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14 June 2002


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Battling Big Business
Countering greenwash, infiltration and other forms of corporate deception
Edited by Eveline Lubbers

Losing control in the media arena as a result of activist pressure has become a public relations nightmare for the modern multinational enterprise. Shells Brent Spar fiasco is one well-known example, when the Greenpeace campaign against sinking that former drill platform achieved its goals. Monsanto's gross underestimation of the European resistance against the introduction of genetically engineered products is another. Today, as more companies shift to being all about brand meaning and image, the more vulnerable they are to attacks on that image. At the same time, corporations are becoming as powerful as governments. Battling Big Business reveals how corporate giants attempt to control their enemies and how groups and individuals can fight back.

Part One of this book analyses a wide range of corporate counter-strategies, varying from relatively innocent PR measures to complete intelligence  operations.

Part Two offers tactical tools to help activists and concerned citizens to recognise manipulative strategies, and shows how they may be countered by a variety of techniques which use the power of creativity and the new media tools available. The keywords are being original, playful, unexpected, small, fast, irresistible, but also decisive, clear and unstoppable!

From the Foreword by Naomi Klein:
"Battling Big Business exposes a spirit of intolerance coursing through the corporate world: intolerance of criticism and dissent, as well as a deep aversion to public scrutiny and accountability...All around us freedoms are being taken lightly and power is being exercised with a heavy hand. If there was ever a moment to insist on the right to vigorously challenge authority, it is now. If there was ever a book to help us do it, this is it."


Foreword - Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies


Part One - Corporate Bullying

A. Keeping Up Appearances

*The Spread of Greenwash - Andy Rowell (UK), the author of 'Green Backlash, Global Subversion of the Environmental Movement'
At the heart of the PR campaign has been a recent attempt to move companies into the centre of the environmental debate as institutions that can be trusted with the stewardship of the Earth and public health. No place is safe from fake green PR! BP provides an extreme example of greenwash. While rebranding itself as an energy company by replacing its old logo with a "vibrant sunburst of green, white and yellow" and installing solar panels on its service stations, the oil company did not hesitate to cooperate with paramilitary forces in Colombia.

*Enlighted environmentalism and caring for human rights are not on the same agenda - Sharon Beeder (NZ), author of the Global Spin

*Dialogue: Divide and Rule - Andy Rowell
In the past few years, companies have set up forums between environmentalists and the biotech, oil, mining and nuclear industries. Stakeholder consultation can be seen as the start of a systematic attempt by transnational corporations to redefine themselves as operating for the common good, not profit, while dividing the opposition. What are the effects of these dialogues between businesses and their moderate critics?

*The Sponsorship Scam - Jessica Wilson (NZ), researcher and writer in New Zealand
Corporations manufacture lesson-building kits for schoolchildren to get a head start on implanting their brands into young minds. They also engage in "sponsorship" of environmentalism. This can lead to conflicts of interest such as the WWF accepting people from Shell on its board.

*The Greens Get Eaten - George Monbiot (UK), author of the Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain.
Environmentalism, like almost everything else, is in danger of being swallowed by the corporate leviathan. If this happens, it will disappear without trace. No one threatens its survival as much as the greens who have taken the company shilling.

B. Behind the Facade

*Krafting a Smokescreen - Kathy Mulvey (US), Executive Director of INFACT, the corporate watchdog campaigning against Philip Morris
Philip Morris strives to polish its image with investors, while launching a global lobbying effort to undermine a World Health Organization treaty on tobacco control. INFACT, the corporate watchdog, explains how Philip Morris hired PR consultant Burson-Marsteller to counter the effects of their boycott campaign.

*Joint Forces - Olivier Hoedeman (DK/NL) and Ann,Doherty (US/NL) co-author of Europe Inc., a book on the political power range of transnational corporations working through lobby groups. After successful campaigns and rallies against the MAI and WTO, disgruntled companies formed coalitions to quash these unwelcome threats to their economic interests. This chapter analyses the panic that broke out after successful Internet campaigns and real live rallies (Seatlle!) at the turn of the century.
*Using Libel Laws to Silence Critics - Franny Armstrong, (UK) producer of the McSpotlight documentary, and Will Ross, supporting the McSpotlight site. Long before the McLibel court case, McDonald's proved willing to use British libel laws to censor the media. Major media players chose to give in after just one threatening letter from the hamburger giant. Even after the McLibel trial exposed this, the makers of a documentary about the trial encountered reluctance by major broadcasting corporations to air the film on national TV.

