More than two decades in or close to the media, I have learned one thing: it is all a supreme slight of hand, a magician’s trick, and illusion and allusion to reality. It is the illusion which masks the movement of vast and often obscene profits. Where once the media provided a service the community, it is now all about the money, and at the heart of news stories are efforts at the underlying transfers of wealth. In a sense, it is legalized money laundering in which money is spent on advertising and content meant to drive public opinion into votes that legitimizes corrupted politicians into policies and laws that then further enrich those interests. The story of wind farms and bird deaths helps illuminate shadowy connections.
The story made the headlines in newscasts of a prominent Chicago Radio Station this morning. The national headlines are even more telling:
Under pressure from the wind–power industry, the Obama administration said Friday it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the fear of prosecution for
WASHINGTON — Under pressure from the wind–power industry, the Obama administration said Friday it will allow companies to kill or injure eagles without the …
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-eagles-idUSKCN0XW05110 hours ago
Wow, talk about the “Liberal” Media. The New York Times put it more succinctly and, well, accurately:
“Conservation groups reacted with anger to the rule, saying it gives wind farms too much leeway to operate without sufficient environmental safeguards and does not consider the long-term impact on eagle populations.”
To be fair, the ruling also drew the ire of Wildlife groups as well, legitimate wildlife groups. That is an important distinction as insurgent rightwing groups attempt to co-opt environmental arguments through front groups, straw man arguments or through simple misinformation.
So then, what is driving the assault against wind power so vehemently, or is it simply out of concern for the birds? And how many birds are actually killed by those big wind turbines? If you are a bird and animal lover, one creature is a tragedy, but in a big and complex world zero can prove an unrealistic and unattainable goal despite even the greatest of intentions. Minimizing as close to zero as possible should be the goal, but ask yourself why the number of squirrels and voles, rabbits and birds killed in mountaintop clearing, stripping coal mining or displaced in the building of a new factory or subdivision or shopping mall don’t rise to the same level of attention and condemnation?
The truth is, there are no accurate figures on the numbers of birds lost to the estimated 20 thousand onshore wind turbines in this country. No one is really counting them, much like the US government failed to do with the actual number of Iraqis killed during the conflict there. A 2013 Smithsonian article put the number between 10,000 and 600,ooo birds. That’s an incredibly broad figure, one rife with propaganda potential on all sides of the argument. A study, relying on an internet search-already hearing data flaw- found that number to be been 140 and 328,000. A large number indeed, even if we take the median of about 250,000 birds annually. Still, no criticism about nearly a billion killed by buildings, some 80 million killed by cars or hundreds of thousands killed by fisheries. So why all the attention on windfarms?
The answer lies more in the money politics of the American political system and how the sources of that money dominate the media to the extent that virtually all other sources are excluded or drowned out. As the old saying goes, follow the money, and on this issue the money is speaking very loudly.
More than 90% of American media is now controlled by a small and ever-shrinking number of corporations. Take, for example, Salem Media Group, who says on their website that they are, “America’s leading radio broadcaster, Internet content provider, and magazine and book publisher targeting audiences interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values.” SMG also owns Salem Radio Network, which “syndicates talk, news and music programming to approximately 2,600 affiliates…and operates 116 radio stations, with 71 stations in the nation’s top 25 markets – and 30 in the top 10.”
One of Salem’s top hosts, playing straight man to Trump in a presidential debate, is corporate lawyer Hugh Hewitt who specializes in shielding big business from endangered species laws. In other words if you want to build a Walmart on land where the last of a protected species of salamander resides, Hewitt is your man to get the bulldozers rolling. Hewitt’s agenda seems to match perfectly to that of his radio bosses at Salem. But does it end there, or do the tentacles, or at the very least, shall we say, motivation for the attack on Wind Power go much further, to names you already know?
