Dave Johnson and James Boyce
Over at Smoking Politics, we tell and re-tell and constantly point out that the right wing strategy of lie big, ignore the facts and shoot the messenger wasn’t created out of thin air, it was started with great success by the tobacco companies almost a century ago.
The clearest current example of the attempts to muddy the water on whether cigarettes actually cause cancer, oh wait, that was the last example, now they’re muddying the waters with Global Warming.
It’s the same strategy – shoot the messenger (Al Gore, Laurie David, Sheryl Crow.) Deny the facts. Spend tens of millions of dollars to form front groups. And hope you can delay the inevitable support for the facts and for the truth to come out.
As we’ve learned more and more about this, and the fact that Karl Rove is a former tobacco marketing consultant, we discovered a remarkable book, “The Cigarette Century.” In it, Dr. Allan Brandt outlines the true horror of what the tobacco companies did, and in many places around the world, continue to do.
Here’s a quote from The Washington Post’s review of the book.
I defy anyone to read the middle chapters of The Cigarette Century, the ones that detail the foundation of the Tobacco Institute and the industry’s efforts to muddy scientific waters, and not come away with a burning need to drive down to North Carolina and find someone to throttle. Or Madison Avenue. Among the many villains Brandt skillfully waterboards are executives at the public relations giant Hill & Knowlton, which during the 1950s single-handedly orchestrated Big Tobacco’s campaign to undermine anti-smoking advocates and scientists up to and including the surgeon general. No lie was too big to tell, no bit of pseudo-science too ridiculous to pass off as legitimate. Parents, if you have teenagers considering a career in p.r., have them read this first. I can’t remember the last time I read a more scathing indictment of corporate malfeasance.
On Wednesday at Noon Eastern, we will have Dr. Brandt on our Smoking Politics Radio Show, and also hope to have Rick Perlstein call in as well.
If you’ve ever wondered how the Right figured out how to ozone Al Gore and Swift Boat John Kerry, you have to listen in and learn just how orchestrated this strategy has been, and just how successful as well.