Utah State University
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This 3 page Study Guide was uploaded by Cody Eliason on Wednesday September 7, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to SS 1010 at University of Utah taught by Dr. Frank in Winter2015. Since its upload, it has received 3 views. For similar materials see SS 1010 in Sociology at University of Utah.
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Date Created: 09/07/16
Cody Eliason Sister Seminario ENG 201 Merchants of Doubt Nowadays, even a kid could tell you that smoking kills. But this now wellknown fact was not such common knowledge in the second half of the twentieth century. It’s shocking now, but plenty of people had no idea about smoking’s adverse health effects. But did the tobacco industry itself know about its product’s dirty secret? Absolutely. In fact, they knew that smoking was harmful as early as the 1950s when the tobacco industry first came under scrutiny regarding the adverse effects of cigarettes. Realizing that they had to take action, in 1953, the four biggest tobacco companies in the United States – American Tobacco, Benson and Hedges, Philip Morris and US Tobacco – joined forces in defense of their industry. Their strategy? To hire a PR firm, Hill and Knowlton, to save tobacco’s deteriorating image. This same decision would later be used as evidence in court to prove that the tobacco industry was well aware of its product’s harmful effects, and had thus knowingly misled their customers. The strategy itself was simple: simply cast doubt on the idea that smoking was bad for your health. So, as more research indicating tobacco’s harmful effects began to emerge in the 1960s and ‘70s, the tobacco companies opted for the only strategy at their disposal: challenging scientifically proven facts by propagating doubt about their validity. For instance, in 1979, the tobacco industry began a program that funded top universities like Harvard. They committed $45 million over six years for one purpose: to prove that smoking was not connected to health problems. Nearly every pressing public issue, from the danger of cigarettes to climate change, has been misrepresented by the media for political purposes. The weapon of choice for those attacking the scientific proof behind these problems has been the aggressive propagation of doubt and false information intended to mislead the public. As I ponder over the effects that propaganda has had in this country, I cannot help but think towards the state that we are currently in. We have shifted into a direction where free speech is more available for more people than ever before. I can blog, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and tweet my opinions. The key word there being "opinions". In the sense of the book, what was so critical was the trust that we vested in these agencies. Namely, Harvard for example. When a professor from Harvard stands and declares that smoking is not bad for our health, we tend to believe him. Why? Because people that teach at Harvard are correct and hold the truth. But wait, it's, wasn't the truth was it? Beyonce and her lyrics are they correct? What about that "out dated" book called the Bible? Why am I supposed to follow the teachings that lay within its pages? While this country has progressed along, more voices have started to be heard. That is, more platforms have been created to perpetuate the opinions ideas, and "facts". While more platforms may be the case, I can also say that more voices do not lead to more truth. Something I have been pondering is the value that we lend to prediction analysis, namely ESPN. I watch as anchors and hosts argue about who the “best” in the league is. Doing so, they are paid millions of dollars. What is the truth? There is no truth in those conversations because it is all objective and opinion driven. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just distraction and it’s just something to pass time. Then there are real issues like abortion and human rights. More voices have just muddied the water and led to people being more creative in amplifying their voice. I have learned that there are many voices competing for attention in this world. Some are speaking up for truth and some are a distraction. It is up to us to search deeply in finding what is real and what is phony.
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