Salem is run by Stuart Epperson, who is also a member of the highly secretive Council for National Policy(CNP). CNP supported the Bush Administration and gave nearly a million dollars to the 2000 “California Defense of Marriage Act” ballot measure, also known as Proposition 22. The New York Times described CNP as “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” CNP was founded by Tim LaHaye, author of the Christian apocalyptic fiction series, Left Behind, and a former head of the “Moral Majority,” along with Paul Weyrich, founder and co-founder, respectively, of ALEC and the Heritage foundation. Incidentally it was Weyrich who advocated voter suppression, remarking 3 decades earlier that “”I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Other CNP alum include Col. Oliver North, and philanthropist Elsa Prince, mother of Blackwater maven, Erik Prince, Rev. Pat Robertson, former United States Attorneys General Ed Meese and John Ashcroft and gun-rights activist Larry Pratt. So it is easy to see why pro-Christian ideas, those things Jesus advocated so powerfully for, like guns, war, invasive security and denying realities of climate change are the dominant themes on Salem’s radio stations.
The CNP also aggressively fights against clean power in favor of gas, oil and coal concerns, works to debunk man-made climate change and fights legislation that is in favor of environmental issues. ALEC, however is the policy focal point and The Heritage Foundation the tool. All these groups, shielded and wallowing in what should amount to a vast billionaire money laundering operation (Forming arguably self-interest groups and then funding them with, again arguably, an expectation of political and financial gain) congeal under The Heritage Foundation, whose message is proliferated daily, indeed hourly on Salem radio stations nationally. Salem is, in that regard the propaganda arm for billionaires and the Right, while all opposing arguments are mocked, misrepresented or ignored outright.
Men like Amway co-founder Richard DeVos should be considered white collar criminals by any honest estimation. In 1982 he plead guilty with an accomplice to defrauding the Canadian government in an elaborately concocted scheme of more than $22 million in customs fees. Try getting through customs with a brick of cheese if you are a working class stiff. DeVos is linked to CPN. His wife Betsy is sister to Blackwater’s Erik Prince. Feeling a bit like Roman clan marriages yet?
CPN, like other inter-married rightwing groups, such as, Koch Brother owned Koch Industries-supported bookend organizations Americans for Prosperity(AFP) and The American Enterprise Institute(AEI) supply armies of guest “experts” on a full spectrum of issues, like gender, the economy and, in particular, the environment. Most especially AEI, which in a 2007 Guardian investigative piece found that “AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.”
The effort was to cast doubt on the growing body of evidence of man-driven climate change and the mounting cries for curbs on polluting emissions from coal and oil, both of which the Koch Brothers are, coincidentally, heavily leveraged in. Recall at the time most of the nation still had not yet heard of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was still in its relative infancy. By 2011, as the issue was just coming to the public’s radar the Koch Brothers w ere putting significant pressure and influence on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The LA Times reported that February that “Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.”
Recall at the time that the Occupy movement, which sprang up just 3 earlier, stood in opposition to the unprecedented and corrupting financial influence the Koch Brothers was exerting on elected officials. Occupy was reacting, in part to the Franken-child of the Koch brothers, through a new group called FreedomWorks meant to give the illusion of grassroots support for corporate interests: The Tea Party At Salem the effort to confuse and mislead the public on climate change was already in full swing through the use of so-called experts and pundits.
Meanwhile Koch Industries, a conglomerate of oil refining, pipeline, chemical and paper businesses continued its full court press to wrest control of the media, through co-conspirators and benefactors like Salem. Advertisers, like Stainmaster, are ubiquitous on Salem radio stations, and not surprisingly a recurrent list of Koch, big coal and oil apologists from The Heritage Institute, AEI and CPN. All of them, through that entangling web have deep interests in discrediting renewable power, which, as we have seen in that last year with the collapsing price of oil, eats into profits long considered to be safe and sovereign to a very few individuals. It is these organizations that assail the murderous bird genocide of the wind power industry, while working to cover up the truly horrific cost of fossil fuel burning. As for the motivation for Salem and the hosts who form the bedrock of public disinformation on climate change, they are getting paid.