This letter to the editor addressing the dark methods of manipulating voters, recently appeared in the Napa Valley Register. The wine industry has promised a million dollars to defeat Measure C, using some of these methods. Over 7000 voters signed the petition to vote on protecting Napa’s water supply. Voters, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” (Franklin D. Roosevelt). Please join forces with proponents of Measures C and D and help voters get the facts.
The extreme right-wing forces claimed that Barrack Obama was a Muslim and born in Kenya, and then spun stories and conspiracies around that. The fossil fuel industry claimed that the climate scientists were a conspiracy and created fake science to keep their research grants flowing.
In these cases, and many others, the voices of reason who are following appropriate protocols to gain consensus for action face a fusillade of groundless assertions that ignore facts and logic and turn the narrative on its head.
The voices of opposition use a tried and true technique, called Fear Uncertainty and Doubt, or FUD (look it up, it’s a real thing), augmented by slime. Slime, taken from “Ghostbusters,” is making your opponent repulsive by the stuff you stick to them. Hurling a baseless charge at your opponent makes them have to clean themselves of the disgusting substance or just stand there, being repulsive.
In the same way, climate scientists’ agreement becomes a conspiracy, their data “manufactured,” and their motives questioned. The tables are turned, and they have to respond to the baseless charges, or the slime sticks. Obama had to stoop to showing his birth certificate, but could never shake the “secret Muslim” meme, because it was a double meme. In denying it was his religion, he added to the idea that it was something worth denying; being Muslim was un-American. A double bind trap.
Napa’s own 99 point FUD Slime
In Napa County, scientists, environmentalists, conservationists all agree that when developers deforest too much, it leads to the same ills that deforestation has led to around the world. They propose that we slow down and stop deforestation.
This simple proposition has both face validity and scientific support (when has deforestation ever lead to good things?). The opposition then breaks out the old playbook, the one written by mega-corporations and polluters, to confuse voters by instilling fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and then spraying the citizen movement with enough slime that they are left sputtering.
The million-dollar war chest that conservation opponents have gathered is going into inventing things to make voters fearful of not deforesting the hills. Yes, not deforesting will cause bad things to happen, they assert, claiming that not mowing down trees will hurt farmers, hit taxpayers in the pocketbook, and, most silly of all, will cause traffic to increase.
In some attacks, they claim that they are for conservation, but not by preventing deforestation. Allowing deforestation as a conservation strategy is the height of newspeak.
By reversing the argument and claiming that gross harm will come from protecting nature, and further asserting that the greatest harms are the unknown “unintended consequences,” the conservation opponents are sowing fear even of things they haven’t invented. Monsters under the bed.
Then, they grab a copy of the playbook and attack the conservationists with a barrage of challenges and questions that put the progressive forces on the defensive. The same exact questions appear as comments on public forums and comment boards. “Exactly how many oak trees are there in the watershed?” “When you protect the hills from vineyards, you are really promoting filling the hills with mansions.”
The first type of question is silly, as it’s irrelevant, but it is designed to make conservationists say, “I don’t know,” which makes them look unprepared. The second is the kind of assertion that the trolls know is untrue, as protecting trees does not allow a single additional home site. It does slime the conservationists with the charge that they support building of mansions in the hills.
Spraying challenges like these, and putting them on signs puts the protectors of the environment on the defensive. If they respond, they walk into a trap; if they don’t respond, the slime sticks.
The mega-corporate anti-environmental machine is working hard against a citizen band of amateurs. The slime-sprayers have taken over the institutions and silenced public officials. All in the name of protecting corporations and the uber-wealthy from, as Stu Smith put it in a letter to the editor, “the tyranny of the majority.”
The forces attacking conservation assert that they are really for protecting the environment and have the track record to prove it. They, however, have budgeted a million dollars to defeat a citizen initiative to protect the environment.
Imagine what million would do protecting the watershed rather than attacking citizens who are trying to save it.