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A Hideous Lie

Children playing in the DDT fog left behind by the TIFA truck.  (Photo by George Silk//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Children playing in the DDT fog left behind by the TIFA truck. (Photo by George Silk//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

I see people are once again going down the “Rachel Carson is a mass murderer” road. The idea is that because Carson sought to ban DDT, cases of malaria exploded and thus millions of people died. Pravda recently went down this road too.

In 2014, Google honored Carson on the 50th anniversary of her death, prompting this commentary from Breitbart News: “Will Google be paying tribute to any of the other mass killers of the 20th century? Hitler? Stalin? Mao? Pol Pot? Probably not. But then, none of the others have had the benefit of having their images burnished by a thousand and one starry-eyed greenies.” Breitbart in 2014 was led by Stephen K. Bannon, now chief strategist and senior counselor in the Trump White House.

I am not going to debunk the whole thing because this has been discussed many times. But the short version of it is that a) Carson did not call for the complete ban of DDT when it could save people’s lives, b) The U.S. ban on DDT in 1972 did not include other nations, where malaria was actually killing people, many of which never did ban DDT, c) her actual argument was not that chemicals should not be used to kill insects, but rather that the unregulated spraying of them everywhere all of the time had massive ecological consequences that would affect humans negatively too, d) mosquitoes were becoming resistant to DDT by its ban in 1972, e) much of the rise in malaria in the developing world in the 1970s had to do with decreased anti-malaria expenditures by governments, and f) DDT is still frequently used in the developing world.

This is a right-wing lie meant to discredit not only one of the finest Americans ever to live but the entire environmental movement. Never, ever believe it. Tell people who say it that they are grossly wrong and should never speak again about anything until they learn how to decipher truth from right-wing lie.

Richard Conniff has a more complete debunking here if you need it.

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