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[greenyes] (Fwd) IPEN: How industry controls activists]
From another listserv:

> Managing Activism: PR Advice for "Neutralizing" Democracy
>   Book Review by John Stauber
>   When I first picked up Denise Deegan's book, Managing Activism: A Guide to
> Dealing with Activists and Pressure Groups, I imagined a roomful of
> uniformed pest applicators at the Orkin company, sitting on benches like
> military aviators before a bombing mission, being briefed on the
> best tools available for eradicating cockroaches. I was a spy for the
> roaches--the pesty "activists" that Deegan works to "manage." Roaches don't
> generally read the "how to" manuals written by their would-be exterminators,
> but activists certainly should.
>    As someone who has spent the last decade investigating the seamy side of
> the "perceptions management" industry, I wish I could tell you that this
> book is a gold mine of revelation, but for me it is not. Still, I recommend
> that my fellow citizens read this book. It is written in
> classroom text-like fashion, and the author is careful to put the best face
> on her profession and not include advice that might offend the atypical
> reader. Nevertheless, it can help people working for democratic social
> change to understand the often successful ways in which we are targeted for
> defeat, especially the "good cop/bad cop" tactic for dividing and conquering
> activists through "partnering" and co-optation by industry. For activists,
> Deegan's book provides a primer on how to recognize these traps and
> hopefully avoid them.
>    Managing Activism is written for PR practitioners whose clients engage in
> risky businesses (fossil fuels, pesticides, genetically engineered foods,
> nuclear waste, toxic dumps, animal testing) and who therefore become the
> targets of "activist groups" including "environmentalists,
> workers' rights activists, animal rights groups and human rights
> campaigners." Don't expect much sympathy for the activists. Deegan is a
> battle-hardened PR veteran and a committed soldier in the war against
> activists who "in an increasingly pluralistic society" present what she
> calls "a growing threat to organizations of all shapes and sizes. And
> because activists employ a wide range of aggressive tactics such as
> generating bad publicity, seeking government and legislative
> intervention, encouraging boycotts, etc., they can cause severe disruption,
> including damage to reputation, sales, profitability, employee satisfaction
> and, of course, share price."
>    The picture that Deegan paints is undoubtedly a chilling scenario if you
> are an executive or major share holder in companies like Monsanto or DuPont
> that have long histories of worldwide trade in everything from nuclear
> weapon components to pesticides and genetically modified crops. What's a
> besieged CEO to do?
> "Fortunately, if dealt with in the right manner, activists have been shown
> to change their approach from aggressively confrontational to cooperative,"
> Deegan promises. "Learning to manage activists involves learning about
> activists. Who are they? What do they want? What will they do to achieve
> their objectives? And most importantly, what is the best way to deal with
> them?"
>    Deegan's recommendations are similar to the advice which comes from Peter
> Sandman, E. Bruce Harrison, James Lukaszewski, Paul Gilding and other
> "crisis management" experts whom Sheldon Rampton and I cover in our work for
> PR Watch.Unfortunately, this entire area of PR--how to
> defeat activism--is insufficiently scrutinized by the citizens who need most
> to be aware of it, the activists themselves. Until we "cockroaches"
> understand the strategies of the  exterminators," the PR roach hotels built
> by corporate crisis management practitioners will continue to entrap
> movements for democracy, ecological sustainability, fair trade, human
> rights, social justice, and all those other extreme threats to the corporate
> bottom-line. Social activists like to believe that we are too committed to
> our causes, too worldly and aware to be
> sweet-talked into unwitting submission by sitting down and partnering with
> the enemy. As Deegan reiterates, however, industry continues to regard this
> sort of "dialogue" as its most effective method for managing activists.
>   Deegan's book tries to put the best face on the practice of
>   "managing
> activism," which may explain why she avoids mentioning the
> Washington-based PR firm of Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin (MBD),
> one of
> the worldwide leaders in this particular PR subspecialty. As we have
> documented previously, MBD grew out of the successful effort by one
> of
> its founders, Jack Mongoven, to defeat the large religious-lead
> boycott campaign aimed at the Nestle corporation for its deadly
> promotion of infant formula in the third world. In activist lore this
> boycott is touted as a major victory, but in the corporate world it is
> understood that industry really won the day by pulling the rug out
> from the campaign. By making selective concessions to the activists,
> Nestle succeeded in negotiating an end to the boycott. Later,
> activists were dismayed to discover that its infant formula marketing
> practices are continuing with only token changes. Third world children
> continue to die, but today their plight receives little attention, and
> activists have found that a boycott, once terminated, is not easily
> turned back on.
>    MBD is a sort of spy operation. Its dozens of employees
>    relentlessly
> compile dossiers on activists of all sizes and shapes the world over,
> advising industry how to defeat them. Their favorite method is a
> "divide and conquer" strategy heavily dependent on co-optation: First
> identify the "radicals" who are unwilling to compromise and who are
> demanding fundamental changes to redress the problem at hand.
> Then,
> identify the "realists"--typically, organizations with significant
> budgets and staffs working in the same relative area of public concern
> as the radicals. Then, approach these realists, often through a
> friendly third party, start a dialogue and eventually cut a deal, a
> "win win" solution that marginalizes and excludes the radicals and
> their demands. Next, go with the realists to the "idealists" who have
> learned about the problem through the work of the radicals. Convince
> the idealists that a "win-win" solution endorsed by the realists is
> best for the community as a whole. Once this has been accomplished,
> the "radicals" can be shut out as extremists, the PR fix is in, and
> the deal can be touted in the media to make the corporation and its
> "moderate" nonprofit partners look heroic for solving the problem.
> Result: industry may have to make some small or temporary
> concessions,
> but the fundamental concerns raised by the "radicals" are swept
> aside.
>    This, in a nutshell, is the strategy that Deegan recommends in what
>    she
> calls "one of the first books to offer a 'how to . . .' format to help
> people cope with the threat of activism." I especially recommend her
> chapters on "relationship building, negotiation and conflict
> resolution" and "media relations." Reading these chapters should help
> drive home the realization that activist efforts are being
> deliberately targeted for defeat by corporate funding, partnership and
> co-optation. These may seem like unusual weapons, but PR crisis
> managers have taken to heart the advice of military strategist Carl
> Von Clausewitz: "We see then that there are many ways to one's
> object
> in War; that the complete subjugation of the enemy is not essential in
> every case."
>    Activist readers should remember that Deegan's book only offers
>    part of
> the story, the sanitized version. It does not go into all the
> real-world ways in which nasty, smear attacks against activists are
> waged and funded by the same corporations and industries offering
> the
> outstretched hand of partnership. For the "rest of the story," also
> read Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR
> Campaign, by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton. Secrets and Lies is
> included
> in Deegan's "recommended reading" list. Based on a mother lode of
> leaked documents, its revelations of anti-environmental dirty tricks
> in New Zealand proved so shocking to citizens there that its
> publication contributed to the political downfall of the head of
> state.


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