Last week big oil/big coal sent a not-subtle message to the country’s investment community: if you back companies or technologies that compete with us we will crush you. Our media/political machine will accuse you of every crime in the book. Your picture will be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country looking like you are on the FBI’s “Most Wanted List.” We will haul you before Congress and grill you like a tri-tip on national television. The evening news will speculate that you should be in prison.
Here is the other message that is being sent out loud and clear to the rest of us: America is for oil and coal. If you want alternatives let China do it.
Extending To Everything
Here is what the conservative propaganda machine does. It sets a narrative, pounds out a drumbeat on that narrative, and then every news event is twisted to leach the lesson of the narrative. The oil-backed right had been on an anti-green kick for some time. In The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal I gave some examples — just a taste — of this narrative development:
Attacking Green Manufacturing
The Solyndra accusations are really just one part of an ongoing conservative and oil-interests-funded anti-green-manufacturing campaign drumbeat. Long before Solyndra’s bankruptcy the Heritage Foundation was running stories like 2008′s Green Jobs Are Con Jobs, 2009′s The Green Job Myth Exposed, and this year’s Obama’s “Green Jobs” Pipe Dream, The Green Jobs Story Obama Doesn’t Want You to Hear, Are “Green Jobs” the Answer?, Are Green Jobs ‘Gone with the Wind’?…
Media Matters had previously exposed the nature of this ongoing effort, in Heritage Foundation Green Jobs Panel – Bought and Paid For By ExxonMobil,
Instead of showcasing the views of unbiased academics and economists, the Heritage Foundation put forth a panel of individuals financially connected to ExxonMobil.
… The ENTIRE PANEL Received Money From ExxonMobil.
More conservative-outlet examples include the ever-malignant Fox News: Solyndra Investigation Begins Critical Look at Federally Funded Green Ventures.
Other conservative outlets continue the drumbeat, Obama’s green dream hurting U.S. taxpayers by Linda Chavez.
NewsMax: Green Jobs Spending Is a Waste of Greenbacks, “If the congressional “supercommittee” wants to cut wasteful spending, the green-jobs agenda is a great place to start.”
And more and more and more and more…
That is what they do. They develop the narrative — in this case, anti-green, and when there is a story in the news they twist it to teach the lesson.
The Solyndra Lesson
So now Solyndra is in the news. On FOX news — 2nd-largest shareholder is an oil billionaire — the story is played 100 ways hour after hour. On talk radio it is repeated endlessly. In right-wing blogs it echoes everywhere. In right-wing newspapers, echoed in “mainstream” outlets by right-wing supported columnists, and driven into the mainstream. Lie after lie after lie, repeated until it becomes “truth.”
So the narrative was that efforts to push for green-energy alternatives jobs was bad, Solyndra came along and was used to teach the lesson. Now that Solyndra is the narrative, it is being used to teach the larger lesson – anything government does is bad, anything opposing oil and coal and big multinationals is bad. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, The birthing of Solyndra,
Since the solar-energy company went belly-up a few weeks ago — leaving taxpayers on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees — a business that was once the poster child for President Obama’s green-jobs initiative has instead become a tool for Republicans to discredit most everything the administration seeks to do.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah used Solyndra to argue against worker-training benefits. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina used it to argue that the federal government should stay out of autism research. Disaster relief, cancer treatments, you name it: Solyndra has been an argument against them.
And this week, the government faced the prospect of a shutdown because House Republicans added a provision to the spending bill to draw more attention to — what else? — Solyndra.
The Serious People
One side intimidates, and means it. So they are seen as the “serious” people — deadly serious. If you cross them, you will have trouble. Serious trouble. The other side plays along, caves, accommodates, appeases, refuses to exercise power when they have it, does little even to enforce obvious lawbreaking by the big — serious — players.
Which side do you think people are going to take seriously?
The media won’t call out the intimidators because they are intimidated. One part of this intimidation is the organized, funded “liberal media” accusation. But that is just part of a larger strategy: neutralize those who might call you out on what you are doing. Yet another part of media intimidation is the effect on people’s careers. If you call out the right, you are a “leftist” and you career is in danger. If you are known as a liberal your career is not going to advance in most outlets. If you go after corporations you are “anti-business” and your career is not going far.
But you can say any silly thing, be as wrong or stupid as you can be, as long as it supports corporate/right positions. Nothing bad will happen to you. In fact you are more likely to do well careerwise – be promoted, make more money, get access, speaking fees, etc. And if you actually work for the right’s machine, the sky is the limit. You will always, always have a job at an “institute” or in an “association” or even on the government payroll as a staffer. Seriously.
Seriously Using Power
Oh, and for those concerned about government subsidies, deals, etc.:
- House GOP Blocks Vote On Oil Subsidies
- Republicans Filibuster Bill To Repeal Oil Subsidies
- Senate GOP Votes Down Bill To End Big Oil Subsidies
- GOP Whip McCarthy: Oil Subsidies Off The Table In Debt Talks, But Medicare Cuts Have To Be Part Of The Deal
And is that pesky government trying to regulate you?
- House GOP readies bill to prohibit EPA from regulating carbon emissions
- GOP Moves to Slash EPA’s Budget
- GOP Proposes EPA Cuts; Backs Oil Subsidies
- GOP Begins New Push to Delay EPA Rules on Toxic Power Plant Emissions
- GOP: We need a ‘time out’ from regulations
And not just big coal and oil:
As for getting goodies from the government?
- Koch Submits Winning Bid To Supply Additional Oil to Strategic Reserve,
- Halliburton’s Deals Greater Than Thought,
This list could go on all day.
This is how power is used, and big oil/big coal/Wall Street/Big Multinationals have that power.
Solyndra – Government Doing The Right Thing
The first thing that needs to be emphasized here: the government — under Bush first, then under Obama — was right to assist Solyndra and other solar companies. Our government wants to help us capture some of the new green-energy industrial revolution for our country. It is millions of jobs and trillions of dollars coming down the road. To accomplish this the government stepped in to help explore promising new technologies, just like they do with cancer research. Solyndra had a promising new technology and that is why the Dept. of Energy started considering them for a loan guarantee – under the bush administration – that would encourage private investors to take the plunge.
That is all that happened here. Period. One company went under but the technology was promising and still is. Jobs were created – here. Research was funded – here. Facilities were built and will be used – here.
But China stepped in and put $30 billion into winning this bet – there – and this drove the prices down, so one company here went out of business. That is what happened.
Did it cost the government some money? Yes and no – the jobs, research, facilities, supply chain is all still here. And the money was nothing compared to the money the government puts into big oil, big coal, big ag, big financial, etc.
Silicon Valley’s San Jose Mercury News Silicon Valley observers say fears of ‘more Solyndras’ are overblown,
…the scandal has already created an unexpected roadblock for another area solar firm, San Mateo’s SolarCity. Earlier this month, the company heralded conditional Department of Energy approval for a $275 million loan guarantee that would help put solar panels on dozens of U.S. military bases. On Friday, the company’s CEO sent an urgent letter to Congressional leaders, saying new federal concerns in the wake of the Solyndra scandal could scuttle the SolarCity deal.
… “In the past 48 hours, the DOE has informed us that while they remain strongly supportive of Project SolarStrong, they will be unable to finalize their approval of the loan guarantee” prior to next week’s expiration of the loan program.
Adding that the high-flying company ultimately may have been undone by the rise of lower-cost competitors, he said: “Solyndra isn’t a sign of the failure of solar. It’s a sign that this market is booming.”
Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.
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