Opportunistic Scaremongering

By Keith Kloor | May 28, 2014 10:30 am

In 2008, the animals rights group PETA was lambasted for a new ad campaign.

Although the billboards were quickly taken down, the ridiculous article discussing the supposed link between autism and milk remains on the group’s website. Steven Novella and a columnist for the Telegraph (among others?) seem to have just discovered the article and mistaken it for a new campaign. Still, it’s worth noting one thing the Telegraph columnist said about the PETA article. He called it “opportunistic scaremongering.”

This is a common tactic of activists. More recently, anti-biotech activists have been claiming a link between GMOs and autism. Many who are zealous about a cause turn into opportunistic fear-mongers. And that, combined with the media’s penchant for alarming stories, seems to be harmful to people’s health.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: autism, biotechnology, GMOs
MORE ABOUT: autism, biotechnology, GMOs, PETA
  • Conqueringlion

    When I saw the headline I thought it was going to be an article about how Western governments use scare tactics to advance elite interests; terrorism, bank bail outs, crime etc etc

    • Eriel Ramos-Pizarro

      Same gun, different shooter, different target

  • mem_somerville

    Maybe it’s not new, but these things are freakin’ zombies. They rise from the dead on social media and start making the rounds among the faithful really quickly. And there are new folks seeing it via that route. So it has to be addressed, again. What else can you do? Let it go?

    Same thing yesterday with a cancer hoax email that claimed to be from Hopkins.

    And again, this is the place we find ourselves. No amount of calm, reasoned, informative, self-affirming knowledge that the scicomm professionals want us to use stops this manure from being spread again.

  • Tom Scharf

    Trying to think of another glaring example of opportunistic scaremongering that makes the news cycle almost every day…..

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Keith Kloor

      Heh, heh, I knew I could count on you to wonder aloud about that.

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Do you breathe through your nose? All the filth in the world – including what other people sneeze out – is rocketing into your brain. Only rectal breathing can liberate you from lifelong debility and death.

    Pulsed Extreme Toidy Anasphyxia or death. It’s your choice to make the right choice, our choice. Anybody who disagrees is thereby proven unqualified to comment. Through our efforts the intelligent can be remedied.

  • Bearpants42

    This is why I only feed my baby Mt.Dew

  • EthanCooper

    I worked with children and adults with autism and other disabilities. Some people have had a reduction in symptoms when they change their diets. I think it’s perfectly fine that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put out the information that cutting out dairy products may help reduce symptoms. I mean, obviously PETA doesn’t agree with the way cows on dairy farms are repeatedly impregnated and have their babies taken away from them within days so people can take the milk. So of course that is PETA’s mission, to encourage more people not to drink it. But if the information helps people suffering from autism, I don’t see how that is a bad thing.

    • JH

      “some people have had a reduction in symptoms when they change their diets”

      Some people respond to treatment with placebos too. That doesn’t make placebos an effective treatment.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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