propaganda

Christy Clark’s Dangerous Site C Propaganda War

B.C. Premier Christy Clark

Politics and propaganda have never been strangers to one another, but what’s happening to political discourse around the world right now is cause for concern.

While much attention is paid to Donald Trump’s obvious attempts to mislead the public, a more insidious form of propaganda is playing out right here in British Columbia.

Case in point: B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s recent letter on the Site C dam, addressed to NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver.

The letter follows on the heels of Horgan’s request for BC Hydro to hold off on evictions and signing new contracts until after the B.C. Utilities Commission can review the costs and demand for the most expensive project in B.C.’s history. 

Horgan’s letter wasn’t addressed to Clark, but she found it in herself to reply anyway. 

How Propaganda Works to Divide Us

Trump protest in London

Political propaganda employs the ideals of liberal democracy to undermine those very ideals, the dangers of which, not even its architects fully understand.

In the early years of DeSmog’s research into anti science propaganda, I thought of energy industry PR campaigns such as “junk science,” “clean coal,” and “ethical oil” as misinformation strategies designed to dupe the public.

Although that’s obviously true, I now understand that propaganda is far more complex and problematic than merely lying about the evidence. Certainly propaganda is designed to deceive, but not in a way you might think. What’s more, the consequences are far worse than most people who produce and consume it realize.

My deeper understanding evolved after I interviewed Jason Stanley and read his important book How Propaganda Works. The American philosopher and Yale University professor will speak about the history and dangers of demagogic propaganda at UBC’s Point Grey Campus in Vancouver on April 27 (7 p.m. Buchanan A210, 1866 Main Mall).

How Propaganda (Actually) Works

clean coal propaganda

Political Propaganda employs the ideals of liberal democracy to undermine those very ideals, the dangers of which, not even its architects fully understand.
 
In the early years of DeSmog’s research into environmental propaganda, I thought of industry PR campaigns like “junk science,” “clean coal,” and “ethical oil” as misinformation strategies designed to dupe the public about the real issues.
 
Although there is obvious truth to that view, I now understand that propaganda is far more complex and problematic than lying about the facts. Certainly propaganda is designed to look like facts that are true and right, but not in a way we might think. What’s more, the consequences are far worse than most people consuming and even producing it realize.

Critics Question Whether News Canada, a Federally Funded Wire Service, Disseminates Pro-Government Propaganda

Forget press releases. Forget press agents, publicists. Forget advertorials and sponsored content and native content. Forget all of it.

If what you want for your company, your government bureau, is total control of a news story, why bother with the pesky journalists who are going to check the facts and get the other side of the story?

No. Here’s what you do: write your own news story.”

That’s the sardonic strategy Jesse Brown, reporter and host of Canadaland, recently outlined on a show dedicated to News Canada, a federally-funded public relations body and news wire service which was recently awarded $1.25 million to distribute hand-out news content meant to “inform and educate Canadians on public issues.”

The story of News Canada receiving a 25 per cent increase in government funding from Public Works Canada was first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter Tom Korski.

News Canada Ltd. president Shelly Middlebrook told Korski the service provides content to media editors and that “journalists either pick it up or they don’t.”

Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

An article published in August by The New Republic said “Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans,” pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that “Bush's replacement,” President Barack Obama, “has reversed course” in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

“We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency,” said the letter.

“We urge you…to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it.”

Digging Deeper into Vivian Krause’s Disingenuous Anti-Environment Witch Hunt

vivian krause environmental charities

Canadians are inundated with ads from Enbridge, Cenovus, Kinder Morgan, Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

But we’re also targeted by a more insidious type of PR brought into the spotlight by the New York Times scoop on a speech Richard Berman gave to the Western Energy Alliance.

In that speech, Berman told the group’s members — mostly oil and gas companies — they had to be prepared to “win ugly” in an “endless war” against environmentalists. 

We are now finding out we are also subjected to secretly funded propaganda from groups like the “Environmental Policy Alliance” (whose self-conciously chosen initials are EPA, the same as the U.S. government’s Environment Protection Agency), or the more obviously biased “Big Green Radicals.”

