DDT Hoax Update

Ted Lapkin has objected to my reference to him in my post on the Great DDT Hoax. In his email he writes:

I would very much prefer, if possible, to keep things on an informal basis rather than a legal one. Thus this whole misunderstanding can be cleared up by a retraction and apology on your blog. In that event I would see no need to pursue matters further.

I offered to post his argument as to why he felt that I was wrong, but he declined, saying that it was a private communication. I have posted the paragraph above because I don’t think threats are entitled to privacy.

Meanwhile, the DDT hoax has appeared in The American Spectator, with Gerald and Natalie Sirkin writing:

Sri Lanka (Ceylon), reacting to Silent Spring, in the 1960s gave up DDT. Its malarial cases had decreased from 2.8 million down to 17. After Sri Lanka gave it up, malaria shot back up to over 2.5 million. …

The search for an effective substitute for DDT continues to fail 30 years after the Ruckelshaus ban. The search for a treatment for malaria continues to fail; the mutations of the malaria virus soon make a drug ineffective. The search for a malaria-vaccine continues to fail.

As well as repeating the hoax story about environmentalists pressuring Sri Lanka to give up DDT, they pretend that there are no alternatives to DDT, when in fact there is plety of research that shows that insecticide treated netting is more effective in most places. And they manage to avoid mentioning that mosquitoes can and do develop resistance to DDT while mentioning that the “malaria virus” develops resistance to drugs. (And malaria is not caused by a virus.)


  1. #1 Mithras
    February 26, 2005

    I got the urge to write to Lapkin to urge him to sue you so that you could use a trial (or voluntarily withdrawal of the case on his part) to prove your position. I feel pretty sure the blogosphere would reimburse you for your expenses in smacking him down in a court of law. I wrote the email but didn’t send it, though, because I am not sure if it’s what you’d want. If he did bring a case, even though right would be on your side, it would be a burden on you.

  2. #2 Jonathan Dursi
    February 26, 2005

    I don’t understand — why the threat? Because you quoted him?

    I’ll certainly ante up some money, if it comes to that.

  3. #3 Brian S.
    February 27, 2005

    I’ve republished excerpts of Tim’s post that refer to Lapkin on my own little blog, at:


    I’d encourage other people to do the same – just make sure you include this sentence of Tim’s: “That doesn’t mean that all the writers above were being deliberately misleading: they might be just repeating what another anti-environmentalist wrote and be unaware of the true story.”

    I have to let Lapkin know so he can send me hate mail also.

  4. #4 Thomas Palm
    February 27, 2005

    Litigation is a typical approach used by people who realize they have run out of arguments. If you can’t win intellectually, maybe you can scare the others to shut up. You’d better pick a target likely to fold, however, or you will end up looking like an even bigger fool, for exemple like Uri Geller vs. James Randi.

  5. #5 Aaron Swartz
    February 27, 2005

    Can you at least describe Lapkin’s argument? Now I’m all curious.

  6. #6 not creatively snipping...
    February 27, 2005

    I have to say I am interested in this, although I am unaware of Australia’s law regarding defamation.

    If I understand your logic (and I may have it wrong, so please correct me if I am wrong), you have characterised Lapkin as an “anti-environmentalist writer”, and then said his story is not credible, that what he wrote was a hoax (in my dictionary, a joke or deception); or that alternatively, he might be a plagiarist and unaware of the true story.

    If I was a professional writer, whose reputation went by the strength of his word, those words could conceivably damage my reputation.

    Of course, there is always the defence of truth!



  7. #7 Mike
    February 27, 2005

    Having read Lapkin’s piece, and what Tim referenced concerning it, I can’t see how anything here is remotely actionable. In fact, I’d say it was fairly mild criticism of the piece, actually more disagreement than criticism.

    Christ, can’t we disagree without threatening to sue? The impression of the author that I got from reading Lapkin’s column was favourable. I thought it was well-written and well-argued. His silly, malicious threat to sue has undone all that in my books.

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    February 27, 2005

    Lapkin contends that his clause

    When Sri Lankan authorities agreed to ban DDT during the mid-1960s

    does not imply that their agreement was a response to environmentalist pressure.

    I think he was just trying to intimidate me and has not the slightest intention of suing me.

  9. #9 jemima
    February 28, 2005

    Per you’re a prat; you write like my grandma but without her good sense and decency.

  10. #10 Steve Reuland
    February 28, 2005

    Malaria *virus*? Oh my. I guess we should thank them for making it obvious that they didn’t do any background research.

  11. #11 Brian Ritzel
    February 28, 2005

    Maybe someone should write to The American Spectator and explain that malaria is caused by bacteria, and then we can sit back and get another good laugh at their “correction”.

    After which we can write in and explain that it is a amoebic disease.

    (Sometimes I just crack myself up.)

  12. #12 liberal
    March 1, 2005

    Brian Ritzel wrote, Maybe someone should write to The American Spectator and explain that malaria is caused by bacteria.

    The malaria parasite is not a bacterium. In fact, it’s a eukaryote.

  13. #13 Carleton Wu
    March 1, 2005

    I think that that was his point- you can tell the Spectator just about anything you want, they neither know nor care to know about the science of the matter. They merely want to score their political points and then go on their merry way.

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