During this already hyper-bizarre presidential election cycle, Super PAC money is enjoying an unprecedented ability to reach a media-addicted public while being held to virtually no standards of truth. Sadly, donors do all this with a nod-nod wink-wink relationship to the candidates each Super PAC wishes to support.
Nowhere is this getting more crazy than on the emerging “gas prices” narrative.
Yet nowhere is there a greater opening for deconstruction of this phony narrative, and an opportunity for truth to prevail on energy.
Cherry picking our pocket
Gas prices are the ultimate pocketbook issue in a nation that’s geographically far flung and totally dependent on cars and trucks.
The cost of nearly everything grown, raised, made, sold or transported in the United States is tied to gas prices. And almost every adult consumer-citizen feels that cost-relationship every day of his or her life, most notably in transportation and food costs.
Politicians, their corporate overlords, and their Super PAC allies know of this vulnerability. They treasure it for its fear potential. They’ll exploit it for all its worth, seeing it as their ace-in-the-hole to drive public opinion.
All that Republicans need is to promote and cement the belief that a president has the power to change or affect gas prices and even a candidate as wooden and out-of-touch as Mitt “corporations are people, my friend” Romney starts looking appealing to the mass of cash-strapped car-dependent Americans.
Already this narrative is taking form in technicolor across middle America.
Hot air and gasses
The Washington Post reported yesterday that American Crossroads, a Super PAC co-founded by evil-genius political operative Karl Rove (former Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the second President Bush), has started airing ads in six swing states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and Virginia — that attack President Obama for his alleged failure on gas prices.
The Post analysis notes Rove and American Crossroads’ unprecedented ability to raise cash, with a comparable Obama-aligned Super PAC trailing in fundraising by about 8 to 1.
The article goes on to relate various strategic political issues at stake for both sides, yet concludes that the electorate is so divided that opinions are likely to be unmoved even by Rove’s aggressive ad blitz.
But not so fast.
The Turd Blossom speaks
Karl Rove, the man President Bush dubbed “boy genius” and alternatively “turd blossom” would never authorize spending nearly two million dollars on a targeted gas prices ad campaign if he believed it had no real ability to move the needle.
I’m one who believes that the long-time Republican political strategist, known for his criminal campaign tactics all the way back to his first real campaign (and including significant dirty work in the GOP around the time of Watergate) still knows exactly what he’s doing.
This means that thinking people everywhere should prepare to hear over and over again this year the old fairy tale of easy gas, fast cars and oil prosperity as something only a GOP candidate can provide — and as a boon that Obama will willingly imperil.
The issue of energy, framed in the most idiotic and demagogic way, will become one of the most dominant themes of the 2012 election campaign.
Now, many peak-oil aware and Transition-minded folks have given up on national politics anyway, seeing the whole tawdry reality TV paradigm that politics has become as a corrupt, rudderless, cynical mess that’s best left for good. This goes for both sides of the aisle.
But some of us are gluttons for punishment.
We still believe that what’s done in this country by very wealthy, influential and powerful people — mostly to satisfy their own greed and control — is something we should all be mindful of. We also continue to labor under the delusion that it’s important to fight back against the manipulations and blatant distortions that arise from cabals like Rove and his Super PAC.
Fat, lazy, stupid Americans, Rove loves you!
The majority of Americans are profoundly energy illiterate. Think of how powerfully soothing is the notion that we can “drill, baby, drill” our way out of oil decline and foreign oil dependency (climate be damned, but that’s another story).
Or consider how quickly the false meme that the U.S. is now a “net energy exporter” has rifled through the public consciousness, obligingly repeated by passive and disengaged reporters.
Finally, consider the wildly inflated claims about natural gas potential (and promised profits) that noted petroleum geologist and financial advisor Arthur Berman has called a bubble that will burst sooner rather than later, a Ponzi scheme that will enrich a few swindlers while leaving suckered investors and the public holding the bag…again.
Americans believe a bizarre combination of notions about energy, including that it should and will remain cheap; that we can live a reckless, polluting, resource-intensive lifestyle forever; that we could be energy independent at home if we’d just invest more in tar sands and oil shale; that tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve can bring down gas prices; and above all, that the person who holds the presidency can make gas $2 bucks a gallon forevermore if he or she really wanted to.
