The wedge document is the Discovery Institute’s secret plan to defeat scientific materialism and promote Creationism. Below is Africa Fighting Malaria’s wedge document. One part of the wedge is to use a simple message: “banning DDT spread malaria and killed people” to drive a wedge between environmentalists and public health people. The second is a wedge between first world and third world countries by arguing that first world concerns about pollution from DDT were killing people in third world countries.

The document is a pitch to Philip Morris to fund their activities because the World Health Organization was considering an anti-smoking campaign — the plan here was attack the WHO for being concerned about smoking when they should be concentrating on malaria.

For more on the context see Eli Rabett here and here.

International Public Health Strategy

For a variety of reasons (not fully discussed here) western public health
officials are pursuing objectives which may be incompatible with sound
science, economic efficiency and even social justice.
My work till now has focused on highlighting the dangers for
governments of concentrating on minuscule risks to health, primarily
because of pressure from loud interest groups. Policies such as the
removal of the last nanogram of whatever pollutant from water supplies,
or food products, reduce wealth and freedom, and indirectly can be
harmful to health (see Pfizer Forum article for expansion of these ideas).
Books like What Risk? have attempted to explain the folly of
chemophobia and the lack of sound scientific basis for these pressure
group demands, and have developed arguments to show the indirect
harms to health of policies.

We have had significant media attention to our ideas and have supporters
within political circles. The idea of sound science, thresholds and tradeoffs,
have been enhanced, and appear periodically in circles of opinion
formers. However, we have been, and will probably remain, largely
unsuccessful in changing policy for several reasons:

  • Our ideological supporters are believed to have hidden agendas – the
    vested interests of industry and pro-industry politicians.
  • Our arguments are often too complex, and cannot be simplified easily.
  • We have chosen difficult issues on which to make our case, often
    reacting to our opponents’ arguments.
  • Changing opinions on deeply-held beliefs can take decades.
  • Our victories are small, and our opponents often use them to raise
    even more funds in support of their case.
  • Our opponents are quite disparate, yet we have not divided them and
    shown each how the other’s agenda is damaging their own.

To be more successful we need to do the following:

  • Simplify our arguments.
  • Pick issues on which we can divide our opponents and win. Make our
    case on our terms, not on the terms of our opponents – malaria
    prevention is a good example.
  • Show our opponents where their alleged allies are harming their cause
  • environmental regulations often harm public health in the west and
    western policies often harm health in Less Developed Countries
  • Target messages to show politicians and journalists how to make
    political capital out of supporting our ideas.
  • Involve opinion formers in LDCs to make our case.

How to achieve our objectives.

The last suggestion in the above list is probably the most important in
the short run, The environmental movement has been successful in most
of its campaigns as it has been ‘politically correct’, if not always ethical.
Opposing dumping waste/oil platforms at sea, makes little scientific
sense, but when put in terms of “desecrating the oceans, and killing
defenceless fish”, it is a media winner. Similarly, fighting against
culling elephants is a simple case to make in the media – defenceless
animals being shot by callous poachers. It is, superficially at least,
surprising that this is an issue that the greens have lost (for the moment).
However, they lost because black southern Africans with emotional
appeals of eco-imperial-induced poverty, backed by sensible intellectual
arguments, overturned a ban on ivory trading in the face of opposition by
nearly every western politician and all environmental groups. In short
they had the correct blend of political correctness (they were oppressed
blacks) and arguments (eco-imperialism was undermining their future
and their right to self-determination).

In the public health issues that I have been involved in we have never
won a battle like this, not because we have not had the best arguments,
but because we did not have the right people telling them. Bearing this in
mind I propose to do the following:

  1. Provide the intellectual arguments to make our case (details below)
  2. Disseminate these arguments to people in LDCs who could in
    principle, be motivated to help scientists, media, politicians in LDCs
  3. Work with public affairs agencies to develop arguments that mobilise
    public support in LDCs to put pressure on politicians.
  4. Work with those in the west who have reasons to promote these

Intellectual arguments

The first stage is to develop some literature which explains the harm that
a preoccupation with virtual risks in the west is causing in LDCs (to
create support in the LDCs). At the same time we must continue to
explain the dangers this preoccupation has for those in the west (to
increase support in the west). The aim of the papers will be to highlight
two tensions : between the actions of environmental and public health
policies, and between OECD and LDC aims. It will also question what
the aims of international health agencies (primarily WHO) should be.

