Friday, April 03, 2015

Amitai Etzioni and Willie Soon


Amitai Etzioni and Willie Soon are amongst the oddest of odd couples.  Soon, of course, is eminently forgettable, noticeable only for his incompetence and self regard, who, to keep the wolf from the door went looking for funding from the fossil fuel industry and delivered what was required.  Much of Soon's trouble arises from the conditions of his support, that he was to allow review by his funders and did not acknowledge their support in his publications.

Etzioni, one could argue, is one of the world's best known sociologists.  Got his own institute.  Got his own blog.  Got his own theory, communitarianism, which looks to Eli like an attempt to graft good neighborliness onto libertarianism.  Past president of the American Sociological Institute.  H number in the mid 40s.

But Eli has come across a chapter in Etzioni's past which draws him close to Willie Soon.  As the bunnies will see, Etzioni may, or may not have crossed the line to the dark side, but he certainly skated right on the line, if not over.  Not surprisingly the dark side for Etzioni was the tobacco industry and the source of documents that Eli found in this most tangled of tales was the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL).  Not surprisingly Etzioni was much more skillful than Soon at maintaining implausible deniability.

The LTDL is not complete, but it does lay out one particular interaction of Etzioni in detail, a grant for a project entitled "Extreme and Moderate Responses to Exercise of Individual Rights".  This project appears to have grown from the Tobacco Institute Legislative meeting in early 1990.  Etzioni was paid a fee of $10,000 and first class travel expenses to discuss

. . . the general topic of "social trends" would be a very timely area for you to address. We can talk in more detail over lunch after the first of the year. We will, of course, provide you with a room and meals and will reimburse round-trip first class airfare for you and your guest. We will also pay an honorarium in the amount of $10,000.
It appears that one outcome of this meeting was a preliminary proposal that Prof. Etzioni submitted in February to the Tobacco Institute.  The hook, was the purpose of the proposed study
To examine reactions of the public to adults exercising choices which some segments of the public strongly disapprove, such as the wearing of furs, smoking, obsenities on records. To study the continuum of reactions, from censorship to violence, and examine their moral standing from the viewpoint of widely held public philosophies, such as libertarians, conservatives, communitarians and others.  
Early on the tobacco industry was very concerned with efforts to move smoking out of buildings and businesses.  One of their tactics was to claim that the rights of smokers were being ignored and that smokers were being persecuted.  A memo from 1984 catches some of this,
Pointing out that it's time to question this unbridled hostility toward smokers, we will then present the American Cancer Society's defense of their practices, with emphasis on the "Great American Smoke-Out ." This necessarily narrow defense will be put into broader perspective by a noted member of the psychiatric community, a spokesperson for the American Jewish community, or social behavioralist . Names that fit this category are 
 • Bruno Bettleheim
• Hyman Bookbinder
• Amitai Etzioni 
This juxtaposition of opinions will reveal the underlying denial of rights practiced by anti-smoking zealots . 
the objectives were to

  • bring national attention to the abusive treatment of cigarette smokers instigated by the American Cancer Society; 
  • to heighten the public's awareness of the increasingly hostile treatment of the American Cancer Society adherents in relation to those who chose to smoke cigarettes ;
  • to demonstrate to the American people that the segmentation, of smokers is parallel to, that of the Jews in Nazi Germany, or blacks before the Civil Rights movement; that the American Cancer Society's practices have lead!to acts of physical and psychological violence against smokers, and the potential for even more . 

Deja vue all over again Eli knows, but the playbook was written by big tobacco and is being followed by big fossil.  In Etzioni's preliminary proposal there was an interesting comment about funding
Funding. While the project will be conducted, as all others by the Center for Policy Research, as a completely autonomous undertaking, in view of the strong sensitivities involved, the project will not be undertaken until there is funding from several different (at least three) sources.  
showing that Etzioni was, shall Eli say it, quite sensitive to being funded by the smokey side, at least alone and displaying the sort of caution that would have served Willie Soon well.

The Tobacco Institute Executive Committee met on April 5, 1990 to consider the preliminary proposal.  After some scene setting

OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, THERE HAVE BEEN CASES OF SCIENTISTS CENSORED WITH THREATS OVER FUNDING OR TENURE IF THEY GOT INVOLVED WITH THE SMOKING ISSUE IN A DISPASSIONATE, OR OBJECTIVE WAY. THERE HAVE BEEN AIR TRAVELERS HARASSED OR ARRESTED IN DISPUTES OVER SMOKING ON AIRCRAFT. . . 
The Etzioni project was described
ETZIONI HAS PROPOSED TO EXAMINE PUBLIC REACTION TO ADULTS EXERCISING CHOICES WHICH SOME SEGMENTS OF THE PUBLIC STRONGLY DISAPPROVE SUCH AS SMOKING OR THE WEARING OF FURS. HE WILL LOOK AT THE RANGE OF REACTIONS FROM CENSORSHIP TO VIOLENCE AND EXPLORE THE POLARIZATION NOW FACING THIS SOCIETY ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES.
The project was to have an "incident" gathering first phase (think nut picking) which would be presented to a panel of wise guys who would prepare a report the goal of which was to demonstrate 
THE GOAL OF THE FINAL PRODUCT IS TO DEMONSTRATE THE BREAKDOWN OF DIALOGUE IN THIS SOCIETY WHEN ANTI-GROUPS THREATEN AND ATTACK THOSE WHO MIGHT DISAGREE OR ENTERTAIN A CERTAIN LIFESTYLE. IT WILL SHOW THE ANTI-GROUPS CANNOT TOLERATE COMPROMISE AND THAT IT IMPACTS ON NUMEROUS ISSUES, NOT JUST SMOKING.
Good to know what the research would conclude.  Of course, the resulting report
. . . WILL BE PUBLISHED BY THE CENTER AND WILL BE MARKETED TO OPINION LEADERS IN THE NEWS MEDIA, COLUMNISTS, LEGISLATORS AND OTHERS CONCERNED ABOUT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND THE DIRECTION OF THIS SOCIETY.

The Center, which would publish the report was Etzioni's Center for Policy Research.  The marketeers would be big tobacco.  The Tobacco Institute was on board with Etzioni's suggestions for three of the wise guys, Robert Nozik a libertarian, Michael Walker a communitarian and Herbert Stein from AEI.

Etzoni submitted a budget for $516,186 for both phases, including $150,000 for the principal investigator, Etzioni.  Susan Stuntz of the Tobacco Institute had an interesting comment on the later amount in an April 25, 1990 memo
Per our discussion, I asked several of the Public Affairs consultants for their advice on a fee for Etzioni. Their estimates ranged from $150,000 - $250,000. The high estimate would include publication of a book on the issue, which is not contemplated in this proposal. The estimates are based in part on fees that would be charged by an individual like Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan, for a similar project.
Eli's friend Jules of the Klimaatblog has posted on the involvement of economists as paid help for the tobacco lobby and a longer article is in preparation.

The Tobacco Institute also saw the need for not having their fingerprints all over Etzioni's study.  The Executive Committee presentation foresaw that Etzioni would take care of this
HOWEVER, WE CAN'T BE ALONE IN THIS. IT WILL ALSO HAVE TO INVOLVE THE COOPERATION OF OTHER INDUSTRIES IF IT IS TO BE CREDIBLE AND EFFECTIVE. PROFESSOR ETZIONI WOULD CONTACT OTHER INDUSTRIES ONCE THE THIRD ISSUE IS FINALIZED.
While that appears not to have worked, the US. Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying group that Etzioni had worked with before was pleased to wash the Tobacco Institute money.  Stuntz continued
I have not yet shared this final budget with Etzioni, but am prepared to do so with your approval. At that point, I will return to the U.S. Chamber. 
Part II tomorrow will describe how the US Chamber of Commerce provided cover for the Tobacco Institute and Prof. Etzioni through its National Chamber Foundation.  This must have been decided between the April 5 Executive Committee meeting and the April 25, 1990 Stuntz memo.

Having opened this box, allow Eli to post here an image of what passes for a smoking gun in this case

Good work if you can get it, 50K$ for writing an eight page proposal . 




21 comments:

Roger Jones said...

Interesting post. Somehow at some stage I got put on Etzioni's mailing list and so sometimes read his stuff. It is a strange blend of communitarian and libertarian stuff, so I find it hard to predict where he is going to land on issues affecting US nationalism, for instance. Only the anarchist manages similar sorts of intricate machinations that make little sense to the outsider.
You should ask him where he sits now. Moral disgust is a very interesting topic and well worth studying. But so is manufactured dissent.

Fernando Leanme said...

I'm sort of libertarian, so I can see why this guy would take cash to write libertarian material. I've noticed moral flexibility is quite the norm. For example, I haven't seen much reaction to the Saudi murder of 60 Houthi children, possibly because the powers that be thinks this is justified by their religious affiliations?

When I see what goes on in this world I feel like writing a huge complaint in size 84 font. But in the end, who cares?

nigguraths said...

You still haven't answered the question:

What are you going to do about the fact that the risk of lung cancer from exposure to ETS appears to be low?

If the risk is low, then the tobacco industry would be right to consider their business would be impacted adversely by chasing smokers outdoors.

EliRabett said...

The NIH National Cancer Institute demurrs
----------------------
Inhaling secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmoking adults (4, 5). Approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke (2). The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that living with a smoker increases a nonsmoker’s chances of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent (4).

Secondhand smoke is associated with disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children (4, 5). Exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a person’s heart and blood vessels. It may increase the risk of heart disease by an estimated 25 to 30 percent (4). In the United States, secondhand smoke is thought to cause about 46,000 heart disease deaths each year (8). There may also be a link between exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of stroke and hardening of the arteries; however, additional research is needed to confirm this link.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of children’s lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless (4, 5).
----------------------------

Besides, no bunny dies from measles so why vaccinate people?

metzomagic said...

