This section concludes the third chapter of SlimeGate by examining how easy it has become for an ambitious tort-tort to destroy the public trust in science … and why they would. Like any rot or infestation, Predatort opportunism festers on weakness, in this case the decline of leadership in the scientific institutions.
There has been a steady stream of statisticians, epidemiologists, toxicologists, oncologists and clinicians leaving their labs, universities, hospitals or government posts to work as litigation consultants for tort law firms. It is a seller’s market with around 15,000 ongoing lawsuits in US courts against both Bayer on glyphosate and Johnson & Johnson on talc. It’s pretty easy work – using simple words for juries comprised of non-scientific individuals while holding one’s nose as Predatorts twist these words for dramatic effect. What is their motivation?
SlimeGate has shown how moving from the data spreadsheet to the tort-tort timesheet can be a very lucrative career shift. At an average billing rate of $500/hour for research, prep, interviews, travel (on private jets), expert witness time and follow-up (much more if there are supplementary hearings), it is not uncommon for these scientists to net hundreds of thousands from a single case (and there are tens of thousands of cases for any chemical substance). This chapter has shown how some tort-torts like Peter Infante have made millions during decades of tort-tort consulting on a singe substance. We have also seen how oncologists like Chadi Nabham left their profession treating cancer patients to “Serve the Slime” full time.
But is it simply a case of the dash for cash? Are scientists in it for anything more than simple greed? This conclusion of Chapter 3 will show how it is not at all about science. These opportunists have left the lab for the lawyer and this song and dance they would perform in front of a jury of 12 Angry Men is pure theatre (and often embarrassingly ridiculous). Their white coats are grey, wrinkled and worn as they wait for the cheques to be drafted; these tort-torts have become hollow shells and shadows of what used to inspire them in earlier days.
But they’re rich beyond their wildest dreams…
The Tobacco Trauma
… but was it just about the money?
A century from now, analysts will look at how the last fifty years of regulatory science was traumatised by the contradictions of tobacco legislation. Faced with clear scientific evidence that smoking cigarettes shortens lives, the anti-smoking lobby had been unable to move governments to reduce their addictions to excise taxes or promote reduced-harm alternatives. Imagine the frustration a regulatory scientist must have felt trying to promote public health while seeing industry continue to lobby to keep tobacco products on the market? The meaninglessness of a health practitioner’s purpose in life couldn’t have been more castrated as smoking-related cancers continued to increase in the 1970s and 80s … and the best these highly qualified professionals could do was regulatory nibbles around the edges of the cigarette industry’s hold on the decision-makers (a few warning labels and control on under-age marketing hardly satiated their thirst for justice). This regulatory impotence became comedic material.
In their long careers, these scientists learnt that regulation was not the most effective tool to protect public health. In their long careers, these scientists learnt that science and evidence didn’t advance their positions. In their long careers, these scientists learnt other means to impose their interests.
Some abandoned the democratic process and became regulatory vigilantes.
Many of these bitter regulatory scientists highlighted in this chapter are now retiring and it’s time to settle some scores, seek atonement and … well … find religion. They saw their tobacco nemeses brought down in the last decades not by facts and evidence, but by the relentless litigation and cunning of the Predatort. In this world, it became clear to them the only thing that could conquer greed was … well … more greed (crass, vulgar and slimy greed that knew no bounds). It became clear to these dispossessed (and frightfully obsessed) regulatory scientists that these lawyers, however dim, crass and awful, were more effective than their bosses. It became clear to them that if they wanted to protect public health, they would have to leave the lab for the lawyer.
The most interesting revelation in this chapter was how scientists like Bernie Goldstein were openly promoting an alternative regulatory tool via the lawsuit referred to as “adversarial regulation“. From the tobacco debacle, these regulatory scientists discovered that changing corporate (and public) behaviour was far more efficient if you sued the hell out a company until they either abandoned a substance or went out of business. Goldstein proudly boasted that this approach was more effective than the precautionary principle. He may be right. But it is in no way democratic, scientific or ethical (and Bernie seemed alarmed when I delivered that wake-up call to him).
The air around the Ramazzini Institute was so polluted by hubris that these slimy scientists had not realised they had become as awful as the Predatorts who signed their cheques (more on that in Chapter 5).
