EMFguru #6-96, Update/The Infamous PBS Documentary

Hi everybody:

We are now 65 in number. Our "overseas" representation is growing fast. Guru uses "overseas" advisedly because it has been (correctly) pointed out to him that Canada is not overseas from the U.S. (Though they perhaps wish they were.) We now have 7 in Sweden, 5 in Canada, and 1 each in: Denmark, Ireland, Peru, Korea, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Taiwan, Italy, Trinidad-Tobago and the U.K.


We have been pleased at the amount of activity recently. We hope that our newly joined engineer from Turkey is getting the help he needs on gauss- meters. Guru is not an expert on that. (Yeh ... we know ... guru is not an "expert" on anything. If it means anything -- he is painfully aware of that. Still, every man [or woman] is entitled to his/her opinion.)


Before we get too far away from one of the issues raised, however, guru would like to return to the matter of the infamous television documentary which many of us (in the U.S.) saw ... and remember for its distorted treatment of the EMF subject.

The documentary appeared under the auspices of the regular Public Broad- casting System (PBS) series "Frontline" in 1995. Its production head was Jon Palfreman an associate with station WGBH-Boston. Mr. Palfreman has recently published another article which repeats and reiterates much of the material he used in his TV show.

Whereas guru had originally been inclined to give Mr. Palfreman the benefit of the doubt -- (He did not 'know' the extent to which he had been used by electric industry hired consultants and paid court witnesses.) -- his latest article refutes that notion and suggests his motives are truly propagandistic in nature. He is not "an innocent" objective reporter who has simply been taken in by the science and industry elite of the conventional wisdom. He is one of them.


Here guru will confine his remarks to the TV production. It is a matter we had previously promised to come back to anyway.

It presented rather forcefully, too forcefully to be called "objective," what guru has referred to (in #5-96) as the "conventional wisdom" view of the issue. It did not balance that view with the kind of evidence or argument that would have allowed the public to fairly weigh the alternative "reality" that is challenging that "conventional wisdom."

For example, in the program Paul Brodeur raised the key question -- the difference between the natural magnetic fields of the earth (direct current) and the "artificial" man-made EMF fields (alternating current). Brodeur suggested that the AC-current magnetic field appears to have a different effect on human cell behavior -- perhaps because the alternating magnetic polarity has not been a part of the environment during the evolution of life on earth.

Instead of dealing with that biological issue, the production fixed its myopic gaze upon the "testimony" of the hired consultants and court witnesses of the electric/communications industries -- namely, that EMF energy levels are too low to be of any health consequence. We were even treated to a cute little tid-bit (of ridicule) about there being more energy in "moonlight" than in the EMF fields to which the public is exposed.

Well ... maybe!?! But what does the frequency of light (moonlight) have to do with the frequency of the EMF fields? May a non-expert be allowed to observe that organic life evolved in moonlight just as it did in sunlight ... but it did not evolve in fields of man-made alternating current EMF.

The moonlight reference was clearly a condescending (and not very scientific) 'putdown' of the opposition. It characterized the flavor of the program.


Much of the program did consist of subtle ridicule of the work of epidemiologists and other researchers who believe a serious and growing health hazard exists. The epidemiologists who have found an association between EMF and cancer -- (How many have there been now? Perhaps 40 or 50.) -- were characterized as faulty in their methodology. They were accused of falling victim to the "Texas sharpshooter's" technique of claiming cancer clusters.

But worse, was the ridicule of the victims.

Many of us who watched the program particularly did not like the way the program portrayed the victims ... who were made to look backward, ignorant and emotional.

Guru remembers the same propaganda treatment being heaped upon the victims of the agent orange contamination in Vietnam. (Even his good friend -- Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who felt personally partially responsible and who refused to abandon those who had served under him -- for a time became a target of this "putdown" kind of ridicule because he was trying to obtain justice for the victims. Please note, before ordering the use of agent orange as a defoliant, Admiral Zumwalt had been given reassurances [by the manufacturers] that it was not toxic to life.)


It is easy to ridicule the complaints of the victims of these environmental health situations where the "conventional wisdom" is being challenged.

The victims are certain to be less knowledgeable than the power "elite" of science and industry they find themselves confronting.

Naturally, the victims are inclined to be emotional.... "pathological" is the word the "elite" scientific community often uses. It belittles their complaints.

The victims are not likely to be among the more affluent (the "rich"), for example, who can choose to live in the "pretty" (nonpower-lined) neighborhoods. Thus their representation in the public debates which follow is often poorly funded, or -- as in the case of the Omaha ladies shown in the PBS production -- not funded at all.

In the Omaha case, the "representation" consisted of the efforts of the Omaha ladies at gathering the data to show that a "cancer cluster" was present in their neighborhood. (By implication, they, too, were accused of "Texas sharpshooting.").....

.......And their efforts to bring the attention of responsible public officials to bear upon the issue.


The guru has often asked this question: Can anyone identify a single power company CEO ... or Chief Engineer ... or Physicist (or biophysics researcher for that matter) who is living and raising his/her children alongside these power-lines???

We've never been told of one. Yet these are the "experts" who are so positive that it is so safe!!


Guru thought the efforts of the ladies in Omaha to plot the extent of the cancer cluster and stimulate some action by the public health officials ... was a noble and worthy effort. (It is an example of dozens of other such efforts throughout the world which are not being so well publicized.)

For their trouble, the Omaha ladies were ridiculed by an "elite" of highly educated scientists including one who told them on camera, "Really, these cancer clusters never prove to amount to anything."


That has to be -- along with the statement that we already "know" all that we need to know about EMF (also appearing in the documentary) -- one of the worst examples of "elitism" and scientific closed-mindedness that has been offered to the public on this issue.

That kind of elite and closed-minded thinking frequently accompanies the consensus "circle the wagons" behavior guru has written about previously on this EMF issue. (EMFguru #5-96.)


That brings us to the other major objection that troubled guru about the absence of scientific objectivity in this PBS TV production.

It focused its "health risk" attention on the cancer issue, exclusively, ... and it assumed that the connection between EMF and cancer (if any) HAD to be via the direct damage to DNA.

This has been the consistent "line" of the conventional wisdom crowd from the beginning. "If you don't accept our assumptions about how health damage can occur," they are saying, "then your evidence and arguments are simply null and void."

Today medical science readily admits that what little we DO know about the interaction of human cells and organs with the many new external environmental "threats" mankind's ingenuity is constantly creating ... is far outweighed by what we do NOT know.

But that is not the case with the "conventional wisdom" crowd in the EMF debate. As far as they are concerned ... we already know all the answers. And those of you who are noticing effects, symptoms or illnesses as a result of EMF exposure ... why that is just "pathological" or psychosomatic.

Guru is reminded of some teaching he received more than 40 years ago. "Always be the one who defines the assumptions," said his debate coach, now retired and living in Dallas, "then spin the web of your case entirely within those assumptions."

That was good advice for high school debate. But that was before guru had been fully exposed to the world of science.

Men and women who are truly scientific in their mental attitude know that "man" does not make the assumptions ... nature does.

And nature has a way of making its own assumptions -- independent of what "man" may think they should be.

Our job is to ensure that our mental processes are open minded enough to let nature's assumptions be understood.

We did not see that kind of open-mindedness in the PBS "Frontline" TV production directed by Mr. Palfreman.


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