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Heartland Institute Faces Backlash over Equating Mass Murderers and Climate Change Supporters

J. Mijin Cha

What do Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Charles Manson, and a large majority of Americans have in common? People who are not insane would say nothing. The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank, however, recently put up a billboard that equated the 62 percent of people that think the weather is changing (i.e. the climate is changing) to people like the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Fidel Castro. Heartland’s press release announcing the billboards stated that, “some really crazy people use it (global warming) to justify immoral and frightening behavior.” Right. I must have missed that part of history that found that Charles Manson went on his murdering spree in the name of global warming.

It seems this time, Heartland went too far and in the subsequent days since the billboard went up, corporations have begun to pull their support due to pressure from groups like Forecast the Facts, who mobilized over 20,000 people to call for corporate sponsorship withdrawal from Heartland. This latest controversy comes just a few months after internal memos were leaked that showed Heartland’s plan to go all out on pushing a climate-denying message, including plans to teach corporate-funded curriculum to children about how climate change was “controversial.” As we pointed out at the time, there is nearly uniform consensus in the scientific community that not only is the climate changing, but also human produced climate change is a significant contributor.

Embracing the existence of climate change is not confined to the scientific community. A recent poll conducted by Yale University found that nearly 70 percent of those polled said that the U.S. should make either a large or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming, even if this has large or moderate economic costs (emphasis mine). In a time when the economy is still in recovery, the fact that a large majority of people support reducing global warming, even if there are costs, is huge. It could be that people are feeling more economically secure than reported so they are focused on broader issues than the economy. Or, it could be that the threats of global warming are becoming so great that people see addressing the issue with the same importance as the economy. And, rightfully so. As a recent set of reports released by Demos shows, there will be substantial personal and economic costs from climate change.

The Heartland backlash, combined with the backlash against another right-wing stalwart, ALEC, are strong indications that the right has gone too far with their over the top messaging and policies. As for me, I say keep the crazy coming. Exposing what the right really thinks is one of the best tools for progressives.