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Opposition Research: Uncomfortable Truths Cancer Advocates Must Confront
Posted: Jan 30, 2016
Opposition Research: Uncomfortable Truths Cancer Advocates Must Confront image

BY GREG BROZEIT Nobody likes negative campaigns, but no matter how much people complain about them, they tend to influence large numbers of voters; low-information voters, I would argue. Negative campaigns are built on opposition research, a cottage industry few understand.  When I worked for a congressional campaign in 1989, I conducted opposition research on a beloved and popular member of Congress. Thankfully that person retired before being challenged by my candidate, so the research never saw the light of day.  I made sure not even Indiana Jones would ever find it. I’ve been involved in cancer research advocacy since 1998 and have to admit: there have been very few significant federal legislative victories to celebrate in that time and even less presidential leadership.  It’s been bipartisan neglect.  How can that be?  I mean, who is for cancer and against research? I think that we advocates have been lulled to think, as the late Sen. Dale Bumpers once said to me, that we’re doing the Lord’s work. Rather than being lulled into a sense of “enlightened superiority,” however, we would be well-served to engage in some opposition research.  That’s why I spent the past few weeks figuring out why some people don’t support federally supported cancer research. One way to peek into what some really believe is to peruse website comment sections of newspapers stories or opinion pieces on cancer issues.  Anonymity shields people to make hostile remarks.  I believe they often reveal views steeped in ignorance, delusion and, most of all, unintended honesty. They remind me of stories about the proverbial “crazy uncle” you see once a year at the family Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner table.  Here are some samples:

  • “Cancer is a huge money-making industry.  They’re not interesting in curing cancer; they just want to keep people alive long enough to make money by selling their drugs.”
  • “Federal money for research is just another government giveaway of the nanny state that’s trying to control our lives.  If they want money for research, then let them go out and get private donations.”
  • “More money for cancer research is just an excuse to raise taxes.”
  • “What about the military, Social Security and Medicare?  If they give more money to cancer research they’re going to have to take it away from other things.”
  • “People with cancer are going to die anyway.  Why should we pay for something that isn’t going to work?  They should just go ahead and die.”
  • “Why do I need to fund stupid things like how obesity causes cancer?  That’s not my problem.  I don’t see why I should have to pay for people’s diseases just because they can’t get off their rear ends.”
  • “My doctor said my cancer will likely have a cure in four years!  So I think the amount of money we’re spending on research is just fine.”
  • “The government has no role to play in promoting research and education.  That’s what the drug companies are there for.  And that’s why they pay for insurance, doctor’s visits and hospital stays.”
  • “Government has no special skill or crystal ball and funds all kinds of junk.  Putting the money in the hands of those who know best, and letting them guide research with funding is a better way to go.”
  • “The government writes the checks and there is so much fraud; that’s true about cancer research too.”

Here’s a way to sum up these arguments:

“It is no surprise that someone working in cancer research would like more taxpayer money.   Those working in research in Alzheimer’s, heart disease, Tourette's, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s and on and on would also like to dip into the taxpayer honey pot for themselves. Money has not answered all of these needs, and shaking down the populous for even more public money is unlikely to remedy all of the things that plague humankind. Involving Government with its regulation and bureaucracy is only likely to slow-down the work being done privately. Resources from government are simply redistributed funds from private sources and that leaves fewer dollars available through more efficient private research. Keep the big, bloated, regulation plagued government out of it. Allow people to decide for themselves, without government coercion, which way to allocate their charitable and research donations. Money may be part of the answer when it comes to medical research, but money from the private sector funneled through the Federal government is not efficient or wise.”

I’m sure you’ve encountered similar comments in your cancer journey.  You might even agree with some of them. Let me know what you think.  Have you heard or read some “good” ones you think I’ve missed? Next week I will offer some “enlightenment” that might help to educate those who do not understand how cancer research is conducted, funded, or why it matters to them. It is an old strategic axiom that one must understand the language of the opposition in order to defeat them.  But in this case, it’s not conquest we’re interested in; it is convincing people why cancer research—both publicly and privately funded—is not just important to advocates. It’s important to people who are misinformed too.

The author Greg Brozeit

about the author
Greg Brozeit

Greg Brozeit has been with the HealthTree Foundation since 2015 when he began volunteering for the Myeloma Crowd.  Prior to that he worked with Dr. Bart Barlogie and the International Myeloma Foundation, inaugurating many myeloma patient advocacy and education programs.

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