Media manipulators and fake persuaders (3/6/2004)

Media manipulators and fake persuaders
Revealed: the media manipulators and fake persuaders
New website tracks deceptive public relations
Contact: Jonathan Matthews +44 (0)1603 624021; email [email protected]

You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
thank God, the British journalist.
But, seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there's no occasion to.
-  Humbert Wolfe, The Uncelestial City

Apparently independent research claiming to show Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) improved the lives of modern day postmenopausal women received widespread - and supportive - media coverage in the UK last year, gaining headlines such as, "HRT leads to a better sex life and a happy healthy life".

The British Medical Journal later reported that the research was commissioned by a pharmaceutical industry front group as part of an industry-fashioned campaign which gained an award from the magazine Pharmaceutical Marketing. http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=123

This kind of media manipulation is not just a British phenomenon.  Media experts in the US estimate that 40 percent of all "news" comes virtually unedited from public relations offices acting on behalf of corporate or political clients. The PR industry's proudest boast is that "the best PR is never noticed".

This is not necessarily the fault of the journalist. Few people have the time to keep looking behind the ever-increasing number of front groups and not-so-"independent experts" mouthing the message of industries focussed on their financial bottom line.


Our new website, www.lobbywatch.org, has been set up to track deceptive PR.

The site offers an invaluable resource for journalists and concerned citizens. It provides an A-Z directory of lobbyists, PR firms, corporate front groups, political networks, and industry-friendly scientists and other "experts".

Journalist and author George Monbiot has said of the site, "If you want to know how the world works, this is the place to start. I cannot think of a more necessary set of facts than these."


Lobbywatch is an off-shoot of the work of GM Watch (www.gmwatch.org) which reports on the massive PR push behind genetically modified (GM) foods. Our investigative work has prompted many items in the media. Our exposure of a dirty tricks campaign waged by Monsanto and its Internet PR firm against the company's scientific and environmental critics, led to coverage in New Scientist, The Guardian (a series of three articles), and in programmes on BBC TV and radio, as well as other media items around the world. You can find out more about who we are here: http://www.lobbywatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=2&page=1

In the course of investigating independent-seeming "third parties" promoting GM we came across many organisations and individuals active in corporate advocacy across a wide range of environmental, agricultural, health, development, trade and other issues.

We do not pretend to be an unbiased source and we do not ask you to accept our information unquestioningly. The great thing about an internet based directory is that we can provide links to other articles and to source materials to help you assess our findings for yourself.

We do think our findings raise questions that require answers. For example, if a science lobby group is run by a PR agency directly linked to a major corporate funder who has a known business and political agenda, why are they not disclosing that fact to you? http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=136


The following examples are all based on information available at lobbywatch.org.

1. DR ROGER BATE is an "expert" whose views are widely promoted to the media on several continents on issues that affect us all, such as global warming and the environment.

Bate operates out of a whole series of lobby groups which serve as platforms for Bate to launch attacks on matters as diverse as:

**the Kyoto treaty
**the UN, the World Health Organisation, and aid agencies
**environment groups and other NGOs
**the weakening of drug patents
**restrictions on smoking
**organic farming
**restrictions on pesticide use, on-farm antibiotics etc.
**concerns over GMOs
**restrictions on industrial chemicals.

His press releases are faxed out of often innocuous or mainstream-sounding groups, such as:

**The Institute of Economic Affairs
**The European Science and Environment Forum
**The International Policy Network
**The Sustainable Development Network
**Africa Fighting Malaria
**The Competitive Enterprise Institute
**The American Enterprise Institute.

These groups are often inter-linked and the backing that they receive, from major corporate sponsors or from a network of right wing groups and donors, is not necessarily disclosed.

Take, for instance, The European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), which Roger Bate co-founded. Its website originally claimed ESEF accepted no corporate donations: "To maintain its independence and impartiality, the ESEF does not accept outside funding from whatever source, the only income it receives is from the sale of its publications". Yet papers released during a court case involving the tobacco giant Philip Morris revealed that ESEF had been established with Philip Morris money solicited by Bate. This sponsorship was not made apparent during ESEF's campaign against restrictions on passive smoking.

It would be a mistake to see the actions of lobbyists like Bate as marginal. The close links of George W. Bush's administration to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where Bate is a visiting fellow, are well known. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), where Bate founded an Environmental Unit which he directed for seven years, claims to have had "enormous influence on public policy and the views of leading politicians".

More information and links: http://www.lobbywatch.org/p1temp.asp?pid=30&page=11.


What do the following have in common?

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