Miranda Devine spreads DDT hoax

John Quiggin catches Miranda Devine spreading the DDT Hoax in the Sun Herald. If DDT is banned, how come this company will sell you some? They say:

In the past several years, we supplied DDT 75% WDP to Madagascar, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Solomon Island, Papua New Guinea, Algeria, Thailand, Myanmar for Malaria Control project, and won a good reputation from WHO and relevant countries’ government.

I was particularly impressed by this argument from Devine:

Advertisements of the time, which today seem preposterous, extolled it as a benefactor of all humanity, with slogans such as “DDT is good for me-e-e“.

If an advertisement from a company selling DDT says that it is good, then it must be good? Using similar logic I can prove that athletes can smoke as many Camels as they want without it affecting their performance.

Update: Jim Easter, intrigued by the anachronistic Star Trek reference in the DDT ad tracks down the original version.


  1. #1 jre
    June 19, 2005

    Devine’s parroting of the standard hogwash about DDT being banned for use against malaria comes with the obligatory trashing of Rachel Carson:

    All those deaths are the reason Rachel Carson’s seminal 1962 book Silent Spring, about the evils of pesticides, was last week voted among the most dangerous books of the past two centuries.
    Fifteen American scholars enlisted by conservative magazine Human Events awarded Carson the honour along with Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler. Silent Spring, with its scary talk of cancer and dead fish and the mantra that man must not interfere with nature, launched the modern environmental movement. It also demonised DDT.

    Hmmm … so Silent Spring belongs on the dangerous bookshelf alongside Das Kapital and Mein Kampf, does it? I hadn’t looked at the book in quite a while so I picked it up again. I was struck anew by how well-written and carefully researched a work it is; also how well it has aged over 37 years. It is unsurprising that Miranda Devine should feel that the anti-environmentalist agenda requires that Carson be discredited, but — unlike Carson — she seems to feel that no research is needed to make her case.
    To see what a great source Miranda Devine tapped for the “dangerous book” reference, have a look at the complete list:
    Making the Top Ten (along with Marx and Hitler) were:
    General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes
    Democracy and Education, John Dewey

    Sharing the Honorable Mention category with Silent Spring are:
    On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
    The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
    Descent of Man, Charles Darwin
    Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud
    Coming of Age in Samoa, Margaret Mead

    With Marx and Hitler balanced by Keynes, Mill, Darwin, Freud, Dewey and Mead, I’d say Rachel Carson is in some pretty distinguished company.

  2. #2 Ian Gould
    June 19, 2005

    Funny isn’t it the different level of “proof” the Right requires in relation to Iraqi civilian casualties.

  3. #3 Ian Gould
    June 20, 2005

    It’s interesting to note that of the 15 conservative intellectuals picked to compile this list of dangerous books, only two are associated with mainstream Universities of international repute. (And that’s counting The Hoover Institute, a think-tank affiliated with Stanford, as being of international repute.)

  4. #4 Meyrick Kirby
    June 20, 2005

    Ah, I see Darwin gets 2 mentions in the second list … those evil evolutionists again.

    And Keynes … wanting to end depressions is of course evil!

  5. #5 Patrick
    June 22, 2005

    Dear Ian, the right seems quite happy with the UN report on Iraq – I recall it being the left who happily accepted the flimsiest

  6. #6 Ian Gould
    June 23, 2005


    Your comment was cut off but I assume your truncated reference to “the flimsiest” is yet another attack on the Lancet study.

    Considering the lengths to which this has been debated here and the thrashing which those who choose to attack that report have taken can I suggest a read through the archives here is in order?

    The Lancet study by comparison with Devine’s retelling of easily disprovable transparent lies is a paragon of honesty and intellectual rigour.

  7. #7 kos
    July 22, 2005

    Please show me one independent scientific research study which backs up Rachel Carson’s assumptions about DDT. I have spent days searching the web, but I haven’t found any yet


  8. #8 Scott Church
    July 22, 2005


    The National Research Council has published a number of thorough reviews of the refereed literature on DDT and its use in malaria control worldwide, including extensive discussions of the history of its use and effectiveness. All are well cited to the peer-reviewed research on the subject and the relevant reports from WHO and various governmental agencies. The following would be a good place to start;

    Hormonally Active Agents in the Environment (1999),

    Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance (2004),

    The Environment: Challenges for the Chemical Sciences in the 21st Century (2004)

    A wealth of material like this is easily available both online and in the natural sciences stacks of any university library in the country. It baffles me that so many on the Far-Right don’t bother to investigate any of it before spreading the “enviros caused malaria” myth as Miranda Devine does. But either way, these are a good place to start if you’re so inclined. All the best.

  9. #9 Tim Lambert
    July 22, 2005

    No problem kos, read this.

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