What are you going to do about the fact that the risk of lung cancer from exposure to ETS appears to be low?

Well, Eli beat me to it, but when are you going to answer the question: is AGW a conspiracy of scientists too, in your humble opinion, shub?

John said...

Etzioni's "communitarian" sociology aims at balancing the values of the community against the rights of the individual. Which raises the question: who defines the values of the community?

Why, it's Etzioni, of course! Clutching his latest book in one hand and his fat check from Big Tobacco in the other hand.

I had a low opinion of Etzioni already, but this ought to be a fatal blow to his reputation.

Florifulgurator said...

The problem of values (individual and community) which troubled philosophers so much has been rendered trivial meanwhile by the problem of AGW.

JohnMashey said...

Search of "secondhand" in the 2014 Surgeon General Report. That is ~1000 pages, similar in size and nature to IPCC WG I, for example.

As Eli knows, (but maybe not some others here), a lot of the damage from smoke (first, second or third-hand) is NOT lung cancer.

nigguraths said...

Eli, what is the RR? The relative risk figures from the various studies are the same regardless of which authority chooses to assess them. You can look at them directly yourself.

Cancer of the lung is a potentially lethal disease. There are lots of irritating substances that trigger asthma government does not need to pass laws about. The evidence-base for second-hand smoke causing all sorts of things is much narrow, and weaker, compared to ETS and lung cancer, which is probably the best studied. The best-studied condition is therefore the touchstone.

So, what are the relative risks? 'Cause if the numbers are weak, going on and on about 'industry' and 'corruption' would be pointless.

Russell Seitz said...

Eli is invited to apply the same principles and a little dimensional analysis to the mass of potentiallly carcinogenic pyrolysis products procued by vehicle engines,home heating, cooking and all forms of domestic fire from candles to incense.

All of which dwarf tobqacoo emissions.

Though i esteem Etzoni's communitarians to be in general enemies of liberty , property and the life of the mind . I think he was bang on in denouncing:


" the abusive treatment of cigarette smokers .... the increasingly hostile treatment of... those who chose to smoke cigarettes and the segmentation, of smokers is parallel to, that of ...blacks before the Civil Rights movement... acts of physical and psychological violence against smokers, and the potential for even more . "

I'll spare you the rest of the indictment of communitarian cultural aggression -- they are still as addicted as the religious right to banning whatever they can.


Russell Seitz said...

Snip, snip s'il vous plait Eli- reCaptcha has gone all clone on us

EliRabett said...

Your command is Eli's word Russell.

Russell Seitz said...

I reserve the right to repeat what follows , if appropriate when we've seen Part III :

What's really amusing in the light of this is what Etzioni wrote in just weeks ago :

"

Limiting what political donors can get, not give

This article was originally published in The Hill.

Redefining bribery would go a long way toward preventing campaign contributions from corrupting our political system.

This could be achieved by limiting what contributors can gain in exchange for their donations rather than by adding or restoring limitations on the amounts they can donate. In this way, the suggested reform would avoid falling afoul of Supreme Court rulings that treat donations as a form of speech and hence deem most limitations on donations to be unconstitutional.

Better yet, the Court has already indicated that it favors a focus on corruption rather than on donations. The Court has repeatedly recognized that the “[g]overnment has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance.” In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014), the Court stated that “disclosure of contributions minimizes the potential for abuse of the campaign finance system [and] may also ‘deter actual corruption and avoid the appearance of corruption by exposing large contributions and expenditures to the light of publicity.’” This raises the question of what constitutes corruption...."

Mal Adapted said...

Russell Seitz: " the abusive treatment of cigarette smokers .... the increasingly hostile treatment of... those who chose to smoke cigarettes and the segmentation, of smokers is parallel to, that of ...blacks before the Civil Rights movement... acts of physical and psychological violence against smokers, and the potential for even more . "

Would calling Etzioni and Seitz tobacco-harmfulness deniers be analogous to saying they're racism deniers? You be the judge.

Russell Seitz said...

There he poe's again.

Matt M said...

"I think he was bang on... blacks before the CR movement"

Are you being serious Russell? Genuine question.

The full quote also compared the treatment of smokers to that of "Jews in Nazi Germany". Was that also "bang on"?

Matt M said...

'There he poe's again"

Sorry Russell. Got it now.

EliRabett said...


To continue being sucked in the memo set off in italics was from 1984 and not from Etzioni, although there are indications (e.g. we all know about Agenda 21) that he may have birthed the thought in a speech he gave to the tobacco industry.

Russell Seitz said...

Well, Matt, why ever would folks banned from luch counters and even the back of the bus, and denied public accomodation, free access to park benches and free association engage in legal activism and civil disobedience?

Mal Adapted said...

Russell: "Well, Matt, why ever would folks banned from luch counters and even the back of the bus, and denied public accomodation, free access to park benches and free association engage in legal activism and civil disobedience?"

Or they could just, you know, stop smoking.

Russell Seitz said...

Mal, were that the case, the third Monday in January would be:

All Your Civil Rights Are Belong To Us Day