Monday, April 7, 2014

Republican woomongers

On Friday, Chris Hayes did a segment (remote from paternity leave – hooray!) about a number of conservative politicians who hawk not only conspiracy theories but an assortment of products to the people on their large email lists, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the “sponsors” of these pitches.

Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Brown (the former MA Senator who appears to be running for Senate in New Hampshire) have peddled not just a variety of political conspiracy nonsense (e.g., the machinations of the Illuminati, the government’s secret cure for cancer) but stocks, quack remedies, and public health misinformation.

This shameful business of turning constituents, supporters, and donors into products to be bought and sold should be publicized for a few reasons. First, of course, because it is a shameful and deceitful practice and the people targeted should be aware of it.

Second, these email ads are a source of woo that hasn’t received enough attention. Hayes reports that Scott Brown has featured on his list content generated by Newsmax Health (he’s since cut ties with the company), including Russell Blaylock’s Alzheimer’s quackery. Brown wasn’t alone in selling his readers to Blaylock, also known for his antivaccine quackery.

Third, nothing better illustrates the utter contempt these politicians have for their past or present constituents. The report quotes Mike Huckabee, confronted last month about a misleading email, responding:
You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is part of the messages. You know, we are simply the conduit to send messages. These are sponsored and I can’t always vouch for the veracity.
I have an idea for a better disclaimer:
My disdain for you is immense. You supported me, and I in turn sold you out for cash. Sure, I worked to gain your trust and belief in my concern for your welfare when running for office, but I’m happy to betray and exploit that trust if I can make some money from it. If these messages sent through my list are untrue or lead you to make bad decisions that bring harm to you or others, it’s your own fault for considering me an honorable person in the first place.

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