[Through international PR company Ogilvy & Mather,] BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
[On the BP America Facebook page,] when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.
Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and “others just being more derogatory”, according to [Government Accountability Project investigator Shanna] Devine. “We’ve seen all this documentation and that’s why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman’s office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about.”
One troll using the name “Griffin” makes several allusions to gun violence, while another, named “Ken Smith” also harassed and threatened users, even going so far as to edit a photo of a BP critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight, before posting the photo online – along with photos of an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.
Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalist who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP”. “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that read, “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch”.
According to Marie, Lockman and GAP, BP’s “astroturfing” efforts and use of “trolls” have been reported as pursuing users’ personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics’ family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual compensation claims against BP.
Linda Hooper Bui, an associate professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, experienced a different form of harassment from BP while working on a study about the impact of the oil disaster on spiders and insects.
“BP was desperately trying to control the science, and that was what I ran into,” Bui told Al Jazeera. According to her, BP’s chief science officer “tried to intimidate me”, and the harassment included BP “bullying my people” who were working in the field with her on her study that revealed how “insects and spiders in the oiled areas were completely decimated”.
While collecting data for the study, Bui and her colleagues regularly ran into problems with BP, she said.
“Local sheriffs working under the auspices of BP, as well as personnel with Wildlife and Fisheries, the US Coast Guard – all of these folks working under BP were preventing us from doing our job,” Bui explained. “We were barred from going into areas to collect data where we had previous data.”
Bui said personnel from the USCG, Fish and Wildlife, and even local sheriffs departments, always accompanied by BP staff, worked to prevent her from entering areas to collect data, confiscated her samples, and “if I’d refused to oblige they would have arrested me” – despite her having state permits to carry out her work.
Archive for the ‘astroturf’ Category
Posted by Charles II on February 19, 2013
[Posted in different form at DK]
Conservatives used a pair of secretive trusts to fund a media campaign against windfarms and solar projects, and to block state agencies from planning for future sea-level rise, the Guardian has learned.
The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade. Promising anonymity to their conservative billionaire patrons, the trusts between them channelled nearly $120m to contrarian thinktanks and activists, wrecking the chances of getting Congress to act on climate change.
Now the Guardian can reveal the latest project of the secretive funding network: a campaign to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.
From Paul Abowd at Center for Public Integrity, a useful graphic
As Suzanne Goldenberg said, what distinguishes the recipients of these trusts from left-wing or centrist foundations that similarly collect money from donors to distribute to projects is that the function of Donors Trust is to promulgate lies and distortions. In some cases at least, they are the primary donor to state-level puppets. Here’s an example of the kind of in-your-face lying that they engage in (from Abowd):
One report from a New Mexico affiliate [New Mexico Watchdog run by the Rio Grande Foundation, which gets most of its money from Donors Capital Fund, a partner of Donors Trust] housed at a free-market think tank also funded by Donors Trust garnered national attention when it reported that millions of dollars in federal stimulus money had been allocated to non-existent congressional districts.
The government database on stimulus spending had indeed listed non-existent districts as receiving funds, but the Associated Press reported that the problem was due to data errors and that “’phantom congressional districts’ are being used as a phantom issue to suggest that stimulus money has been misspent.”
When asked to comment on the criticism, Franklin Center spokesman Moroney said: “Franklin Center adheres to the highest degree of journalistic integrity and we stand by our Watchdog.org reporting 100 percent. In this case, the Associated Press had it wrong.”
FOX Noise turned it into a big pseudo-scandal. Other news organizations looked at it and found that the money was spent appropriately. The “phantom districts” were just mislabeled.
Now, in a sense, this is an old story. We’ve known that there are state-level foundations like Heartland that are being run by billionaire money. But John Mashey of DeSmog has a full list. In Minnesota, they funded the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Minnesota Family Institute. And the fact that this is a coordinated effort and that it specializes in political hit jobs suggests to me that Donors Trust and Donors Capital are not 501(c)3s but money laundering fronts for lobbying organizations.
Anyone know a lawyer who could sort that out for us?
Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2011
Barry Ritholtz has provided an alarming example [confirmed by Justin Elliott at Salon] of what appears to be the nuclear industry using a post by an unqualified person to make a claim–now disproven by events–that a significant release of radiation from the Fukushima plant was impossible.
