The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel continued its special report on the chemical industry this weekend with a story that takes a critical look at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s social media-based Internet campaign aimed at the millennial generation. On the Web, the story features a big photo of SPI President Bill Carteaux (although the story notes that he declined to comment). It describes SPI as a group that "represents manufacturers of thousands of products made with BPA." To translate that, let's note that bisphenol A is a feedstock used to make polycarbonate, and that some -- but certainly not a majority -- of SPI members use polycarbonate. The report quotes from a June video of Carteaux, apparently from his speech at NPE2009. Here's the nut graph -- the part of the story that sums up for readers the essence of the news:
The industry has launched an unprecedented public relations blitz that uses many of the same tactics -- and people -- the tobacco industry used in its decades-long fight against regulation. This time, the industry's arsenal includes state-of-the-art technology. Their modern-day Trojan horses: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube.The story claims several times that the plastics industry is following the same playbook as the tobacco industry in managing public and regulatory concerns about product safety. It concludes with some quotes from David Rosner, professor of public health and history at Columbia University, and co-author of "Deceit and Denial: the Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution."
"If I hadn't studied how this industry has operated in the past, I would say I was shocked," Rosner said. "But this attempt to deflect and distort public opinion is par for the course. They will ultimately do virtually anything to protect their product, even attack the messengers." He added: "We're watching a propaganda campaign in the making."I question why SPI didn't talk to the Milwaukee reporters for this story. Perhaps they didn't think they'd get a fair hearing. Now that the tobacco industry comparison is on the table, I expect SPI will respond.