Fumento: a uniter, not a divider

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting with delicious anticipation to see what Fumento’s defence would be after he got fired by Scripps-Howard. Fumento does not disappoint. Why did he not disclose that Monsanto had paid him $60,000 to write a book about biotechnology? Fumento says:

I had called numerous scientists who had helped me to ask how they would like to be acknowledged and one at Monsanto said he’d prefer that both he and the company be left out.

I could have ignored his wishes. But notwithstanding that I live in the backstabbing capital of the world, I kept my knife sheathed. Monsanto had helped me where others would not. I simply referred in my acknowledgments to “others who wish to remain anonymous.” Further, acknowledgments are not full disclosure forms; they are personal. Read some.

So there you go. As long as you choose not to fill out a disclosure form you don’t have to disclose that Monsanto funded your book about biotechnology.

I also really liked Fumento’s big John Paul Jones finish:

If all this sounds insane, remember there really was a time when harmless old biddies went up in flames simply because a neighbor wanted their land or livestock. But I’m no ash heap. The environmentalist THINK they’ve shut me up. Wrong. I have not yet begun to write.

Anyway, one of Fumento’s endearing qualities is the way he unites both sides of blogspace: James Wolcott:

Michael Fumento, last seen flailing his arms and falling backwards against a rear-projection screen like Martin Balsam in Psycho, lands intact at the bottom of the stairs and, after rubbing his sore parts, makes a manly fist and vows defiance. The latest victim of the pundit-payola scandal that has chipped the fine reputations of such intellectual giants as Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Doug Bandow, Fumento rages as a righteous man unjustly accused, the victim of environmentalist foes cloaking their identities under druid robes and skulking the malevolent night.

Gristmill:

Disgraced conservative columnist (and frequent biotech-booster) Michael Fumento — recently canned by Scripps Howard News Service after revelations that he accepted grants from Monsanto, which he never disclosed to his readers or to Scripps — says he’s the target of a “witch hunt” run by [ominous music] the greeeens.

Cathy Seipp (warning: alarming picture of Fumento):

I have no sympathy for syndicated opinion columnists Doug Bandow, formerly of the Cato Institute and Copley News Service, or Michael Fumento, as of this writing still with the Hudson Institute but no longer with Scripps Howard. Fumento has long been suspected of accepting money from corporations he so admiringly opines about in his better-living-through-chemistry pieces, and now we all know for sure.

Even Tim Blair seems to agree with me.

Update: Over at SayUncle’s Fumento has another go:

Thanks for the mention, but regarding full exclosure I have seen similar words elsewhere and it belies ignorance (I mean that literally, not as in “stupidity”) of both how think tanks work and how the rules worked prior to the new ones invented by Business Week’s Eamon Javers. Think tanks make their money by soliciting donations. They can be from the government, individuals, philanthropies, or corporations. They usually expect the fellows (the thinkers) to take an active role in this. Money comes into the think tank, part goes to overhead, part to building the endowment, and part to the fellow in the form of salary, benefits, and paperclips and note pads. This was no different. The money went to Hudson, which pays my salary. But precisely because I have been able to raise NO corporate donations in 4-5 years, Hudson has been paying me out of overhead. So in a real sense I’m drawing from grants I know not which. “Full disclosure” sounds great, like “Can’t we all get along.” But for the most part it’s inpracticable. That’s why you can read 100 columns and op-eds in a week, many from think tankers, and never see a full disclosure statement. This rule was made up on-the-spot to apply to me. I could go on about how the grant was solicited for a book in 1999 and spent by 2000 and that I didn’t even begin my column with Scripps until 2003, which does raise the point of: Just HOW LONG do you have to disclose these things. But I think the point is made.

Ah, so it was “impracticable” for Fumento to disclose in his book that Monsanto had paid for it. The book was completely full of words and it was impossible to squeeze in another sentence or to remove one to make room. Got it.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott
    January 20, 2006

    “warning: alarming picture of Fumento” He’s not kidding folks. It’s a down right disturbing picture of Fumento. I’m going to have to raid the Bactine out of the office medicine cabinet and squirt it onto my eyeballs!

  2. #2 Platypus
    January 20, 2006

    I have not yet begun to write.

    How true.

  3. #3 Dano
    January 20, 2006

    And on the burning deck of his patio, Fumento brandishes his bread knife like a cutlass against the sky hoping someone will notice.

    Tim, you’ve implied the same thing, but JW cuts like no other. Man, that’s gotta hurt.

    Best,

    D

  4. #4 David Roberts
    January 20, 2006

    Thanks for the link, Tim, though you didn’t give me sufficient credit for using the phrase “paranoiac rodomontade,” which I hope to have inscribed on my tombstone.

    Has anyone else heard about the environmentalist “enemies list” Fumento claims to know about? I know it wouldn’t be the first time he’s pulled something out of his rear, but that’s an awfully large and specific thing to thus extract — seems like it would be uncomfortable.

  5. #5 Terry
    January 21, 2006

    Very incisive post. Good work!

    Where can I find your disclosures about your funding including (I presume) the sources of funding of any institutions you work for?

    Thanks!

  6. #6 mndean
    January 21, 2006

    I’ve never seen such a transparently mendacious explanation as Fumento’s in the update. He gets paid for “thinking”, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the hell that mental process that he gets paid for and that he terms “thinking” really is.

  7. #7 Maxine Clarke
    January 22, 2006

    I once had the unfortunate task of reviewing one of Fumento’s books for New Scientist. It was about AIDS, I think the title was “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS” or something equally unsavoury. I really did not like the book, as it seemed contrary to the scientific evidence at the time (a lot less than now, but not nothing), as well as being politically motivated. My penance was to read in the Spectator a few weeks later a nasty attack on his reviewers, including myself. Again, the scientific issues were not central to Fumento.

    Since those days (the 1980s), has it turned out that heterosexual AIDS is a “myth”? Has Fumento ever apologised for his rather unpleasant thesis, or retracted it? Not that I’m aware.

    The point here is to say that I decided not to believe him in future, on the basis of his unscientific (antiscientific) arguments on that occasion.

  8. #8 david Tiley
    January 23, 2006

    Cheap snark Terry. You know that you can’t compare writing a blog and Fumento’s career as a polemical journalist.

    If you happen to think that some large financial institution is paying Tim to write this, then you can just ask him.

    You are not bothering because you know it is ridiculous.

    I can’t of course form any opinion as to the likelihood that you are a paid hack because you leave neither name nor website.

  9. #9 Steve Munn
    January 24, 2006

    Keep up the good work Tim. I’m amazed that a bloke who works for a living can find the time to make such a valuable contribution to the blogosphere. Is the rumour that you have two heads and four arms true?

  10. #10 Not Buying It
    February 10, 2006

    Seems to me that for a guy who supposedly didin’t care if people knew that he was taking big bucks from a corporation he opines about in his columns (not a conflict of interest by golly!) he sure seems awful angry at the revelation…

    By the way, how does he make the leap from Business Week to environmentalists?