Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

“Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths.”

Robert D. Hare

Manufactured dissent

When Pres. Barack Obama's health-insurance initiative was the subject of Congressional debate, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce instantly unleashed a hurricane of advertising against it — about $86.2 million dollars worth of it — putatively on behalf of America’s businesses. Effective in proportion to its ubiquity, this advertising successfully persuaded millions of ordinary citizens that the proposal was a “socialist” government intrusion that would limit their choices of health-care providers and otherwise harm them. And by investing a part of these funds in manufacturing “grassroots” opposition to the bill, the Chamber sponsored a mercenary-led backlash across the country that helped form the nucleus of the Tea Party and other pseudo-libertarian anti-tax organizations.

Tom Donohue

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue apparently doesn’t like the umpire’s call.
[ Image Source ]

It has now been disclosed that the $86.2 million came, not from a cross-section of businesspeople in a diverse range of industries, but from the health-insurance lobby. This is, of course, no real surprise. By now, most of us, confronted with such a massive PR campaign, have become sophisticated enough to ask the detective’s venerable and crucial question, “Cui bono?”: “To whose good?”

Most of us, therefore, realized long before confirmation was available that since the group most likely to lose profits if the bill passed was the health-insurance industry, it was probable that the campaign was being mounted on its behalf.

A more sinister question remains, however: Why did the industry pay the Chamber to advertise for it when it could have done the same things on its own? This is where we must begin fully to apprehend the adroit subtlety of corporate public relations: To advertise directly would have exposed the industry as the real font of opposition to the bill and thereby invited critical scrutiny; by using the Chamber, it was possible (until now) to pretend that a cross-section of ordinary businesspeople spontaneously opposed it because they thought it was bad public policy.

Originally published as a review of a article on insurance-lobby funding of advertising against the Obama health-care initiative.

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