The basic story is this. A person calling himself Jason Oehmen, who appears to be an MIT research scientist with a MechE specialized in supply chain risk management, made a post expressing confidence that there would be no significant release of radiation from Fukushima. According to an author at GeniusNow (original post; currently unavailable to bandwidth, temporarily available via Ritholtz here), this appears to have been reposted at The Energy Collective, a site “powered by Siemens.”
The board of the Energy Collective (Scott Edward Anderson of VerdeStrategy and TheGreenSkeptic–and a FOX News commentator, Marc Gunther ex-Fortune magazine and a “compassionate capitalist“, Christine Herzog who is involved in the SmartGrid idea that we could be energy independent if we just had the right switches installed, Jesse Jenkins who is Director of Energy and Climate Policy at what appears to be a greenwasher, The Breakthrough Institute, Geoffrey Styles, Managing Director at GSW Strategies and “subkect area expert” of a Petroleum Council study devoted to showing that oil companies can remain profitable even with the introduction of alternative energy, and Dan Yurman, who writes for a nuclear indust) appears to be devoted to using climate change to argue for nuclear energy. Reading their bios is to understand how utterly corrupted and compromised is the mainstream US environmental movement. According to GeniusNow, links to the article has been reposted on Facebook 5000 times and 32,000 times overall.
The original post, however, is gone (edited Energy Collective version here appears to be a copy of a post from MITNSE–with different headers– of which more later). If you can read Spanish, German, or Japanese, you might be able to find it. To give you a flavor of it, here’s my flash translation of the introduction to the Spanish version, which the website has conscientiously edited, fully showing a long list of errors of fact by this author:
I am writing this text (12 March) to give you all some degree of secure peace regarding some of the problems in Japan, which is the safety of the Japanese nuclear reactors. That is to say, the situation is serious but under control. The text [i.e. of the post] is long! But after reading it, you will know more regarding nuclear centers than all the journalists of the world put together.
There have not been and “will” not be any significant release of radiation.
By “significant” I mean a level of radiation more than that which you would receive in–say, a long-distance flight or drinking a glass of beer which comes from certain areas with high natural levels of radiation.
I have been reading each notice published regarding the incident since the earthquake and there has not been even one(!) bit of news that was precise and free of errors. By “free of errors”, I don’t refer to journalism that tends to the “anti-nuclear” which is something normal nowadays but I refer to evident errors regarding the laws of physics and nature, as well as an enormous misinterpretation of the events, due to an (obvious) lack of fundamental and basic knowledge regarding how nuclear reactors function and are operated. I have read a 3 page report from CNN in which each paragraph contained an error.
Now, without defending the quality of journalism at CNN, such blanket assertions are pretty obviously complete bulls–t, which would lead any responsible website not to post them at all. But the errors in fact alleged by FullMyHenXu are so numerous that they should lead anyone with any degree of professional dignity to refuse to have anything further to do with the author.
But this is not what happened. MITNSE (a website which claims to be maintained by students of the MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering and which is in fact linked from the official departmental website) chose to reprint an edited version without noting the numerous errors in the original. I don’t care about the disclaimer at the top, the failure to re-write the piece from scratch and the involvement of the Department in this bit of wretched scholarship–I suppose to provide its author with some fig leaf of respectability–should be a cause of concern. Does MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering have the standards to disown this and, I would suggest, to discipline whoever arranged for their department to be used in this manner?
To quote GeniusNow:
“So far, although I see a link to this site from NSE, I don’t see any discussion of it. And frankly, Mr/MS mitnse, as far as I can tell you’re actually Ismail Subbiah, graphic designer occasionally on contract to MIT. The links between Siemens AG, Dr Oethman, Barry Brook [The Energy Collective], and MIT/LAI (which has cleverly been avoided – lets do bring that up, shall we?) suggest that no matter why the article was written in the first place, it’s become a major piece of disinformation masquerading falsely as academic opinion.”
I can’t verify the bit about Subbiah, but there’s certainly a lot to suggest a Siemens role in spreading this disinformation.
