The Green New Deal has surged into the American political discourse over the last two months on a wave of activism and high-profile Democratic endorsements. According to its leading proponents at the activist group Sunrise Movement, the plan aims to “transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis.” It seeks to decarbonize the economy, create millions of green jobs, and rectify racial and economic inequality, though a specific policy agenda has yet to be worked out. The Green New Deal, whose backers include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has polled very favorably with registered voters -- even though most Americans have heard nothing about it. The Sunrise Movement intends to spend 2019 building momentum and support for the plan so that it becomes a top issue for the 2020 presidential election. From there, the goal is to enact sweeping climate legislation in 2021.
Despite the fact that this plan is not yet fully defined and has no chance of passing through Congress for at least two years, right-wing media have wasted no time in attacking it. Outlets from Fox News to Breitbart News to the Las Vegas Review-Journal have spread inaccurate claims about the Green New Deal to stoke fears that it would destroy the U.S. economy and political system. The Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank known for its climate denial, is one of the most active opponents of the Green New Deal, and it is using right-wing media outlets to amplify its attacks.
Here are some of the bogus arguments being employed by right-wing groups and media outlets as they attempt to discredit the plan.
Right-wing media claim the Green New Deal is using climate change as a ploy to implement a radical socialist agenda
The Heartland Institute's main argument against the Green New Deal is that it's socialism in disguise. It recently launched a website, StoppingSocialism.com, that criticizes the Green New Deal as “energy socialism.” Justin Haskins, an executive editor and research fellow for Heartland and author of the book Socialism Is Evil, is the group's main spokesperson for its claim that the Green New Deal has a hidden socialist agenda. He has made two appearances on Fox News in January and written several op-eds for conservative outlets to push that line of attack.
On the January 8 episode of Fox's Tucker Carlson Tonight, Haskins called the Green New Deal “the most radical, dangerous policy proposal offered in modern history.” He claimed it would “do nothing to reduce global CO2 emissions,” concluding, “This is all about socialism, not saving polar bears.”
On the January 11 episode of Fox & Friends, Haskins again dismissed the idea that the Green New Deal has anything to do with climate change, saying, “This is actually not about green energy. … This is really about socialism. This is nothing more than a socialist Trojan horse.”
Haskins made the same argument in an op-ed that ran in The Detroit News on January 8 under the headline “Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal’ is not about global warming.” In the following days, the right-wing websites Breitbart, Townhall, and the Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal reprinted the piece. From the op-ed:
Many supporters of the Green New Deal know it will do absolutely nothing to reduce global temperature or prevent future temperature rise—the primary purpose of the proposal, according to Ocasio-Cortez. The real goal of the Green New Deal is to impose a series of radical, socialistic programs—policies that would dramatically increase the size and power of the federal government, cause immense harm to the U.S. economy, and run up the national debt by trillions of dollars.
In a December 31 op-ed published on the Fox News website, Haskins wrote that the Green New Deal would “move the United States closer than ever to socialism. If we don’t stop it, it will destroy our economy for a whole generation of Americans.” In a January 3 Washington Examiner op-ed, Haskins claimed, “This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States.” In another Fox News opinion on January 12, Haskins referred to the Green New Deal as “socialized energy,” and falsely claimed that renewable energy sources are “expensive and unreliable.” And writing for Fox News again on January 19, Haskins claimed that the Green New Deal is not really new or visionary, but rather a “recycled version of a failed, three-year-old socialist proposal from Canada.”
Heartland’s attacks on the Green New Deal should come as no surprise -- the organization has a long history of promoting climate denialism, and it has received funding from both Koch-backed groups and fossil fuel companies. None of its fossil fuel funding was disclosed in any of Haskins’ recent Fox appearances or op-eds attacking the Green New Deal.
Other conservative outlets have followed Heartland’s example by scaremongering about socialism to attack the Green New Deal. For instance, the editorial board of the conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, wrote on January 2:
Some conservatives have been criticized for arguing that fears of global warming are being intentionally exaggerated by those seeking to use the issue to advance collectivism and radical socialism. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” doesn’t even try to hide it.
