Heartland Institute Tries To Reshape Its 'Unabomber Billboard' Image With Hyper Patriotism

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It was renowned English writer Samuel Johnson who once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Unfortunately, the original context of his quote has been lost to history, but he did clarify during his life that he was not referring to patriotism in general, just false patriotism. Even though we don’t have the original context, it is easy to apply this quote to the latest activities of The Heartland Institute.

Recently, Heartland unleashed a new project called #OurAmerica, a hyper-nationalist movement claiming to extoll the virtues of American life and the American capitalist system. Joined by several other right wing organizations, it appears that the goal of the project is to revamp the tarnished image of Heartland.

Heartland explains the new project as follows:

The goal of this new coalition is to reenergize and provide hope for mainstream Americans who are demoralized by the erosion of American liberty and the constant assault on our core principles. The #OurAmerica Coalition affirms natural rights as anchored in the Declaration of Independence: America was founded as a free and independent nation that recognizes the inalienable rights of individuals to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Heartland Institute joins Turning Point USA, National Association of Scholars, The Millennial Solution, Center for Security Policy, and the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), as the first members of this new and growing coalition representing millions of Americans.

This “description” of the new coalition is effectively meaningless. There is no clear definition as to what the goals of this project are and why they were even needed. Nevertheless, Heartland is hellbent on making sure that everyone knows how much they love America.

Further down on their “I love America more than you” list is an explanation of what “American exceptionalism” is all about:

American Exceptionalism is the idea that the United States of America is a unique nation based on the ideals of the rights of the individual as best embodied in a democratic representative government and free market, entrepreneurial economy. America is a country uniquely founded upon a successful idea, rather than ethnicity, religion, borders, tribal identity, or other such traits.

What they’re really trying to sell us is the idea that corporations should operate without any form of regulations, especially environmental protections that save lives, because we’re a free market based society that should be free from government influence.

For those who may not remember, DeSmogBlog exposed the Heartland Institute’s long history of funding climate change denial with the help of internal documents obtained from Heartland. The information contained in those documents revealed that the organization is funded by a host of climate change denying donors, and that their efforts to spread misinformation reached from Capitol Hill to kindergarten classrooms. I guess Heartland believes that you need to start brainwashing children as early as possible.

Heartland’s image and reputation were severely damaged as a result of this reporting, and they haven’t fully recovered, so they are desperate to make over their image. And there’s no better way to improve your own image than by draping yourself in the American flag and chanting “We’re number 1,” and that’s exactly what this #OurAmerica campaign is all about.

If you’re interested in hopping on the patriotic bandwagon, Heartland offers a few suggestions for how you can participate. One of the most absurd suggestions is to host a movie night, and Heartland has some suggestions of films that you can show that are dripping with patriotic overtones:

Independence Day

Patton

Gone With The Wind

Captain America

Apollo 13

National Treasure

Red Dawn

The Alamo

Pearl Harbor

The list goes on and on with hyper-masculine, ultra-patriotic movies that are sure to get every true American to shed red, white, and blue tears.

If social media is your thing, they offer a host of memes that you can share:

Here’s the bottom line: If Heartland honestly cared about America they wouldn’t continue to fund climate change denial. Heartland is part of the Web of Denial that has helped to prevent action on climate change, which in turn has led to the continued destruction of the environment. This destruction is causing illness and suffering to the American people, and it needlessly puts lives at risk via the threats of climate change.

The Heartland Institute cares about one thing, and it isn’t America; It is money. As long as they continue to push climate change denial they can continue to cash checks from their wealthy donors who don’t want the United States to take action on climate change.  

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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