On August 4 2014, an article in The Guardian claimed, “World’s Top PR Companies Rule Out Working With Climate Deniers”. It is a classic example of what purports to be journalism today, a concocted story, in which the story contradicts the headline. It is a variation of what is known as yellow journalism, defined as, “a type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.” I call it ‘green journalism’. G.K.Chesterton said, “Journalism largely consists of saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.” In green journalism, it is likely Lord Jones didn’t exist, but if he did, he probably owned an oil company.
The Guardian story is another in a stream of articles in the mainstream media, apparently designed to counter growing public and political awareness that IPCC science is wrong. Increasingly, they take the form used by a person or group losing an argument. It is known as an ad hominem, defined as “attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering the arguments.” It usually applies to an individual, but the modern form is collective. You identify a group with a name, such as “birther”,“conspiracy theorist”, “global warming skeptic”, or “climate change denier”, which marginalizes them and destroys their credibility. Is a collective ad hominem an oxymoron? It is further evidence of the political nature of the climate debate. As US commentator, George Will, said, “When a politician says the debate is over, you can be sure of two things; the debate is raging; and he’s losing it.”
Media Meddling And Manipulation
Green journalism articles amount to a PR campaign to create misinformation and illusion. As Michael Mann said in his 2004 email to Phil Jones, “…the important thing is to make sure they’re loosing (sic) the PR battle.” Mainstream media, particularly the New York Times and The Guardian, were exposed as actively involved with the people at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) when the emails were leaked. Their communications were not probing journalism, but requests to help spin the story. Seth Borenstein provides an example in a July 23, 2009 leaked email when he wrote to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) gang.
“Kevin (Trenberth), Gavin (Schmidt), Mike (Mann), It’s Seth again. Attached is a paper in JGR today that Marc Morano is hyping wildly. It’s in a legit journal. Watchya think?”
At the Guardian symposium last summer, George Monbiot’s opening question (to Trevor Davies of East Anglia) was: why was CRU’s response to this issue such a total car crash?
George Monbiot’s advice to the environmental community was simple: that they’d “only get past this by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate, and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.”
He is talking partly about the reaction to the leaked emails, but primarily the cover-up orchestrated by committees of inquiry set up by universities and others. His question is about why the University of East Anglia (UEA) hired PR person Neil Wallis of Outside Organization to handle the fall out. Wallis, a former editor at the News of The World, was arrested in connection with the phone hacking scandals that led to the resignation of London Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, and Prime Minister Cameron’s press secretary Andy Coulson. In June 2014, Coulson was found guilty of hacking.
Monbiot’s comments suggest he didn’t grasp, or didn’t want to believe, the degree of corruption and deception disclosed by the leaked emails. He doesn’t mention that it was his reporting that disseminated the false information. His newspaper, the Guardian, apparently hasn’t learned, as the August 4 article indicates.
The Guardian Headline
The headline and subheading are deceptive in themselves. The headline says
“World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers.”
This implies they already held these positions. In fact, they were responding to questions designed to make them take a position. More problematic, the headline is incorrect. They didn’t rule it out. They provided skillful, carefully worded, answers using their professional PR skills that effectively took no position.
As the article explains half way through,
“The PR firms were responding to surveys conducted independently by the Guardian and the Climate Investigation Centre, a Washington-based group that conducts research on climate disinformation campaigns.”
Kert Davies, Founder of the Climate Investigation Centre (CIC) is quoted saying,
The PR industry is a major component of the influence peddling industry that stretches across Washington and the world, and they are making large sums of money from energy companies and other important players that have businesses connected to fossil fuels and energy policy,
That doesn’t sound like a person and organization that would take an objective view. It is more like one that would carry out a survey to create a story rather than examine the scientific facts.
The subheading says,
“Ten firms say they will not represent clients that deny man-made climate change or seek to block emission-reducing regulations.”
These remarks came after the Guardian and the CIC asked them, and only 10 out of 25 said it, despite pressure, as the article admits.
Only 10 of the 25 firms responded to multiple emails, phone calls and certified letter from the CIC, either directly or through a parent company.
The answers quoted by the article, presumably the most favorable ones, are masterpieces of PR. Rhian Rotz, spokesman for Waggener Edstrom World-wide, said,
“We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change,”
The UK-based WPP, the world’s largest advertising firm by revenue, said,
“…taking on a client or campaign disputing climate change would violate company guidelines. “We ensure that our own work complies with local laws, marketing codes and our own code of business conduct. These prevent advertising that is intended to mislead and the denial of climate change would fall into this category.”
What a wonderfully cynical comment from people whose job it is to mislead or misdirect. The point is nobody denies climate change; the issue is the extent to which humans are causing climate change.
The Guardian, a socialist newspaper, and CIC, a singular-focus research agency, created data to try and prove PR firms were rejecting a certain group of clients. They weren’t, so a majority ignored the survey, but some provided carefully worded PR answers apparently to appear environmentally and politically friendly and correct. Few are more skilled at recognizing a set up.
Those who responded did so with masterful PR. They implied that business was business and they didn’t moralize about the message. For example, Fiona McEwan, spokeswoman for WPP that comprised 150 companies said, each made
“…their own decisions on clients and would not rule out campaigns opposing regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
The authors worked very hard, without success, to convince themselves they had meaningful results. Like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they setout to prove their hypothesis, to further their political agenda. It didn’t matter if the procedure and results failed: there was what appeared to be evidence and cogent proof, sufficient to support the headline.
It is fascinating how PR people convince themselves that only their PR is the truth and maybe that is the ultimate PR spin. Look at Kert Davies comment (above). He forgets that many PR companies, likely most, are working to promote the misguided science of the IPCC, government and alternate energy companies. The article quotes James Hoggan, owner of a PR company and founder of DeSmogblog, which he created for, “clearing the PR pollution that clouds climate science”. He is not a climatologist or a climate scientist, so his view is, at best, subjective. The article neglects to tell you he is also Chairman of the David Suzuki Foundation, a major Canadian environmental group, but maybe the omission was a PR decision. The more important question is why does climate science need PR at all? The answer is in George Braque’s observation; Truth exists, only lies are invented. And they need an inventor.
The way the article was created, written and presented are classic examples of what Michael Crichton, graduate of Harvard Medical School and author of State of Fear warned, in his 2003 speech,
I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.
It is a classic example of green journalism, a more recent form of yellow journalism, “…that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers.” The Guardian headline is also a form of an appeal to authority. Ironically, it is a measure of the author’s desperation to create a story, because they don’t understand that PR and its practitioners are not considered authorities. The public knows they are masters of spin and deception, who are not needed, as Thomas Jefferson was aware. PR company philosophy is summarized in a Bosnian proverb that says, “Who lies for you will lie against you.”