Climate Change Science Attitudes Australia and Koch in USA

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Climate science or climate change denialism have been apparent for some decades since the 1970s with Koch Industries being central along with ‘big oil’ of Exxon Mobil etc. in funding through ‘Dark Money’ academia, research, think tanks, media, politicians and PR techniques to influence society.  Now we see the results including wide-spread climate denialism, avoidance of environmental protections and negative media PR campaigns; meanwhile the roots of this strategy have become more transparent with legal action following. 

 

Climate Lawsuits Are Coming for Koch Industries

 

Dharna Noor June 25, 2020

 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Wednesday that he’s suing ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute because the three firms deceived customers about the climate crisis. This is the first lawsuit of its kind to name API and Koch Industries, and it takes a novel approach by suing them solely for the lies they told.

 

The consumer fraud lawsuit alleges that the companies engaged in a multi-decade “campaign of deception,” hiding the fact that they understood as early as the 1950s that oil and gas production contributes to climate breakdown and still chose to extract, market, and sell the fuels. It includes claims for fraud, failure to warn and violations of Minnesota statutes on consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices and false statements in advertising. As retribution, it calls for Minnesotans to be compensated for their losses and for the defendants to fund a public education campaign about the dangers of climate change.

 

“We’re here suing these defendants, API, ExxonMobil and Koch, for hiding the truth, confusing the facts and muddling the water to devastating effect,” Ellison said at a news conference…..

 

….. But while other lawsuits have targeted ExxonMobil and other major oil producers, Ellison’s groundbreaking suit targets not just the polluting companies but also fossil fuel lobbyists who also deceived consumers. The multinational Koch Industries’ does produce fossil fuel products — in fact, it owns a large Minnesota refinery that manufactures about 80% of the gasoline used in the state — but it is also heavily involved in lobbying for the fossil fuel industry’s interests. And API is the largest U.S. trade association for oil and natural gas companies. Naming these representatives, rather than just fossil fuel producers themselves, lays out that they had a role in the deception as well.

 

Meanwhile in Australia, from SBS on climate change attitudes:

 

The number of climate deniers in Australia is more than double the global average, new study finds

 

News consumers in Australia are more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news consumers in other countries, according to new research.

 

16/06/2020 by Caroline Fisher & Sora Park

 

Australian news consumers are far more likely to believe climate change is “not at all” serious compared to news users in other countries. That’s according to new research that surveyed 2,131 Australians about their news consumption in relation to climate change.

 

The Digital News Report: Australia 2020 was conducted by the University of Canberra at the end of the severe bushfire season during 17 January and 8 February, 2020.

 

It also found the level of climate change concern varies considerably depending on age, gender, education, place of residence, political orientation and the type of news consumed.

 

Young people are much more concerned than older generations, women are more concerned than men, and city-dwellers think it’s more serious than news consumers in regional and rural Australia.

 

Strident critics in commercial media

 

There’s a strong connection between the brands people use and whether they think climate change is serious.

 

More than one-third (35 per cent) of people who listen to commercial AM radio (such as 2GB, 2UE, 3AW) or watch Sky News consider climate change to be “not at all” or “not very” serious, followed by Fox News consumers (32 per cent).

 

This is perhaps not surprising when some of the most strident critics of climate change science can be found on commercial AM radio, Sky and Fox News.

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, climate change, critical thinking, digital or e-consumer behaviour, environment, fossil fuel pollution, marketing & communications, political strategy, populist politics, science literacy, strategic management, WOM word of mouth and younger generations.

 

 

 

Digital Challenges to Traditional News Media Models

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In Australia, and internationally, traditional or legacy print media is being challenged not by its importance in informing people e.g. during bushfires, Covid-19 crisis etc. but related challenges of economics, populist politics, innovation or lack of and now preferred use of digital channels and major social media like Facebook and Google by most people nowadays.