A book is proposed, “Environmental Health : third world dangers, first
world preoccupations” (outline attached). Authors are already contacted
and commissioned. The publisher will be Butterworth Heinemann who
published What Risk? This will address, third world problems such as
Cholera and Malaria, and first world preoccupations such as
chemophobia (and fears of endocrine disruption) and food additives.

Dissemination of ideas.

We would disseminate this book widely in English speaking LDCs.
Starting in Southern Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana), and
probably Kenya in the East, then moving elsewhere. Hopefully recruiting
supporters, potential authors, and even political support. Perhaps follow
up the dissemination of the books with a speaking tour to shore up

As part of this process I have produced a cut-down version of What
Risk?, with two new papers, for think tanks to publish in their own
languages/countries. So far the only agreement is with the Indian
Center for Civil Society who will publish a version in the
fall. Countries which will probably publish a version are South
Africa, Chile/Argentina and Australia. Each will provide a speaking
platform for me, and work with local media – however, all will require
some funding support. Other countries are still to be approached.

The second stage in the process will be to concentrate on one issue –

Malaria Strategy

A new initiative to bring interest back into combating malaria, Africa
Fighting Malaria
, will be collection of groups of individuals and
institutes, working from a base in Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town is an ideal location because it has good communications, it is
the site of the influential South African parliament, and several leading
academics working on malaria. Also, a new WHO-backed malaria
mapping initiative was established earlier in the year in Cape Town, as
was the new UN Dams Commission (part of whose job is to analyse
health problems (including vector borne diseases) from dam

Much as in the public health strategy mentioned above the initial aim
will be to provide intellectual arguments for why a new campaign on
malaria is desirable.

Malaria kills 2 million a year and infects 500m – of whom 90% are in
Africa – more than any other disease. It can be controlled with pesticide
spraying of huts, prophylactic medicines, and essentially, good water
control so there are fewer breeding grounds for the malarial mosquito. It
was eradicated from Southern Europe and Southern US states in 1940s.

A book on malaria, either written by one author, or as a collection of
papers would be a good start. Key issues to be explored are : how
malaria was eradicated in many parts of the world (WHO-backed DDT
programmes), why it came back (spraying DDT was banned under
pressure from US greens), why, when alternatives for DDT have been
developed, and new evidence shows that DDT is less harmful than
originally thought, have no new programmes been announced until now
(green pressure to ban all chlorine-based replacements, lack of interest
from west in 70s-90s), why countries don’t use their DDT stockpiles
when they could save lives (Western governments won’t import crops
with DDT residues, and can’t under restrictive UN plans).

Like the public health book, this will create tensions between LDCs and
OECD countries and between public health and environment.

Intellectual issues to be resolved

  • Is the DDT problem still relevant? Who has what pesticides,
    stockpiles of what? Can LDCs buy the new pesticides?
  • What will be impact of Brundtland’s new WHO initiative, what new
    action and investment? What targets for eradication?
  • Can African’s do it alone? (Dr Basil Sharp of MARA in Cape Town
    believes they can)
  • What will be South African DoH initiatives?
  • Will Zimbabwe use DDT in 1999?

Who do we need help from and how do we recruit scientists/public
health officials/journalists/politicians and others to advocate the position,
once the book is done?

Scientists – ESEF name should encourage them to join as well as their
professional interest.

Public Health Officials – as above plus political need to show concern

Journalists – contrast of western indifference to death in LDCs
(regardless of rhetoric) and preoccupation with virtual risks in west.

Politicians – looking for an issue to make a name on, concern about
misuse of government funds on issues of little relevance.

Multilateral Agencies

The third part of the strategy will be to constructively look at the future
role of international agencies such as UNEP, UNDP, WHO etc. For
example, WHO’s new Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland comes
from an environmental background. As the originator of the phrase
‘sustainable development’, and a guiding light in both the Montreal
Protocol, and Rio Summit, she has a superb grasp on manipulating
international political structures. According to one insider she is after the
top job at UN. Her two targets of malaria and tobacco control if
‘successful’ could propel her towards that goal. The tobacco control
protocol is based upon the Montreal Protocol and as such, although she
did not originate the tobacco document, she is comfortable with its
approach. Indeed, the tobacco control document may lead to a binding
WHO/UN convention.

At UNEP, the desire to push through treaties on Persistent Organic
Pollutants, Climate Change, Hazardous Waste, to name but a few draw
heavily on the Montreal Protocol as well. However, the Montreal
Protocol is highly flawed (like the tobacco control document). It contains
inaccuracies, cost underestimation and dubious ethics. To influence the
direction of future UN legislation we must criticise the Montreal
Protocol. A paper is proposed to accurately apply the lessons learned
from the Montreal Protocol to new or developing conventions
(especially POPs, tobacco and climate change).


