Strategies of Anti-Stem Cell Propaganda War Machine

I’ve posted before about the propaganda machine that is actively promoting an anti-embryonic stem cell agenda.

Knoepfler lab H1 human embryonic stem cell culture
Knoepfler lab H1 human embryonic stem cell culture.

This machine is still out there and as many of us discussed at the recent World Stem Cell Summit, it seems to be working far better than our efforts to promote our cause.

What do the folks on the other side do to so effectively get their message across? Below are my impressions of their top 5 tactics. Every single one of these tactics is a part of a strategy that we ourselves could be using to advance our cause as well.

1) Work as a highly integrated team. 

While events such as the Summit strengthen our efforts to work together as an integrated team, the other side is far ahead of us. When an anti-ES cell article is posted on any given day, they let each other know about it and take action as a team to promote it. There is strength in numbers and they make good use of that principle.

2) Effectively use social media.

The anti-ES cell folks are great users of social media. They are especially powerful users of Twitter and blogging. Especially when done as a team, their use of social media allows them to get pieces that have messages that they like a lot of attention.

3) Take advantage of what Google can do.

I like Google, but sometimes the sheer size and power of Google worries me. Opponents of ES cell research know Google extremely well and they exploit its weaknesses to great effect. Many anti-ES cell blogs have managed to news source status with Google which means when they do posts, Google treats them as news items. This means they get a much large number of impressions and end up higher in Google search results. I tried to get this blog to be a news source for Google, but without explaining they said no. It’s frustrating that clearly opinionated anti-ES cell blogs have that status and I can’t get it, but that should not stop others from trying.

4) Stay on message.

Another factor that was discussed at the Summit and that I blogged about was that us pro-stem cell folks tend to be all over the place when it comes to our messages that we get out there. I will argue again that our diversity is a strength, but we need to have some coherent talking points as well that we work together to deliver.

5) Use message dilution.

Our opponents on the other side claim to be pro-stem cell research, just adult stem cell research. However, their apparent love affair with adult stem cell research is at least in part not so great acting. While it is true that adult stem cells have enormous potential and we study them in my own lab, many people only promote an adult stem cell message to make ES cells look bad or unnecessary.

A prime example is message dilution. Whenever a major positive story about embryonic stem cell research is announced, almost inevitably on the same day the anti-ES cell folks post a bunch of stories about adult stem cell research to dilute the positive news about ES cells.


7 thoughts on “Strategies of Anti-Stem Cell Propaganda War Machine”

  1. Maybe it’s not an issue of heavy financing, but rather personal conviction. Maybe they earnestly believe life is sacred and that to destroy an innocent human during any stage of development is a crime against nature itself. Perhaps they believe with their very core that if you can bring about solid results and cures with adult stem cell therapy, then using volatile embryonic stem cells, which often have harmful results and kills at least one human life, is unnecessary.

    1. John, as pointed out by Agnes above, it is indeed a question of funding. Plenty of people would love to be able to push the message, but do not have time to spend trolling the internet because they have jobs that require significant time commitments that do not include heavy participation on web sites.

      1. True, but the other side is very well funded and on our side there are organizations that COULD if they so chose fund a single person full-time to work on advancing the cause.

        1. Yep exactly my point, the pro-ESC side does have funding sources and could allocate a small fraction of funding towards creating jobs to spread the positive points of ESC research and possible future treatments.

  2. Excellent analysis. I think there is one distinct advantage they have over most of us on the pro-research side – time. Maybe they all are getting paid by the right to life, the Catholic church, the Koch brothers or some other activist group to spend their time trolling the internet. Most of us have actual jobs like running a lab, so we don’t have the time to respond to every article that comes along as they seem to do. In addition, reading the misinformation out there is enough to keep the blood pressure in a dangerous range, at least for me.

    1. Thanks, Jim. It was a pleasure meeting you at the Summit and getting a chance to talk. The other side has deep pockets including big money from Blackwater via FRC.

    2. It would be good to see more job openings for individuals who’s sole job purpose is to communicate the positive side of ESC research. An example of this would be Amy Adam’s position at CIRM.

      I remember at the WSCS meeting an individual who was interested in such a position and was asking where she could find such a particular job. So the people are out there, the job positions just haven’t been created yet. If jobs like these were present we would all benefit on the pro-ESC and stem cell research side.

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