SlimeGate is a seven-blog exposé of how lawyers and American tort law firms have manipulated scientists and NGOs to redefine the public narrative on many health and environment issues, fitting them into a more litigation-friendly framework. It will show, in particular, how:
- Law firms secretly pay scientists not only to testify, but to influence policy and public perception;
- Some of these scientists, acting on behalf of law firms, have been able to influence IARC to prepare monographs to fit their litigation opportunities;
- These law firms are working with NGOs to undermine the public perception of certain companies in order to have juries “morally augment” settlement decisions;
- Some NGOs trying to raise awareness on environmental-health issues are physically located in tort law firm offices (mere front groups) and act on behalf of on-going cases;
- Unjustifiable public fears around vaccines, talcum powder and glyphosate have been planted in the collective public consciousness thanks to unscrupulous activist scientists paid by tort law firms seeking means to sue industry;
- A significant funding and direct involvement in activist scientist endeavours at an international level was discreetly channelled out of certain US government offices.
The scientific profession is changing in ways most could never have imagined. Our caricatures of scientists as nerdy, honest, curious and committed to discovery, creatures from another world travelling among us (as portrayed in the TV series: The Big Bang Theory) has been shattered by a number of slimy individuals who have decided to cash in and work for toxic tort law firms. These law firms focus on fleecing industry and taking home handsome fees from manipulated jury pay-outs. To do this, they need to have people in white coats who look credible representing a simplified scientific position and NGOs who can hammer the reputation of a company to the point where no jury is going to dare consider their position.
SlimeGate will look at how certain tort law firms in the US are corrupting science, corrupting public opinion and corrupting the justice system in order to pull in millions of dollars in fees. It will investigate the business model involved, the payouts and who is on the take. The exposé will also look at how lawyers are trying to create a concept of “ecocide” to further pad their bank accounts and settle some personal scores with industry. This series will conclude with how government money is being secretly moved around to keep often this same band of scientists well-fed and ready to act on behalf of a network of slime. Much of this is happening around IARC (the International Agency for Research on Cancer), the most illegitimate international agency to have disgraced the world of science policy.
The Portier Papers Revisited
When I wrote the Portier Papers, my 20-year-long perception of the ethical and professional way scientists behaved (mostly from colleagues and friends) was shattered. I had been raised on the idea that scientists were committed to finding the truth, discovering the secrets of nature and the human body, advancing the body of knowledge and solving problems to improve human health and well-being. If there were disagreements, I naively believed that the scientific method (of robust analysis, replication and attempts to falsify premises) would eventually solve disagreements (on issues from climate change to EMFs to agri-technology). I knew there were those like Séralini or Goulson on the fringe, damaged by their bias, poor training and egos, who would eventually go the way of the flat-earthers and creationists (with small die-hard audiences of the disaffected). I knew that funding could influence research (from industry, NGOs, interested benefactors …) but that conflict of interest reviews and GLP would eventually eliminate any tainted research from the debates, leaving the best available research on the table.
But then I read Christopher Portier’s Daubert Hearing deposition on glyphosate. It woke me up from my dogmatic slumber and introduced me to a corrupt, slimy world where toxic tort law firms were paying off scientists to operate on their behalf. I literally threw up the first time I had read what Portier admitted to, but I soon discovered he was far from alone in his flawed integrity. The goal of these “scientific tort-torts” was to deliver a sciency outcome fit for the court-room. If they did their job, the barrage of litigations against companies would create a generation’s worth of lucrative fees and compensation for the tort lawyers.
I saw how Portier could act on behalf of law firms while ordered to not disclose his funders; how Portier could worm his way onto an IARC panel with no experience working with the substance in question (with the objective of becoming a litigation consultant); how the law firms had something akin to a slush fund to pay off scientists and NGOs in order to harden public perception against substances in question; and how he was charged with defending the IARC hazard-based conclusion that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic while casting doubt on the unanimous findings of the scientific establishment. This was criminal … except that Portier worked for clever lawyers.
This was a scandal, but the research was difficult to come by given how non-transparent these law firms were. It was ironic in my research that I discovered how much was known by transparency gurus like Corporate Europe Observatory’s Martin Pigeon. Martin knew well before me how a large group of activist scientists and NGOs were on the take from a whole cabal of tort law firms, and he was not only benefitting from their secretive services, he was defending them. These were slimeballs, but they were Martin’s slimeballs and the little hypocrite wasn’t going to call for transparency on the hand that was feeding him.
What about USRTK’s chief anti-glyphosate lobbyist, Carey Gillam? She was working directly with several of these law firms, providing client support. Carey, a full-time lobbyist for the organic industry, still calls herself a journalist, indicating she has no idea what the term: conflict of interest means (but she has no problem using it on others). These Machiavellian menaces showed how readily they would hop into bed with anyone who’ll help them nail industry to a cross … and the money’s good!
Whores for the Cause
The whole horrible game made sense (if you separated rationality from any question of integrity or moral decency). US law firms could pull in hundreds of millions of dollars from litigation settlements. So what’s a couple million to a bent scientist wanting to pad his Swiss retirement or a small anti-industry NGO with no fixed address? We were all naïve – Chris Portier was showing up all over the world wherever votes on glyphosate were going on, speaking at high levels in Germany, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Brussels … and we just assumed he was a committed idealist. The Portier Papers popped that bubble for me and got me to look more closely at how deeply these law firms had dug themselves into buying off scientists and manufacturing jury-ready science. How many more Chris Portiers were out there?