  1. #1 Hugh
    May 28, 2007

    > Will Zimbabwe use DDT in 1999?

    Am I missing something here Tim. This seems to have been written in 1998 when Brundtland was indeed new to the WHO job.

    What are you implying has happened with the wedge during the intervening 9 years?

  2. #2 Gerard Harbison
    May 28, 2007

    Well, the fact is, banning the mass spraying of DDT probably prevented the emergence of mosquito resistance in most parts of the world, and preserved DDT as a useful anti-mosquito agent for confined environments like homes and schools. Had DDT been used for the last 50 years the way it was used in the 1960s, it would be useless by now.

    But why let small details get in the way of a good story?

  3. #3 Hugh
    May 28, 2007

    Yes, sorry Gerald I’m right behind you on the basics of resistence. I just wasn’t sure about the age of the document as all this AFM stuff seemed to have kicked off in the blogospere just in the last couple of days. As soon as I pressed send on my last I re-read the post and realised my mistake.
    My question now is was that £800 a day in 1998 money that Bate was asking for? …if so this advocacy stuff does seem like lucrative work if you’re prepared to do it. [just so that you know, reading that doc was making me feel sick]

  4. #4 Thom
    May 28, 2007

    From a brief search at the tobacco documents, it appears that the wedge document is from around 1998. You can see from this Wall Street Journal article in late 1997 that Bate’s book “What Risk?” came out in late 1997.

    Here’s a bonus fax with Philip Morris executives discussing Bate and his front group ESEF back in 1996. I was not aware that Roger is also seeking funding from the other cigarette companies.

    And here’s Bate the following year writing an op-ed explaing that advertising doesn’t make you smoke or drink.

    Shilly, shilly, shill…..

  5. #5 Eli Rabett
    May 28, 2007
  6. #6 Rich Puchalsky
    May 28, 2007

    One instructive element of this, to an activist, is how industry can afford to pursue low-probability plans on the chance that they may pay off. Driving a wedge between environmentalists and public health people by using DDT so that in turn the regulation of tobacco will be lessened is the kind of thing that sounds clever (and certainly pings high on the evil scale), but is also a Rube Goldberg device. It’s unlikely to work exactly as planned, although it might still help industry to some extent if it just muddied things. But they can afford to try it, because they have essentially unlimited funds when compared to the amount of money that can practibly be spent in these kind of operations.

    In other words, you can hire a hack to write a “What Risk?” book, but you don’t get three times the effectiveness by hiring three hacks to write three books. Soon enough you saturate your channels, and you do that long before the money runs out. It’s an important lesson because a lot of the time, you wonder why something’s being opposed and it turns out to be something from some industry tangentially or seemingly not at all affected.

    On the other hand, their people are individually far less effective than the people on the environmental side, who have had to get used to doing with a lot less.

  7. #7 dsquared
    May 29, 2007

    jesus pleazus. Is there anything bad and stupid in the world that can’t be traced back to the Philip Morris litigation archives? I swear that if we looked hard enough, we’d find something about the Iraq War in there. Major congratulations to Eli for this one.

  8. #8 Thom
    May 29, 2007

    dsquared, the genesis of the Iraq War began in the early nineties with neo-conservatives such as William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle. This issue has been thoroughly hashed out in the news. You can watch a television program that explains this if you find reading to be stressful.

    I guess my point is that you shouldn’t try for sarcasm unless you have a good handle on an issue.

  9. #9 jre
    May 29, 2007

    Easy there, Thom. D2 was gazing at the cornucopia of evil that is the PM litigation archive, and using a bit of hyperbole (not sarcasm) to express his awe. Or so it seems to me.

  10. #10 NicM
    May 30, 2007

    The amusing thing about this is that those who attack the “environmental lobby” and define themselves as superior critical thinkers are themselves victims of this blatant attempt at swaying public opinion.

  11. #11 Thom
    May 30, 2007

    jre, oops! see it now. i guess that dsquared caught me after a rather large lunch and before afternoon coffee.

  12. #12 Neil B.
    May 30, 2007

    I wonder, how many of the spinned-science crowd were dupes, and which knew what they were fronting for?

    PS, are there legal grounds for a class like scientists to sue for libel/slander against dextro-hacks who accuse them of being “frauds” etc. regarding climate change etc? I wish someone would try to find out…

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