>It would be interesting to track some of these sources down. This may be a
>revival of the story that was going around a few month ago RE: CDC's numbers
>on organic and foodborne illness. This article comes from FSnet, a daily
>news feed out of Guelph.
Andy, it's kinda related, and here's how I see it--not, perhaps, in
content...but certainly in information strategy.
> > From FSnet 8/26/99
> > ORGANIC FOOD CREATES HIGHER RISK FOR FOOD POISONING
> > Aug. 25 /99
> > US Newswire
Here's the original story.
Do you notice that there is no source listed on this item? U.S. Newswire
is not the source. It is the distribution service. USN describes itself thus:
It's a pass-along service.This service takes news feeds from Whoever
and sends them out with the imprimatur of "U.S. Newswire." They have
a "standard of acceptability," but they do not edit, fact-check, or
source-check. They broadcast. OK, that's their niche.
So what if an item comes across, like this organic food one, and
there's no source, and people pass it along as though it were
verified? One could choose to believe it, particularly if predisposed
to believe that organic food is bad. Or one could be skeptical. As
Andy (justifiably) was. And then some little info-termite has to sit
down on a date-less Friday evening and check it. :^)
OK. If you recall, in January of this year, a U.S. Newswire item came
thru various channels bearing the title "Sierra Club Executive
Endorses High-Yield Agriculture." It was un-sourced, but turned out
to be a Hudson Institute (Dennis Avery's organization) press release,
distributed via USN.
At that time, I concluded that USN oughtn't be considered a
completely reputable source, for the above reasons. In a case like
this one, USN has the out of saying, hey, *we* didn't produce this
news, our MEMBERS did. And the member organizations know that their
partisan "reportage" is masked with the U.S. Newswire dateline.
I reported this on SANET.
I have a call in to Bill McCarren, founder of US Newswire; we'll see
if he responds to my request for clarification on USN's requirements
for source identification.
Now let's go on.
> > Marc Morano
> > WASHINGTON -- An investigation by the nationally syndicated television
> > newsmagazine program American Investigator
"Nationally syndicated television newsmagazine program"? Criminy, so
were the McCarthy hearings, when you come down to it. (Ooops...I just
dated myself--were the McCarthy hearings on TV? I wasn't born yet.)
But anyway, hold that reference, please, because I'll come back to it.
As for American Investigator? I never heard of it. But then I haven't
turned on my TV to receive broadcasts since moving to San
Francisco--a few movies and Bill Moyers' interview with George Lucas.
So I did an Alta Vista search on that phrase, and came up with a
bunch of hits, the first ten or so of which 404'd (file not found).
They all had a common URL/domain name:
I truncated one of the URLs and got the home page of The Free
Congress Foundation. "A non-profit, tax-exempt organization."
Washington, DC. In their own words:
"Free Congress Foundation is politically conservative, but it is more
than that: it is also culturally conservative. Most think tanks talk
about tax rates or the environment or welfare policy and occasionally
we do also. But our main focus is on the Culture War. Will America
return to the culture that made it great, our traditional,
Judeo-Christian, Western culture? Or will we continue the long slide
into the cultural and moral decay of political correctness? If we do,
America, once the greatest nation on earth, will become no less than
a third world country."
Apart from the fact that this confused me--here I thought that the
cultures that made America great were African (given that it was
enslaved African agriculturalists and their free descendant
industrial laborers who built the food system and industrial base of
the colonies)--this rang a bell for me.
The founder and head of this organization is Paul Weyrich, one of the
organizers of the ultra-right-wing cabal once the darlings but now
emerging as the plague of the Republican Party. Seems the GOP is no
longer politically correct enough for Weyrich and his cabalistas, and
so he/they are trying to destroy it in his pursuit of a utopian
conservatism that never, ever, compromises on anything, and destroys
any individual Republican lawmaker who vacillates in the slightest
from that standard of perfection. Republican lawmakers who've been
targeted by his wrath (including that leftist enemy of Western
civilization, Orrin Hatch) have designated him as divisive, paranoid,
negative, pessimistic, temperamental, and reactionary. Hey, I'm just
passing along what I've read in conservative journals and heard from
conservative friends. I've never met the man.
Interestingly, he is from Wisconsin, ja hey. In Wisconsin, side by
side with diverse compassionate, courageous Progressives like Bob
LaFollette and Russ Feingold and Erwin Knoll and John Nichols and
Tammy Baldwin, we seem to create snickerdoodle political
reactionaries whose communications appear to reflect a low sense of
self-esteem, a fascination with their own voices, a taste for
demagoguery and extremism, and a spirit mean enough to eat all the
chrome off of a 1955 Olds Super 88.
