Ed Driscoll

Of Friendly Lawsuits and Potemkin Protests

In his enjoyably readable recent Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism, James Delingpole of Ricochet and London Telegraph explores the left’s tactic of “Friendly Lawsuits.” These are built around the concept of Bad Cop, Worse Cop; with the EPA pretending to be the marginally less loathsome guys, who pretend to be “forced” into action via lawsuits from Greenpeace or another radical environmentalist group. As Delingpole writes, both groups are “often staffed by exactly the same kind of people, with exactly the same violently anti-capitalist aims. The only difference is that the state employees have to be a bit more discreet about it”:

Here’s how one of their favorite scams works: the “friendly lawsuit.” Suppose, for example, some bright spark at the EPA has dreamed up yet another brilliant enviro-fascistic scheme to destroy industry. A new regulation, maybe, to force coal-fired plants to install haze-reducing, pollution-control equipment at a cost of $ 1.5 billion. Well, of course, there might be a few complaints from the evil coal industry.

In order to bypass potential legal resistance, the EPA puts on its innocent face and deploys the time-honored playground excuse: “bad boys made me do it.” It does this by quietly asking its friends at the Environmental Defense Fund to file a lawsuit against the EPA, demanding that the EPA introduce the very same legislation that the EPA wanted anyway.

When the coal industry complains that jobs are being killed, prices inflated, and margins reduced by new regulations which nobody save a few hard-left activists wanted or needed, the EPA replies that it had no choice: it acted in order to settle a lawsuit by environmental groups.

In any other criminal business—such as arranging deliberate motor crashes in order to make false claims for whiplash injuries—this would qualify as fraud and a conviction would result in jail sentences. Apparently, though, where the environment industry is concerned, such moral and legal niceties need not apply.

Which sounds very much like the concept of the Potemkin Protest that PJM’s own mysterious Zombie described last year, as we’ll explore right after the page break, followed by a recent, real-world example of a “friendly lawsuit” in action.

After quoting Michael Pollan, a leftwing UC Berkeley professor of journalism, who quoted Mr. Obama saying “show me the movement. Make me do it,” while speaking at a 2009 environmental event, Zombie wrote:

This explains how people who voted for Obama can be out in the street seemingly to protest “against” him. Turns out this whole protest was nothing more play-acting for the cameras, a group of faux protesters colluding with Obama to create a Potemkin “movement” which he can then cite as justification for making an unpopular decision he already wanted to make anyway. “I had no choice — there’s a mass movement against this pipeline! I must bow to the will of the people.”

The more I thought about this sign and its implications, the more disturbed I became. This explains not just today’s anti-Keystone pipeline protest, but also much of what has gone on in politics since 2008. It explains the media’s otherwise inexplicable glorification and attempted legitimization of the Occupy Wall Street movement; it explains the media’s desperate demonization of the Tea Party (so as to prevent the impression that it was a mass movement); it explains all sorts of outrages and protests and petitions and marches by the American far-left “against” a president whose agenda is identical to theirs. Every time the left erupted over some issue, I used to wonder, “Why are you complaining to Obama? He agrees with you!” Turns out that of course they all know full well that he agrees with them, that he and they are all on the same side. The purpose is not to change Obama’s mind, the purpose is to provide him with political cover to make bad or unpopular decisions, by fabricating hollow “popular uprisings” which he can then point to as indicative of overall public opinion.

My speculations were confirmed the following day when I read the only report of what was said inside the fundraisers, as quoted by the only “pool reporter” allowed into the events:

Steyer, who is a vociferous opponent of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and a strong supporter of climate-change legislation, appeared to try to ease concerns that Obama wouldn’t keep the issue at the top of his agenda, as he has promised.

He is doing everything he can on the issues that we care about,” Steyer told the group in his home. “He has political limitations…so we really have an obligation to help him.”

Obama for his part, addressed climate change repeatedly in his remarks, which lasted 19 minutes, but never specifically mentioned the pipeline.

So it was just as I suspected: The protesters and Obama and his billionaire backers are all enmeshed, working in conjunction to achieve specific political goals — goals that would otherwise be unpopular with the general public. I realized that we out on the street were not protesting against the president’s agenda: We were part of the president’s agenda.

As I wrote last year, linking to Zombie, it really is “Potemkin villages all the way down,” isn’t it? (When it’s not Kabuki, of course.) The Friendly Lawsuit that Delingpole describes in The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism is yet another example.

Oh, and speaking of unfriendly environmentalist lawsuits, Kaithy Shaidle links to Mark Steyn on “Defaming [and, apparently, journalism…] for Beginners.”

Related: “Since the founding of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s, environmental advocates have looked to the courts for the advancement of their agendas, often by the simple expedient of costly delays.  But increasingly the courts have become all too willing to craft policy rather than merely interpret law,” James Huffman of the Hoover Institute’s Defining Ideas journal writes, in a new article with the dual-purpose title of “Keystone Courts.”

Update: On his blog today, Ace spots a real-world example of a “friendly lawsuit” at work:

Before the cute stuff, here’s some news. Oklahoma is suing Obama and the EPA for what seems to be some kind of scam going on to deem federal lands off-limits to energy producers.

Here’s what’s going on: An environmental lobbying group sues the government, claiming that this or that energy project would endanger a protected species. The government quickly settles, agreeing to put those lands off-limits for production.

Here’s what Oklahoma seems to be hinting at: It’s a fix. The Administration is settling because it wants to put these lands off-limits, and lacks the Congressional authority to do so. So they concede a case they could easily win and get a piece of paper, the settlement now part of the law (a contract the US has entered into to settle a lawsuit), that says the lands are off-limits.

It’s quite a racket that Mr. Obama has going on — he’s willing to take credit for America’s increased energy production, even as his EPA does everything it can to eliminate it.