How They Do It (Part 1)

Suppose you need to do some work involving an important issue like tax cuts, minimum wage, the environment, globalization, etc. Perhaps you’ll be talking to a class or writing an article. Maybe you’re in a political campaign or trying to get a law passed or just trying to build up public support for an environmental cause. Where can you get information and materials – perhaps even some coaching with the wording?

If you’re coming from a moderate or progressive perspective it can be quite difficult to quickly find resources – information and materials – to help you prepare. But if you are in the “conservative movement” there are very powerful resources available to assist you. I’ve been looking at the resources offered by the Heritage Foundation, just one of the many “think tanks” that give the conservative movement so much power. These think tanks use a process that takes supposedly “academic” research and plugs it into a marketing machine, “popularizing” the language used so that it will connect with ordinary people, and finally sending this product out through dozens of communications channels. (There’s a 1998 article about these think tanks and this process here. If you really want to get started at understanding why the right seems to be just storming over everything that we – and most of the public – believe in, read this article as a starting point.)

Let’s pretend we’re right-wingers all worked up by Rush this morning, and looking for information to help us stomp some liberals. Let’s take a trip to Heritage Research. (Note – right-click and use “Open in New Window” so you can keep reading this while looking at the pages I’m referring to.) Notice the list of issues to choose from. As the page says, “All thirty of Heritage’s policy issue pages feature archived research, expert contact information, and links to related interactive products.”

How does this work? Suppose you need information to help you argue from the right-wing perspective about taxes. Click on their Taxes research page. This page links you to to research articles, backgrounders and WebMemos, all offering the “conservative” perspective on the issue, with the implied credibility of being prepared by “experts” and “scholars”. (Never mind that these so-called experts and scholars have credentials that come from other right-wing funded organizations.) On the right of the page are links to “Commentary” prepared by experts to feed you ideas, and even “Experts” for you to contact on your issue. There are links to multimedia materials, news about related events, and supporting materials like charts & visuals. Click on (because I like the title) Corporate Expatriation Protects American Jobs. The author explains how companies moving offshore to avoid taxes is good for Americans.

You have a one-stop shop for all your far-right propaganda points!

Click Back a few times to get to the Research page again. Click on The Candidate’s Briefing Book on the right of the page. Here you get another list of issues, but these direct you to information that is useful in a campaign-type setting, presented in short, ready-to-repeat wording. (You might recognize some of this wording, because you can’t turn on a TV or radio without hearing it.) Click on Briefing Book Chapter. Here you get a comprehensive briefing on the subject, with lists of “facts” – all supporting the “conservative” view – charts, and strategies. At the end of the briefing book is a list of experts you can call on, with their phone numbers. Click Back and be sure to look at the downloadable “Pocket Card” with its prepared “talking points.” (Extra credit, see how many people on TV and radio, or op-ed pieces and letters-to-the-editor in the paper repeat these very points word-for-word). Click Back again and take a look at Quick Hits, with its short bursts of ready-to-spread propaganda points.

Also available at Heritage are webcast lectures, media clips, speakers (for your TV or radio show), newsletters, and books (written by Heritage staff).

Heritage also has a database of “2200 public policy experts by area of expertise“, and “A searchable database of the conservative movement, presenting detailed information on over 300 public policy organizations in the U.S” searchable by organization type.

Once you are thoroughly indoctrinated there’s also a Job Bank, that “assists conservatives in finding employment with conservative Congressional Offices, faith-based organizations, other public policy organizations, lobbying groups and trade associations”.

Finally, Heritage offers links to “The Conservative Community” where you can find your way to The Insider, “A monthly compilation of publication abstracts, events and news from conservative policy organizations around the country.”

If you are a conservative, you have powerful resources available, Heritage being just one of many. It can be completely overwhelming to start digging into what’s going on with the right-wing movement, and can be demoralizing as well. There are hundreds of millions of dollars each year going into this operation and it is so well-established and has vast resources. And all of this to what end? To convince blue-collar workers they should sacrifice affordable health insurance and better schools and so much more just so the rich can get more tax cuts! But don’t lose heart – even with this going on for almost 30 years now Gore got more votes and Bush STILL needs to drum up a war to distract the public from their terrible (and obvious) failures.

I’ll have more later.

Part 2 is here, part 3 is here.