Do you have the feeling you are being conned, made a fool of – a sop? Well, you’re not alone. PR spin doctors have teamed up with all manner of political, ideological and corporate interests to sway your opinion on just about any subject you’d like to mention. Just when you thought your thoughts and opinions were your own, experts tell us that we are being coerced, unwittingly, to put others’ interests before our own.
How do we know this?
Take the carbon tax? Back in 2007, 80% of Australians thought a price on carbon was a great idea. They also wanted leaders who would take up the fight against climate change. Since then, as one high profile PR guru, Ravi Prasad, has revealed, Australians have lost their appetite for both thanks to a well-run propaganda campaign.
Who’s behind it?
Well, it’s always a good idea to follow the money. Ask the question: who has the most to lose from putting a price on carbon?
Easy. The fossil fuel industry. They also have a huge war chest – big enough to fight governments as we’ve already seen in Australia.
Getting an idea of how effective the fossil fuel lobby has been in creating the climate skeptic movement, take a look at this potted history courtesy of YouTube. The Koch Bros are the biggest mining magnates in the US.
Where did they steal the idea?
They’re not really all that creative or clever since they pinched the idea from Big Tobacco. Back in the 90s, when health authorities alerted the public to the link between tobacco and lung cancer, APCO, one of the biggest PR companies in the US came up with a plan. Create doubt and confusion! Starting off with outright denial, they then moved to the next phase of creating doubt about the science. Sound familiar? All was revealed in a famous leaked document entitled “Doubt is our Product”. And “guess who” took a leaf out of tobacco’s book, hired APCO and ran an identical campaign – this time denying climate science.
One of the most effective ways of creating confusion was through the use of astroturfers – or phony grassroots organisations. Authoritative names like the “Coalition of American Scientists” were also a cover for often just a single person employed by the fossil fuel industry.
The trick of an astroturfer is lure genuine residents – just like fake flies attract fish! This is essential to provide some much-needed real green shoots amongst the plastic. The end result is disproportionate media coverage as seemingly endless community groups dominate the debate – often with a complicit media too lazy to investigate the claims and the group’s authenticity.
Deception is in many forms these days as PR wonks and practitioners find ways to earn $ by deceiving the public. The anti-wind Waubra Foundation and Landscape Guardians are a good example. Investigations revealed that the so-called medical foundation’s medical director was not a registered, practicing doctor and the qualifications listed on the site were incorrect. The group claim to have no connection to anti-wind groups but was set up by a Landscape Guardian and three more are on the Board.
(article first appeared in full as ‘Deception is our Product’ on Independent Australia 7 February 2012)