See the Entire Culture War Against Environmentalism Distilled Into One 4-Minute Video

Clinton Steed/CC BY 2.0

Pretty impressive, this. The creators of the following clip, "If I Wanted America to Fail," have managed to cram every hyperbolic rightwing myth about environmentalists into one handy 5-minute video digest. If you'd like to know exactly how big business wants you to view environmentalism, look no further:

It's both a little creepy and hilariously over-the-top (who is that actor, and can I book him for my upcoming community theater production of 'A Young Mr. Burns'?).

The video is produced by Free Market America, a project of Americans for Limited Government, a right-wing group chaired by the New York real estate magnate Howard Rich. Rich also sits on the board of the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank founded and funded by the Koch brothers.

As you likely know, this contingent of libertarian activists has recently concerned itself with rolling back environmental protections—Koch's Americans for Prosperity group and its offshoots have been instrumental in making the EPA one of conservatives' favorite boogeymen.

And that's why it's important to follow the money; that's how we'll best understand this supposed backlash against environmentalism. Because each of those incendiary claims about greens made above—that they hate the free market, want to strangle business, and wish the U.S. would hurry up and turn into Europe—represent entirely manufactured dissent. This 'creeping green socialism' meme is a top-down affair, guided by the wealthy business owners who want to drill for more oil and gas and would like to avoid installing pollution controls on their factories and power plants.

Since environmentalism is actually a pretty popular idea—nobody is taking to the streets to demand businesses be able to pollute more, dump waste more freely, etc—business interests who oppose environmental protections have to dress their objectives up in more dramatic, misleading terms. Since nobody's going to get polluting industry's back over their actual concern ("We don't like having to pay for equipment and procedures that limit the amount of damage we do to public health and the environment"), they have to drum up a culture war that pits 'everyday' Americans against those socialistic, celebrity-worshiping elites who only care about 'environmental issues' because it's the hip thing to do.

So we get this king of messaging:

  • Environmental protections are killing jobs! (They're not. And even Tea Partiers don't actually think they are)
    • The EPA is strangling the economy! (It's not)
  • Environmentalists hate small business! (They don't, and environmental regs barely affect the vast majority of small biz)
  • Environmentalists are Europe-loving hypocrites! (Um, whatever)

Like so many political battle arenas, this one's entirely fabricated. It's designed to get those 'everyday' voters to again vote against their best interests—environmental regs protect their health, after all, and removing them only enriches distant corporations. It's the green version of What's the Matter With Kansas?

And it's not even working all that well. Yes, the message has captured the hearts and minds of the right's loudest votest bloc at the moment, but the 'letting corporations pollute more at the public's expense' platform still fails to play well beyond hardcore conservaties and libertarian circles. Polluting industry interests wish the public actually objected to the aims of environmentalism in the way our wooden leading man above does—but the simple fact is that people want cleaner air, water, and energy. Polls confirm this time and again. There's nothing radical about that, and America's economy will do just fine if we continue to limit pollution and incentivize renewable energy.

Nice try, though.

Tags: Air Pollution | United States

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