It turns out Chris looked like a mere boy scout compared to the slime I found coming to the surface. But his innocence and gung-ho greed lit a trail to a whole cesspool of slime.
I was a wet-behind-the-ears idealist. Slimeball American tort law firms secretly paying these tort-torts to influence debates had never, to me, been part of the scientific endeavour. I had always thought only a few corrupted scientists around the edges would sell their integrity for a honeypot of litigation fees. I had never imagined how these bought-and-paid-for bastards would then try to influence scientific debates, policies and public perceptions for their personal greed. Many NGOs, also on the take, readily amplified these corrupted scientists, putting them on policy pedestals. Carpetbagging US law firms were coming to Brussels (even marching in their cancer victims – a stunt far too vulgar even for the European Parliament) to share the “science” on glyphosate (that they were secretly paying for). “Slime” is the only word I can think of to fit this perversion of policy and science.
This is a serious problem, not only for the reputation of science and the public trust in technology and innovation, but also for the next generation of scientists. Slime generally gathers around shorelines but as it cuts off oxygen, it is capable of spreading quickly. The slimier the surface, the less enticing the water becomes for others thinking of jumping in and taking up careers in the sciences. Many scientists in my community have shared how they have left the academe in disgust. This slime was poisoning science, tempting vulnerable researchers and putting the reputation of science at risk. Once the cheques were cashed, the scientists moved on, leaving decades of irrational public fear on issues that undermined public trust in research and technology. Slime is not accountable.
Today’s public fear of vaccines (and the increasing loss of herd immunity in certain regions of Europe) was thanks to Andrew Wakefield’s work with lawyers hoping to cash in on autism pay-outs from pharmaceutical companies. There is absolutely no scientific justification for the relentless fear-mongering on glyphosate or the ghost of Monsanto (although there is, at present, over 8000 motivations). Farmers will lose a vital tool for sustainable agriculture, but by then, most of the opportunists will have moved on to the lucrative honeypot of GMOs or cell phone radiation lawsuits.
It is time to expose the slime that’s going on and find out how to clean up the putrefying muck that is undermining the public trust in science and technology.
Slime in Seven Chapters
SlimeGate will be a journey into the dark side of science. How certain actors have allowed themselves to be corrupted by easy money while corrupting the reputation of science. How those politicised and ambitious have traded in the lab-coat for the lobbyist path, happier to develop their egos and reputation than the body of knowledge (many, we’ll see, are not very good scientists … having lost the passion to learn and research years ago). How lawyers and litigation opportunities have poisoned those who have lost their way, motivating these “corruptible mercenaries” to manipulate science, has, to my knowledge, not been adequately studied. I suspect these attention hounds will not appreciate the spotlight I’ll be shining on them (and why I will likely need to crowdfund a legal defence fund). There will be six further parts to this exposé (essentially a book) that will serialise the slime on this site over the autumn.
Chapter 2: The Litigation Playbook. The law profession has evolved into a wide variety of distinct specialisations with the tort field having gained a distinct reputation for greed and opportunism. When tobacco and asbestos settlement money dried up, the “cancer tort” industry had to look for other lucrative sources for litigation. IARC, naïve, corruptible and arrogantly anti-industry, proved to be the perfect patsy. This chapter will also look at how lawyers, NGOs and a few Marxist academics have extended the tobacco playbook as a model to denormalise (tobacconise) other industrial sectors and sue them out of existence.
Chapter 3: Portraits of Slime Science. We need to get a picture of what type of scientist would not only willingly become a hired gun for law firms seeking to exploit the tort system, but how they can manipulate the playing field and misuse the public trust in white coats. A new verb: “To Slime” will be introduced to explain how these tort-torts try to influence scientific debates, agencies like IARC and public policy. This portrait will draw from a case study called “The Benzene Bullies”.
Chapter 4: Portraits of Slime Organisations. Many of the scientific tort-torts set up one-person labs or companies to look for opportunities to extort funds from a corrupted system. This chapter will look at how some professors pad their academic salaries with “scientific consulting”. Some serve as Proposition 65 Bounty Hunters while others audaciously present themselves as NGOs (with offices conveniently located within tort law firms).
Chapter 5: IARC and the Business of Cancer Tort. What did IARC know and when? This chapter will look at how closely IARC is tied to the process of its panel members becoming litigation consultants in American tort cases based solely on their monographs. As the new IARC director prepares to take office, from the evidence I have, things will only get slimier. IARC can only ignore its Member States and resist demands for transparency for so long
Chapter 6: Ecocide and the Anti-Industry Industry. The internationalisation of legalistic opportunism is not limited to WHO agencies like IARC. The recent attempt by activists and the organic food lobby to create an international court to condemn industry for crimes against the environment (ecocide) will be examined. We need to understand how lawyers and activists are beginning to manipulate the organisational weaknesses of the UN – from the FAO to the little-known post of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
Chapter 7: Linda’s Cabal. There is an enormous amount of American public funds quietly distributed to accommodate a little band of activist scientists willing to speak up on political issues that certain science regulators find pertinent. Furthermore, US Superfund largesse has created a generation of entitled academics used to living high off the hog.