Friday, 14 March 2014

Why is the EU paying for hatchet jobs?

I was in Edinburgh recently to talk about drugs with the newly founded Buchanan Institute and had the opportunity to finally meet John Duffy, my co-author of a short report we wrote about minimum pricing in 2012. And a splendid fellow he is too. He has since sent me the e-mail he received from Jonathan Gornall who went on to write the gutter journalism that the BMJ passed off an exposé. I reproduce it below with his permission.


Dear Mr Duffy,

I'm a UK-based journalist working with the British Medical Journal on an EU-sponsored investigation into the role of alcohol industry lobbyists in the formulation of public health policy in the UK and Europe.

Would you be available for a telephone interview at some point in the next week or so? I would like to talk to you about the difficulties/challenges of working on industry-funded research.

I understand that in 1989 you received a grant from the Portman Group, to support your research on alcohol issues and your secondment to the then Alcohol Education and Research Council, and that in 1995 you received a grant from the AERC for further work in the field of alcohol.

More recently, I see you were co-author with Christopher Snowdon of "The minimal evidence for minimum pricing", an Adam Smith Institute paper in which you questioned the validity of the Sheffield alcohol policy model. I would be very interested to discuss how you came to be involved in this piece of work.

For your information, the BMJ work in this area is one strand of the ALICE-RAP initiative, "a trans-disciplinary EU project which aims to help policy makers 're-think and re-shape' current and future approaches to the huge human and economic costs of addictions and lifestyles in Europe". See www.alicerap.eu for more information.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Jonathan Gornall

John didn't reply because (a) he was tipped off that Gornall isn't a serious journalist and was preparing a hatchet job, (b) he doesn't have a high regard for people who get the facts wrong (eg. he was never seconded to the AERC), and (c) he doesn't know any "alcohol industry lobbyists". A few further points are worth making...

1. At no point did I receive an e-mail from Gornall, although I would have happily explained how the ASI minimum pricing report came about (I wrote about it here - the short version is that I presented the idea to ASI. At no point was the booze industry involved and, AFAIK, they didn't know anything about it until it was released. This is trivia, however. It would have made no difference to the evidence and arguments in the report if the drinks industry had been involved because, unlike certain journalists, we are not hacks for hire.)

2. Gornall's claim that he wanted to talk to John "about the difficulties/challenges of working on industry-funded research" is disingenuous to say the least. He was looking for a scandal and when he didn't find one he resorted to insinuation. His misleading e-mail might be considered acceptable for a tabloid looking to entrap someone, but it is not what you'd expect from a medical journal. How telling it is that BMJ is now working with such people.

3. It is appalling, yet predictable, that the EU is funding smear jobs against private citizens in support of a policy (MUP) that is illegal under its own laws. The temperance lobby is a fine example of the Euro Puppet state. The EU has little authority to regulate alcohol itself and so it funds quasi-autonomous organisations that are working towards "a world free from alcohol" (more details here). What is the taxpayer getting for his money when he is forced to pay for ALICE-RAP? Well, it is run by Peter Anderson, a veteran temperance zealot who coined the term 'passive drinking'. One of its 'leading scientists [sic]' is the conspiracy theorist and smear merchant David Miller, a sociologist. ALICE-RAP sees the issue of alcohol as entirely negative and is eager to demonise their opponents, hence the involvement of Miller who appears to be working on an alcohol version of the TobaccoTactics wiki (see Area 4). ALICE-RAP's blog gives a fair idea of its anti-business, anti-freedom, pro-government mindset.

If we want to talk about funding, let's start by asking why EU citizens are being forced to pay for their own vilification.



3 comments:

Sue Wilson said...

I had the pleasure to meet John when he worked in Birmingham. A lovely man with heaps of integrity.
I'm not sure what's happened to the BMJ, it seems to have fallen under the thrall of the public health zealots who want to harass everyone about everything.

Stuart H. said...

Thanks for revealing this, Chris.
It begs a serious question.
If the BMJ is prepared to accept money from one organisation in order to present a one sided story (and it really matters not if that organisation is governmental, NGO or private corporation), then what other organisations (drug companies would be the obvious example ) might also paying for their story to be told favourably?
In the light of this clumsy bit of hackwork, can the BMJ ever again be trusted as an objective source of any information until it explains itself fully?

Stuart H. said...

Thanks for revealing this, Chris.
It begs a serious question.
If the BMJ is prepared to accept money from one organisation in order to present a one sided story (and it really matters not if that organisation is governmental, NGO or private corporation), then what other organisations (drug companies would be the obvious example ) might also paying for their story to be told favourably?
In the light of this clumsy bit of hackwork, can the BMJ ever again be trusted as an objective source of any information until it explains itself fully?