By Dave Johnson and James Boyce
Today, we are launching a new web site, and a new radio show, and continuing a passion and partnership that has been developing over the past year. The site is Smoking Politics and on it we will track, expose and fight back – hard – every single day against the right’s strategy of Fear and $mear. We will also host a weekly BlogTalkRadio show, The Smoking Politics Radio Hour, with our first show today at noon Eastern, 9:00 am Pacific. We will be taking calls.
Why do we call this project “Smoking Politics?” Because the origins of the conservative strategy of Fear and $mear come out of the golden age of the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies learned that with the right combination of psychological persuasion tactics and media budget that literally anything could be marketed to the American public.
They were so good that they could persuade people to kill themselves – and to hand over their money while they did it. The right saw the success of this strategy – and noted the total lack of facts and morals involved and decided – if people will pay to smoke, maybe they could be convinced to support a right-wing agenda which was equally deadly. Maybe they could actually convince blue-collar workers to accept the right-wing agenda that asked them to give up their health care and pensions so CEOs could buy bigger jets? So they took these tactics into the political realm.
Look at how much of the right’s political agenda is aligned with the needs of the tobacco companies. There’s deregulation, especially in the area of protecting the health and safety of the public, or of regulating toxic substances. There’s “tort reform” – the attempt to prevent victims of corporate malfeasance from using the courts to hold companies responsible for their actions. And, of course, there’s tax cuts for corporations – and the government looking the other way as the tobacco industry continues to spend $35,000,000 a month marketing their product.
There’s another critical link between the far-right and the tobacco industry. Few people know that Karl Rove was a tobacco company advisor. Even fewer know that the heads of the “political consulting firms” like DCI that set up Republican-connected 527 front groups like the Swift Boat Vets came from tobacco companies as well. Tobacco funds supported the right. Tobacco consultants sold the agenda.
The recent Union of Concerned Scientists report on the efforts to discredit global warming science describe an in-place infrastructure of organizations that had aided the tobacco companies in their strategy of discrediting the science that said cigarettes were killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. The report describes how Exxon basically took over this infrastructure of science-denial organizations and used it to muddy the waters about the science that shows global warming is occurring.
And look at the ridicule that Al Gore is enduring from the right. Why? Because he is trying to save the planet – he is the object of humiliation. We even saw it just this week when a “charity” who recently gave Rush Limbaugh an award for “media excellence” and accepts $50,000 a year from ExxonMobil attacked Laurie David and Sheryl Crow’s Stop Global Warming tour.
So the tobacco strategy of Fear and $mear, combined with the psychological persuasion tactic of “Marlboro Man” appeals to self-image and its counter-image of ridiculing and humiliating the “wimp” became America’s politics.
What is Ronald Reagan’s image, hat askew on his horse, if not that of the Marlboro Man?
And how did they cast Jimmy Carter to prepare the country for Reagan’s campaign, if not the ineffective wimp and an object of ridicule – despite the fact that Jimmy Carter was a Navy man? Sound familiar? Fear and $mear. And how have they cast their politicians and policies since? As variations on the macho Marlboro Man. Do we need to say how our Democratic leaders have been portrayed since? $meared as effete, ineffectual clowns.
And then there’s the Fear Factor – we spend more on military than the rest of world’s countries combined, but we need to live in fear. Fear of a man in cave. Fear of a country that doesn’t even have nuclear weapons. Fear of fighting them here if we don’t fight them over there. Fear of 9/11.
At The Patriot Project last fall, we explored and exposed this pattern. We were able to begin to bring awareness of this tactic into the media. Many of those posts are here.
Now we are bringing all this experience to Smoking Politics, where we will fight this fight on a daily basis – exposing the lies and smears and sell strategies that the right uses to win elections and destroy our leaders.
We will show, as Swiftboater-financing Sam Fox’s recess appointment, and the ongoing US Attorney scandal clearly showcased – that there is a circle of corruption. Right-wing donors pay for the $mears of our leaders and reap financial benefits and appointments and a government that looks the other way. They win elections through fear and $mear. They make money from their victories and the cycle repeats itself.
We think that going into the 2008 election cycle nothing matters as much as this issue – the first thing we have to defeat is this tobacco Fear and $mear strategy that has been so effective at destroying our leaders and building up their own.
We have plenty of time to lay the groundwork on this effort before the 2008 campaign is in full swing. But we don’t have sufficient funding to hire the researchers and writers we need. Stay tuned as we will be announcing fundraising events and online fundraising efforts.
And don’t forget to tuned to tune into our show today. We look forward to hearing from you.