 

Following are excerpts from articles outlining challenges of populism, PR, social media or atomisation of channels, and possible solutions to support news, democracy, innovation and business models in a digital world.

 

From Inside Story Australia:

 

How disasters are shaping Australians’ news habits

 

A new study tracks the rise in news consumption during the bushfires and the pandemic — and finds a glimmer of hope for publishers.

 

In times of great uncertainty, readers and viewers will seek out reliable, accurate and up-to-date news — doubly so when their own safety and wellbeing are at stake. But will the news media continue to be there when they’re needed?

 

The latest Digital News Report: Australia, the sixth annual study of national news consumption trends, provides further evidence that Australians still rely on the news media — directly or indirectly — regardless of its financial difficulties…..

 

….News businesses, digital platforms and the government will need to reconsider how to maintain a healthy news ecosystem and keep citizens informed. Paying attention to what news consumers are telling us would be a good starting point.

 

Our survey confirmed that social media and search are now the two major pathways to online news, with a growing number of people accessing news through mobile alerts, newsletters and aggregator apps. News consumers are trying to find efficient ways to curate and organise the vast amount of news available to them. Rather than go directly to the news-brand websites themselves, audiences are increasingly relying on Google and Facebook to find what they want….

 

….But we know news media businesses are struggling to adapt to the digital environment, and we know they haven’t yet found a sustainable means of surviving.

 

From The Conversation Australia:

 

Media have helped create a crisis of democracy – now they must play a vital role in its revival

 

In May 2020, with the world still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, Margaret MacMillan, an historian at the University of Toronto, wrote an essay in The Economist about the possibilities for life after the pandemic had passed.

 

On a scale of one to ten, where one was utter despair and ten was cautious hopefulness, it would have rated about six. Her thesis was that the future will be decided by a fundamental choice between reform and calamity….

 

….She was writing against a backdrop of a larger crisis – the crisis in democracy. The most spectacular symptoms of this were the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the Brexit referendum. Both occurred in 2016, and both appealed to populism largely based on issues of race and immigration….

 

How the pandemic contracted the media landscape further

 

Alongside these developments, the existential crisis facing news media was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. As business activity was brought to a stop by the lockdown, the need for advertising was drastically reduced.

 

Coming on top of the haemorrhaging of advertising revenue to social media over the previous 15 years, this proved fatal to some newspapers…..

 

Defending against the digital onslaught

 

At a national level, the Australian government took up a recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to force the global platforms, particularly Facebook and Google, to pay for the news it took from Australian media….

 

Populism and scapegoating

 

A third factor in the crisis, exacerbated by the first two, is the rise of populism. Its defining characteristics are distrust of elites, negative stereotyping, the creation of a hated “other”, and scapegoating. The hated “other” has usually been defined in terms of race, colour, ethnicity, nationality, religion or some combination of them.

 

Powerful elements of the news media, most notably Fox News in the United States, Sky News in Australia and the Murdoch tabloids in Britain, have exploited and promoted populist sentiment……

 

From Mumbrella Australia:

 

Publishers: Stop expecting handouts from Facebook and Google, start innovating

 

 

Facebook and Google direct enormous volumes of traffic to news publishers. But instead of paying for the privilege, like other brands do, publishers expect to get paid. Simon Larcey says that instead of the ‘last-ditch, half-assed cash grab’, media companies need to, unsurprisingly, innovate….

 

……In a nutshell, this sums up the ludicrous move by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and local news publishers, which have demanded that Facebook and Google cough up cash for any news content that the digital giants share across their platforms. And with Google agreeing to play ball last week, it looks like these demands are being met.

 

While some might regard this move as a digital giant throwing a lifeline to a drowning local news industry, other, more cynically minded people – myself included – might see this a move as one developed by Google’s PR department to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders. Putting Google’s motives to one side, there’s a risk that this is yet another nail in the coffin, an admission of defeat by local publishers who are no longer able to successfully compete….

