The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Government-funded conspiracy theory targeting Tea Party gets even wackier

TobaccoFederal cancer research money funded a “laughable conspiracy-theory report smearing” the Tea Party as being created by the tobacco companies and the Koch brothers, which leftists continue to trumpet even though it was earlier debunked. The left-wing academics who authored it have “received $7 million” from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

But the senior author of the “study,” Stanton Glantz of the University of California at San Francisco, has now doubled down on his wacky conclusions. He told Fox News that the Tea Party “pretty much originated with that smokers’ rights stuff.” As a sarcastic Rick Moran notes, if you doubt Glantz’s conspiracy theory, “It’s obvious you’ve missed the thousands of signs at Tea Party rallies calling for an end to tobacco taxes and setting up cigarette vending machines in grade schools.” As one Tea Party leader noted to Fox News, “If you’re going to have a conspiracy theory, at least try to make it pass the laugh test … and this one doesn’t even do that.”

Glantz’s “study” is a tissue-thin, ten-page smear, produced using federal grants that reportedly exceeded a million dollars, that contains wild claims, such as the ridiculous assertion that “the Tea Party has origins in the ultra-right John Birch Society of the 1950s.”

A big promoter of the study, ironically enough, is Al Gore, who, unlike the Tea Parties, has a history of supporting federal tobacco subsidies at taxpayer expense. The study is based on strange reasoning, such as the fact that one group funded in part by tobacco companies used the word “Tea Party” in passing in 2002, a group largely unrelated to the groups that later came into being and used it in 2009. Ironically, as syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum notes, under this reasoning, which Gore endorses, Gore himself could be classified as a front for the tobacco companies, since Gore, unlike the Tea Parties, received cash from the tobacco companies for many years: “Given Gore’s own financial ties to cigarette manufacturers, it seems equally reasonable to conclude that he was invented by Big Tobacco.” (The first national Tea Party protests occurred in 2009, in opposition to bailouts, Obamacare, and the $800 billion stimulus package — not in response to tobacco tax increases, which had mostly already occurred. State cigarette taxes rose rapidly beginning in the late 1990s, before plateauing off by the time of the protests, reaching $1.18 per pack in 2008, $1.34 in 2009, and $1.48 in 2012. The federal SCHIPP excise tax increase on tobacco had also been enacted before these protests, which did not oppose cigarette taxes.)

Despite the study’s absurdity, progressives gullibly bought it hook, line and sinker, expressing almost unanimous agreement with its conclusions at hundreds of blogs. Virtually all of the first 1,000 comments to The Huffington Post blog posts by Al Gore and Brendan DeMelle endorsing the study blindly agreed with it. (Later comments disagreeing with the study are not from regular Huffington Post readers, but from disgusted readers of other blogs or conservative or libertarian websites that linked to The Huffington Post in the course of expressing disagreement with it).

Conspiracy theories are a staple in some “progressive” circles, which view political dissent, independent thought, free markets, and certain technological advances with suspicion. For example, the agronomist Norman Borlaug, who pioneered the Green Revolution, saved perhaps a billion lives in the Third World by developing high-yield, disease-resistant crops. For this, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, he was smeared in the progressive magazine The Nation, which has an irrational phobia of new agricultural techniques, as being “the biggest killer of all.”

Hans Bader

Hans Bader is Counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. Hans also writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

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