Intellectual and Emotional Kudzu: Indiana Policy Review’s Propaganda

kudzu (noun) - an invasive vine that grows fast and covers everything, eventually killing many native species

Today, the HT offered up 646 words of rank propaganda from the far right of the political, economic and social spectrum.

Who gets 646 words in the HT?  Guest columns?  Nope, a 500 word limit.  Letters?  Nope, 200 word limit.  Those offering “commentary” may exceed those limits.  I have asked for clarification from the Editorial Board.

Today, like many other days, the HT promoted the work of a group that offers the equivalent of ideological kudzu to Indiana’s citizens.  It’s almost irrelevant to discuss the piece in the paper today: it’s simply partisan rhetoric intended to persuade without any interest in anything substantive or factual.  This is common for the Indiana Policy Review (IPR).  But I feel compelled to engage with this piece a little bit before I offer more detail about the propaganda organization the HT promotes to Bloomington area readers.

The piece, “An Indiana ‘jobs program’ that actually worked out”, is by the founder of the Indiana Policy Review, Craig Ladwig.  He’s been at the game of persuasion for a long time, founding the IPR in 1989, one assumes to keep pushing Reagan’s benevolent policy effects out to the masses.

After citing an IPR study on, I guess, Hoosier population exodus though it’s not at all clear (maybe he needed 50 more words) and an AP story that goes unnamed though a quote is pulled from it (Google offers this as the actual article, “Rural U.S. Disappearing?“), Ladwig goes on to demonize and denigrate all manner of “liberal” policies as either promoting the exodus, instigating it, or failing to counteract it.  He offers nothing concrete in anyway, just accusation and assertion.

After first quoting from the recently “cured” liberal David Mamet, who, one supposes, now approves of the method of “business” on offer in Glengarry Glenross (“What’s my name?  Fuck you is my name.”) he offers up advice from that late crusty racist William F. Buckley:

Many years ago, our foundation hosted a coffee for the late William F. Buckley. During the conversation, Mr. Buckley pulled from his pocket a large, inscribed coin. It read, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

Is that our position? Stand there confident that the inscrutable workings of a free market will restore our failing towns?

Pretty much. Any council or mayor in the mauve of our little map would be wise to simply leave their citizens alone to take care of their property as they are able, perhaps saving or borrowing to improve things when possible and appropriate.

Ah, leave citizens alone…to be manipulated by market forces.

And he goes on to offer the now familiar Friedmanian “greed is good” formulation as the way to really get Indiana back in the black (oh, whoops, that might be too ambivalent a sentiment regarding the racial history of the state):

There will be those on the local council who will object each step of the way, saying this would strip the town of civilization’s veneer, make it difficult to fund the amenities, unleash the savage forces of greed.

Exactly, if greed is understood to be a dysphemism for ambition

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. To grow, our cities and towns must attract it, must use it to recreate the economic spontaneity of a frontier where Indiana can prosper through reinvestment and, yes, resettlement — a new Northwest Ordinance.

That, to return to old Tom Lincoln, was Indiana’s first jobs program. The Northwest Ordinance meant “Rule of Law,” ensuring the freedom to succeed or fail, to build or buy here or there, to contract with him or her, to invest one’s energy and wealth as one thinks best under the Golden Rule. The economist Arthur Laffer has put this in a modern context — a proposal for new American “enterprise zones.”

The 80’s hits apparently just keep on being “hot” for the Right.  Recall that Arthur Laffer was an economic adviser for Reagan and is co-chair of the Free Enterprise Fund (now merged with the Congressional Effect Fund).  His claim to fame was something he dreamed up in the presence of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld that would “prove” that the tax rate should be much lower that it was at the time (Nixon years).  The incest of right-siders is broad if not particularly profound.  They want your money.  They find their way into government in order to create policies and loopholes for corporate and personal profit (that’s what they mean by “private”).  There is NO consideration of commonwealth in their economics and the term “public policy” to them simply means the practice of turning public wealth into private holdings.

It’s nice to call greed a “dysphemism” for ambition.  Ambition is “good” but we call it “greed” to make it sound bad.  Ambition for private gain IS greed.  What’s the confusion?  Ambition to heal the sick is GOOD.  Ambition and Greed are not cognate

Craig Ladwig may or may not know this, but it’s a good way to spin it.  Ladwig, besides his primary gig at IPR, also appears to blog at the site Veritas Rex.  The list of their authors and their affiliations will again let you know what it is this gang is selling.  It’s not freedom; instead it’s elite management of society by wealthy white men, preferably religious.  In effect it is a kind of cabal or priesthood of Greed, er, Ambition!

Finally, here’s the link to the HT’s database search on “Indiana Policy Review”–19 “commentary” pieces with just that as a search in this year alone.  B-towners, your paper is pushing at you from the Right pretty hard with these guys.  Why?

I don’t know if the IPR titles their offerings for the paper but they are pretty smart in terms of creating a kind of illusion of public-mindedness.  But a quick glance reveals baseless propaganda.

One can concede to the idea that most of us will agree emotionally that we want the government out of our affairs.  However, we also want the government to protect us.  Groups like IPR use that conflicted public temperament to create a distrust of government while upholding the “idea” of “Rule of Law”.  Say, who do you think writes the laws?  Who do you think prosecutes the laws?  Who do you think gains more favor from the law?

Did you answer “persons” or “citizens”?  I hope not!  Rather, Corporations and property owners.  How many of us hold enough wealth to receive “equal consideration” in front of a law written by and for property owners?

Words are endlessly spun out to confuse you.  Motivations, when considered factually (follow the money), are usually crystal clear.

Power accrues to power and multiplies at an exponential rate.  How should we be “free” in that environment?

Oh, and the Northwest Ordinance?  Wasn’t that basically a land-grab by those dastardly Feds intended to centralize and administer territorial development under “liberal” policies such as the Prohibition of Slavery and Habeus Corpus?  Of course, maybe the part Ladwig likes is that any captured fugitive slaves escaped from slave to free states had to be returned to the “rightful” owners.  That’s the law protecting property after all.


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  1. Douglas Storm September 18, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    As an FYI, this particular piece from IPR was dancing about the “angry white” internet 6 days before showing up in the HT.

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  3. dpopp September 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I wonder how someone at IU’s journalism school would weigh in on the responsibility the Herald Times as a newspaper to print pieces likes IPR’s? Since I didn’t see the piece I don’t know if they gave credit where credit is due so that readers could get the whole story. All the news may be fit to print but then what is news?

    1. Douglas Storm September 20, 2011 at 1:03 pm

      They identify the author affiliations; I don’t think they need to do more than that. They could define the group I suppose.

      “The Right Wing Lobby Group” or something like that. If you look into it you know that’s the case…if you just read the paper and fold it up then maybe you take it as “expert” opinion. Which is the idea behind the Think Tank strategy…faux scholarship promoted to look expert.

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