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EXPOSED: FDA’s Self-Critical Report is a PR Scam

Written by Wellness Club on August 8, 2008 – 2:08 pm -

Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.
- Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion

There has been a hubbub recently within the alternative medical community and among other government-watchers with an interest in the FDA:

A number of writers have "found" a "buried" FDA "Report of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology" entitled "FDA Science and Mission at Risk" which offers some rather damning insights and conclusions regarding this massive bureaucracy – with "major findings" such as:

The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific base has eroded and its scientific organizational structure is weak.
• The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its scientific workforce does not have sufficient capacity and capability.
• The FDA cannot fulfill its mission because its information technology (IT) infrastructure is inadequate.

Then there are the “minor findings”, like:

FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of food for the nation.
• The development of medical products based on “new science” cannot be adequately regulated by the FDA.
• There is insufficient capacity in modeling, risk assessment and analysis.
• The FDA science agenda lacks a coherent structure and vision, as well as effective coordination and prioritization.

Whew! Heady stuff! No wonder this document was so "hard to find" – what self-respecting bureaucracy would want such a report to become publicly known? How embarrassing for the FDA!

This report can be found here: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/AC/07/briefing/2007-4329b_02_01_FDA%20Report%20on%20Science%20and%20Technology.pdf

Other writers have said that the press is largely ignoring this report, (Well, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Reuters, ABC, and a few others who ran stories on it) and surmise that the mighty FDA must somehow be "suppressing" this damning document – using it’s clout to prevent the press from making the public aware of the shortcomings of this supposedly unimpeachable organization.

While that supposition, at first blush, makes good sense, something about this "Report" and the manner in which it had to be "sleuthed out" by other writers, and the supposedly damning conclusions of the "Subcommittee on Science and Technology" all had a funny smell to it – in fact, the more I read this report, and re-read it, the more I began to get an odd feeling about the whole thing. (Can there possibly be any more boring, stupefying reading than a government report? Actually, this report is surprisingly readable and engaging – for a FDA report – which also smelled funny…)

You see, while the "Subcommittee on Science and Technology" has come to some "scathing" conclusions, it also makes some recommendations. Not surprisingly, those recommendations boil down to "More Money" and "More Power" and "More Prestige" for this already bloated and power-drunk organization.

Hmmm… A damning report, outlining deficiencies and shortfalls within the FDA, using alarming language like "Finding: FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of food for the nation", and concluding that these problems could be rectified with infusions of money – lots of money. Written by the "Subcommittee on Science and Technology" which is a subcommittee of The National Science Board, which is part of the FDA itself… So, the FDA is airing its own dirty laundry? Wow! How honest and public-spirited of them!

So honest and public spirited that they actually exposed themselves to the "wrath" of politicians like Representative Henry Waxman who sent them a letter demanding that they immediately request additional budget money so that they could correct their shortcomings. – Boy! I’ll bet the FDA just hated that!

The Subcommittee even refers to outside organizations whom it claims independently call for increased funding and resources to be allocated to the FDA – one, "The Coalition for a Stronger FDA" is actually quoted 4 times in the document – in 3 of those instances the document says the Coalition recommends obscene amounts of money be given to the FDA to solve it’s problems and the 4th mention is a reference with a link to this supposedly independent, organization’s website where one can find a veritable who’s who of Big Pharma, Big Industry, Big Medicine, and Big Publicly-Funded Organizations. Check it out here: http://www.fdacoalition.org/index.php

I just had to go and spoil it all by doing some digging.

You see, I wondered who would own and operate such a helpful, public-spirited website – so I ran a who.is search to see who owned the domain name.

It seems that fdacoalition.org is registered to a fellow by the name of Rome Sheehan, of New York.

Rome (a thoroughly likeable young fellow according to the "Facebook" information and other sources that he has posted on the internet), works for a Very Big Company in New York called Burson-Marsteller.

Burson-Marsteller is, according to the website www.sourcewatch.org , "the world’s fifth largest PR company (Source: Council of PR Firms, 2002) and part of the WPP Group. According to a 2004 profile in The Hill, a Washington, DC newspaper, "This multinational PR behemoth has an active public-affairs practice led by Richard Mintz, who ran the media shop at the Department of Transportation during the Clinton administration. He also served as staff director for Hillary Clinton during the 1992 campaign. B-M has won awards recently for its work for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the "No on Proposition 54" campaign in California. Its public-affairs practice is bolstered by its affiliation with Direct Impact (grassroots marketing) and BKSH & Associates (lobbying).""

While Burson-Marsteller is understandably coy about revealing who currently employs its PR services, past clients have included several branches of the US Government.

Again, taken from the sourcewatch website: "According to the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil award records and global public affairs chief Richard Mintz, Burson-Marsteller’s federal contracts have included work for the Census Bureau, on participation rates; Bureau of Engraving and Printing, on “Introducing the New Color of Money” (the $20 bill redesign); Department of the Treasury, on money laundering enforcement; and Postal Service, on “Managing Communication During the Anthrax Crisis.””

In March 2005, PR Week reported that Burson-Marsteller won a $4.6 million contract, through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative grant program. The contract, for two to seven months’ work, was "for the development and implementation of a regional public awareness and education campaign for a major emergency or disaster, such as a terrorist act," in Washington DC. "The effort’s goal is to have 50% of people in the national capital area report that they’ve taken steps to be prepared," reported PR Week. "In addition to conducting PR
and research, Burson will partner with ad and community-outreach agencies," Burson-Marsteller’s Chris Simko told PR Week, adding that "33% to 50% of the budget will go toward advertising." Wow – that’s a lot of advertising!

Hmmm…

Why would a busy young ad executive, working for a huge, successful New York advertising agency want to spend his valuable time on a public-service website dedicated to obtaining increased funding for the FDA?

Is this nice young fellow really that public-spirited and altruistic?

Or could it be that maybe, just maybe, this "Coalition for a Stronger FDA" is actually owned and operated as a PR exercise of this giant public relations firm – and it is this young man’s job to own that website?

And if it is a PR operation by Burson-Marsteller, who is paying the tab? After all, the services of such a successful company don’t come cheap… (remember; $4.6 million bought just two to seven months work from them for the DHS in 2005…)

It occurs to me that the greatest beneficiary of all this PR is the FDA… and remember:

Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.
- Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion

So, we have a report, critical of the FDA, produced by a subcommittee of the FDA for the FDA, which recommends that the FDA needs much more money and power and uses as it’s justification for that recommendation statements made by a "Coalition" group that just might be owned by a public relations company which has been employed in the past by a number of government bureaucracies. This "Critical" report is "buried" and released grudgingly so that the public, the press, and politicians can become appropriately outraged at the failings of the FDA, and demand that "Something be done about it!" That something, of course, is more money and power.

Given the very public problems that the FDA has been having over the past few years this seems to me to be a perfectly conceived, planned, and executed PR campaign designed with nothing more than increased funding for the behemoth bureaucracy in mind: Generate a "report" outlining the failings and problems that we already know about, let it be "leaked out" in an embarrassed manner so as to create an outcry and a demand that steps be taken to fix these problems, and watch the money roll in…

Brilliant!

On the other hand, there is something very repugnant in the idea that the FDA might be spending millions on a Machiavellian propaganda exercise designed to elicit a massive budget increase…

At least that’s my opinion.

Nurse Mark

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