When the pot calls the kettle black

  Dear HCN,

In Jon Margolis' article on "property rightsniks' (HCN, 6/5/00: Can 'property rightsniks' stop a popular bill?), he says, "Mainly, though, the very irrationality of the opponents is rational. Their purpose is not to make sense, nor even to win votes, but to oppose, and to prosper while doing it. Cushman's American Land Rights Association is a (perfectly legal) racket. It flourishes by keeping its constituents as upset as possible; the angrier they get, the faster flow the direct-mail contributions."

This startling diatribe precisely describes one of the central dilemmas of modern politics and is characteristic of all special interest groups, including environmental groups. On my desk as I write is a direct-mail appeal from the Sierra Club that consists of 10 separate pieces, including a form letter to Rep. Barbara Cubin. "I am appalled by the federal government's participation in the reckless destruction of these precious lands by logging interests' is the angry language someone wishes me to mouth on their behalf, after contributing $15 to $100'. There is a special free gift and color pictures and sound bite spin and endless blather necessary for the special interest group, in this case the Sierra Club, to prosper and keep up the flow of direct-mail contributions.

Another example from Wyoming is the Equality State Policy Center, invariably described as a "good government watchdog group." They are a special interest group with an agenda, accountable to their donors and no more endowed with righteousness than you or I. What I object to is the spin, the media's willingness to wink and apply white hat/black hat labels, when the nature of modern politics - politics since the dawn of time - is the clash of interests. It is necessary for us each to see those interests clearly, to see through the refraction of spin. Interesting to see the pot call the kettle black.

Fred Parady
Rock Springs, Wyoming
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