intheloop/endofthelesson. This the beginning of a new mini-series which touches upon a couple of issues in StratCom. Firstly, dirty tricks. We’ll point out some of the time-honoured ploys that are frequently em-ployed in StratCom when actors run out of arguments – predominantly on the tactical level. This is for emancipatory and educational purposes only, of course: Kids, don’t try this at home. Second, we’ll talk about strategy – something that strikes us as not unimportant in the context of strategic communication. Expect to meet good ol’ Clausewitz, but since it’s hard to discuss strategy in abstracto, we’ve decided to do it in concreto, i.e. by commenting on a case: The Climate Warriors. The idea here is, moreover, that StratCom-scholars and students can make a tiny tiny contribution. Not by refuting the arguments, but by pointing out the too-familiar tricks. Believe it or not: practitioners have made their contribution already: http://www.desmogblog.com, run amongst others by PR practitioner Jim Hoggan, was voted into the Top 25 of TIME magazine’s best blogs of 2011. Third, we’ll address the concerted attack on the credibility of science. It is worrying, we believe, that powerful forces in society are actively undermining the credibility of scientific knowledge by means of more or less cleverly crafted StratCom. And we’re not talking about the credibility of postmodernist literature theory here, but about largely uncontroversial or undisputed results in the natural sciences. Climate change denial, our fourth issue, is the prime example, but there are others: the rise of religious fundamentalism and its denial of evolutionary theory; the fact that research on what makes humans happy and content (e.g. more equal societies) is constantly ignored by policy-makers; the way economics has declared itself value-free and has at the same time become highly ideological, etc.
Enuff talk. Here’s the case. The following is our translation from German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, Nov, 22, 2012 – you can read the original here. We have asked to acquire the copyright for the purpose of this blog.
The Climate Warriors
How industry-financed PR managers trick the world into believing that global warming is a fake. Chronology of an organized lie.
By Anita Blasberg und Kerstin Kohlenberg (translated by endofthelesson)
Marc Morano spreads doubt by the click of a mouse. He sits in the back of a black Lincoln-Town-Car-Limo and operates his most important weapon: the laptop. Outside, the autumn forests rush by. Morano uploads the newest headline: “Environmental Protection Agency accused of experimenting with humans.”
The limo fetched Morano half an hour earlier from his large house in a Washington suburb. Now it’s gliding towards the studio of Fox News. Marc Morano is in for his next op.
Next week, on Nov, 26, the world’s heads of governments and their ministers for environment meet in Doha on the Persian Gulf for the UN World Climate Summit. They want to decide new initiatives again global warming. Morano wants to stop them.
Morano is not a climate researcher. He is neither capable of calculating atmospheric pressure nor is he good at analyzing temperature data. Morano is a PR manager. His talent is to communicate message so that everybody gets it.
Endofthelesson: You can see Marc Morano in action here (after about 20 secs).
As a high-school student in the 1990ies Morano helped out in the Republican Party’s election campaign. He called complete strangers and explained why Ronald Reagan is the better president. Later, after graduating in political science, he worked as a sales rep for a sewage cleaning company. Morano sells everything, no matter what.
Now, at Fox News, Morano is guest at consumer TV show Money with Melissa Francis. The show is about renewable energy. Morano sits in front of a black studio background. The camera zooms and Morano is beamed into America’s living-rooms: a burly man in his mid-forties with a suit and a tie. His smile is friendly but looks are deceptive. Morano is a master in provocating his antagonists. In a recent TV debate he persistently interrupted a pensive slow-talking climate researcher. In the end the man cracked and called Morano ‘asshole’. Morano won the debate.
This time he’s alone in the studio. He acts the neutral expert. “The government support of solar energy is driven by the fear of man-made global warming”, Morano says mournfully. ‘But that’s just ideology.’
