A while back, due to my children residing in Portland and being on Facebook, I was aware of a ballot issue out there to label GMO foods. It failed. What struck me was how the issue was being framed. Posts were appearing excoriating those people so stupid as to believe that GMO foods cause cancer. I immediately spotted public relations at work.
GMO foods do not cause cancer. But that was one “side” of the debate they were having. The other side was that GMO foods are OK. The real issues, capitalist enclosure of the food system and over-reliance on a few strains of seeds for our food supply, were never discussed. Monsanto no doubt wanted it that way. That made the subject win-win. They could point out the stupidity of the debate without ever having the real issue discussed.
That’s how public relations works – an outfit like Monsanto does not cast its fate to the wind and hope for the best. When there is a debate, it wants to own all sides, to “frame” it so that real issues are not discussed.
This came to mind last night as I reluctantly listened to a podcast about the vaccinations debate and the Playboy bunny Jenny McCarthy. That issue too has been framed for our benefit. How many of us, me included, have automatically sided with the drug companies rather than a silly model who poses nude? I was surprised to learn that McCarthy is not anti-vaccination, and does not claim to know that there is a link between that and autism. Something much more interesting is going on, and the arrows point at the usual culprits – not Monsanto this time, but the drug cartel, PhRMA. It is managing the debate by cashing in on public fear of disease.
All I can say at this point is that the podcast opened my eyes a little, so that I have to pay more attention to the issue and stop judging based on stereotypes. McCarthy and others who have taken on the drug giants want to know why the regimen of childhood vaccinations in the United States was expanded from ten
of to 36 around 1989 or so. Most other industrialized countries, with reliable public health systems, stuck with the basic ten, including measles, mumps, diphtheria, etc.
McCarthy is suggesting the PhRMA seized the initiative. Because we are a business-run society, decisions about U.S. public health are not made with public health in mind, but rather corporate bottom lines. McCarthy said that it was a $13 billion industry now. She claims that most of the additional 26 vaccinations that have been added to the regime since 1989 are expensive, unnecessary, and not even known to be safe. Research, double-blind studies, have been done on only one, maybe two of the 36, which is the sole “science” behind industry and the AMA’s claim that all vaccinations are safe.
Jenny McCarthy’s entrance into the debate, especially during a time she was dating Jim Carrey, walked us right into a PR trap. Such people can be automatically discredited. I make no claims about McCarthy’s intelligence or sincerity, but rather the public image of a Playboy bunny in a serious debate. It’s born to lose.
Just as Monsanto took control of the Oregon GMO debate by having stupid people appear on public forums claiming that GMO foods cause cancer, so too has PhRMA taken control of the vaccination debate by having Jenny McCarthy as the spokesperson for the opposition. She may be just an unwitting tool, most likely, but the debate needs to get above and beyond her.