Watching television and reading the news in the local paper and on the web, I often find myself recalling Antonio’s words in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”:
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
The art of deception has never been so exquisitely performed. We are persuaded to believe the opposite of the truth by the modern virtuosos of this diabolical trade.
In the United States, these professional deceivers are often called public relations professionals or lobbyists – it’s hard to distinguish the difference between the two sets of skills. Today’s lobbyists don’t just focus on twisting the arms of members of Congress, they also are adept at creating “grassroots movements” to mislead the media and put pressure on elected representatives who might assume “the public” has spoken.
The ongoing health care debate provides a cornucopia of diabolical deception. Spurious “studies” abound, phony web sites (deliberately designed to look amateurish) have proliferated, false “facts” and bogus “statistics” cascade from media outlets in a bewildering blizzard of disinformation.
I am sure you can think of many more examples. Some are so blatant as to be laughable – like the unctuous proclamations coming from “the religious right.” But others are much more subtle – like a bill that is racing through Congress with the inspiring but misleading title: The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.
What could be more worthy than food safety? Obviously the public needs protection from dangerous practices spawned by greed and ignorance – especially in these days of global “free trade.” But from what I gather, this bill (HR 2749) is a cleverly disguised weapon crafted by giant food producers who want to put their small competitors out of business.
The bill would impose the same one-size-fits-all regulatory mechanism on small farms and local producers as on the industrial giants they compete against. If this bill becomes law, most family farms, including organic farms, will be forced out of business.
The masters of deception are marketing this legislation as “a bill to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to improve the safety of food in the global market, and for other purposes.” But it does nothing of the sort. While it extends U.S. government control over locally produced food, the bill does not address any of the nefarious practices that really endanger our food supply, especially produce from foreign countries.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t suspect that members of Congress pushing this bill are deliberately trying to wipe out the home-grown food industry. Sponsored by Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, it is co-sponsored by a bunch of other Democrats, including Henry Waxman of California, whom I happen to agree with most of the time. But I think they’ve been conned by slick lobbyists. I think masters of deception employed by the giant industrial food producers have hornswoggled them into accepting a nice sounding but scurrilous piece of legislation.
By the way, didn’t I hear candidate Barack Obama promise to rid Washington of those pernicious lobbyists? And is it my imagination or does there seem to be more lobbying going on in Congress now that he’s President Obama?