Plutocracy, Pure and Simple

– I have to say that George Monbiot is one of my favorites out there on the Internet.  He always seems to be able to incisively cut to the heart of the matter on whtever subject he tackles.   The piece below will not disappoint.

– dennis

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Now it’s a straight fight with the billionaires and corporations.

Shocking, fascinating, entirely unsurprising: the leaked documents, if authentic, confirm what we suspected but could not prove. The Heartland Institute, which has helped lead the war against climate science in the United States, is funded among others by tobacco firms, fossil fuel companies and one of the billionaire Koch brothers(1).

It appears to have followed the script written by a consultant to the Republican party, Frank Luntz, in 2002. “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate.”(2)

Luntz’s technique was pioneered by the tobacco companies and the creationists: teach the controversy. In other words, insist that the question of whether cigarettes cause lung cancer, natural selection drives evolution or burning fossil fuels causes climate change is still wide open, and that both sides of the “controversy” should be taught in schools and thrashed out in the media.

The leaked documents appear to show that, courtesy of its multi-millionaire donors, the institute has commissioned a global warming curriculum for schools, which teaches that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy” and “whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial.”(3).

The institute has claimed that it is “a genuinely independent source of research and commentary”(4) and that “we do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors”(5). But the documents, if authentic, reveal that its attacks on climate science have been largely funded by a single anonymous donor and that “we are extinguishing primarily global warming projects in pace with declines in his giving”(6).

The climate change deniers it funds have made similar claims to independence. For example, last year Fred Singer told a French website, “of course I am not funded by the fossil fuel lobbies. It’s a completely absurd invention.”(7) The documents suggest that the institute, funded among others by the coal company Murray Energy, the oil company Marathon and the former Exxon lobbyist Randy Randol, has been paying him $5000 a month(8).

Robert Carter has claimed that he “receives no research funding from special interest organisations”(9). But the documents suggest that Heartland pays him $1,667 a month(10). Among the speakers at its conferences were two writers for the Telegraph (Christopher Booker and James Delingpole(11,12)). The Telegraph group should now reveal whether and how much they were paid by the Heartland Institute.

It seems to be as clear an illustration as we have yet seen of the gulf between what such groups call themselves and what they really are. Invariably, organisations arguing for regulations to be removed, top taxes to be reduced and other such billionaire-friendly policies call themselves freemarket or conservative thinktanks. But according to David Frum, formerly a fellow at one such group – the American Enterprise Institute – they “increasingly function as public-relations agencies”(13). The message they send to their employees, he says, is “we don’t pay you to think, we pay you to repeat.”

– To more of this most excellent article…

 

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