This week I got confirmation that new corporate funding has been assembled to counteract bloggers and writers in alternative media who reveal mismanagement of provincial assets and emphasize the public’s declining share of natural resources. This will involve typical media greenwashing (like that by Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway) but also an internet campaign with front groups and artificial grass roots organization and coalitions. Some efforts involve people close to the BC Liberal Party.
That multinational resource companies believe they must spend heavily to blunt our messages is evidence we’ve been effective. However, our progress is fragile and the financial power of those we oppose is immense.
If you are comfortable with B.C. functioning as a plutocracy, rest assured, all is well.
If you believe that young people should grow and have opportunities to prosper with respectful attachments to the province’s lands, cultures and history, then you must act to protect valued qualities of British Columbia.
That might involve a personal effort or expense but, if we maintain the current trends, more punitive costs will emerge in the long term. If not for ourselves, we act for our children and grandchildren. The public share of natural resource values has declined by billions and that has reduced spending for environmental protection, education and vital social services. If we continue to downplay or ignore the building blocks of a just society, a price will be paid.
Government politicians, traditional media, lobbyists and social media trolls are paid to look after the interests of powerful people. The Legislature functions for only a handful of days each year and the union movement is eroded. There are rather few major outlets for discussions not shaped by self-interest and each deserves your attention and support.
Read widely, participate in comments, forward articles and links to friends and contact your MLAs and MPs. Write letters to the editor and hold the papers accountable if they refuse to publish or change your message by editing.
Make your voice heard. It is essential.
From an article by Professor Sharon Beder, Public Relations’ Role in Manufacturing Artificial Grass Roots Coalitions:
When a corporation wants to oppose environmental regulations, or support an environmentally damaging development, it may do so openly and in its own name. But it is far more effective to have a group of citizens or experts — and preferably a coalition of such groups — which can publicly promote the outcomes desired by the corporation while claiming to represent the public interest. When such groups do not already exist, the modern corporation can pay a public relations firm to create them.
The use of such ‘front groups’ enables corporations to take part in public debates and government hearings behind a cover of community concern. These front groups lobby governments to legislate in the corporate interest, to oppose environmental regulations, and to introduce policies that enhance corporate profitability. Front groups also campaign to change public opinion, so that the markets for corporate goods are not threatened and the efforts of environmental groups are defused. Merrill Rose, executive, vice president of the public relations firm Porter/Novelli, advises companies:
Put your words in someone else’s mouth… There will be times when the position you advocate, no matter how well framed and supported, will not be accepted by the public simply because you are who you are. Any institution with a vested commercial interest in the outcome of an issue has a natural credibility barrier to overcome with the public, and often with the media…
I am interested in other articles by the same writer. One is Power Play – The fight for control of the world’s electricity:
Noted author Sharon Beder argues persuasively that the track record of electricity privatisation and deregulation around the world indicates that it is a confidence trick. Her book shows how simplistic ideology and economic theory have been used to mask the pursuit of self-interest; how control of electricity has been wrested from public hands to create profit opportunities for investors and multinational corporations; and how an essential public service has been turned into a speculative commodity in the name of ‘reform’.
Power Play explores the battles between private and public ownership in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia since the early twentieth century, and the agenda-setting and public relations strategies involved. It investigates the way that developing countries such as Brazil and India have been forced to allow foreign investors to exercise a stranglehold over their electricity systems. And it uncovers the campaigns waged by think tanks, corporate interests, and multinational companies such as Enron to swindle the public in dozens of countries out of rightful control over an essential public service.
Enron? That’s a familiar name to British Columbians because billionaire Richard Kinder, now head of Kinder Morgan, was President and COO of Enron before it disappeared in a fog of criminality.
Why industry is trying to tell you how to think, The Center for Public Integrity, January 2015:
And so [American Petroleum Institute] along with their PR counsel Edelman created online groups called Energy Citizens and had an advertising campaign called “Vote For Energy”, and it was really a chance for oil and gas to polish its reputation…
Port Metro Vancouver Hires Disgraced Edelman PR Firm, American Lobby Group to Push Coal Exports, DeSmog Canada, December 2013:
When it comes to shipping coal, it looks like the Vancouver Port Authority is taking a page out of the U.S. coal lobby’s books. In an effort to combat negative public opinion about coal and the proposed expansion of coal exports through Fraser Surrey Docks, the port authority has hired public relations firm Edelman Vancouver to revamp its image.
Edelman is the largest public relations firm in B.C. and the company has a history of both pushing coal exports and disregarding public opinion…