 

The problem with handouts

 

Welcome to 2020, and after years of lobbying, the government has decided that if the news publishers of Australia cannot build a sustainable digital advertising revenue model, the two tech platforms will be strong-armed into footing the bill……

 

…….The numbers from the digital giants are probably even larger today. At least 50% of all news traffic is directed to Australian news sites via third parties. If Australian news providers did not have these two platforms, their traffic would be cut in half, and they would generate half the ad revenue. Any brand or marketer wanting to get that type of traffic to their site would pay Facebook and Google big money – in fact they do – yet Australian publishers think they should be paid for the privilege. It makes no sense.

 

For more articles and blogs about Australian politics, business communication, consumer behaviour, digital literacy, digital marketing, digital or e-consumer behaviour, media, political strategy, populist politics, social media marketing and WOM word of mouth.

 

Anglosphere Libertarianism in US, Australia and UK Tories with Dominic Cummings

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We have observed Anglospehere conservative politics being taken over by radical right libertarianism in the US, UK and Australia, entwined with eugenics or xenophobia manifested by white nationalists and neo liberal policies; the Conservative Party in the UK suffers the same presently with Dominic Cummings in the limelight.

 

Facilitated by key individuals such as Dominic Cummings, Steve Bannon, et al. via media, PR and strategists including or via Murdoch’s NewsCorp, Crosby Textor, Cambridge Analytica et al., informed by libertarian think tanks like Koch Atlas Network influenced by Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan, behind the Austrian and Chicago Schools (along with Hayek, Friedman, Rand et al.).

 

For example there are Atlas links between ALEC American Legislative Exchange Council, IPA Institute of Public Affairs (Australia) and IEA Institute of Economic Affairs (UK) promoting strong neo-liberal ideas including smaller government and lower taxes.

 

This is in parallel with promotion of immigration restrictions linked to ideas and tactics of the late John Tanton e.g. ZPG Zero Population Growth, TSCP The Social Contract Press, FAIR Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, Sustainable Australia, Population Matters and Migration Watch UK; maybe coincidence but only one or no degree of separation between them (privately or publicly)?

 

Brexit may have been about antipathy towards Europe, immigrants and nostalgia for a greater Britain but for many, mostly in the background, it was radical right libertarianism avoiding trade and other regulations, helped along by the Leave campaign:

 

The real reason we should fear the work of Dominic Cummings

 

Carole Cadwalladr
Downing Street’s controversial top adviser faces new accusations of poisoning politics, but his true nature was clear during Vote Leave’s Brexit triumph.

 

On 2 March 2017, shortly after my first major article on Cambridge Analytica was published, a furious tweeter appeared in my timeline: “1/ big @Guardian by @carolecadwalla on Mercer/Cambridge Analytica = full of errors & itself spreads disinformation.”

 

It marked the moment that Dominic Cummings entered my life – though at the time I had no idea who he was. At that time few people did. Cummings was the dark horse, known to just a few Westminster insiders, who had stealthily steered Vote Leave to victory in June 2016 while the rest of us were looking the other way.

 

But that is no longer the case. In the past two weeks, he has emerged from the shadows and burned himself on to the nation’s consciousness. As Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, he’s helped mastermind some of the most audacious – and outrageous – moves ever committed by a British prime minister: an attempt to suspend parliament, and the expulsion of 21 moderate MPs from the Conservative party. Moves that led the mild man of British politics, the former prime minister John Major, to call him a “political anarchist” who was “poisoning politics”.

 

From Politico

 

British PM’s special adviser inspires greater loyalty among many key officials than Johnson does.

 

By CHARLIE COOPER AND EMILIO CASALICCHIO 5/26/20, 9:45 PM CET Updated 5/31/20, 1:04 AM CET

 

LONDON — Never mind whether Boris Johnson should get rid of Dominic Cummings, the real question is whether he can.

