Killer Billboard Campaign Dies Young: Global Warming Denial in the Hot Seat

| May 10, 2012

The Chicago-based Heartland Institute has launched a campaign of crazy- both on the billboard and off.

May 10, 2012 — Whether you’ve been watching the primaries or American Psycho, you’ve probably realized that it takes crazy to know crazy. Heartland Institute, a libertarian public policy think tank in Chicago, has come under fire recently for a billboard campaign the non-profit launched earlier this month. The institute, which was founded in 1984, has notoriously denied climate change for most of its existence.

Heartland’s newest campaign featured mug shots of infamous convicted felons beside the caption “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?” Included in the series of signs posted around the Chicago area were images of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, homicidal cult leader Charles Manson, and dictator Fidel Castro. The organization planned to feature Osama bin Laden in the future before its campaign began to receive backlash from its corporate sponsors, donors and staff.

The 501(c)(3) company lost the support of insurers as well as a Connecticut alcohol conglomerate. Even conservative supporters of the Heartland Institute have cited that the billboards attempt a logical fallacy by suggesting that if bad people believe in scientific findings, then the findings themselves are bad. Despite rampant criticism from former supporters as well as the DC office Vice President Eli Lehrer, Heartland president Joe Bast has responded dismissively. “We do not apologize for running the ad,” Bast told a confounded public.

Heartland Institute recently wrote to the press, grasping at straws to paint its campaign in a rational light. “The point is that believing in global warming is not ‘mainstream,’ smart, or sophisticated. In fact it is just the opposite of those things.”


A parody of the controversial ad campaign, featuring Joseph Bast, Heartland Institute CEO.

This is far from the first time scandal has struck the organization. In February, prominent climate scientist Peter Gleick leaked private organizational documents that revealed Heartland’s fundraising plans and goals to spread doubt about global warming. The non-profit has since claimed that the leaked documents were faked, coining the incident “fakegate” in recent press releases and on their website. Gleick says he received the information when it was anonymously mailed to him. Named staff members in the “fakegate” documents have not denied their involvement in the organization’s campaign against global warming.

Crazy signage is nothing new. At this point, the rest of the reasonable world can only hope that the institute’s killer campaign continues to backfire and send its audience sprinting in the other direction — right into Al Gore’s open arms.

– R. Sapon-White

Category: News