September 30, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

If I trafficked in Grand Unified Theories of anything, I'd probably start with the argument that the tobacco industry is the true cause of all that is wrong with America. It's been established, for example, that Big Tobacco created the myth that Rachel Carson's advocacy against overuse of DDT was directly responsible for millions of malaria-related deaths in Africa and Asia. In turn, the intellectual infrastructure it developed -- both for the DDT myth and for defending tobacco itself -- became an essential part of the campaign to obfuscate the evidence for global warming, and indeed, an essential part of the right-wing think tank universe.

Now it appears that the tobacco industry had a hand in deep-sixing health care reform in the early 1990s, in part through collaborating with Betsy McCaughey on her infamous smear job of President Clinton's plan. There appears to be some ambiguity about the exact nature of the collaboration, but at the least it seems that McCaughey, while writing "No Exit", was receiving input from tobacco lobbyists -- who were helping to orchestrate a right-wing media blitz against the Clinton plan.

Now obviously there's a lot more to recent political history than just Big Tobacco, but it is rather surprising how much influence the industry has had on the growth of sophistry and bullshit in Washington in the last few decades.

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