Saturday, May 30, 2015

Propaganda in the Carbon-Based Energy Complex


In my recent research I've been exploring the institutional ownership and market operations of the carbon and nuclear energy complexes.

Our entire civilization is predicated upon them. Yet, they encode profound structural contradictions into their social institutions, threatening future human existence.

There is no doubt in my mind that too many eco-systems across the planet are experiencing critical tipping points from the routine effluents and destructive capacities of carbon-and-nuclear-based technologies. Read about the anthropocene and ecological tipping points.

As sociologist Ulrich Beck has explained, modernity has encoded catastrophic crises that can be identified and theorized by societal experts. Unfortunately, reflexivity does not successfully drive needed change. The reasons are complex but chief among them are normalcy biases, will to power through centralization of profits and decision making, and outright fraud.

Fraud is deployed in many ways but the example below illustrates how public relations - in this case, corporation communications with targeted publics - challenges reflexive understanding with the sole intention of sowing doubt regarding catastrophic crises.

Science requires authentic, transparent debate but the example provided below illustrates deliberate efforts to disrupt reasoned, evidence-based debate:



Whitehouse, Sheldon (2015, May 29). The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people. The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-campaign-to-mislead-the-american-people/2015/05/29/04a2c448-0574-11e5-8bda-c7b4e9a8f7ac_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1
The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking. In the case of fossil fuels, just as with tobacco, the industry joined together in a common enterprise and coordinated strategy. In 1998, the Clinton administration was building support for international climate action under the Kyoto Protocol. The fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes that often do the industry’s dirty work met at the Washington office of the American Petroleum Institute. A memo from that meeting that was leaked to the New York Times documented their plans for a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to undermine climate science and to raise “questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change.”
The shape of the fossil fuel industry’s denial operation has been documented by, among others, Drexel University professor Robert Brulle. In a 2013 paper published in the journal Climatic Change, Brulle described a complex network of organizations and funding that appears designed to obscure the fossil fuel industry’s fingerprints. To quote directly from Brulle’s report, it was “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.” That sounds a lot like Kessler’s findings in the tobacco racketeering case.
Majia here: Reasoned, evidence-based debate about climate change was not the intention of the carbon complex.

I describe how this type of fraudulent public relations aimed at engineering public opinion was deployed in the BP oil spill here:

Tue December 27, 2011: The BP Gulf Oil Spill Was the Rehearsal for Tepco's Fukushima http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/bp-gulf-oil-spill-was-rehearsal-for.html
The carbon complex has been around for over a hundred years. It was started by Gilded Age tycoons, including a Rockefeller, a Noble, and a Rothschild. The complex colluded with imperial western govenments to colonize the Middle-East and other regions of the world rich in oil. Although ownership today is more dispersed (with large institutional investors), the logics of exploitation and political dispossession are encoded into the carbon complex's DNA.


2 comments:

  1. What this tells us is something about human beings that we wish weren't the case. That the majority of humans will take what they can and let the future worry about itself. When these people congregate into governments and corporations they greatly increase their ability to prevent anyone from foiling their aims. If this were still pre-industrial revolutionary times we could survive; but now it seems unlikely as changing human nature is beyond our capacity. Could people be scared into changes? Maybe. But the scare may come too late. I do not see the species continuing beyond nuclear power and its certain breakdowns. Just a matter of time. One or two centuries at most. Mean while Bill Gates is focused on a plague; Bill is very interested in population reduction. Well, I think Fukushima will provide plenty of cancer and other ailments in the near future. That is probably adequate. Even with the hypothesis that nothing can be done about Fukushima the slender minority of people who think clearly could save the planet. But the hordes of low minded individuals that stand in the way with their massive coercive power would never permit it. Alas. I would prefer to be optimistic. But science and technology keep running ahead of the human capacity for wisdom in its use.

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  2. Right on, Maija and William.

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