La Jolla Revisited (again)
SlimeGate started with an examination of the meeting of academics, lawyers and activists in La Jolla, California to consider how the success of relentless litigation against the tobacco industry could be replicated to change behaviour in other industries. They looked at how tobacconisation could be applied to eliminate the petroleum industry. A strategy was kindly written and published for all to see and in the last few years has been diligently applied.
For a reminder, here is a quote from the last section on how La Jolla was applied to the glyphosate issue:
The La Jolla Playbook was simple. Connect a harm (eg, cancer) with a cause (eg, tobacco). Target a company with a bad public reputation or one with a history of ethically challenging decisions (eg Philip Morris, ExxonMobil or Monsanto). Trawl for a large number of victims to overwhelm their defence teams (in hope of out-of-court settlements). Work with activist groups (like anti-smoking lobbies, climate groups or the organic food lobby) to run campaigns to create public outrage to ensure no pool of potential jury members would dare be sympathetic or consider reasonable cash payments. Quietly take your fees to the bank.
When I wrote the Portier Papers, the extent of this practice and the obscene sums involved was not widely known. It has created a wider debate on integrity in the scientific community and the ethics of scientists being involved in mass tort’s destruction of public trust in science and innovation. The further I dug, the more I had shown how IARC has passed into a perpetual state of decrepitude by knowingly engaging in the American adversarial regulatory process of regulating by lawsuit. This wider awareness has made any personal cost paid worth it.
But just imagine the next honeypot to fall under the Predatort Playbook: mobile phones. Scientists presently enriching themselves in court cases from talc to glyphosate to benzene have already staked their authority on that one. All they need to do is find some cancers. More light needs to be shone on these rats.
One last case study:
Nominal T. Science
Tort-torts do not act as scientists. They may have a long CV, an academic career, a list of publications. To outsiders they look like scientists, but when their opportunism comes in, when petty egos are revealed, when the words they speak have been coached by lawyers or NGO communications consultants, when politics and personal reputation lead their decision process … they are scientists merely in the letters after their name.
Having left the lab, these tort-torts spend most of their time managing other people’s money, showing up in courts and writing political pieces. Much of the science they are associated with is funding-related and is more of a human resource management process than one of research and discovery. Take Martyn T Smith for example. As a professor in Berkeley, he teaches two general toxicology courses. The lion’s share of his time (see CV) seemed to be spent managing the 2.5 million USD Superfund grant Berkeley receives annually from the US government (more on this situation in a later chapter). I can only assume, as tradition dictates, that Smith’s name goes on papers produced by post-docs to which these funds have been allocated.
Where is the science here?
To promote these papers, Martyn’s next step is to participate on an IARC panel where he could list his papers as sources on an IARC monograph. This trick, freely acquiesced by the IARC head of monographs, helped add credibility to the professor’s reputation which in turn increased Smith’s attractiveness as a consultant (and hourly rate) on tort law cases. Smith managed, for example, to get 12 of his papers inserted into the IARC monograph 100F on benzene – a field where he was already harvesting a lucrative personal revenue from the Predatorts as an expert witness. But when stripped of his posturing and left on the stage alone, as in the case of Milward, a lower circuit judge threw out Smith’s testimony as “unreliable”.
Earlier in this chapter it was shown how Smith has served as a litigation consultant on lawsuits worth millions. It was also exposed how IARC edited out Smith’s conflict of interest in participating on the benzene monograph panel while representing law firms suing benzene manufacturers. It is mind-numbing to try to imagine how Smith finds the time to publish so profusely (as well as lecture and speak) while filling his tort-tort timesheet providing evidence and support to so many law firms. I’ll have to hold my nose until the next chapter, when Smith’s involvement in a Predatort-created NGO: The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) will be examined.
Where is the science here?
As any lower circuit judge could easily identify, there is no science here … but Martyn T Smith has written something of a playbook for academics who want to enjoy the finer things in life. If you are a young scientist who has a penchant for extravagant luxuries and private jets, you might want to take a page out of Smith’s Tort-Tort Playbook.
The Tort-Tort Playbook: How to Become a Millionaire
Chapter 2 of SlimeGate looked at the Plaintiff Playbook (which included how to use scientists), but the tort-torts have their own playbook. It develops as a scientist slowly drifts from the lab-coat to the turncoat, from talking about the opportunities for discovery to discovering new personal opportunities, from solving problems to raising problems. The following are steps many tort-torts have taken as they left the lab for the lawyer.