Endofthelesson: Here are a couple of problems. One: Too often, experts go into a debate with the naïve understanding that they’re in for a debate about issues. Two: Popular media, generally speaking, are not really interested in issues or arguments or facts. The general public judges persons, not arguments. Largely sad but often true. It takes scientific and scholarly training to stick with the argument and to ignore the fact that the guy expressing the argument talks slowly and wears worn-out shoes. So, scholars out there: If you’re up against a pro, beware that he or she might attack you as a person. Third: There is a greater problem behind this. Climate change is, as Al Gore put it aptly, INCONVENIENT. Folks WANT to believe that it’s NOT TRUE. So all you need to give them is a way out. Morano does exactly that. He helps you to believe what you’d like believe.
Marc Morano is the most aggressive member of a well-paid gang of mercenaries. He is right in the center of a battle in which three dozens of only recently founded pressure groups are engaging. A battle which has been fuelled by payments of several hundred millions of dollars. Morano said it a couple of years ago: ‘We should kick the climate researchers while they’re on the ground. They deserve to be whipped in public.’
Morano’s employer is the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), an organization which was founded to counteract the activities of environmental activists such as Greenpeace. During the last years it was sponsored by car companies such a Chrysler and oil multinationals such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
Endofthelesson: Check out the webpage of CFACT. Here we read the following:
At the heart of CFACT, our goal is to ‘enhance the fruitfulness of the earth and all of its inhabitants.’ CFACT accomplishes this through four main strategies:
Prospering Lives. CFACT works to help people find better ways to provide for food, water, energy and other essential human services.
Promoting Progress. CFACT advocates the use of safe, affordable technologies and the pursuit of economic policies that reduce pollution and waste, and maximize the use of resources.
Protecting the Earth. CFACT helps protect the earth through wise stewardship of the land and its wildlife.
Providing Education. CFACT educates various sectors of the public about important facts and practical solutions regarding environmental concerns.”
Endofthelesson: Setting up front-organizations is another old trick out of the box. But don’t expect front-organizations denying climate change to state ‘Our mission is to deny climate change until the carpet catches fire.’ Now that would be original for a change. Of course these guys claim that they work for a better world, too! The difference, however, is that CFACT just has to achieve that we go on, that no measures are taken. Doubt is enough.
The story of PR-manager Marc Morano is the story of a planned confusion. It is a lesson in the art of lying. The question is: Can a democracy lose the truth? Can it be that the answer to a question is up for sale – a question on which humanity’s survival might very well depend.
The story begins more than 20 years ago. At that time a shocking insight dawned on humankind. The emission of carbon dioxide causes Earth to heat up. Soon it becomes clear that effective counter-measures will cost many, many billions of dollar. Money that corporations could save if they managed to pitch something against man-made global warming. What could that be? Well, man-made doubts about climate research, of course.
Maybe the data is erroneous. Maybe the planet isn’t heating up at all. And even if that was the case, it might have nothing to do with coal power plants and combustion engines.
It is thoughts such as these which men such as Marc Morano plant into the heads of newspaper readers, TV viewers, journalists and politicians. From the U.S. the doubt spreads all over the world – and it spread to Germany, too. It invades negotiations about greenhouse gases and it distorts voting on energy laws. Now, a few days before the UN Climate Summit begins, the doubt is stronger than ever.
In order to better understand Earth’s complex atmospheric system more than hundred heads of government initiated the World Climate Council – a body in which the most knowledgeable scientists evaluate the data provided by worldwide climate research.
And the data is unequivocal. Global warming can only be halted with the utmost exertion. Global warming increases the likelihood of strong storms, droughts and flooding. Glacier and polar caps are melting away. The sea level is rising. That’s what the researchers write in their reports.
‘We thought we did our job’, says U.S. climate researcher Michael Mann, member of the World Climate Council. “We believed that from now on it’s about politics, not about science.”
Mann is a small burly man with worn-out shoes. He is director of the Pennsylvania State University’s Meteorological Institute, the most important of its kind in the U.S. In his crowded office you can see scientific journals piling up. A hockeystick leans against one wall.
‘Everything began with the hockey stick’, says Mann.
End of Part I. Stay tuned.