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Propaganda: The "Teflon Tactic": Denying Damage Under Corporate Capitalism


The "Teflon* Tactic": Deny, Deny, Deny


*Trademark for polytetrafluoroethylene, a substance used to provide a nonsticking coating on some cookware and industrial products

To keep their profitable chemicals on the market, corporations commonly deny, and deny time and again, that their products cause any harm.  With this Teflon™ tactic companies attempt to escape blame by metaphorically coating their "chemical-X" with a non-sticking shield to repel censure. 

This approach has been practiced not only by chemical companies, but also by tobacco companies, asbestos companies, drug companies, nuclear power companies and many other industries.

Corporate denial of damage often occurs in a series of retreating steps, with as much delay and obfuscation as possible at each step.  The following corporate steps of denial are adapted from the arguments David Ozonoff, of Boston University, heard in his long, hard battle against asbestos: 


Chemical-X doesn't hurt your health.

  OK, it does hurt your health, but it doesn't cause cancer.

  OK, chemical-X can cause cancer, but not our kind of chemical-X.

  OK, our kind of chemical-X can cause cancer, but not the kind of cancer this person got.

  OK, our kind of chemical-X can cause that kind of cancer, but not at the doses to which this person was exposed.

  OK, chemical-X does cause cancer, and at this dosage, but this person got his disease from something else.

  OK, he was exposed to our chemical-X and it did cause his cancer, but we did not know about the danger when we exposed him.

  OK, we knew about the danger when we exposed him, but the statute of limitations has run out.

  OK, the statute of limitations hasn't run out, but if we're guilty, we'll go out of business and everyone will be worse off.

  OK, we'll go out of business, but only if you let us keep part of our company intact, and only if you limit our liability for the harms we have caused.

Donella Meadows has perceived that "The problem here is not any particular product or set of CEOs, but the very logic of business, which believes it MUST defend its profits and products, even if they cause grievous damage to the population at large." [REF]

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