Now, there’s no surprise to find that a nuclear power company would use Astroturf to spread pro-nuclear propaganda. But this is a crisis in progress. Japanese people who should be making every effort to leave the area have been told that they are at no risk. If a single one was persuaded to stay, then a crime of international proportions has been committed. In any event, the public has been lied to, and we need to know a great deal more about how this happened.
There are so many lessons packed into this one event. Here are a few:
* The gatekeepers against disinformation are us. The heartening news is that hundreds of posters rebutted the assertions.
* Allowing corporations to engage in political matters is dangerous to public safety
Posted by Charles II on March 4, 2011
As appalled as I have been by the increased willingness of politicians to outright lie, more concerning are five recent stories on how lying has started to permeate our entire nation… and two on how truthtelling, when it does not serve corporations, is punished. It’s those stories on truthtelling that deserve the most attention, because those show how much we have as a nation come to hate truth and embrace lies.
The first story, below, has to do with Astroturf phone calls to radio shows. The second is the lie that President Obama told regarding Raymond Davis, a CIA agent who was arrested for murder after the deaths of several Pakistanis–which the New York Times helped to cover up.
After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.
Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.
It now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HBGary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.
The fourth story, not strictly about corporations still fits the post because the line between the military and corporations has frayed to the point of non-existence, is that the US military used a psy-ops team to convince US Senators that the nation should pour more blood into Afghan soil:
MICHAEL HASTINGS: Sure. Psychological operations and information operations are essentially just ways to influence the population. Now, the key is, is that for IO and psy-ops you’re only supposed to do those on foreign populations, on the enemy. Now, there’s another branch, public affairs, which is—which you’re allowed to then use your information on the American population. The key difference is, is that in information operations and in psy-ops you’re allowed to lie, you’re allowed to mislead, where in public affairs, in theory, at least, you’re not supposed to do that. And by using information operations with—who know how to conduct psychological operations, in the process that would traditionally be held for public affairs, you’re corrupting the entire process. And, you know, one of the interesting things has been to see the reaction from the military.
Of course, I commend General Petraeus for launching an investigation, but what we also know from a series of anonymous leaks is that the military doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong here. And that, to me, is truly disturbing and what the actual bigger story is: this very aggressive effort that called what has been at the forefront from to tear down the wall between information and propaganda between public affairs and information operations, to say it’s one giant playing field now and to allow the Pentagon and the military to be able to target not just foreign populations with their propaganda, but target the U.S. populations, whether it’s on Facebook, on social networking sites, or visiting congressmen.
The fifth story is about how political appointees at the EPA–under Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama– have endangered and continue to endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans by suppressing evidence showing that dangerous levels of toxic radionuclides are being poured into city water systems due to illegal dumping of wastewater from natural gas “fracking”:
WALTER HANG: Well, the most important thing is that the natural gas industry has said all along that there’s never been a confirmed problem with horizontal hydrofracking in Marcellus Shale. They’ve said this practice has been used for decades, it’s safe, it’s not problematic. The first installment of the New York Times series basically brought to light that in the autumn of 2008, there was so much natural gas drilling wastewater being dumped into municipal treatment plants along the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh, and these plants were not designed, constructed or maintained in any way to take out the very high salt content, the toxic chemicals associated with petroleum, or the radioactive nucleotides. And so, this contamination was going into the river in such incredible volumes that essentially it impacted a 70-mile stretch of the river, and 850,000 people didn’t have any drinking water. Subsequent studies show that actually the water became brackish. They started to find salt-loving diatoms flourishing in the water.
And so, this is when basically the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tried to recommend to the state of New York, don’t go forward with horizontal hydrofracking in New York, where there’s been a de facto moratorium against that practice for two-and-a-half years, until you deal with the wastewater hazards, until you safeguard New York City’s drinking water. And that’s when the recommendation came: no drilling in the watershed. And amazingly, they actually proposed to allow the drilling in the rest of upstate New York, so that the Department of Environmental Conservation could essentially get experience regulating this practice. But then none of those recommendations made it into the final document submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation. So this is an incredible revelation about how the EPA knew about these problems, didn’t tell New York, and that’s why we’re calling for these regulations to be withdrawn, the scope revised, so that, for the first time, this kind of practice can be adequately safeguarded.
