the basis for a hollow perception of trust (a deeper blog on this to follow).
Transparency is indeed hollow and value-free. It is a bastard child born from a lack of trust and carries no inherent ethical principles. A murderer can be transparent. Good people who do not disclose have no credibility. Donald Trump won the US presidential election not on the basis of the strength of his character or experience, but rather because he was able to undermine public trust in Hillary Clinton – showing repeatedly how “Crooked Hillary” was not transparent. The post-trust, transparency-obsessed American voters bought that and delivered the Donald to a nice bit of real estate.
So without any value system to support it, and with the need for society to have some form of trust in order to function, should we be surprised that a collection of truly awful transparocrites use transparency for their own deceptive Machiavellian ends?
At least the Uber that took me to my Airbnb was cheap (and my review will be positive).