 

To the U.K. prime minister, his top aide — whose lockdown journey from London to Durham has dominated headlines for days — is more than just an effective political adviser. He is the lynchpin of the Downing Street operation; someone who — according to several people who have worked with the two men in and out of government — gives Johnson policy direction and operational grip, while commanding more loyalty among a number of key officials and ministers than the prime minister does himself.

 

From The New Yorker

 

New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica’s Role in Brexit

 

By Jane Mayer

 

The possibility that Brexit and the Trump campaign relied on some of the same advisers to further far-right nationalist campaigns has set off alarm bells on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did. Newly surfaced e-mails show that the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica, the Big Data company that he worked for at the time, were simultaneously incubating both nationalist political movements in 2015……

 

There are direct links between the political movements behind Brexit and Trump. We’ve got to recognise the bigger picture here. This is being coordinated across national borders by very wealthy people in a way we haven’t seen before.”

 

Bannon has been strongly influenced by Jean Raspail’s dystopian novel ‘Camp of the Saints’, from The Huffington Post:

 

This Stunningly Racist French Novel Is How Steve Bannon Explains The World.

 

“The Camp of the Saints” tells a grotesque tale about a migrant invasion to destroy Western civilization.

 

The same author Raspail had been interviewed by Australian academic Dr. Katherine Betts (collaborator with Dr. Robert Birrell deemed ‘Australia’s best demographer’ by Sustainable Population Australia patron Dick Smith and cited frequently by mainstream media in Australia as an expert on immigration) in John Tanton’s TSCP:

A Conversation With Jean Raspail‘ reprint from original 1994-95

Not only is Tanton intimately linked with founding TSCP but had also crossed paths with others of note at the Koch’s ‘bill mill’ ALEC including Heritage Foundation’s Weyrich, Falwell of the Christian Nationalist right and the deep pocketed Mercers, along with others,’wheels within wheels’?

 

Three right-wing organizations founded nearly forty years ago by conservative activist Paul Weyrich are rediscovering their shared origins. The Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 169 right-wing Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, is establishing a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the controversial “corporate bill mill” for state legislators

 

ALEC & SLLI – “Bipartisan” Bigotry. There appears to be a dirty little secret lurking in the halls and cocktail parties of the of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings – overt racism…..The John Tanton Network and the Anti-Immigrant Movement in America.
One man is at the heart of the most influential network of anti-immigrant groups in the country. This man, John H. Tanton, has created an empire of organizations populated by lobbyists, lawyers, legislators, and “experts” that have permeated the very depths of America’s social and political debate on immigration.

 

What appears to the public as myriad separate voices all advocating for one cause, i.e. severe immigration enforcement, is nothing more than a facade, a collection of craftily constructed front groups, faux-”coalitions,” and spin-offs that are collectively unified in their goal to overwhelm any reasonable debate on immigration with their branded worldview of bigotry.

 

This collective is known as the John Tanton Network.’

 

The Alt-Right and the 1%.  When President Trump equated white supremacists with anti-racism protesters, he was sending a message to the thugs in the streets and to some in executive suites…. ….Mercer, the co-CEO of the $50 billion Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, is also one of three owners of Breitbart News, the outlet Trump strategist (and former Breitbart editor) Steve Bannon has described as a “platform for the alt-right.”

 

With Mercer’s financial support, Breitbart has become a significant media force. While readership is down from its peak during the election campaign, the site attracted 11 million unique visitors in May of this year.

 

Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled White Nationalism Into The Mainstream. A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right “killing machine.” In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that “there’s no room in American society” for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK.

 

But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves that there was plenty of room for those voices on his website.’

 

One Man Created a Bunch of Hate Groups. Now, Those Hate Groups Are Dug in With the Trump Administration….Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, was the CEO of Breitbart, which frequently reports on the Tanton network’s “research” and gives column space to Tanton allies. Bannon’s favorite book, a racist French novel, was published in English by another of Tanton’s organizations.