Weyrich is one of the favored--though perhaps falling out of favor,
since helping bring Newt Gingrich down in last year's putsch--talking
heads of the ultraconservative far-right. He has dabbled in
ultraconservative telecommunications enterprises, and was one of the
founders of NET, an intentionally ideologically driven public affairs
network, founded in 1993, and I believe now defunct, or anyway
moribund. He left it because he said there was a "difference of
viewpoint" on how to conduct the network. For starters, under his
leadership, it was hemorrhaging money, and nobody was watching the
programming. Though TCI's John Malone was really eager to carry it.
Is Weyrich ringing any bells yet? No? Does the Heritage Foundation?
He started it in 1973 with a $1/4-million gift from Joseph Coors, of
the Coors beer empire. Today, the Heritage Foundation has an annual
budget of $25 million. They spend it on research and policy
initiatives. $25 million buys a lot of Free Congress, eh?
So. The Free Congress Foundation, founded and headed up by Paul
Weyrich, produces, among other information products, a TV show called
"The American Investigator." "The only hard-hitting investigative
news program in America today that investigates stories the
establishment would rather sweep under the carpet."
This was news to me, by golly. Welcome to the establishment, organic
farmers!!!!! It was a long wait, do you suppose we'll all get rich
now? Yep, I can see where organic farming would contribute to "the
long slide into the cultural and moral decay of political
correctness." Nothing like clean food, a good work ethic, a sense of
stewardship, and a strong sense of community to grease those skids.
So. Watch those sources, be alert for red flags. The Free Congress
Foundation is an organization for which "news" and "spin" are
indistinguishable. It has a clearly stated political mission, and
admits that its "reportage" is targeted to carry that out. U.S.
Newswire makes no distinction between those pixels and others.
And so we come to this story of organic food being unsafe because
"Organic means a food was grown in animal manure." Oh, golly. I
laughed, then went out and bought a pint of Ben and Jerry's "Bovinity
Divinity" ice cream at my neighborhood store. Half a pint later
<gaaa!>, I returned to a more ruminant state, and realized I felt
deep concern about this story. It's bonky as a jar full of
grasshoppers. The sort of thing I'd've used in my communications
survey courses to teach young folks how to spot and analyze
That doesn't mean it can't be highly damaging.
OK, one last thing:
> Also on record is chief of the CDC's Foodborne
> illness division Robert V. Tauxe, addressing pathogens that thrive in
> manure, "Organic means a food was grown in animal manure."
Here is a late 1997 article by Tauxe on emerging infectious diseases:
Nowhere in this piece does he say a thing about organic growing
methods. In it, he raises quite valid epidemiological concerns. Here
is the abstract:
"The epidemiology of foodborne disease is changing. New pathogens
have emerged, and some have spread worldwide. Many, including
Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and Yersinia
enterocolitica, have reservoirs in healthy food animals, from which
spread to an increasing variety of foods. These pathogens cause
millions of cases of sporadic illness and chronic complications, as
well as large and
challenging outbreaks over many states and nations. Improved
surveillance that combines rapid subtyping methods, cluster
collaborative epidemiologic investigation can identify and halt
large, dispersed outbreaks. Outbreak investigations and case-control
studies of sporadic
cases can identify sources of infection and guide the development of
specific prevention strategies. Better understanding of how pathogens
animal reservoirs is also critical to successful long-term
prevention. In the past, the central challenge of foodborne disease
lay in preventing the
contamination of human food with sewage or animal manure. In the
future, prevention of foodborne disease will increasingly depend on
contamination of feed and water consumed by the animals themselves."
If epidemiologists are observing changes in outbreak patterns, that's
something we in the organics and sustainable ag community need to
know, from an impartial perspective...and it's going to raise a bunch
of research needs, as well.
Also I searched CDC's site on his name, and found 187 documents;
needless to say, even a date-less Friday night would be no excuse for
reading them all. But I smell something here, and it isn't fish. Did
Tauxe really say that? Anyone have CDC connections, who can
fact-check this? I couldn't turn up contact information for him.
> Dr. Cliver ["a food scientist from University of Southern
> California-Davis"]. said, "We can tell you how a hamburger is very
> well done but we can't tell you when manure is very well done."
Oh, HONey--shaaaaaa. There are times when it's *perfectly* clear when
manure is very well done.
PS--A Harvard student has put a copy of a /New Republic/ article
on-line; it profiles Weyrich: "Robespierre of the Right: what I ate
at the revolution"; /The New Republic/, 217:17 (October 27, 1997),
p. 20-. By David Grann.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
Oh, your hands are connected to your arms, your arms are connected to
your shoulders, your shoulders are connected to your body, your body
is connected to your head. Oh, your head is connected to...
nothing... and that explains a lot.
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