The Heartland Hullabaloo
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 19, 2012
As insurance and reinsurance companies fret about the potential impact of climate change on their bottom lines, they face a countervailing wind emanating from flacks working for those with a vested interest in the status quo.
I was reminded of this on Wednesday when an indignant press release from the reliably windy Heartland Institute hit my inbox. In case you missed it, it seems somebody tricked a staffer at Heartland, a think tank with contrarian views on climate change, into sending embarrassing internal documents to a new e-mail address. Said documents, some of which may be fake, wound up on the Web and hilarity ensued.
Considering Heartland’s role in hyping the stolen e-mail abetted Climategate scandal, the florid response to its own misfortune is an instant classic in the annals of hypocrisy and self pity. “We respectfully ask all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, especially the fake “climate strategy” memo and any quotations from the same, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions,” the release states. “The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.”
Is that all? No flogging or smiting of the first born? Heartland’s cri de coeur then goes on to lecture us all on common decency and journalistic ethics; you know, the type displayed by Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast when he labeled former Utah Governor and Republican nomination for President Jon Huntsman “stupid” for believing the scientific consensus on climate change.
My question to the perpetrators: Why go to the trouble to defame and discredit Heartland when it does such a good job doing it on its own? Think tanks are notorious for intellectual dishonesty and churning out “research” nakedly tailored to the interests of their donors, such as the dubious studies questioning the link between smoking and cancer produced at the behest of tobacco companies. Not surprisingly, a quick perusal of Heartland’s donor list reveals a good many of the world’s most profitable energy companies
Much like politicians can now rely on Super PACs to do their messaging dirty work, companies have long relied on think tanks to dirty the waters and sully opponents while maintaining clean hands. The only thing remarkable about the shameless shills at Heartland is that they are reliably more hyperbolic and effective than most.
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