Climate Denier Grabs Earth Day Headline in Vancouver Sun

It is always difficult to know what to publish on Earth Day. It’s been around for 34 years, which means that much of what’s worth writing about has already been covered. Then there’s the question of whether to inform your readers with facts, inspire them with positive stories about solutions or just overwhelm them with the beauty and wonder of nature.

Despite the challenge, it’s still a little perplexing why one of Vancouver’s two major newspapers published, on Earth Day, a column about climate change that is so poorly written, so haphazardly argued, so lacking in any genuine concern for the truth, that had a freshman submitted it in one of the university courses I teach, I would have given it an F.

The column to which I refer, “Earth Day is cult indoctrination,” was published by The Vancouver Sun on April 22 as a “guest editorial” by Michelle Stirling-Anosh. Nothing I read in the mainstream media shocks me anymore, and most of it doesn’t even deserve a response, but Stirling-Anosh’s contribution to the climate change debate is worth some critical attention, if only as a warning to others.

Alberta Partners with Major Oilsands Companies to Develop Kindergarten to Grade Three Curriculum

Government of Alberta student, Suncor, Syncrude curriculum

The province of Alberta has recently released a development plan for public schools that enlists Suncor Energy and Syncrude Canada in the creation of future Kindergarten to grade three curriculum. Oil giant Cenovus will partner in developing curriculum for grades four to 12.

The oil and gas industry’s involvement in the province’s educational development is creating concern among opposition parties and environmental organizations.

NDP Education Critic Deron Bilous called granting partnership status to industry “appalling.”

Kindergarten to grade three is a very formative time in a child’s education where their minds are still developing. It is outrageous and appalling to have oil and gas companies involved in any way in developing curriculum for Alberta’s youngest students,” he said.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said “it’s definitely very disturbing that the Alberta government would see oil giants Syncrude and Suncor as key partners in designing Alberta’s K to three curriculum. Big oil doesn’t belong in Alberta’s schools.

He added, “It’s time that the Alberta government realizes that what’s good for the oil industry isn’t what’s good for the rest of Alberta and especially not our children. While oil may run our cars for now it shouldn’t run our government or our schools. Ever.”

Locked in The Progress Trap: Interview With Author Ronald Wright

The Progress Trap by Will Brown

Ronald Wright, the award-winning author of A Short History of Progress, says North Americans are the greatest “villains” when it comes to climate change. While Europe has put forward some serious money and strategies to try to combat it, Canada and the U.S. are dragging their heels.

Wright’s comments are particularly noteworthy after Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s recent visit to Europe, where he tried to sell Canada’s approach to oil sands to a skeptical audience. Europe is considering imposing a tax on Canadian bitumen because of its emissions.

I sat down with Wright on Salt Spring Island, B.C. to talk about why society can’t seem to change its way of thinking. He blames what he calls, “The Progress Trap.”

This is the first of two parts of my conversation with Wright.

Jim Hoggan: Why, despite mounting evidence and calls for urgent action from experts in the atmospheric, marine and life sciences, are we doing so little to address environmental problems like climate change, the declining health of our oceans and mass species extinctions?

Greenwashing the Tar Sands, Part 2: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Last week, I wrote a short history of the greenwashing campaign being waged by tar sands promoters, including (and especially) the Canadian and Alberta governments. It’s clear that as the battle over the future of tar sands development has intensified, so has the greenwashing necessary to promote it in the age of climate change and increasing environmental literacy. The more people know about the dangerous costs and risks associated with tar sands development, the more time, effort and money its promoters must invest in the alchemy of disingenuous propaganda.

The frustrating part for Canadians concerned with this egregious abuse and misuse of language is that there doesn’t appear to be any recourse. Tar sands supporters seem to disseminate their little black lies with impunity, and there is no way, in a democracy where free speech is sacrosanct, to stop the flood of tar sands bullshit sullying the airwaves.

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