Anti-fluoridationist astro-turfing and media manipulation

Update: The National Fluoridation Information Service today responded to the NZFIS press release to make clear that it did not originate from them (see 27.08.13MediaReleaseFinal).

The recent attempt by anti-fluoridation activists in Hamilton to limit the ability of academic scientists to comment on the fluoridation issue seems pretty dishonest (see Anti-fluoride activists attempt to silence science). Especially with the upcoming referendum. But that isn’t the only dishonest tactics these anti-fluoridation activists get up to. They are also involved in very cynical manipulation of press releases, the media and the establishment of front organisations – astro turfing.

NZ Fluoride Information Service

A recent press release for the NZ Fluoride Information Service (NZFIS) surprised some people – including even very senior members of the Fluoride Free organisations (see screen capture below). It even fooled at least one give away newspaper, The Hamilton News, into reporting their press release as a “story” (see Fluoride group praises council).

The press release was simply a congratulatory message to the Hamilton City Council for their fluoride “tribunal” and decision to stop fluoridation. It asserted that the decision “was a perfect example of science winning over bias.” It claimed “that opponents of fluoridation put up all the science, and the pro-fluoridation side put up nothing but ill-informed, misguided comment and misinformation.”

Bloody hell, any objective observer of the submissions made to that “tribunal” couldn’t possibly agree. Who the hell are the NZ Fluoridation Information Service? Surely they aren’t the body set up by the Ministry of Health tasked with providing updates on current fluoride research – the National Fluoride Information Service? (An organisation well worth following for updates on the science behind fluoridation issues).

Well, no, but the names are similar enough to confuse the less informed observer (and some senior members of the Fluoridation Free groups). The National Fluoride Information Service (NFIS) is an information and advisory service supporting District Health Boards and Territorial Local Authorities by providing robust and independent scientific and technical information, advice and critical commentary around water fluoridation.

In contrast the NZFIS is,  in fact, a front organisation for the Fluoride Action Network of NZ (FANNZ) – the anti-fluoridation activists. They claim to be an independent body providing objective advice and also claim to have “been created by independent experts in this subject. The Service includes scientists, doctors, dentists, and lawyers. It has direct access to many international fluoride researchers.” But this is just typical of they way anti-fluoridations claim their spokepersons are experts.

The “founder and science and legal advisor” for the NZFIS is Mark Atkins. He is also the “Science and Legal Advisor for  FANNZ management committee – so much for independence.

Bryne atkin

They are in it together – FANNZ and its front organisation the NZ Fluoride Information Service. Anti-fluoride campaigners Mark Atkin and Mary Byrne offer free bottles of artesian water at Wainuiomata Mall. Photo / Jamie Adams. Credit: NZ Herald

Mary Bryne, who is the National Co-ordinator and media contact for FANNZ is works closely with Mark Atkins in FANNZ, and probably also the  NZ Fluoride Information Service.

So the  NZ Fluoride Information Service is not an “independent” organisation – it is just a blatant example of astro-turfing. So poorly done that they mix their spokespeople and use the same postal address.

Contact for FANNZ

Contact for NZFIS

Postal: PO Box 9804
Marion Square
Postal: PO Box 9804
Marion Square,
Wellington 6141

And then the local Fluoride Free groups circulate and publicise press releases from the NZ Fluoride Information Service as if they have originated from independent sources – sometimes media organisations even reprint them. Pure media manipulation.

Hamilton FF

Fluoride Free Hamilton posts the NZFIS press release on its Facebook page as if it is independent – and fools some of its members.

Frankly I think that sort of behaviour is unethical.

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

One response to “Anti-fluoridationist astro-turfing and media manipulation

  1. Stuart Mathieson

    I see in Nature’s forcast for developments in 2014 that, a project may commence whereby transgenic primates with experimental brain modifications will be used to explore mental disorders. The article admitted there are difficult ethical issues!
    I’ll say there is! Frankly I’d rather they experimented on the wretches who deliberately mislead the public with quack “science” undermining sound public health policies in the name of Social Darwinism.


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