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A Year When Slogans Masked Policy: “Red Tape” – “Commmon Sense Regulation” – “DEP Transformation”

We continue the 2010 year in review today, starting with a brief discussion about the ways the environmental rollback has been publicly justified by slogans used by Governor Christie, his DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and the Red Tape Czar, Lt. Governor Guadagno.

The little media coverage there has been has mostly uncritically embraced and parroted these slogans, media thereby abdicating their role as truthtellers in favor of stenography.

So let’s start by briefly describing the Christie slogans, explore their deeper meaning, and expose the policies they mask and the special interests they benefit.

Slogans are intended to shut down thought. Slogans are a very different form of rhetoric than the traditional practice of spin.

Spin at least remains tethered to underlying reality: spin seeks to interpret reality and persuade through rational argument. But slogans are not grounded in interpretation of reality or a form of persuasion.

Slogans are empty – they displace the substance of reality, and fill it with a myth that appeals to irrational motives or fears. Slogans are designed not to seek truth or persuade, but to hide the truth and manipulate thought and emotion by creating a false perception of reality.

Slogans are made necessary because of the strong public support for protecting public health and the environment.

Obviously, a DEP Commissioner is not going to simply say we are going to make it easier and more profitable for developers to rape the landscape and reduce the pollution control cost of oil and chemical companies so they can dump more toxic crap in your air and water while making record corporate profits (all while emulating Dupont, who according to the Associated Press is off shoring US jobs, disinvesting in the US, and massively investing in third world countries:

“Take the example of DuPont, which wowed the world in 1938 with nylon stockings. Known as one of the most innovative American companies of the 20th century, DuPont now sells less than a third of its products in the U.S. In the first nine months of this year, sales to the Asia-Pacific region grew 50 percent, triple the U.S. rate. Its stock is up 47 percent this year.

DuPont’s work force reflects the shift in its growth: In a presentation on emerging markets, the company said its number of employees in the U.S. shrank by 9 percent between January 2005 and October 2009. In the same period, its work force grew 54 percent in the Asia-Pacific countries.

“We are a global player out to succeed in any geography where we participate in,” says Thomas M. Connelly, chief innovation officer at DuPont. “We want our resources close to where our customers are, to tailor products to their needs.”

So instead we have slogans, founded on either false premises or outright lies.

The worst false premises and outrights lies that Christie has manufactured to mask and support his agenda are that:

  • environmental and public health protections are related to the economic recession, unemployment, and State budget crisis (Slogan: “Common sense regulation“);
  • that regulations drive companies out of NJ and create barriers to new investment (Slogan: “Red Tape“); and
  • that DEP bureaucracy is preventing the private sector from creating jobs and improving NJ’s environment (Slogan: “DEP Transformation“)

These slogans serve a dual purpose.

In addition to being used to mask and justify a rollback agenda, slogans are deployed to redefine problems and pre-empt alternative real solutions by diverting attention from the real underlying causes of serious problems:

  • instead of environmentalists going on offense and talking about ways to respond to global warming; cleanup air, water, and land pollution; or preserve remnants of vanishing open space, our collective focus, resources, and advocacy efforts are diverted. We are forced to play defense and defend existing weak and ineffective protections and programs from rollback and attack;
  • instead of putting the flawed policies and those responsible for creating problems on the defensive and talking about the greed of Wall Street financial institutions and the failures of lax regulatory oversight, Christie scapegoats DEP and environmental protections (more subtly, but basically the same way he attacked the teachers union); and
  • instead of conducting campaigns to shut down coal plants and make a rapid transition to renewable energy, we are consumed responding to straw men arguments are used to change the conversation and frame false choices like the need to reduce energy costs by ending subsidies to renewable energy and eliminating the Societal Benefits Charge.

So the use of slogans provides the business community a twofer: they dodge accountability for creating huge problems AND are provided “regulatory relief”.

Viewing developments through this lens, we present stories from the second quarter of 2010:




Tomorrow we’ll try to close out the year – and if space and time permit, highlight expectations and priorities for 2011.

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