Lies, Incorporated by Ari Rabin-Havt

book jacket for lies incorporatedLies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters (2016)

Fake news seems to be getting a lot of attention. Unfortunately, some of the independent legitimate news — the best, most accurate, truth to power kind of news from the Internet has deliberately been cast in the with the actual fake news, and I mean really fake, not just Faux News fake. The crap they spew can be identified as such if you read books, newspapers, or have an actual lived experience in the real world. But this book says it is not about those kinds of lies, it is about the lies

are the ones many politicians fully believe to be true — ones that have been passed to them by a staffer, a constituent, or a lobbyist. Those lies, sometimes repeated without intent, are designed to DISTORT THE POLICY MAKING PROCESS. Dig deep enough and you find an industry dedicated to the creation of lies and a group of people who profit from them. They are Lies, Incorporated.

He names name starting in the preface by stating baldly: “Richard Berman is a liar.” This man is a “PR” guy “who relishes the title of “Dr. Evil” so that pretty much establishes his ethics right there.

He is the purest representation of a growing force in American politics that creates and disseminates LIES designed to DISRUPT the public policy process for MONETARY and IDEOLOGICAL GAIN.

To bamboozle competing industries and represent any and all simultaneously, he makes up companies to dump funds into and then go to work on the client’s attacks, shielding the clients in anonymity. One company, called EPI — Employment Policies Institute (note the doublespeak title) was developed to create lies about the minimum wage to discourage increasing it. They make up fake reports, funded by the fast food industry, who then cite the reports as if they were independent research, instead of made-to-order non-reality based factual research. There are about two pages of various company names listed in the preface for just this one guy’s “non-profits” that often have zero employees, just him spreading lies. He was recorded in an industry meeting saying that he “works to confuse the public so they “don’t know who to believe,” putting them and the policy makers they represent in a position of ideological paralysis.”

He founded the industry group benignly called the American Beverage Institute. “On behalf of restaurant chains, the group set out to fight against laws that aimed to reduce drinking and driving.”

Berman has spent his career fighting for corporations at the expense of individuals but still told The New York Times that he “get[s] upset when people say we are putting out junk science and twisted economics. In fact, that is exactly what his organizations do, as evidenced by emails unearthed as part of a lawsuit between sugar companies and makers of high-fructose corn syrup.

The impact of lobbying and money is well understood to be damaging our democracy, but the lies of politicians undermine democracy by destroying trust that the politicians mean what they say and will act on the people’s behalf, al the people, not just the rich. This will become more and more apparent with the theoretical (hoping for a deus ex machine event) new President and Vice-Presidents take over our democracy and turn it into the AmeriKKKa reality show.

Lies have a uniquely corrosive impact on the creation of public policy. At the most basic level, they destroy public trust in our political systems, causing the American people to lose faith in their government. Lies also distract from real debate, bogging down lawmakers and regulators, sometimes for years as settled science is argued over. Finally, lies create balkanization in our political culture, making ideological consensus impossible.

Over the past several decades, corporate and ideological interests have become better at manipulating the press to serve their policy goals. This often means MUDDYING THE FACTS in order to create a political climate where TRUTH NO LONGER EXISTS — or where there are TWO OPPOSING TRUTHS. (p. 7)

I have long been baffled as to how anyone can watch Faux “News” and not see that it is pure propaganda and just repeats lies over and over until people incorporate the lies into an alternate reality. They don’t understand that FREE SPEECH allows pure and simple lies to be spoken by “news” and especially by politicians.

In The Fox Effect, David Brock and I detailed how Fox News, under the leadership of Roger Ailes, served as a conduit for conservative lies and propaganda, manipulating the political process on behalf of the Republican Party and right-wing organizations. From outrageous attacks on Barack Obama to falsehoods about every new policy is administration proposed, the breadth of the lies the network spread was astonishing. Yet, as we researched and wrote The Fox Effect, the question constantly arose: Where did these falsehoods originate?

