October 21, 2008
How did insurance companies and big corporations convince regular consumers that constitutional protections and state civil justice laws were actually bad for them? To understand the scam, and how mom and pops nationwide gave away their constitutional and state law protections, one must start with Stephanie Mencimer’s groundbreaking article entitled: "False Alarm: The Myth of America’s ‘Lawsuit Crisis’," published in the Washington Monthly in October 5, 2004. Mencimer explained that the duping began when big tobacco, insurer’s and some powerful companies hired a former CIA chief who organized a cadre of employees paid to plant and “shape” false and deceptive news articles and news releases to influence public opinion with fictional lawsuit stories about the civil justice system.
In the mid-1980s, with insurance companies hitting a slump, the insurance industry’s "tort reform" movement, as it became known, broadened its emphasis. Instead of limiting itself to targeting individual jurors through mass media advertising, the industry began to heavily lobby legislators to restrict citizens’ ability to sue. The movement pursued strict caps on damage awards, tougher standards for proving liability, and caps on plaintiffs’ attorney fees. The industry’s crusade was taken up by small government conservatives, who believed that tort reform paralleled their own efforts to fill the federal bench with pro-business jurists and roll back government regulations. They were also upset by changes in the 1960s and 1970s that broadened legal protections for women and minorities, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the expansion of product liability doctrines that made it easier for injured consumers to force companies to compensate them for faulty products. Politically, it was a lot easier to attack juries and trial lawyers than the popular consumer, civil rights, and environmental protection laws they enforced …
The former CIA chief was William Casey and the consulting company that he helped form was the Manhattan Institute. If ones thinks it over, who better to shape public opinion than a former CIA chief, since a little discussed, but extremely important function of intelligence is adapting “legal” methods to win over the hearts and minds of the public. Most of us know this concept as “propaganda,” and Casey and his colleagues understood how to use the power of the media to influence consumers. Mencimer went on to quote from Manhattan Institute President William Hammett’s 1992 memo:
Journalists need copy, and it’s an established fact that over time they’ll ’bend’ in the direction in which it flows. …. If sometime during the present decade, a consensus emerges in favor of serious judicial reform, it will be because millions of minds have been changed, and only one institution is powerful enough to bring that about: the combined force of the nation’s print and broadcast media, the most potent instrument for public education – or miseducation – in existence.
After all, freedom of speech does include the freedom to bend the truth? Where is the line between propaganda and deception?
According to Source Watch, “Propaganda has sometimes been classified as "white," "black" or "gray." White propaganda generally comes from an openly identified source and is not intentionally deceptive. Black propaganda pretends to be from a friendly source, but is actually from an adversary and is intended to deceive its audience. Gray propaganda falls somewhere between white and black.” The Manhattan Institute’s secret assault on the civil justice system, on behalf of insurer’s and big corporations clearly was black or gray propaganda. Casey and his team were merely molding the methods the US had learned during the Cold War, when the United States Information Agency operated the Voice of America as an official government station. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, in part supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, provided gray propaganda in news and entertainment programs to both Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
From the early 1980s and through various other front organizations into the present decade, the insurance companies and big corporations exceeded their wildest expectations by creating a complete reversal in consumer beliefs about the civil justice system-now, your typical juror will walk into the courtroom thinking every personal injury plaintiff is a fraud seeking the elusive “lawsuit lottery” (never mind the amputation of the leg, eh?).