C. Undercover Operations

*McSpying - Eveline Lubbers, with the help of the McLibel Two.
As was revealed during the McLibel trial, the tiny pressure group that campaigned against McDonalds was infiltrated by at least seven private spies at several meetings they were in the majority. McDonald's hired two separate private security firms without telling them about each other.

*Garbology: Activist Trash as Corporate Treasure
A self-proclaimed activist collected wastepaper at about thirty third-world and activist movement offices in the Netherlands. Careful research in 1994 revealed how a private security firm had recycled original documents and filed copies into files on campaigners and their organizations. Content filtered from the wastepaper surfaced at strategic moments in right-wing newspapers or on multinationals' desks.

*Private Spooks: Wackenhut vs. Whistleblowers - Sheila O'Donnell (US), a private investigator who is specialized in defense of activists and organizations who are threatened. The Wackenhut Corporation was hired to help the Alyeska oil consortium in the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to stem whistleblowing to the US House of Representatives. This chapter documents how the company illegally obtained telephone records, removed trash, did background checks of many people, bugged hotel rooms and set up a bogus environmental law firm.

*Cyber-surveillance - Eveline Lubbers
Transnational corporations hire specialized services to scan the Web in every possible way to monitor public opinion about them What service do they provide? Based on interviews with corporate executives and Internet sleuths, this chapter looks at this new avenue of information-gathering and how it affects organizing.

*Corporate Intelligence
The boundaries between corporate intelligence and government snooping are getting blurred. Though their goals may differ depending on their clients needs, business intelligence agencies often use much the same surveillance modus operandi as do governments. This chapter highlights the relationships and the overlap between them.

Part Two - Battling Big Business

*Investigating & exposing - Nicky Hager (NZ), one of the authors of Secrets & Lies
The author of Secrets & Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-environmental PR Campaign describes the investigative reporter's quest for whistleblowers. This book exposed a campaign promoting rainforest logging run by the British-based public relations company Shandwick at the behest of the New Zealand government - the aim was to "neutralize" environmentalists opposed to logging.

Digging Up Astroturf - Claudia Peter (G), author of 'Deckmantel Ökologie'(1995), about AstroTurf strategies in Germany.
Bogus environmental organizations present themselves as concerned citizens while carrying out a corporate agenda. This use of front groups-called "astroturf," as opposed to grassroots, movements-has moved into Europe. In Germany the conventional and nuclear power industries were caught orchestrating a series of local campaigns against windmills. The chapter looks at the difficulties of exposing such schemes.

*Obstructing the Mainstream: Lessons from Seattle - Kees Hudig (NL), professional activist, working for the XminusY Solidarity Fund
A practical report from the inside on how the Battle of Seattle and Washington protests were organized, including the growth and development of inspiring initiatives like ATTAC and the Ruckus Society. Countering the critique on the devaluation of the effectiveness of protests against world gatherings (repetition is boring), this chapter should serve as a reference guide for future happenings.

*Communications Guerillas - Autome A.F.R.I.K.A gruppe (INT),author of the book Kommunikations Guerilla (in German)
This practical guide to deconstructing media strategies, written by media manipulators in the tradition of the Communication Guerilla Handbook, is based on a concept of politics which tries to understand the ways communication functions between corporations/polticians and the public and offers lots of possibilities to influence or divert it. Read about the advantages of not restricting oneself to traditional declarations and other usual forms of militancy.
*Virtual Sabotage - Florian Schneider (G), media activist
On line demonstration aims not to cause maximum damage, but to be a symbolic act of compression: the long-awaited and long-desired synchronization of the online and the offline. The Lufthansa Deportation Class Netstrike analysed as a case of virtual sabotage.

*Net.activism - Eveline Lubbers
Core net activists are confronted with key issues like: How can the Net be used best for campaigning? Should the focus be on spreading counterinformation or founding alternative networks? Should it be aimed at spreading content or connecting to confrontations at street level? Should we keep exploring the back alleys of the Net? And how much should we worry about the consolidation of free zones in the face of the potential rise of the dotcoms?

*Afterword: the Pandora Project
The making of this book has unearthed a lot of material and sources on corporate counterstrategies. In order to expand the reach of the book, we intend to make available much of the research done for it. This idea started as an initiative to shine a spotlight on the public relations industry: Opening Pandora's Box. The main goal of the Pandora Project is to compile an online database of corporate counterstrategies.

*Notes on Contributers
*References and Notes

Ordering information:

Green Books
234 x 156mm
ISBN 1-903998-14-X

Common Courage Press
$ 17,95
ISBN 1-56751-224-0

Scribe Publications
Autumn 2002

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