Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Deception Industry

I discovered this interesting story this morning from the BBC.

"Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour."

I’ve been asking this question for a while. What do we call the intentional organized effort by corporations to disinform and confuse the public over matters of public safety and public health?

Now there's a word for the study of intentional corporate falsehood. But is there a name for the act itself?

Until this dangerous corporate strategy is understood and there's a name for it it's hard to make it a crime.

Ignorance is their friend.

The lag time between harm done and public awareness allows decades to go by, while the company reaps large annual profits, and their dangerous products cause harm to millions of people.

This same delay allows the statute of limitations to expire. It allows their victims and witnesses to die off and the evidence to vanish.

Chemical companies whose products cause neurological diseases use this strategy.

The global Catholic hierarchy used this strategy for decades to cover up for pedophile priests, enabling them to go on destroying innocent lives.

Big tobacco used this strategy.

The asbestos industry used this strategy.

Big Oil knew the dangers of global warming caused by CO2 emissions and covered it up for decades, paying scientists to fabricate and distort evidence and confuse the public.

The NRA’s allies in Congress have prevented the scientific study of the harm done by gun violence.

Police departments have prevented the collection of information on police abuse and police shootings.

The corporations that control the machines that tally our votes claim the technology is “proprietary” and therefore it is a secret and the public has no business overseeing the vote count.

Why is there no name for this deliberate, organized, systematic and decades-long practice of keeping the public in the dark? Is the language also in thrall to their corrupt money? Without language to define the abuse it is hard to pass laws against it. Corporate money buys more lawyers and creates wealthier lawyers, who then endow law schools and universities, and the ignorance becomes a public fact, a carefully nurtured public policy.

Money shapes how we think. Call it “moneythink.” It certainly shapes our laws and how our laws are enforced. This same corrupt money dominates our legislative process, thanks to Citizens United, which was shaped by the right wing of the Supreme Court, which was created by the dominance of corporate money in politics. Millions more Americans vote Democratic than vote Republican, yet the Republicans still control both houses of Congress. Corporate money helps them do this.

But we are complicit too. We are individually in thrall to “moneythink”. When we are unsure how to vote or what to think we delegate our decisions to our money. What do our stock portfolios want us to do? If it’s a coin toss decision between left and right, we too often side with the markets which hold our retirement plans hostage, and the markets are dominated by large corporations.

Never mind that the markets have always done significantly better during Democratic presidencies, the corporations and the people in control of them prefer deregulation and lax enforcement and public ignorance of the damage corporations are causing to public health and well being. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Kiss Up, Kick Down. The Money Politics of Cruz and Trump and the GOP.

Ted Cruz is as perfect a demonstration of the corrupting power of money in politics as we are likely to see. He bragged about his personal sacrifice and opposition to Wall Street but secretly took a million dollars from Wall Street banks to gain office. This is called hypocrisy. The lie makes it worse.

VOX explains the special deal Ted Cruz secretly obtained from Goldman Sachs, his wife's employer.

People with large fortunes dominate our politics. They can afford to run for office or else they fund other people’s campaigns, people who will further their interests. We have a religion of money in this country. We are told every day by our media that the rich earned their riches, that entrepreneurs are braver and bolder and smarter than humble working people. They are often smart and usually better educated because they can afford to be, but are they bolder and braver? They are depicted as swashbucklers who dare to take risks, but they aren’t risking much. They take these risks with a large margin of safety their wealth provides, and their losses are seldom catastrophic because they can afford to hedge everything. They can escape losses entirely the way Trump did via multiple bankruptcies, leaving others holding the bag. When they win, they collect; when they lose, we all pay.

From QUARTZ, the myth of the brave risk-taker. It's brave to be born rich, apparently.

Working people who use our democracy to demand changes to improve their lives are called greedy. The hard won privileges that are taken away from them are called “entitlements”, which is an insult because, of course, only rich people are entitled to things. Working people must prove themselves worthy every hour of every day. The rich? The born rich? They take special privileges for granted but questioning those special privileges is dangerous.

From the NYTimes, the special tax evasion system that keeps the rich rich, and lets us pay their bills.

We live in a period when working people are fed with crumbs that fall from the tables of people who own for a living.

From PACIFIC STANDARD, a useful IMF debunking of Reagan's trickle down fairy tale.

Meanwhile we’re sold this fairy tale of brave independence, the lone American who doesn’t need government. This fairy tale is sold to us by monied interests who live off government contracts or are dependent on government subsidies. Who evade taxes but accept bailouts. The fairy tale is very popular, especially in the West, where public lands are used by private operators, who sometimes resent the privilege and refuse to pay. If the land were owned by mining or timber interests how much more would they pay? The libertarian argument is riddled with contradictions and magical thinking.

From PACIFIC STANDARD, a description of how dependent the libertarian Bundys are on government handouts.

USUNCUT lists five government freebies the Bundys live off of.

This is the Right Wing’s big idea: give all public land and public infrastructure to private businesses to profitize, but when they cheat or fail or harm the public or poison the environment let the government clean it up.

From REUTERS news service, a report on how Michigan's governor shifted public responsibilities to private operators, who then cut corners to earn profits and wound up poisoning a whole city.

From THE WEEK, a shorter summary of what Governor Snyder and his private enterprise cronies did to the city of Flint, Michigan.

What people forget about the “corporate model” is that it was first invented to allow individuals to avoid responsibility for their failures.

They are called “limited liability corporations.”

They privatize profits and socialize risks. When they win, they pocket the cash. When they lose, we all pay for their failure.

Being able to fail and go on to try again is not a bad idea. It’s based upon the notion that we need to share each others risks and help each other succeed. We shouldn't leave anyone behind... but increasingly we do.

Increasingly the ability to fail and try again is limited to the monied classes. It has been tailored to protect property above all. It is a right given to people with property rather than people who work. It favors those who own for a living and ignores those who work for a living.

Kiss Up. Kick Down.

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