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In 1970  President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and during his presidency saw the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Clean Air Act (1970) become laws.

Today the Republicans are trying to defund the EPA, repeal the Clean Water Act, and repeal the Clean Air Act.  And they even got five Democratic votes for defunding the EPA.

How has environmental protection lost support so dramatically?

There has been a concerted effort of corporate PR designed to spread misinformation and blacken the reputations of environmental organizations and leaders.  In fact, the PR techniques used to discredit those who seek to rein in corporate bad behavior have become the backbone of the PR industry.

In order to recognize and fight these techniques, it is important that we know what they are. I'm going to lay them out with the help of a highly recommended book, "Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Environmental PR Campaign" by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton and my first-hand experience with the GMO-Chem company actions in Hawai'i, ground zero for GMO-Chem experimentation.

Technique #1: Position your critics as misguided or "unscientific".  In Secrets and Lies, the logging company issued press releases claiming the environmentalists were mistaken and that they were not clearcutting.  In fact, the environmentalists never said they were. But the impression was left that the environmentalists didn't know what they were talking about and everything they said was thus suspect.

The GMO-Chem companies do the same.  They call pro-GMO labeling activists "unscientific".  Their PR employees troll through blogs and newspaper stories posting this line.

Technique #2: Out and Out Lie. The NYC Sierra Club calls a Monsanto shill out on his statement that "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic.

In fact, the FDA relies on testing by the manufacturers themselves. While they may ask questions (so it's not entirely just a rubber stamp), there is no government testing in the United States.

Particularly in the case of Monsanto, which must give permission to outside organizations that wish to do testing, there is no, or little, private US testing that is not under Monsanto's thumb. Moreover, most of the testing in the US is short-term, rather than lifetime and multigenerational testing on lab animals.

This is the GMO-Chem companies most pernicious and oft-repeated lie that GMOs have been tested and found safe by the U.S. government.

In Secrets and Lies, a helicopter hired by the corporation picked up a log, diverted from its path and used it to batter one of the activists' tree platforms. An activist preparing to climb the tree was terrorized. But this is the company line:

...his observations from the helicopter indicated that the area surrounding the platform tree was clear of person.  But much stranger than this, the report shows that Hawker's decision is based on a version of events which contradicts everything else in the investigation: 'The helicopter was then used to deny persons access to the platform by removing the rope ladder leading to the platform with a log slung underneath the helicopter...all they tried to do was pull the rope up and away...

There was no rope ladder and the investigation had already proved without a doubt that the objective was to destroy the platform.

Climate Change Deniers use the big lie also.  The immensely rich Koch Brothers who deal in oil and coal have funded many fake denier groups.

Which brings us to Technique #3: Create fake groups to sell your talking points and misinformation.  

No sector is immune to this. When Christian groups began efforts to protect the environment, the oil industry fought back by creating their own "religious" group.  According to People for the American Way,

To counter the rise of the faith-based environmentalist Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance emerged. The ISA, propped up by business interests including Exxon Mobil, has peddled misleading and false claims to make the case that climate change is a myth. In 2007, the ISA was  renamed the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation  and became more belligerent and zealous in its anti-environmental activities.
Keith Hammond writing in Mother Jones lists some more fake organizations. He says,
It's not easy being green -- the brown opposition is well-funded and sneaky, with fake populist tactics  that make it hard to spot the wolf in sheep's clothing. To learn more about the astroturf groups who are lobbying against the Kyoto global warming treaty, we contacted the Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR).
Technique #4: Position environmentalists as "fringe", "radical" and "extreme". GMO activists on Maui who are wholly peaceful were maligned by a Monsanto planted article accusing them of torching Monsanto equipment. The assertion was a complete fabrication. The article was picked up by a right-wing blog and the untrue assertion repeated.

GMO PR representatives write letters to the editor wherein they tell us how much they are in fear of activists.

Technique #5: Blacken the personal reputations of environmental leaders. Searle funded STATS shill, Jon Entine, wrote an entire article filled with unsubstantiated accusations against GMO activist, Walter Ritte.  Walter Ritte is a long time Hawaiian activist who is respected for his role in reclaiming the island of Kaho'olawe from military bombing.  In the article Jon Entine mixes up Ritte's activist causes with his unsuccessful run for Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  This article is a textbook example of this PR technique in action.  It not only uses Destroying Personal Reputations but it is done through a corporate-sponsored Front Group.

Technique #6: Buy Politicians.  Babes Against Biotech has compiled a list of donations made by GMO-Chem companies to Hawai'i politicians.  Only 10 Hawai'i legislators turned down GMO-Chem money.

So now that you have these corporate PR tactics firmly in mind, keep your eyes open for these techniques in action. Name 'em and shame 'em to fight back.

UPDATED to reflect that Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act and it became law over his veto.

