On March 14, 1990, in Washington, Greenpeace held a press conference to announce and introduce its report called ``Breaking Down the Degradable Plastics Scam.'' The room was filled with over 60 news reporters and nine videographers from general, environmental and business news organizations. Also attending were five representatives of the Degradable Plastics (now Polymers) Council, part of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
Socialist erstwhile ``educator'' and Greenpeace hack Barry Commoner led the plastics-bashing. It halted when one audience member asked him, ``Mr. Commoner, isn't this really just a simple dispute between the paper bag industry and the plastic bag industry, and isn't what really bothers you the fact that consumers have shown an increasing preference for plastic bags because they're stronger, waterproof, less expensive and more convenient to —''
At that point, Greenpeace moderator Michael Rappoport circled his arm high in the air and brought it down with a flourish. ``Sir,'' he derisively shouted. ``If you're here as a representative of the plastics industry, we'd appreciate your paying for one-half the rental of this room. Next question!''
A quiet hush filled the room. The next question was asked. As Commoner was answering, a Greenpeace staffer slid to the stage and slipped a note to Rappoport at the podium. Tension filled Rappoport's visage.
At the close of Commoner's answer, Rappoport looked back at his rudely squelched prior questioner and said, ``Mr. Handlesman, it's been brought to my attention that you're not a member of the plastics industry but, in fact, a member of the news media. What I said before was inappropriate, and I apologize. Would you like to ask your question again?''
Ladies and gentlemen: Meet Steve Handlesman, then pool reporter for NBC-affiliated stations. Oops. A noisy hush filled the room, as he asked his question again.
Flustered, Commoner fumbled his way through a reply that concluded with an assertion that his solution to the environmental problem of plastic bags was to put handles onto paper bags.
Shortly thereafter, the conference crumbled to an end. The facts about Greenpeace's motives and intentions, well-known to some, had become obvious to all. For the next 11/2 hours, DPC representatives answered questions from eight of the nine video news crews, and only CNN Headline News ran any story at all about the Greenpeace report. No news outlet reported on the event, the press conference, the embarrassment to Greenpeace and its self-discreditation. In short, all the media missed the obvious story.
Giving some of the media representatives a bit more credit for cognizance but not for integrity, those who got the story ignored the news. The ``scam'' then was the Greenpeace report. The scam today is the Greenpeace ``biodegradable credit card.''
The plastics industry still has no one to report the facts but itself. Plastics News' May 18 editorial about the news media ``succumbing to sloppy reporting'' is right on target. It's also a fact that the plastics industry remains at the center of the bull's-eye.
George A. Makrauer
ComAd Management Group Inc.
Treasure Island, Fla.