News & Politics

Hightower: Climate Activists Are Fighting the Right by Subverting Its Most Effective Campaign Strategy

This new conservation group chose its image both to symbolize the true-West commitment to defending nature and as a spoof on right-wing language perversion.

What's in a name? By definition, the name of a person, place or thing is its personal designation... a distinct way of being known to others. Unless, of course, it's the opposite -- a label meant to disguise who or what a person or thing really is. In other words, a fake name.

Hiding one's true identity can be done for many legitimate purposes, but it tends to be widely-used these days by scheming people or nefarious interests with... well, with something to hide, using a dishonest, Orwellian representation of themselves for villainous reasons. Two of the most notorious practitioners are common crooks and corporate front groups, which often are one and the same. 

For example, Restaurant Workers of America is not made up of waiters and cooks. It's a front-group of chain-store owners who oppose raising the sub-minimum wage of their actual workers. Cloaking themselves as independent citizen advocates and adopting such patriotic-sounding names as Americans for Prosperity, these astroturf outfits run massive campaigns of deceit promoting policies and views that benefit the corporate sponsors at the expense of the public interest.

So, what should we make of a brand-spankin' new group with the incredible moniker of Cowboys for Liberty? What a positive name! Cowboys are seen as down-to-earth straight-shooters, and America is all about liberty. But wait, is this one of those Koch-funded, far-right-wing bands of angry, anti-government ranchers? Au contraire, as the old cowhands say. In fact, Cowboys for Liberty is an audacious, fun-loving network of hell-raising, climate-change activists who are out to expose, shame and defeat the corporate-serving profiteers behind the unconscionable climate-denier industry, instigated by Jim Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund.

With many of its members from Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and other Western states, this new conservation coalition chose the cowboy image both to symbolize the True-West commitment to defending Mother Nature -- and as a spoof on the right-wing's intentional perversion of language and honest policies. One of their first targets? The most selfish of them all: climate-change deniers.      

Yes, from time to time, a few individuals pop into the public eye who are so consumed by self-importance, self-righteousness, self-aggrandizement and all things selfish that they have no shame -- even when their narcissism does gross harm to others. These narcissists-doing-disastrous-damage are the climate-change denying clique of prominent polluters, politicos and propagandists are shamefully used their positions of power to enhance their own fame and fortune as glaciers melt, oceans rise, extreme weather expands, species perish and Earth itself spins toward being unlivable.         

While these professional deniers acknowledge no shame, the feisty Cowboys have stepped forward to acknowledge it for them. They've established a Climate Deniers Hall of Shame, and it inducted its first class of infamous deniers. Among the honorees are Charles and David Koch, who've dumped more than $100 million into front groups spreading lies about climate change; Sen. Jim Inhofe, the dotty old dean of deniers, who has called global warming a conspiracy spawned by the Weather Channel; and the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, who secretly funded right-wing groups to issue hoked-up reports to discredit the science of climate change.

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The Hall of Shame is fun, but it's not a prank. It's a real place to memorialize in perpetuity the names, faces and shameful actions of obtuse, avaricious individuals who've worked to put their petty selves above the very existence of humanity. Publicizing the nefarious efforts of these deniers reveals the importance of an informed and engaged citizenry. Otherwise, we end up ruled by a kakistocracy -- government by the worst people in our society.

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Populist author and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America’s ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.