Usually, when we hear something about IndieGoGo, we're excited; it's either an innovative product, a service, or something that can make the world a better place. But not this time.
Now, the crowdfunding company supports a campaign launched by the Heartland Institute, a right wing think tank that nowadays focuses mostly on denying climate change (although in the past, they also denied the negative effects of smoking). Heartland wants to gather $60,000 to send their "scientists and policy experts" to Paris, to the climate Summit in December 2015. This is an organization that receives funding from Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, General Motors, Comcast, Reynolds American, Philip Morris, Amgen, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and of course, the Koch brothers - that is aside from personal donations. An anonymous donor had given $13 million over five years - but they need your help, and they've launched a kickstarter so they can go to Paris and create "counter-conference" during COP-21 . Here's their pitch:
"The UN is attempting to impose binding carbon dioxide restrictions on the United States and transfer billions of dollars of climate "reparations" from the United States to nations like Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela."
This is Manipulation 101: mention a seemingly abstract entity (UN), say they are taking "billions of dollars" from you (the US), and mention a few countries with a negative image in some parts of the US (such as Iran and North Korea), and reap the profits. The fact that they are trying to convince people to donate so they can attend the climate summit, while getting millions in funding every year is nothing short of despicable.
In case you think I'm being too harsh on the Heartland Institute, let's just have a look at what they did along the years; one of Heartland’s first and most prominent campaigns was against tobacco regulation - basically, they tried to convince people that smoking and second-hand smoking don't have any negative health effects, despite the mountain of scientific evidence claiming otherwise. In 1996, Heartland president and chief executive officer Joe Bast wrote an essay entitled "Joe Camel is Innocent!," in which he argued that the tobacco industry is funding Republican political campaigns because the Republicans "have been leading the fight against the use of 'junk science' by the Food and Drug Administration and its evil twin, the Environmental Protection Agency." Sure, since then, they've toned down their voice when it comes to smoking, and moved to other areas - most notably, climate change.
As part of their efforts to contradict what is by now a broad scientific consensus, the institute likened climate scientists to terrorists, tried to eliminate climate change from children's books, and does whatever it can to claim that humans have nothing to do with global warming and it's futile to try to fight it. Here's what they need the money for:
$24,000 Promotion announcing our presence in Paris
$10,000 Hotel rooms
$10,000 Meeting space
$ 9,000 Airfare
$ 4,500 Ground expenses (meals, transportation)
$ 2,000 Printing and shipping media handouts and publications
$ 59,500 Total
If their past is any indication of what they will do at this conference, there will be a lot of misinformation, half truths and fear mongering. So then why is IndieGoGo allowing it?
“Indiegogo is an open platform, and as such, we accept all campaigns other than those that aim to raise money for illegal activities or those that would harm or promote offences against others,” a spokeswoman told Karl Mathiesen at The Guardian.
Truth be told, that's a very valid point. But their Terms of Service also claim that people aren't allowed to raise funds “to cause harm to people or property”. Heartland’s stated aim is to stop a globally binding deal being signed in Paris, and this will certainly cause a lot of damage all across the world. IndieGoGo has also been proactive in the past when it comes to campaigns they didn't feel were positive. This is, at least to some extent, still a grey area, but it does seem like the fundraising company is hiding behind rhetoric, defending the free speech of something that can be extremely dangerous.