 

The deep connections that Tanton’s anti-immigrant network has in the Trump Administration is concerning in its own right; but the immediate and long term effects of its influence on policy will continue to be devastating for the lives of countless immigrants. Under the Trump Administration, CIS, FAIR, NumbersUSA, and the rest of the Tanton network have more power than ever — and they’re using it to reshape American immigration policy, possible for decades to come.’

 

Britain’s Steve Bannon Is Tearing Boris Johnson’s Tories Apart…….Just six weeks later, Cummings is in the limelight as the new hate figure in British politics and the man many Conservatives blame for wrecking their party and pushing the country into chaos all in the name of delivering Brexit.’

 

Conservatives in the USA, UK and Australian politics should be concerned as their respective parties are being torn apart by radical right libertarian driven white nationalism and populist politics.

Covid-19 Climate Science Vaccination Misinformation PR and Astro Turfing

In recent months there has been an increase in confusion, misrepresentation and misunderstanding in news and social media round Covid-19 using same techniques as in tobacco, climate science denialism and anti-vaccination movements that seem to benefit US radical right libertarians’ preferred ideology and politics.

 

The following articles from The Fifth Estate in Australia and DeSmog Blog in Canada explain the communication techniques well.

 

Separating truth from lies in the causes of the pandemic

 

David Thorpe | 28 April 2020

 

OPINION: What’s caused this devastating pandemic that’s so far cost at least 207,000 lives (and it’s hardly begun) and wrecked the global economy? If, like me, you’ve been on the receiving end of a blizzard of bizarre messages claiming to reveal the truth behind the pandemic you might be forgiven for feeling confused, so here’s your handy guide to what isn’t the cause and what is.

 

Misinformation wars

 

Right from the start misinformation was rife: there was no virus; the disease was like flu and wouldn’t cause significant harm; emails offered baseless cures and treatments; and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire about its origin.

 

It turns out that many who circulated such misinformation have a history of casting doubt on climate science or seeking to debate issues that were already laid to rest within the scientific community, according to DeSmog.org:

 

“The decades that fossil fuel companies spent funding organisations that sought to undermine the conclusions of credible climate scientists and building up doubt about science itself ultimately created a network of professional science deniers who are now deploying some of the same skills they honed on climate against the public health crisis at the centre of our attention today.”

 

Some of this misinformation was/is channelled by presidents Trump and Bolsanaro. Others by think tanks, experts (some self-proclaimed), academics, and professional right-wing activists who are also climate change denialists.

 

After taking apart all of these arguments, DeSmog asserts: “COVID denial should forever discredit climate science deniers”.’

 

From DeSmog direct:

 

The Reason COVID-19 and Climate Seem So Similar: Disinformation

 

Repost By Guest • Monday, April 20, 2020  of Amy Westervelt, Drilled News. Originally published by Drilled News.

 

For a long time, the story went that the tobacco industry cooked up disinformation and then spread it to the fossil fuel guys, the chemical industry, pharma, you name it. But one thing that became incredibly clear when we began digging into PR firms and specific publicists was that this version of history was not quite right; if disinformation strategies were cooked up by any particular industry it was the public relations industry, which put these strategies to work on behalf of fossil fuels, tobacco, chemical manufacturers and more, often all at the same time.

 

The very first publicist, Ivy Ledbetter Lee, worked on behalf of both Standard Oil and, shortly after, American Tobacco, for example. Daniel Edelman developed astroturf campaigns for both RJ Reynolds tobacco company and the American Petroleum Institute, as did John Hill, who went so far as to have tobacco folks join the API. He also worked with Monsanto, juggling all three clients at the same time. E. Bruce Harrison worked for the chemical guys first, then managed front groups for tobacco and fossil fuels at the same time. You get the drift.

 

These industries all surely learned from each other at various points in time, but that was mostly because they were working with the same publicists. The history is less that tobacco or oil embraced disinformation first and then passed it on and more that a handful of PR firms and consultants created the disinformation industry, and then put it to work on behalf of whatever industry needed it at any given time.