Lies such as the existence of “death panels” in President Obama’s health care bill, the notion that in-person “voter fraud” exists and has a significant impact on elections, and the dozens of varieties of climate denial that Fox News broadcasts are not the network’s creation. Lies do not simply appear and take hold. They must be developed, introduce, and nurtured into the public discourse. While Fox News is dangerous because it is the first major television news network in our country to exclusively serve the aims of one political party, it only fertilizes and distributes the lies — it doesn’t create them.

All my research pointed in a single direction: a growing industry that exists to create and disseminate fictitious public policy “facts” on behalf of business and ideological interests willing to pay for them.

The lies are part of a coordinated, strategic assault designed to hide the truth confuse the public, and create controversy where none previously existed, with the goal of HALTING PROGRESS. They undermine our most basic democratic ideals by peventing people in government from effectively acting in the interest of the ekectorate. In recognition of the combination of deception and the FOR-PROFIT motive, I termed this industry made of lobbyists, PR companies, media lackeys unethical “experts,” and unscrupulous think tanks, “Lies, Incorporated. . . . .

It is a strategic infrastructure, supported by many who make their living MANIPULATING public policy. Though the practice has become so common in certain sectors of the public affairs field that it is often difficult to separate the honest advocates from the deceitful con artists. . . .

The goal of this stratagem is simple: to HALT PROGRESS on issues that their clients OPPOSE either for financial or ideological reasons. . . .

The business of inventing and disseminating lies with the goal of FREEZING THE PUBLIC POLICY PROCESS has only grown during the Obama presidency. Many on K Street believed the new administration arrived in Washington with a mandate for change. The new occupant of the White House would challenge a myriad of  entrenched interest groups: from energy companies who feared fossil fuel regulations, to financial interests who hoped to avoid further regulation of Wall Street, to elements of the health care industry that want to prevent government involvement in their business. . . .

What we see today is highly organized industry built around the create and dissemination of falsehoods supported by a media environment that aidis and abets its work. Facts are conjured in purportedly academic studies that have only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy. In 2014, one corporate lobbyist explained to The New York Times, “Once you have the study, you can point to it to prove your cases — even if you paid to get it written.”

If the facts don’t support your argument, make up your own facts. (pp. 5-7)

Wow, a tidbit I didn’t know on campaign reforms (one of the three legs of the “stool of corruption”) was that it was begun in the Progressive Era.

In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt signed the Tilman Act into law, banning corporations from making political contributions into law, banning corporations from making political contributions. A series of other reforms designed to weaken the influence of the wealthy, corporations, and unions came into being over the next sixty years. (p. 8)

Other reforms followed placing caps and so on, and then in a moment, Scalia and the gang of Republican conservatives undid it all in a moment and opened the doors to massive propaganda and outright lies being sponsored by dark money.

The third leg of the corruption stool is lobbying, which doesn’t need much explanation since we are all to familiar with this problem. I recall reading that there are about 3 lobbyists per Congressional politicians. None of which are necessarily pro-regular people.

On page 13 the infamous, but seriously unknown by the majority of people discusses, Powell memorandum that has been a force behind the scenes for decades.

In 1971, future Supreme Court justice Lewis Powell wrote a memo to Eugene B. Sydney, Jr., chairman of the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recommending a shift in strategy by the business community to a more aggressive posture, opposing government regulation, consumer advocates, and unions.

There follows an extensive discussion on lobbying and the reality is not what your might think. For example, you might think that the “white hat” lobbyists like the Sierra Club are on a level playing field with the fossil fuel industries but they aren’t and they never can be because they are not-for-profit activists and cannot compete with the billions of dollars the corporations have to pursue private profit at public risk.

The right wing and its corporate backers are keenly aware of the lack of progressives power in the policy-making process. Drutman, as part of his research for his book, asked corporate lobbyists to identify their opponents in major policy fights. Unions and progressive organizations are not even a blip on the radar. (p. 14)

Basically, the “black hats” have so little regard for the progressives’ “white hat” lobbying that they don’t even care what they do and they don’t take them as a serious threat to their corporate agenda.