As for the two whistleblowers, Bradley Manning is being held under conditions reminiscent of Abu Ghraib. Tim Christopher was just convicted for presenting bids on an illegal land auction of wilderness in an attempt to prevent the despoilation of these lands, even though he later raised the money to pay for his purchases.
We had hoped that when Barack Obama won office that not only would the bad policy of the Bush Administration end, but that the lying and abuse of truthtellers would cease.
It has not.
God spare America from this most deadly sin, the sin of hating the truth.
Posted by Charles II on August 25, 2010
Jane Mayer, New Yorker:
The Kochs operate oil refineries in Alaska, Texas, and Minnesota, and control some four thousand miles of pipeline. Koch Industries owns Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet, and Lycra, among other products. Forbes ranks it as the second-largest private company in the country, after Cargill, and its consistent profitability has made David and Charles Koch—who, years ago, bought out two other brothers—among the richest men in America. Their combined fortune of thirty-five billion dollars is exceeded only by those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” …
[Koch-funded] Americans for Prosperity has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception…A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!” [emphasis added]
Like the biblical plague, frogs. That seems appropriate.
There’s more below the fold
Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 23, 2009
Readers may recall that Dick Armey and his pharmaceutical-industry astroturfing outfit FreedomWorks have been at the forefront of the efforts to shut down the Democratic town halls held during the Congressional recess this month. But late last week, in what was seen as an apparent effort to remove himself as a polarizing figure for observers who noted his role in orchestrating the attacks on the town halls, he abruptly resigned from DLA Piper, a DC-based law and lobbying firm.
The timing is rather interesting, as two days ago Horace M. Cooper, who was one of Armey’s key staffers during his time as House Majority Leader, was indicted for his alleged part in the huge and ever-growing Abramoff scandal.
Now, the GOP/Media Complex’s members can be by and large trusted not to interrupt any TV appearances by Dick Armey with embarrassing questions about Jack Abramoff, but I still somehow doubt we’ll be seeing him on anything other than perhaps FOX News for the foreseeable future.
Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 9, 2009
Thought you all might be interested in hearing a little about the background of FreedomWorks’ Dick Armey, one of the people pulling the strings of the tea party persons currently being bused in en masse to town halls nationwide to lie about health care reform:
According to Susan White, a graduate student at [North Texas University, where Dick Armey was a professor in the economics department] in the mid-1970s, Armey often flirted with undergraduate women before and after class. Two other economics graduate students, one an economics professor and the other an economist for the New Mexico legislature, confirm her statements. Armey’s advances were strong enough that they caused one graduate student, Anna Weninger, to leave the university. She stated that his behavior was inappropriate, but could not remember the details of what Armey said/did. Her story is confirmed by two other sources: her mother, who said her daughter left school because of problems with a Professor Armey (and almost didn’t go back), and Professor Cochran of the economics department. Cochran, then chairman of the department, told the Dallas Observer that he was approached by another professor who stated Weninger had left due to Armey. Cochran called Weninger and persuaded her to return to the university after he promised to personally supervise her master’s thesis, which would reduce any pressure she felt studying under Armey. Weineger agreed and returned, graduating with her masters in 1979.
Now remember, this is the same guy who famously said, after Paula Jones’ nuisance lawsuit against President Bill Clinton was thrown out for lack of any sort of credible evidence (it didn’t help that Ms. Jones kept changing her story as key parts of it were debunked), that “If it were me that had documented personal conduct along the lines of the President’s, I would be so filled with shame that I would resign. This President won’t do that. His basic credo in life is ‘I will do whatever I can get away with’. I believe that he is a shameless person”.
Okay, Dick: You were accused. Why didn’t you resign?
Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 7, 2009
From the StarTribune:
Farmfest is typically a genial event — a stop elected and aspiring officials consider an easy political must-do.
But at this year’s gathering in rural Redwood Falls, as First District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., put in an appearance, an audience member declared loudly that plans for national health reform were a “step toward communism.”
Walz, a veteran, shot back: “I didn’t spend 24 years in the military to be called a Communist, I can tell you that.”
Bluestem Prairie’s Sally Jo Sorensen, a reporter quite familiar with Farmfest, has a more detailed account, as well as a photo by BSP photographer Eric Adams. Let’s just say that the teabagger’s little stunt was not exactly well received by anyone present.