1. Set up as a Consultancy
Setting up as a one-person consulting firm (use your own name to amplify your notoriety) is the first step for any opportunistic scientific tort-tort. This will allow you to keep your title as a professor and still make millions as a litigation consultant. You can also use this ambiguous status to advise the corporations your law firms are suing!
2. Join Ramazzini and Spend a Week at IARC
The Ramazzini Institute is not only the equivalent of a Rotary Club for activist scientists, it is also a closed circle that protects its own. There is an inexplicably large number of American Ramazzini fellows selected to sit on IARC monograph panels (quite often to assess research they have no expertise in). Once IARC determines a substance to be carcinogenic (and they will), the scientist can return to the US and contact Predatort law firms for opportunities as a litigation consultant (tort-tort). With your Ramazzini friends, you don’t actually need to be an expert in the field – Chris Portier went to IARC for the glyphosate monograph while admitting he had never worked on the substance.
3. Pretend a Hazard-based Assessment has Value
In order to get your name on an IARC monograph panel, you may have to forget what you were taught about risk and hazard, measuring exposures, Paracelsus or basic risk management and buy into the IARC hazard-assessment model. Learn the clever verbal gymnastics IARC officials use when dancing around the term “risk assessment” (this will help you when testifying) and accept that in a court room, if a cancer is remotely possible (at any exposure level) then a jury must convict.
4. Take Advantage of the Broken Peer Review Process
You will need to get yourself published widely. With pay-to-play predatory journals who only nominally review articles in online sites (once the cheque has cleared) we find many tort-torts publishing papers of minimum academic value to maximum reputational effect. As a budding tort-tort, you would need to get your name to appear on papers with long lists of names of other activist scientists (it seems the only work they do on these publications is to follow long email chains about whose name goes first).
Quality doesn’t matter in most of these online journals. Did any academic take seriously the paper published by Gilles-Eric Séralini where he “demonstrated” that a majority of people could taste pesticides in their wine? If you pay an obscure (academic-sounding) journal $2000, they will give you a seal of approval and let your network of interests and opportunists amplify your desired message. Quite often these bent scientists peer review each other’s papers and interlink them to create a wider perception of consensus, increasing their marketability as qualified litigation consultants.
5. Sell your Name to the Highest Bidder
If the cost of publishing is too high, get an interested third party to pay your bills. While there is something vulgar about an academic buying his or her expertise, this pales in comparison to how some NGOs and law firms are buying academics to manufacture expertise. US Right to Know, for example, are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars paying professors to publish articles in their names that can be used to amplify their lobbying campaigns. (There will be a full section dedicated to US Right to Know’s boorish strategy in Chapter 4 of SlimeGate.) These articles are then used to influence policy, provoke media attention and generate public (jury) outrage. Good money for the integrity challenged but the damage to the reputation of science … priceless!
6. Sign up with Several Predatort Firms
This is the easy part as Predatorts are constantly looking to increase their consultant pools and don’t have quality issues. If you know other tort-torts, are a paid-up fellow at Collegium Ramazzini and have Linda Birnbaum’s consent, the only difficulty will be finding the time to read all the special clauses in your contract and the “perception training” weekend.
7. Find Activist-friendly Journalists to Raise your Profile
Journalists know that fear sells more ink than facts so anyone with a PhD and an axe to grind will get media attention (which should augment your tort-tort billing rate). While some activists like Carey Gillam (sorry: “award-winning author and journalist“) have tort-torts like Chris Portier, Aaron Blair and Chuck Benbrook on speed dial, others have a hard time finding media contacts. That’s why IARC’s acting head of its monograph programme, Kate Guyton, spends her time farming out activist media contacts to her cabal of tort-tort scientists. Other “journalists” like LeMonde’s Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel have confused “reporting the news” with “making the news” to the point where a group of outraged scientists in French-speaking countries have started a movement called #NoFakeScience.
8. Accept the Public Ignorance of Science
You will have to learn to testify in a courtroom where most jury members will have very limited scientific understanding. Your job is not to educate them (… it is to scare them). Predatorts will train you to talk in the vernacular. There will be no challenges or difficult questions (jury members are turned off by erudite expressions or complex language) and you will not have to do any preparations or additional research. As most prostitutes repeatedly tell themselves: “This will only last a few minutes!”. And it is indeed easy money since, with the anti-industry narrative, no one outside of the courtroom will take notice of your involvement.
