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  • As bad as Erin Brockovich is, hysteria generation is not unique to her. The State of New York ran a well done study of cancer incidence around the Love Canal site. With accurate measure of exposure, one could meaningfully compare observed incidence against expected. The study was an examination of a number (10 or so, if my memory is right) of types of cancer, and it found the actual incidences to be within a standard deviation of the expected incidences for all of them. What happened in the Love Canal case and probably happened in the Erin Brockovich case is that people were reporting second and third hand on incidents. – “My brother knows a lady whose co-worker has a ghastly hang nail.”

    What is troublesome to me in these cases (and there are others such a Gulf War Syndome) is that no one is held accountable for feeding hysteria. Do you remember the demonstrations by motorcycle groups supporting the POW/MIA’s held in North Vietnam? Senator Smith based his run for president on the MIA/POW issue, and a congressman from Long Island made POW/MIA his cause celeb. Not one, not a single POW/MIA, was ever found. There never was any evidence to support the claim of a cover up by the United States Government, but Ross Peroit gave money to very effective conspiracy theorists. The lack of evidence only showed the deviousness of the North Vietnam and United State governments. Exactly the same effect was in play with WMD’s. If one listened carefully to the arguments that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, one heard conjecture and no evidence, and then the lack of evidence was proported to show how devious Saddam Hussein was. Rolling Thunder, the demonstrations by motorcyclists, continues. Tony Blair and Prime Minister Gordon Brown continue to mouth the idiotic claim that WMD was supported by the Intelligence Community. These are otherwise outstanding men who would never be confused with avaricious plaintiff’s lawyers.

    Americans are stupid as can be. Sadly, Europeans (the precautionary princpal) and Jjapenese (the belief in a risk of BSE from American beef) are just as bad.