No one is effectively dispelling these myths. So the myths just grow, lies that become truths because they’re repeated over and over. It’s straight out of the Josef Goebbels playbook, and thus is the Big Lie believed.
It’s bad enough that hard-working folks who are the backbone of this country, and fretfully investing retirees who are worrying about their twilight years, get hoodwinked into believing that a president can fix gas prices and make everything cheap and prosperous once more.
But it’s doubly sad that young people and left-leaning clean energy and environmental types get taken in by bogus energy narratives, too. They should know better, or look into the situation more deeply. Yet I’ve heard plenty of liberal groups call for tapping the Reserves to “bring down gas prices.” Sheesh!
The power of the chorus
The big issue is, How do we counter the deep pockets and willful public manipulation of these Super PAC energy liars?
Each of us may feel small compared with a group that has $30 million bucks with which to influence public opinion. So like scrappy Minutemen we have to respond with agility, using our wits at a moment’s notice to fight back across all media fronts, to rip down and deconstruct the false ideas promulgated on energy by knowing prevaricators.
As of now, we still have Internet freedom and we need to use it like it was the most precious resource on earth to type in our comments about the truth of the energy situation. We can also call in to radio shows, write editorials, share stories on Social Media platforms. The best thing to do is to be engaged while keeping it short and sweet:
- No president has the power or ability to change gas prices. Why does the GOP keep saying they can?
- America is not now and will never be a net energy exporter.
- Developing oil shale is ridiculous. It costs more to extract it than it can be sold for.
- Did you hear about Wall Street’s latest swindle? Natural gas is the next financial bubble. Get out while you can.
- Tapping the Strategic Oil Reserves has never changed gas prices. It’s better to keep the oil in there for a real emergency.
- A country with 5% of the world’s population will never be energy independent as long as we consume 25% of the world’s oil.
At the same time, an unwavering chorus needs to rise up demanding that we create the alternative economies of relocalization, where we use less gas and oil and make and buy more things closer to where we live. We have to model and encourage:
- Using less energy as a lifestyle that provides greater financial freedom. (Turn off lights and appliances, walk and bike and carpool more, insulate your house, use the AC rarely, hang clothes to dry, etc.)
- More DIY activities as a fun, creative and exciting way to live. (Garden, fix broken things, cook, bake, sew, build, brew etc.)
- A willingness to give up stuff shipped from far away, or grown out of season. (Buy local, direct from farmers, support mom-and-pop shops, boycott unaccountable and out-of-scale large corporations, share, trade, barter.)
- Embracing low consumption as a joyous moral good. (More time, less stuff, promoting family and neighborhood economies.)
- Public transit to offer cheaper (and more liberating) transportation options, create jobs, boost local economies and cut pollution.
- That government work for the people first, and that America stop functioning as a corporate state. That means no more subsidies to Big Energy.
Real hope begins with truth
The ultimate David-and-Goliath fight is the fight for our country’s soul through some form of shared, mature intelligence about how we live, and what’s true on issues like energy, climate and their link to economy and lifestyle. The days of opinion substituting for facts and expert insight are over. But plenty of us worry about whether it’s too late to change minds in a country fed fat on a century of grains, antibiotics, and media. I mean maybe we’re all just insane.
So yes, it feels like a straight uphill battle.
But with Big Oil — and its cronies in the likes of Rove and the American Crossroads Super PAC — as a viciously unrepentant Goliath willing to say and do anything to secure its profits and political dominance, this is a fight worth fighting every single day.
And it’s only going to get more more critical.
As the realities of peak fossil fuels bear down with more force every day, shattering our notion of endless growth, the potential for even more vehement posturing by demagogues and other paid liars increases exponentially. The dangers of advancing false promises and false assurances on our shared energy situation are acute. This a fight for the moral, ethical and real-world high ground.
It’s time to #StandUpFightBack.
Watch the American Crossroads ad, and then vow to add your voice to those who refuse to let blatant lies on energy stand, demanding truth on energy out of Washington instead.
This is still our shared world. Our commons. Do something uncommon to reclaim it.
–Lindsay Curren, Transition Voice