Heartland Institute: Brainwashing Tomorrow’s Voters Today

If Shakespeare were still alive today and writing a modern-day version of Macbeth, he—aside from looking like a somewhat younger version of Ron Paul—would likely decide to replace those three vile witches and their boiling cauldron with a conservative think tank and a waiting room in which, instead of catchy though demonic chants, men in suits would sing Christian rock.

Because think tanks, just like the bard’s meddlesome seers, are rather fond of doling out misleading prophecy then sitting back to watch the havoc they’ve created unfold. And lately, they appear to be doubling down on the toil and trouble.

Take the Heartland Institute, for example, which had several internal strategy memos leaked to the media on Valentine’s Day—hey, some people say it with roses, whereas others prefer to say it by hacking your hard drive. And as far as I’m concerned, if you’re a duplicitous organization with the nerve to put “heart” in your name, you kind of have it coming.

Anyhow, those memos revealed several of Heartland’s strategies for undermining global warming science. The memo getting the most attention is the one which included plans to pay an Energy Department consultant $100,000 to develop K-12 school “curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain—two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.” No, not to teach both sides of the science—as there’s only one—but merely to teach how the topic itself is divisive. Even if that divisiveness only exists because groups like the Heartland Institute are getting paid to create and teach it.

It’s kind of like the question of which came first, the chicken, the egg or the smoldering atmosphere that nuked them both into a Southern-style McGriddle.

Still the interesting thing of note here—aside from Heartland’s willingness to turn our children’s minds into a for-profit battlefield—is the silent admission on Heartland’s part that man-made global warming is, in fact, an inconvenient truth. Well, to be fair, it’s only going to be inconvenient for those of us not wealthy enough to purchase some prime acreage in either Antarctica or on Newt’s proposed moon-base.

Considering the right’s eagerness to scream the sky is falling, it’s odd to see groups like Heartland arguing that it’s not—particularly when they privately acknowledge that it is.

Okay, okay, I’m kidding, as it’s not odd at all: Truth is, there’s a lot of money to be had in obscuring the truth, and according to those leaked memos, nearly half of Heartland’s donations have come from a single, anonymous source.

And no, you’re not alone if you believe that anonymous source has a brother named Koch (a name that is, for the record, pronounced “douche”).

It’s also been interesting to watch Heartland’s response to the leak. Much like their response to global warming, Heartland appears to be both acknowledging the memos as legitimate, while at the same time questioning their legitimacy.

“The stolen documents appear to have been written by Heartland’s president for a board meeting that took place on Jan. 17,” Heartland said in a press release after learning of the leak. And while that may sound like an admission of the memos’ authenticity, consider the next line in that press release:

“The authenticity of those documents has not been confirmed.” Later in the statement, Heartland says that one of the leaked memos is completely fake (though it merely echoes what is said in the other memos).

In other words, these memos were written by the President of Heartland for a Jan. 17th board meeting, though one is fake, and there’s a good chance none of them are real. And in those memos we learn that Heartland believes in global warming science but wants to create skepticism about the science’s validity. But of course, those memos—written by Heartland’s president—could very well be fakes. So, you know, take them with a grain of salt.

Say what you will, but you’ve got to give Heartland credit for sticking to its basic strategy of “creating skepticism”, no matter how greatly circumstances change.

Still, no one should be surprised or shocked by the revelations in these memos. Conservative think tanks (or, more appropriately, don’t-think tanks) have nurtured such strategies, almost exclusively, for over 30 years. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry, and not just at the slipperiness of the strategies being employed.

The simple fact is Republicans and the corporate world are increasingly directing their political actions at our children, hoping not so much to win votes today but rather to guarantee they won’t need to win them tomorrow. By corrupting the public school systems—casting doubt on science and banning subjects contrary to conservative ideology—they’re creating a separation between our children and the ideas and information that would allow them to form educated opinions: to choose.

Some might call that brainwashing, and it is, but it’s also an attempt at intellectual genocide—the complete destruction of an idea or fact simply because it doesn’t jibe with Exxon’s anticipated quarterly reports.

The simple fact is the culture war isn’t one being waged in the media, or on the campaign trail: it’s one being waged quietly, far from the lens of the media, on school boards across America. It’s a war being funded anonymously, as well as by tax payers through programs like No Child Left Behind, which provides federal aid to charter schools—which for the most part are little more than Jesus camps occasionally interrupted by math—as well as funding options for those committed to the intellectual incest known as home-schooling.

And in case you didn’t know, NCLB was not President W’s pledge to make sure every child in America was educated, it was merely a reference to that crappy Kirk Cameron film about the rapture.

The culture war is being waged by well-funded groups that you’ve never heard of—like Heartland—who are descending on our schools like pederasts with puppies and chocolate. No shit, the high school by my house is surrounded by no less than a dozen churches within eye-sight of the school’s parking lot. Whenever a plot of land opens up, the various denominations launch into the kind of bidding war you’d only expect to see when the Yankees and Red Sox are battling it out for an untested Asian pitcher.

That kind of predatory behavior would generally be received by the local community with rage, but I guess when you’re only interested in molesting the mind of a child—as opposed to their body—it’s not that big a deal.

Either way, whether groups are penetrating public schools to spread the word of their god, or corporate interests are altering educational material to ensure future profit, it’s clear that the real activists of the day will need to bring their fight to the school yard, passing out smokes, booze and copies of the Kama Sutra.

Because if the right wins the recess demographic, we’ll all eventually be left murmuring “out damn spot” while rubbing at the melanoma growing on our noses. As for Kirk Cameron?

Well, something tells me that the boys at Exxon, whilst packing for Newt’s moon-abode, will decide to leave him behind.

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