Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Hard to Dance Well When You've Just Shot Yourself in the Foot

The far-right wing "think tank", the Heartland Institute, has fallen victim to its own excesses.    It crossed a critical line when it put up a billboard tying global warming belief to serial killer, Ted Kaczynski.

The billboard was taken down within a day but the damage was done - to Heartland itself.

...what had been a gradual collapse gathered pace when Heartland advertised its climate conference with a billboard on a Chicago expressway comparing believers in climate science to the Unabomber.

The slow trickle of departing corporate donors turned into a gusher.

Even Heartland insiders, such as Eli Lehrer, who headed the organisation's Washington group, found the billboard too extreme. Lehrer, who headed the biggest project within Heartland, on insurance, immediately announced his departure along with six other staff.

"The ad was ill advised," he said. "I'm a free-market conservative with a long rightwing resumé and most, if not all, of my team fits the same description and of us found it very problematic. Staying with Heartland was simply not workable in the wake of this billboard."

"It didn't reflect the seriousness which I want to bring to public policy," Lehrer said in the telephone interview. "As somebody who deals mostly with insurance I believe all risk have to be taken seriously and there certainly are some important climate and global warming related risks that must be taken account of in the insurance market. Trivialising them is not consistent with free-market thought.
Suggesting they are only thought about by people who are crazy is not good for the free market."

Other Heartland allies came to a similar conclusion. In a letter to Heartland announcing he was backing out from the conference, Ross McKitrick, a Canadian economist wrote: "You can not simultaneously say that you want to promote a debate while equating the other side to terrorists and mass murderers."

So, what's a shill think tank to do when the faithful jump ship?   Well, like many a fallen woman, Heartland took to the street corner and dropped her drawers for Big Coal and other far-right wing outfits like the Heritage Foundation.    Thus ends Heartland's boastful and persistent lie that it was not in bed with anyone.

BTW, nice to see The Guardian acknowledge one of our own, Big City Lib, for his work in chronicling Heartland's backers.

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