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Schecter begins: "Perhaps over the past week you've heard of the foundation named after Susan G. Komen? You know the folks I'm talking about, the ones who have turned breast cancer fundraising into a non-stop Nike-like branding campaign that translates into helpful suggestions, like how you should chomp down on the extra crispy bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to fight cancer (get heart disease, but cure cancer!)."

Women successfully campaigned against Komen's decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. (photo: Gallo/Getty Images)
Women successfully campaigned against Komen's decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. (photo: Gallo/Getty Images)

Susan G. Komen: The Tip of the Iceberg

By Cliff Schecter, Al Jazeera English

12 February 12


Organisations that influence social, cultural and political issues in the US have been hijacked by the far right.

erhaps over the past week you've heard of the foundation named after Susan G Komen? You know the folks I'm talking about, the ones who have turned breast cancer fundraising into a non-stop Nike-like branding campaign that translates into helpful suggestions, like how you should chomp down on the extra crispy bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to fight cancer (get heart disease, but cure cancer!).

Yeah, those guys.

They've had a bad week or two, to put it kindly. But their self-immolation at the hands of Tea Party cranks, such as their recently resigned senior vice president for public policy, Karen Handel, is worth looking at for what it tells us about the demise of institutions in the US. Because the thing is, their corruption of a charity meant to help find a cure for breast cancer with their Sharia Christianity, is only one of many examples of this phenomenon in the United States.

Whether it's the courts, Congress, state legislatures, media, churches, academia, non-profits or a variety of other institutions, these important organisations that set the social, cultural and political parameters in our democracy, and served us well (overall - on the issue of race, for example, it took many of them a while to get with the programme) have been thoroughly hijacked by what the late historian Richard Hofstadter referred to as those exhibiting the "paranoid style".

You know who I'm talking about. The tri-corner hat crowd ready to take up arms every time they walk into Nathan's because they have a sneaking suspicion that the hot dogs are halal. Those who think that Social Darwinism was ordained by God, but actual Darwinism is a hoax. The ones who claim they are pro-life, but love everything from .50 caliber sniper rifles to foreign wars, like they're engaged in the honeymoon period of a non-platonic relationship.

Sure, these people always existed. But they didn't make it onto the Supreme Court. They didn't become the speaker of the house. And they weren't named senior vice presidents for policy at the Susan G Komen Foundation. Karen Handel is someone who ran for governor in Georgia on a campaign of defunding Planned Parenthood. And getting her picture taken toting an assault rifle like she was Ripley from Aliens.

It makes you wonder - was Christine O'Donnell not available for Komen to hire?

A Corporate Coup

It was not always like this. There was a time that a statesman in the Republican Party meant being Nelson Rockefeller and not Newt Gingrich. When the media was made up of giants such as Walter Cronkite, and a lunatic such as Glenn Beck would be kept off camera and away from sharp objects.

I was reminded of this recently, as I worked to help promote the terrific film, Hot Coffee, by Susan Saladoff. This documentary shows by how much the right has performed a leveraged buyout of our courts, replete with slick PR, bought-and-paid-for state and local judicial races and a variety of other means to turn the system into a Mitt-Romneyfied dystopia, abridging our seventh amendment right to a trial by jury.

In this effort to return us to a caveat emptor society, they have cooked up phony "tort reform" measures, such as limits to the payouts that we can claim for if we are maimed by a shoddy product or drunk doctor. But, as usual, their hypocrisy knows no bounds. One sponsor of a US $250,000 cap on non-economic damages, a certain Rick Santorum, was cool with his wife suing her chiropractor for twice that amount (he tried to claim he didn't know much about it even though he actually testified - although in his defence, his mind might have been on a previously planned sweater-vest shopping spree).

The worst part is that this corporate coup has convinced regular people that some sort of "jackpot justice" exists, as if frivolous lawsuits are not immediately dismissed, and judges don't reduce any awards that lack merit. This has happened, because as Saladoff bluntly put it to me: "Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce have masterminded ways to limit average Americans access to our courts ... which in turn limits our ability to hold wrongdoers accountable and puts more money in corporate coffers."

Much the same could be written about how right-wing think tanks have corrupted academic studies, or how far-right talk radio has misinformed the public - to the benefit of corporations and religious charlatans. This is the world in which we now live. The woes of Susan G Komen are just the symptom of a much larger problem.

