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May 9, 1977

The Greatest Battle

JAMA. 1977;237(19):2127. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270460117041

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This book illustrates the way hyperbole is used in advocacy journalism. Ronald J. Glasser, a Minnesota pediatrician, expounds his concerns about damage to our health caused by radiation, carcinogens, pollution, misused medicines, inept physicians, greedy industrialists, and immoral politicians. Victims are guiltless, helpless, and easily deceived. Their cunning and wealthy oppressors seem doggedly destructive even when there is no profit in it. This familiar genre is never persuasive, because it is absurdly simplistic and far too strident. The thoughtful reader, who may be wholly in agreement with Glasser on the substantial issues, becomes more irritated and unheeding with each of the author's unsubstantiated implications, overdramatizations, and naive accusations. Debate becomes a facade; the background and the balancing arguments are never analyzed.

From recent medical history, Dr Glasser reviews well-publicized misuses of x-ray machines, anticoagulant drugs, thalidomide, and dilantin. He shows that the greed, stupidity, and sloth of many physicians have