 

Today, those same strategies are at work on behalf of those who worry that the response to COVID-19 will undermine capitalism, which is why climate folks keep noting how familiar the whole anti-science component of the rightwing response to the pandemic feels. It’s familiar because the exact same strategies are being deployed, in some cases by the same people. Here are a few key examples:

 

Disinformation Strategy #1: He who controls the language controls the narrative.

Disinformation Strategy #2: Leverage science illiteracy to create doubt.

Disinformation strategy #3: Astroturfing.

 

Our hope, of course, is that when people learn to recognize these strategies and know what’s behind them, they might become less effective. Disempowering the disinformation industry is a necessary part of any climate solution.’

 

For more articles and blogs about climate change, Covid-19, populist politics, critical thinking, marketing & communications and science literacy click through.

Impact of EU Regulations and Standards on Global Markets

The Brussels Effect – The EU’s Impact upon Global Markets

In her important new book, Columbia Law professor Anu Bradford argues the EU remains an influential superpower that shapes the world in its image. By promulgating regulations that shape the international business environment, elevating standards worldwide, and leading to a notable Europeanization of many important aspects of global commerce, the EU has managed to shape policy in areas such as data privacy, consumer health and safety, environmental protection, antitrust, and online hate speech.

 

The Brussels Effect shows how the EU has acquired such power, why multinational companies use EU standards as global standards, and why the EU’s role as the world’s regulator is likely to outlive its gradual economic decline, extending the EU’s influence long into the future.

 

From Politico EU on The Brussels Effect:
THE BRUSSELS EFFECT: Anu Bradford, a professor at Columbia Law School, wrote the book on EU influence — literally. In early 2020, she published “The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World.” It details how the European Union manages to unilaterally regulate the global market.

 

“All the EU needs to do is to regulate [its internal] single market, and it is then the global companies that globalize those EU rules,” she told me during a pre-coronavirus trip to Brussels in early March. The most obvious example of this phenomenon, she said, is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

 

Global influence: As international awareness of the EU’s regulatory power has grown, there’s been “a massive increase in the presence of foreign companies in Brussels” and their efforts to lobby institutions, said Bradford. “Because when you think about it, if you manage to influence the regulatory process in the EU, you can influence the regulations across the world.”

 

Despite the increased international lobbying effort, “we don’t see that lobbying [has] led to weak regulations,” according to Bradford. She contrasts this with the U.S. where corporate influence often undermines U.S. regulations. She chalks up this difference to the comparatively stronger influence of civil society in the legislative and rule-making process in the EU.

 

Bradford said this leads to “a more balanced outcome in the end, but certainly there is an awareness and attempt on behalf of the corporations to influence the outcomes.”

 

Civil society strength: Alberto Alemanno, founder of civil society NGO The Good Lobby, offers a slightly different view. He says that corporate influence in the EU, as well as the U.S., “is on average more successful in bureaucratic arenas” compared to NGOs and citizen groups. But, he added, “the different role EU civil society plays in shaping policymaking may have more to do with institutional features (EU technocratic apparatus’ incentives to engage with civil society, European Parliament’s increased power, lesser role of money in politics) than with NGOs’ inherent strength.”

 

And what about the coronavirus? Of course, Bradford’s “Brussels effect” will be tested by the pandemic. She believes that “unless globalization comes to a drastic halt (which it likely will not), the Brussels Effect will continue,” she wrote to me more recently via email.

 

But she is monitoring a few developments. This includes whether the crisis leads to more or less regulation, depending on whether there is an appetite for more or less EU after things settle down.

 

She also believes the technocratic nature of EU rule-making “insulates it to some degree from the crises.” But the uncertainty and disruption “will likely slow down the regulatory process in the immediate future.” This includes the EU’s new digital strategy, where the crisis may force officials to rethink its regulation of data and technology more broadly.

 

For more related blogs and articles on the EU European Union, economics, environment,  digital marketing and the EU GDPR click through.