Cliff Schecter is the president of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. your social media marketing partner


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+38 # juliajayne 2012-02-12 12:36
This article distills what’s been happening for the last 30 years or so. But I have to agree with the summation: that the Komen flap is just the tip of the iceberg that has been a seismic shift in public policy/thinking and actual hyper radicalizing of disenfranchisem ent of the masses to benefit the uber rich.

In a weird way, it makes me feel better that someone articulated it! I was feeling kind of kerfuffled this week with the continued attacks on women, especially.
+36 # humanmancalvin 2012-02-12 12:50
Stop the insanity by never electing another far right republican, which means all of them.
+16 # GeeRob 2012-02-12 13:32
Karen Handel is now calling Planned Parenthood a "gigantic bully." She also said that "Two dozen Catholic bishops were saying not to support Komen. We needed to find some options for moving to neutral ground. I was tasked with doing that." It now appears that the Catholic Church is the religious version of Grover Norquist. Not a one of us has ever cast a vote for any of these men yet they continue to hold enormous power over the people. And corporations are now people. Only in America.
+12 # Billy Bob 2012-02-12 13:42
Has Karen Handel been fired yet?

I didn't ask if she will be quitting. I asked if she's been fired.

If she isn't fired I will never donate to them again, and I will discourage everyone I know from donating as well.
+6 # kelly 2012-02-12 16:44
I read she quit before she was fired which allowed her a compensation package. I believe the option was offered to her by Komen...but you can check.
+7 # KittatinyHawk 2012-02-12 18:59
LOTS OF Good charity's out there Why not St Jude's Research Hospital for Children?
How about Victory Camp for children? Why not OWS
+1 # Billy Bob 2012-02-14 19:57

Personally, I plan to spend all my charity money on the ACLU from now on.
+14 # allie 2012-02-12 15:53
Most if not all the power the republican party has today is due to the dismissive democrats not fighting for what the party originally intended. Dammit, get in there and fight.
+12 # papabob 2012-02-12 15:58
Now it's getting clearer. The guys supporting pro-life are actually looking for more sons and daughters they can send to fight (and die) in the next war waged "to spread democracy".

I finally understand what all the fuss is about.

What crap!
+2 # KittatinyHawk 2012-02-12 19:01
No Churches, Temples etc want more kids for mor donations. Politicians want to make sure they have their salaries, benfits, and pensions. Duh
+10 # L mac 2012-02-12 17:18
Sharia Christianity... I like it.
+2 # barbaratodish 2012-02-12 21:13
The US Chamber of Commerce is the biggest chamber pot of poop there is! A message to everyone already in the Chamber of Commerce: Get out now, or invest in dental dams because that's the only way you can protect your selves from kissing ARSE!
+3 # terrison 2012-02-12 23:56
Karen Handel did resign, and she was offered a severance package, which she declined to take. She should have been fired, but that is not the country we live in.
+1 # BeaDeeBunker 2012-02-13 00:32
That bathtub, championed by none other than Grover Norquist in the last century, is slowly filling up with his toxic Kool-Ade. He is the real Wizard behind the screen. Soon it will reach critical mass (the underside of that iceberg) and then he can drown not only the government, but the nation in a cherry flavored ade. Get your scuba gear ready folks, or learn to tread water like a water polo expert.
+1 # SusanT136 2012-02-13 12:09
Komen has been corrupt for a long time, like many other "cancer fighting" organizations who are supported by drug companies and are part of the cancer industry. They devote a fairly small amount of their budget to actual research. Meanwhile they are only too happy to slap the pink ribbon on any piece of corporate junk who will give them some tiny portion of the profits.

They tipped their hand publicly re: Astra Zeneca, a Komen booster, when "At the 1998 Food and Drug Administration hearings, the Komen Foundation was the only national breast cancer group to endorse the AstraZeneca cancer treatment drug tamoxifen as a prevention device for healthy but high-risk women, despite vehement opposition by most other breast cancer groups because of its links to uterine cancer."
+2 # bugbuster 2012-02-13 12:41
I'm generally leery of all these "charities," especially the ones that send lavish mass mailings with pretty stickers, calendars, etc. I suspect that much of the money goes to the print shops that produce those mailings. The breast cancer "charities" don't go to much trouble to inform the likes of me what exactly they do. I suspect it's funnel money to, as has been said here, drug companies.

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