9. Mollify your Conscience
While some people may have ethical issues about using hazard-based nonsense to create unfounded fear used to extort large sums of money (knowing consumers will have to pay for the party), you will need to convince yourself that some good is coming out of your involvement in this deceptive swindle. You might find solace in thinking that these companies will eventually go bankrupt and no longer be able to continue their business practices (even if firms like Bayer or J&J are the main companies researching to find cures for many cancers). Your conscience may be comforted by the adulation of the anti-industry activists who will regard your actions as heroic vigilantism (and key to their revolutionary ambitions). When the scientific risk assessment process is replaced by their citizen panels, they might remember your name.
10. Prepare for a Technophobic World
The Tort-Tort Playbook will do more than simply enrich a small group of scientists. It will move the scientific process further from its roots of discovery towards the role of protecting society from science. As you join lawyers to work with NGOs to create public outrage against technology and research firms, no one should be surprised in a social-media driven world that the public would react against technology in general. The recent rise of anti-vaxxers, chemophobes and naturopaths did not just happen; lawyers like Robert Kennedy Jr or Brent Wisner facilitated them for their own opportunity. These scoundrels will never be sued for increased diseases or global food insecurity.
How could this be possible? How can an institution that has introduced technologies that have cured diseases, solved problems challenging the planet, protected humanity from the ravages of nature and vastly improved our quality of life be taken down by such a cabal of vulgar, petty thieves? In a series of speeches and articles during the spring, I referred to this as the “poison of precaution”. We are moving away from a culture of science confidently driven to discover to one tied to a cultural narrative obsessed with fear and uncertainty. Without leadership from our scientific institutions, the credibility of science is being demolished by activists, opportunists and Predatorts. Scientific evidence is no longer guiding policy; now activists are dictating their policy requirements on scientific bodies. Those standing in the way get removed. The scientists doing the bidding for the activists and Predatorts are well-paid and highly compromised. Those doing actual research and innovation are seeing their opportunities severely curtailed.
This chapter will end on a dark note.
From Evidence-Based Policy to Policy-Based Evidence
The architects of our technological, knowledge-based economies wanted a world of evidence-based or science-led policy. In the late 90s, I was one of those who naively believed and advocated that approach. In the end, we have been burdened with a world of policy-led science, which, in recent years with the push for more citizen involvement, has not been very scientific at all. Policy-led science does not lead to more discovery and innovation; rather, we are left with fear and precaution driving our decisions.
Although there are geographical variations, we can no longer consider ourselves to be in a knowledge-based society. In the subsequent influence-based society, science has very little voice when faced with the wall of sound coming from activists and opportunists.
Without strong leadership in the scientific world, the situation is ripe for Predatorts and activist gurus to identify bent or vulnerable scientists and buy them off. Who will condemn these opportunists? Retracting a bogus paper by Séralini means nothing if he merely needs to turn around and publish his paper in a pay-to-play predatory journal. That word “Retracted” becomes a badge of honour that feeds his social media tribe with further outrage towards “Big Science”. Kicking tort-torts like Chris Portier or Bernie Goldstein out of scientific societies means nothing if they just huddle together in the Ramazzini halls of opportunity. As Liberace once said: “I cried all the way to the bank!”.
Policy-led science has destroyed the institution. Science and scientists are ripe for the picking and where there is opportunity, integrity vanishes and slime forms. While depressing, this chapter highlights the need for the scientific community to actively address the degradation of scientific integrity and how Predatort slime has undermined public trust in science.
The scientific community needs to strengthen its backbone and enforce codes of conduct. The Predatort greed and temptation need to be tempered with transparency and public condemnation. It should not be left to a lowly Brussels-based blogger to show how some scientists have compromised the public trust and at what price. If rules and standards are not applied, the future for an objective research community will be dim. The evidence part of the policy process will pass to the generalist citizen panel or the frightened jury.
As I see the media vindictively amplifying the orchestrated outrage of the activist and the Predatort while credible scientists are huddling in ever shrinking circles, I fear the Dark Age of Stupid is no long this blogger’s distant prognostication.
Chapter 3 of SlimeGate has shown us how the Predatort industry has identified and used a group of vulnerable scientists for their greed and opportunity (and how some integrity-challenged scientists used the tort process to advance their political interests). The Predatort poison has created a public fear of science and technology that these white-coat patsies have unwittingly promoted. The next chapter looks at how the Predatorts have used the real patsies – NGOs, activists and social media gurus – to spread the public fear and make widespread public outrage the most effective means to prepare a sympathetic jury pool.