[permaculture] Fwd: [mad_ftaa] Fwd: PR industry produces fake citizen support
mpludwig at facstaff.wisc.edu
Thu May 30 08:45:49 EDT 2002
>Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 23:40:18 -0500
>From: Mitch Rosefelt <PixelDroid at thepixelfarm.com>
>Subject: [mad_ftaa] Fwd: PR industry produces fake citizen support
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>It doesn't matter what the issue is .... GM foods, as in the British report
>below, or fee-demo, charter forests, you name it. The PR industry will
>fabricate "citizen input" to give the impression of public support. Under
>no circumstances believe governmental data showing support for any of the
>schemes favoring privatization of public domain. And that includes all of
>the "local control" arguments.
>Published on Wednesday, May 29, 2002 in the Guardian of London Corporate
>Phantoms The Web of Deceit Over GM Food by George Monbiot
>Tony Blair's speech to the Royal Society last Thursday was a wonderful
>jumble of misconceptions and logical elisions. He managed to confuse
>science with its technological products. GM crops are no more "science"
>than cars, computers or washing machines, and those opposing them are no
>more "anti-science" than people who don't like the Millennium Dome are
>He suggested that in the poor world people welcome genetic engineering. It
>was unfortunate that the example he chose was the biotech industry in
>Bangalore in south-west India. Bangalore happens to be the center of the
>world's most effective protests against GM crops, the capital of a state in
>which anti-GM campaigners outnumber those in the UK by 1,000 to one. Like
>most biotech enthusiasts, he ignored the key concern of the activists: the
>corporate takeover of the food chain, and its devastating consequences for
>But it would be wrong to blame Blair alone for these misconstructions. The
>prime minister was simply repeating a suite of arguments formulated
>elsewhere. Over the past month, activists have slowly been discovering
>where that "elsewhere" may be.
>Two weeks ago, this column showed how the Bivings Group, a PR company
>contracted to Monsanto, had invented fake citizens to post messages on
>internet listservers. These phantoms had launched a campaign to force
>Nature magazine to retract a paper it had published, alleging that native
>corn in Mexico had been contaminated with GM pollen. But this, it now
>seems, is just one of hundreds of critical interventions with which PR
>companies hired by big business have secretly guided the biotech debate
>over the past few years.
>While I was writing the last piece, Bivings sent me an e-mail fiercely
>denying that it had anything to do with the fake correspondents "Mary
>Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", who started the smear campaign against the
>Nature paper. Last week I checked the e-mail's technical properties. They
>contained the identity tag "bw6.bivwood.com". The message came from the
>same computer terminal that "Mary Murphy" has used. New research
>coordinated by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews appears to have unmasked
>the fake persuaders: "Mary Murphy" is being posted by a Bivings web
>designer, writing from both the office and his home computer in
>Hyattsville, Maryland; while "Andura Smetacek" appears to be the company's
>chief internet marketer.
>Not long ago, the website slashdot.com organized a competition for hackers:
>if they could successfully break into a particular server, they got to keep
>it. Several experienced hackers tested their skills. One of them was one
>using a computer identified as bw6.bivwood.com.
>Though someone in the Bivings office appears to possess hacking skills,
>there is no evidence that Bivings has ever made use of them. But other
>biotech lobbyists do appear to have launched hacker attacks. Just before
>the paper in Nature was publicly challenged, the server hosting the
>accounts used by its authors was disabled by a particularly effective
>attack which crippled their capacity to fight back. The culprit has yet to
>Bivings is the secret author of several of the websites and bogus citizens'
>movements which have been coordinating campaigns against environmentalists.
>One is a fake scientific institute called the "Center for Food and
>Agricultural Research". Bivings has also set up the "Alliance for
>Environmental Technology", a chlorine industry lobby group. Most
>importantly, Bivings appears to be connected with AgBioWorld, the genuine
>website run by CS Prakash, a plant geneticist at Tuskegee University, Alabama.
>AgBioWorld is perhaps the most influential biotech site on the web. Every
>day it carries new postings about how GM crops will feed the world, new
>denunciations of the science which casts doubt on them and new attacks on
>environmentalists. It was here that the fake persuaders invented by Bivings
>launched their assault on the Nature paper. AgBioWorld then drew up a
>petition to have the paper retracted.
>Prakash claims to have no links with Bivings but, as the previous article
>showed, an error message on his site suggests that it is or was using the
>main server of the Bivings Group. Jonathan Matthews, who found the message,
>commissioned a full technical audit of AgBioWorld. His web expert has now
>found 11 distinctive technical fingerprints shared by AgBioWorld and
>Bivings' Alliance for Environmental Technology site. The sites appear, he
>concludes, to have been created by the same programmer.
>Though he lives and works in the United States, CS Prakash claims to
>represent the people of the third world. He set up AgBioWorld with Greg
>Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the far-right libertarian
>lobby group funded by such companies as Philip Morris, Pfizer and Dow
>Chemical. Conko has collaborated with Matthew Metz, one of the authors of
>the scientific letters to Nature seeking to demolish the maize paper, to
>produce a highly partisan guide to biotechnology on the AgBioWorld site.
>The Competitive Enterprise Institute boasts that it "played a key role in
>the creation" of a petition of scientists supporting biotech (ostensibly to
>feed the third world) launched by Prakash. Unaware that it had been devised
>by a corporate lobby group, 3,000 scientists, three Nobel laureates among
>them, signed up.
>Bivings is just one of several public relations agencies secretly building
>a parallel world on the web. Another US company, Berman & Co, runs a fake
>public interest site called ActivistCash.com, which seeks to persuade the
>foundations giving money to campaigners to desist. Berman also runs the
>"Center for Consumer Freedom", which looks like a citizens' group but
>lobbies against smoking bans, alcohol restrictions and health warnings on
>behalf of tobacco, drinks and fast food companies. The marketing firm
>Nichols Dezenhall set up a site called StopEcoViolence, another "citizens'
>initiative", demonizing activists. In March, Nichols Dezenhall linked up
>with Prakash's collaborator, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to
>sponsor a conference for journalists and corporate executives on
>What is fascinating about these websites, fake groups and phantom citizens
>is that they have either smelted or honed all the key weapons currently
>used by the world's biotech enthusiasts: the conflation of activists with
>terrorists, the attempts to undermine hostile research, the ever more
>nuanced claims that those who resist GM crops are anti-science and opposed
>to the interests of the poor. The hatred directed at activists over the
>past few years is, in other words, nothing of the kind. In truth, we have
>been confronted by the crafted response of an industry without emotional
>Tony Blair was correct when he observed on Thursday that "there is only a
>small band of people... who genuinely want to stifle informed debate". But
>he was wrong to identify this small group as those opposed to GM crops.
>Though he didn't know it, the people seeking to stifle the debate are the
>ones who wrote his speech; not in the days before he delivered it, but in
>the years in which the arguments he used were incubated.
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Mark P. Ludwig
Poultry Research Lab
University of Wisconsin -Madison
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