A few more examples:
- Appearing on Fox & Friends on January 3, notorious climate denier Marc Morano stated that the Green New Deal has “nothing to do with climate” and is really about “government control” and “central planning.”
- Breitbart’s Joel Pollak wrote on January 3: “But the 'Green New Deal' is not really concerned about the kinds of incremental improvements that might be possible. It aims at centralized planning for the entire economy, implementing socialist economics using the pretext of environmental crisis. As Breitbart News has noted, this is not a new idea: it dates to Barack Obama, and really to Karl Marx.”
- In an opinion piece in The Daily Caller on January 11, Kenneth Stein, policy director for the Koch-connected Institute for Energy Research, wrote: “Ultimately this 'Green New Deal' is not about saving the environment. The greenwashing is about creating a sense of urgency and moral panic, the better to entrench government ever deeper into the lives of American citizens. Americans resisted socialism in the Cold War; now it’s time to resist socialism in the Green War.”
Right-wing media claim that the Green New Deal will lead to authoritarianism and destroy the American way of life
Several right-wing attacks on the Green New Deal have invoked the horrors of authoritarianism and warned that the plan would destroy the liberties that Americans currently enjoy.
- Writing for Grabien on January 2, Tom Elliott argued that the plan amounts to a “radical grant of power to Washington over Americans’ lives, homes, businesses, travel, banking, and more.”
- On January 4, Jarrett Stepman of The Daily Signal wrote that the plan “would upend our way of life and destroy the liberty and prosperity” that we enjoy.
- On January 9, National Review columnist Jim Geraghty wrote that “enacting these changes would probably require a dictatorship or other authoritarian regime.”
- In The Patriot Post on January 11, Brian Mark Weber called the plan “ecofascist.”
- During an appearance on Fox & Friends on January 17, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce compared the plan to “economic enslavement.”
Right-wing media downplay the threat of climate change when discussing the Green New Deal
Some right-wing commentators have minimized the seriousness of climate change or resorted to climate denial when attacking the Green New Deal.
- In a piece published in The New American on January 6, James Murphy maligned the U.N.'s main climate science body and warned that it too has a socialist agenda: “Ocasio-Cortez’s plan is apparently an answer to United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s absurd report released in October of 2018, which warned that the world had a dozen years to completely transform all of society or face certain environmental disaster. Ocasio-Cortez is not the only one who believes that climate-change politics is the key to a socialist reformation of world society. No less than UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres has recently said that 'climate action' offers a 'compelling path to transform our world.'”
- Writing for the New York Post on January 7, National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote, “The case for the Green Energy Plan is based on the alleged climate crisis being so dire that it must overwhelm all cost-benefit analysis.”
- In a post for Liberty Headlines on January 14, Michael Barnes also bashed the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “The IPCC is the bedrock entity for political climate change advocacy. It offers politically-driven climate model predictions that fit hand-in-glove with calls from the liberal global order to consolidate political and economic power with their ranks.”
Several of the opinion pieces that the Heartland Institute’s Haskins has written about the Green New Deal don't even mention climate change at all, including two he wrote for Fox News and one for the Washington Examiner.
Expect to see many more right-wing media assaults on the Green New Deal in coming months
The Green New Deal is the most ambitious climate-action plan ever to get mainstream attention, and it directly challenges the power structures of right-wing groups and their backers in the fossil fuel industry. Even though it's just a broad outline at this point with no prospects for being enacted anytime soon, it's making conservative commentators very nervous -- so much so that they can't stop chattering about it. The right-wing media’s general obsession with Ocasio-Cortez also feeds their compulsion to cover the Green New Deal.
Right-wing outlets appear to be giving the plan more attention than their mainstream media counterparts. A recent Public Citizen analysis found that Fox News made more mentions of the Green New Deal in November and December than other cable or broadcast networks -- even as half of the top 50 newspapers in the U.S. failed to mention the plan at all during the same time period. Fox's fixation has only intensified since the start of the new year.
As we head into the 2020 election cycle and see some Democratic presidential contenders embrace the ideas behind the Green New Deal, we can expect right-wing media attacks on it to continue -- and to become even more absurd and overblown.