The world of politics and public opinion has been turned upside down, and the process started long before fake news or presidential tweets. President Trump and the current state of public discourse is neither the beginning nor the culmination, they are merely symptoms of the larger disease that is just now truly beginning to manifest itself.
The reason that the media, the political establishment and intellectual elite are so nervous is that their control is eroding and nobody can predict outcomes with any certainty any more. When the rules of the game change, the hierarchy and order change as well.
There are many who would argue that new technologies and new rules have hindered public debate, that there are no longer any arbitrators for what we think we know or what we hear. The influence of mass advertising, the mainstream media, money and all of the other traditional tools of the trade have been devalued.
Certainly, there were groups that emerged that understood that the rules were changing earlier than most and the results have been troubling. Irrespective of motivation, from the evil of terrorism to the initial good intentions of the environmental movement, truth and facts have been bent and altered to manipulate, deceive and to achieve both stated and hidden purposes.
However, cynicism about major institutions, the lack of faith in the media, the ability to circumvent the propaganda; in the end, these will not make us more vulnerable, but less.
The OCM/HSUS attempts to short circuit the efforts of the Oklahoma cattle industry worked in their first try, when the two groups work together to defeat Oklahoma’s proposed right to farm law. Now they’re working to foil Oklahoma’s efforts to establish an in-state beef checkoff.
But now, Oklahoma beef producers have stepped forward and are fighting back. And while ag groups that work for the betterment of the beef business never can stop the manipulation of the legal system by those with nearly unlimited resources like HSUS or their front groups, the “antis” are losing their ability to deceive.
The beef industry just a few years ago was shaken to the core by these front groups that made their agenda appear to come from within. With their money, their legal wrangling ability, and most importantly their vastly superior ability to form and shape public opinion and claim the moral high ground, it appeared they were unstoppable. In the short run, it left us at a disadvantage to our opponents who do not have the same ethical considerations as most of us. But we have learned that they are not unstoppable.
Will HSUS, OCM, and R-CALF succeed in setting the beef industry back in Oklahoma? Possibly, but the industry has responded more effectively than in the past. And it should give us some comfort that when they gather across the conference tables at HSUS and plot the demise of the livestock industry, they have to realize that their grand strategy in this brave new world appears to have a much shorter shelf life than they imagined. They, too, are looking for a new path forward. If they aren’t, then we might actually be ahead of them for the first time in quite some time.