9:59 PM PT: A...uh...persistent commenter has reminded me that I neglected a Corporate PR Technique:

Technique #7: Internet trolling.  By repetitively posting off-topic and/or inflamatory comments a "troll" can derail a discussion and turn off others to the post.  More info can be found in the article, Anatomy of a Troll.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You wouldn't know it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, Karen from Maui

    with all the talk about "green" this and "green" that, but it's getting harder and harder to be an environmentalist.  The battles are getting bigger and more numerous and the corporate and right-wing interests are getting more sophisticated with their assault and messaging.  Not only that, but republican voters have gone 1000% anti-environment, which to me appears to be more identity politics ("I'm not a green fucking sissy!") and part spite ("Anything to piss off a libtard!") than actual ignorance that there are serious environmental problems or actually wanting, say, the green space nearest them developed or indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals.  Right-wing media has convinced these people that even if they know drilling all of our public lands won't bring down gas prices or even if they like their closest national forest the way it is, it's better to support anti-environmental positions than to be associated with those liberal eco-whackjobs.  

    Political compass: -8.75 / -4.72

    by Mark Mywurtz on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:44:30 AM PDT

  •  good post (5+ / 0-)

    but just to clarify- nixon vetoed the clean water act, which became law by congressional override.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 03:02:35 AM PDT

  •  Indistinguishable From the Rest of the RW (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    corporate conquest. All true, all applicable universally.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 06:00:47 AM PDT

  •  Environmentalists are their own worst enemies (0+ / 0-)

    they don't need any assistance from corporations. If anything Corporations in being profit orientated give Environmentalists the only shred of credibility they have.

    Environmentalists have said the end of the world is coming so often and so stridently for ever issue that they are no longer believed. It's impossible to tell what really is an important issue and what's irrelevant. And yes, environmentalists are often unscientific, they are more like religions.

    Enviros have so tarnished their image that my first reaction to any statement from their groups is "this is more than likely bullshit". And I'm not alone. The word environmentalist carries an image of unreasonable preachy hippies such that many environmental orgs have begun calling themselves conservation groups.

    You all made your bed, lie in it.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 06:47:43 AM PDT

    •  Strawman (0+ / 0-)

      This is a perfect example of Technique #1.  You've just asserted that "Environmentalists have said the end of the world is coming so often", which is not true but now you can bash them because the world hasn't ended.

      So you've shown that environmentalists are "unscientific" by assigning a position to them that they did not take and saying, "see they said something that isn't true"

      Thanks for helping illustrate one of the Corporate PR techniques used against environmentalists.

      •  Here is a specific example of enviros being (0+ / 0-)

        unscientific.....the total embrace by large portions of the United States green environmental movement and by activists political subcultures of the Gasland conflation/fabrication bubble.  

        A central piece of Gasland theology is that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.   This belief is widespread and propagated by national enviro organizations when it is not true.....its is just fabrication for dramatic effect at the beginning of the Gasland movie.

        Many environmental groups and leaders are swimming in this Gasland bubble of non-reality, non-science, non-engineering, nonsense.

        This kind of conduct and operations by environmental organizations is an anti-science/anti-engineering campaign.   Such a campaign is not much different in principle than what they do down at the Creationism Museum.   Just because enviros are on the left does not mean they have a license to engage in scientific misconduct and somehow call what they do environmental advocacy.

        The enviro organization embrace of Gasland is an act of scientific misconduct by much of the US environmental movement.

        •  Again: Technique #1 (0+ / 0-)

          Pretend that those opposing fracking have said that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act.

          Then use that to say they are "unscientific"

          Completely side-step the issue of what fracking is doing to groundwater supplies.

          Nice corporate PR work!

          •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
            Pretend that those opposing fracking have said that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act.
            Here is what Gasland states:
            “What I didn’t know was that the 2005 energy bill pushed through Congress by Dick Cheney exempts the oil and natural gas industries from the Safe Drinking Water Act.  They were also exempt from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Superfund law, and about a dozen other environmental and Democratic regulations.”
            The oil and gas industry and hydraulic fracturing fluids and wastes are NOT exempt from the Clean Water Act.   Any surface water discharge of process wastewater from oil and gas operations is subject to permit requirements and any surface water discharge of process wastewater to waters of the United States and their tributaries is prohibited.
  •  Technically there is no scientific evidence to (0+ / 0-)

    support the concern over GMO.  So all of this hysteria is demonstrably unscienctific.

    Here is an editorial in Science magazine (including a couple of Nobel Laureates) expressing their support for GMO:

  •  I knew I shouldn't have tagged this with GMO (0+ / 0-)

    The GMO-Chem company PR machine has alerts out for GMO and descend en mass to plaster their talking points on any article mentioning GMOs

    This article uses GMOs to illustrate Corporate PR

    Although I appreciate the GMO industry coming here to illustrate corporate PR in action, I'd really rather discuss what the article is really about -- Corporate PR and how it has moved environmental protection from decent to nonexistent in the last 50 years.

    •  I like how you are accusing people in the comments (0+ / 0-)

      of being corporate shills, especially socialists and environmentalists like me.

      Agreeing with scientific consensus doesn't make you a corporate shill, it just makes you informed.

  •  20 Years ago (0+ / 0-)

    In 1992 a 12 year old Severn Suzuki gave an inspiring talk on preserving the environment to the U.N. in Rio.

    20 years later, last year, she came back to Rio.  And she's saying the same thing I am.  We're going downhill on caring for the environment.

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