Furthermore, “these paid advocates can even be found advocating for their clients’ interests during appearances on CABLE NEWS CHANNELS and on Sunday-morning political talk shows.During these media its, their potential conflicts of interest are rarely acknowledged. Hence, the reported $2.6 billion spent annually on lobbying is only a fraction of what is spent influencing policy in Washington, D.C.” (p. 15)

Some seemingly nonpartisan think tanks are part of this infrastructure as well. Public affairs firms [lobbyists] encourage their clients to make significant contributions to these “independent” organizations, which then produce studies and reports that are distributed to the media and policy makers.

It is no surprise that Washington’s “think tank” industry has boomed in the years since the Powell memo was witten In 1970, there were approximately 100 think tanks in Washington D.C. By 1996, there were 306. Most of these institutions do not consist of scholars developing solutions unmoored to ideology or funding. Instead, many are simply part of an ideological arsenal, used to MANIPULATE PUBLIC POLICY in favor of their corporate funders. (pp. 15-16)

I really wish an investigative reporter could sniff around the Heritage Foundation and see if they are providing PEOTUS with the names for his cabinet of deplorables. I cannot seriously believe that he had a clue who Mad Dog Mattis was without someone else recommending him (God only knows why, really).

The manipulation of the public policy process combines political contributions and aggressive lobbying campaigns with grassroots support (real and invented) and, as we will explore, the invention and dissemination OF LIES. These forces fuel apolitical climate where the overwhelming majority of the American people feel the government does not serve their interests.

It should be appalling that, when all is said and done, during the political 2016 cycle  it is estimated that more than $5 billion will be spent electing federal officials on top of the nearly ten thousand lobbyists (nearly twenty lobbyists for every member of Congress) registered in the nation’s capital and thousands more unregistered fighting to put corporate interests over those of the American public. (p. 17)

The lack of index makes it annoying to follow particular issues or people. But to give you an overview of some topics covered, the first chapter covers the lies of the tobacco industry. Climate Change lies is covered in chapter 2. Death panels are covered in chapter 3. Immigration reform is in chapter 5. Guns and lies is chapter 6. Voter I.D. laws are the lies covered in chapter 7. ABORTION lies are discussed in chapter 8. Gay marriage issues are in chapter 9. And the concluding chapter 10 discusses how to defeat the perpetuation of all these lies.

The conclusion was less than thrilling because it acknowledged the near impossibility of fixing this problem. One of the things that aggravates me most relates to the visuals of the talking head shows that put up one person from each side of an issue AS IF THEIR IDEAS MERITED EQUAL ATTENTION when, too often, one is a crazed mouthpiece that spews lies that are not contested by the host, and the other person is too frequently too polite to call the liar out as boldly as saying “you are lying” and I have seen some calls to the talking heads to do so rather than diversions like “claims” or other less accurate words.

The phrase “Zombie Lies” refers to the fact that once these things are out there, repeated over and over by Faux News etc. and other “opposition” guests’ claims. “Stickiness” of lies is cited as a significant problem. For example, some research shows that people STILL BELIEVE that Obamacare has death panels and so pay the fine instead of risking being killed by it, really they actually fear they will be put to death. Obama even tried to resolve by taking out the end-of-life counseling provision to stave off this completely absurd lie.

This “compromise” or lack of backbone by the Democrats actually compounds the problem because it actually seems to indicate that there might be some truth to the lie if they cave and eliminate aspects that have been lied about!!!!!!

This caving, and failure to stand up for the right thing is the deepest flaw of the Obama presidency. Yes there was obstruction beyond belief, but aggression was what was called for as a response, especially related to the failure of the replacement of the thankfully dead Scalia. EVERY FUCKING DAY should have started with 5 minutes on the nominee and calling out the Mitch McConnell for his failure to do his duty.

This could alternate with calling out the House for failing to impeach Mitch McConnell for failing to do his job.

Oh the list goes on and on for what might have been. But I think this author is absolutely spot on when you read about all the lies (I couldn’t bear dissecting the abortion chapter) and then see actual people who, when asked, repeat the lies and insist it is the truth. Worse, nothing, no facts, will ever change their minds. That’s why we face the destruction of our democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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