It’s been a long time since Ralph Nader’s done more than inflict flesh wounds on the big corporations. He still Does Stuff, but he doesn’t really make them bleed.
More to the point, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen the big corporations go after Ralph Nader. Lately I’ve been writing about astroturf disinformation campaigns, a subject I’ve also written about in the past.
Corporate America has in some cases sponsored decades-long propaganda campaigns—for instance, the one that puts forward the false claim that Social Security is broken and there’ll be no money in it when you retire. They’ve funded that one for thirty-odd years. The grand campaign for “tort reform” (real purpose: to limit the ability of small non-corporate plaintiffs to bring suit for deaths, injuries, and other harms caused by corporate negligence) has not only run for decades, but has been pursued via scores of diverse and seemingly unrelated front organizations. That’s an expensive campaign conducted on a broad front.
Given the scope and attention to detail of other astroturf campaigns, Ralph Nader ought to be the focus of a significant amount of unwanted attention from that quarter. He may not currently be a big threat to corporate America, but he’s been one in the past. That should be enough to get the disinformation about him flowing. And yet—isn’t this odd?—I can’t remember seeing anything substantial or effective being promulgated in that vein.
We’re known by the company we keep, and by the enemies we make. We don’t know exactly who Nader hangs out with, but we do know his stock portfolio: literally, the companies he keeps. Names that pop up there include Occidental Petroleum, the Limited, the Gap, Wal-Mart, and Halliburton, plus various defense contractors, other oil companies, and a big ol’ hunk of Bristol-Myers Squibb.
As for the enemies Nader makes? A long, long time ago, he distressed the hell out of the auto industry; but I was a little kid when that happened, and now I’m a great-aunt three times over. The last major set of enemies I saw Nader make was the American left and center, and the Democrats as a whole, back in 2000. The corporations Nader personally invests in couldn’t have been happier with the results.
There’s only one area where I trust the big corporations: I trust they know where their own interests lie. If so, then one of the things they appear to know is that Ralph Nader is not their enemy.