Don’t let hypocritical activists define the company you’ve worked so hard to build

Don’t let hypocritical activists define the company you’ve worked so hard to build

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals kills thousands of animals a year.

“Living” wage activist group ACORN once sued the state of California for an exemption from state minimum-wage laws for their own employees.

The standard-bearers of the crusade against trans fats, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, used to defend trans fats.

The Humane Society of the United States called a supposedly massive boycott of Canadian seafood in an effort to stop the seal hunt there, but as many as 78 percent of the “participating” restaurants were not involved with the boycott.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union is fighting to end a two-tier wage system in Southern Californian unionized supermarkets, even as its own union staff in Canada is subjected to just such a two-tiered system.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving once quietly lobbied for changes to divorce law that would have cost parents custody for having as little as one drink before driving—until this nasty little policy position was exposed.

Now, other than my personal connection to most of these stories—it was the Center for Consumer Freedom, for example, whose research embarrassed the Humane Society on national Canadian television, and it was the American Beverage Institute that exposed MADD’s absurd plans for rewriting divorce law—what unites each of these activist groups is hypocrisy or outright absurd behavior. What also unites these groups is that, if left to their own devices, their respective absurdities don’t get very much public attention.

Unless someone makes the public notice.

In the business world, no firm has complete latitude to define itself and set its own standards; your competitors constantly are doing it for you. But activist groups like CSPI and MADD have no natural predators, and so they grow fat. Armed with piles of money and needing nothing to buy except loudspeakers, they get to cast themselves as selfless defenders of the public interest. Naturally, such a masquerade leads to arrogance.

But their arrogance should be used against them.

The overweening pride of anti-industry activists makes them bold enough to do all sorts of ridiculous things. A rare self- revelation of this world comes from a settlement the Teamsters were forced to sign, where they swore that they would not “batter, assault, spit on, blow whistles loudly near a person’s ear, throw any liquid or solid object at [nonstriking employees, or] make throat slashing motions, make gun-pointing motions…threaten to sexually assault nonstriking employees or their family members.”

There’s no need to make guys like these look ridiculous. All we have to do is expose them for what they are.

There must be constant, broad repetition of the misdeeds and hypocrisy of the activist sector, directly attacking the images that industry’s opposition creates for itself.

Left undisturbed, the perceived legitimacy of these organizations allows them to make piercing attacks against business.

Nongovernmental organizations have become an industry unto themselves, posing a challenge that business leaders of generations past did not have to face.

In fact, it’s the money made by previous business leaders that’s funding anti-business activists now—just look up the Ford or the Robert Wood Johnson foundations for evidence of how good intentions have been hijacked, often by the children of the founders.

Exposing the naked hypocrisy and audacity of America’s activist industry isn’t very difficult. It’s not even that expensive. All it takes is some courage, conviction, and a bias toward being “unreasonable.”

As George Bernard Shaw once observed: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Richard Berman is president of Berman & Co., a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm specializing in research, communications and advertising.