2006 seems like a long time ago. Coming out of the 2004 Presidential Election and the 2006 cycle where Dave Johnson and I worked together on The Patriot Project defending veterans who were candidates against smears from the corporate right (it in turn a project of John Kerry’s) we realized that there was a fundamental point being missed in the political discussion of the day.
Back in the early 1980s and ever since, the core strategy of the Right’s communication platform was one of not just disinformation, but fundamentally ignoring of facts. Constant repeating of lies, and treating our country and our environment and really our future as inhabitants of earth as nothing more than a business decision. It was clear this was happening all around us, in the debates on climate change, the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry, and more but where was it all coming from? What was its core?
The answer we learned is still true today.
The heritage of present-day corporate/conservative Republican communication strategy is from the tobacco industry. In fact, many of the Right’s top strategists including Karl Rove, started out working in the tobacco marketing & lobbying.
And, in our mind, nothing showcases this more than Marlboro Country. Cigarettes kill (we’ve known this scientifically for over fifty years.) There is nothing LESS healthy and clean than tobacco smoke. But this didn’t stop the tobacco marketing gurus from spending hundreds of millions of dollars pitching Marlboro as clean healthy living.
Progressives, for better or worse, just can’t do this. Progressives couldn’t, as a group, sell tobacco and cigarettes because we know what they are. The Right has an ability to suspend disbelief. To absolutely and completely ignore the facts in order simply to make money and make more money. The Swift Boat Veterans were funded by people who were going to make money if George Bush was re-elected. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s the ultimate the ends justify the means.
When we look at the ‘debate’ on climate change, we also see another key component of the tobacco strategy, and a hat tip to honorary SP member Max Bernstein here, we see the strategy we call “manufactroversy.” Max figured if they are going to make up controversies, we’ll make up a word to describe their making up controversies. A manufactroversy, proudly noted in the Urban Dictionary, describes the art of creating a scientific controversy where there is none.
If you look back in the 1960s and 1970s guess what was happening in the land of cigarettes? “Doctors’ claiming we’re not really sure if cigarettes cause cancer. “Doctors’ claiming there was a debate. “Doctors” claiming more study and more time is needed to be sure. Sound familiar? It should. The “Doctors” are now “Scientists” and the mainstream media is still not doing its job and we have a climate change manufactroversy.
So we’re back. We’re going to pick up where we shouldn’t have left off. 2012 is going to be a pivotal year and we’re going to do our part in making sure someone is standing up and reminding everyone, ‘maybe we’ve heard this one before.’