A Million Tiny Strands in a Corporate Web (17/1/2006)

The news that the pro-biotech columnist Michael Fumento has had $60,000 worth of support out of Monsanto has raised questions about what other public commentators may enjoy similar backing.

This piece draws extensively on the work of GM Watch editor, Jonathan Matthews and is best read on the web page for all the multiple links.

A Million Tiny Strands
by Hunter
Jan 15, 2006

The Murtha-Bashing Cybercast News Service Swarms with Pro-Exxon, Pro-Monsanto Reports, Quotes, and Commentary. Who's Paid to do What?

"Facts don't really matter. In politics, perception is reality." -- Ron Arnold, Vice President of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise

"We're out to kill the f***ers. We're simply trying to eliminate them. Our goal is to eliminate environmentalism once and for all." -- Arnold in a 1992 interview. Arnold's "Wise Use" movement has been linked to right-wing militia groups.

Kos highlighted this, yesterday:

Asked about the payments, Fumento says, "I'm just extremely pro-biotech." He says he solicited several agribusiness companies to finance his book, which was published by Encounter Books. "I went after everybody, I've got to be honest," Fumento says of his fund-raising effort. "I told them that if I tell the truth in this book, the biotech industry is going to look really good, and you should contribute." [...]

Fumento insists that disclosure of financial transactions between op-ed columnists and the companies they cover wouldn't be practical.

So here's a stunner. A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute -- one of those right-wing think tanks founded in order to provide haven for truthiness-based, business-friendly "science" that no actual scientific or knowledgeable policy institution would touch with a sterile, non-conductive ten foot science pole -- solicited money from a biotech company in the process of writing a book that would make them "look really good". And sure enough, Monsanto "contributed" $60,000 to get the book written.

Now couple that for the moment with another big story of the day -- the CNSNews "story" by senior staff writer Marc Morano smearing Congressman and Vietnam war veteran Jack Murtha -- according to methods nearly identical to the "Swift Boat" claims against Kerry.

Why is Morano's "breaking" coverage of the story especially interesting? Because, as daria g and The Gadflyer point out, CNSNews was the first source of the Swift Boat Vet claims in the 2004 election. And who was the writer of those multiple stories, each sourced heavily from such figures as John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi?

Marc Morano. Exact same guy.

Imagine that. Anyone think maybe there's a connection between the background sources, in those two stories? Gee, I sure wonder what a perusal of Marc Morano's cell phone records would turn up, over the course of the last month or two.

Aside from a particular interest in the Swift Boat Vet claims, Morano has a long and inventive list of story ideas, including an entire article dedicated to the breathless report that right-wing uber-crackpot Lucianne Goldberg found Bill Clinton's memoirs "boring".

But among the stories Morano and others have returned to time and time again, for CNSNews, have been pro-biotech, pro-GMO, anti-environmental stories. And that's where, in light of yesterday's news on the Monsanto-paid Fumento and our particular interests in sniffing out links between stories, things get a bit interesting.

Because I mean a lot of pro-biotech and anti-environmental stories. Including, as it turns out, one hell of a lot of stories featuring quotes from Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, and other figures which, one by one, can each be traced to either ExxonMobil and/or Monsanto-backed "nonprofits" and "think tanks".

Hunter's diary :: ::

Earlier this year, Chris Mooney in Mother Jones provided a description of what the previously significant and longstanding CORE has become. And it isn't pretty:

So why, then, does the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of the nation's most storied civil rights groups, organizer of the Freedom Rides and the 1963 March on Washington, attack those who want to curb global warming? ExxonMobil, which in 2003 gave CORE $40,000 ($15,000 was earmarked for "global climate outreach"), would obviously like to avoid any appearance that its products and policies are a slow-moving assault on poor people of color. How better than to turn the accusation around? In that bit of public relations jujitsu, CORE has been most useful. To those familiar with CORE's recent history, its allegiance to ExxonMobil comes as no surprise. In 1968, Roy Innis seized control of CORE and moved the group to the far right. Innis has been accused by founder James Farmer and other black leaders of renting out CORE's historic reputation to corporations like Monsanto and ExxonMobil. (CORE even mounted a counterprotest to environmentalists picketing an ExxonMobil shareholders' meeting.) [...]

Helping CORE form these talking points is its senior policy adviser, Paul Driessen, the author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death, who also works with several other ExxonMobil-funded groups. At a 2004 ExxonMobil shareholders' meeting, Driessen referred to CORE as "one of America's oldest and most respected civil rights organizations" and called for greater funding for the group.

So out of curiosity, who covered that shareholders "counterprotest" for CNSNews? Hmm -- yep, Marc Morano, in a story approvingly quoting both Innis and Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, another "nonprofit" group receiving funding from ExxonMobil, of which Paul Driessen is also a senior advisor. Needless to say, neither group was identified by Morano as having an ExxonMobil connection to the "counterprotests".

As far as CORE itself, Jonathan Matthews detailed the new Monsanto and ExxonMobil connections to the group in an excellent article from last March that went down the list of recent CORE-based propaganda efforts:

"Of course, such attempts to position biotech's soap box behind a black man's face neither began nor ended in Johannesburg. In late 1999, for instance, a street protest against genetic engineering in Washington DC was disrupted by a group of African-Americans bearing placards such as "Biotech saves children's lives." A Baptist Church from a poor neighborhood had, the New York Times revealed, been paid by Monsanto's PR firm to bus in the counter-demonstrators. But Johannesburg does seem to have been a kind of watershed. Since then, Monsanto's fake parade has really begun to hit its stride. And from US administration platforms to UN headquarters, from Capitol Hill to the European Parliament, we've been treated to a veritable minstrelsy of lobbying.

Let's pick up the trail amidst the Martin Luther King Day observances in New York City this January. That was when the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) invited some 700 diplomats, scientists, journalists, and Gotham high-school students to come and consider the "implications and reality" of biotechnology at UN headquarters."

OK -- so who covered that pro-biotechnology "World Conference" for CNSNews? Well, in this case, none other than CORE national spokesman Niger Innis himself, along with CORE senior policy advisor Paul Driessen, in a "commentary" for the news service. Neo-conservative lobbyist and CORE senior advisor Driessen, in fact, has written at least six such pro-biotech, anti-environmental "commentaries" for CNSNews between November of this year:

Country-Club Anxieties vs Malaria Victims By Paul Driessen, November 01, 2004

Prophets, False Prophets and Profiteers By Paul Driessen, December 15, 2004

When Visions Collide By Niger Innis and Paul Driessen, January 03, 2005

Facts v. Fears on Biotechnology by Paul Driessen and Cyril Boynes, Jr., March 08, 2005

Sustainable Development = Sustained Poverty By Paul Driessen, March 21, 2005

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality

Earth Day 2005 by Paul Driessen, April 22, 2005

As an aside, Driessen apparently started writing commentaries for CNSNews in 2004, not long after he and Innis were interviewed by CNSNews' Marc Morano in an article heavily leaning on the 'Eco-Imperialism' theme of Driessen's anti-environmental book.

Continuing on with Matthews' article:

"In a talk on biotechnology at the Natural History Museum in London in May 2003, the world-renowned American botanist, Dr Peter Raven, noted CORE's strong concern about the obstruction of technological advancement. 'Last month, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America's most venerable and respected civil rights groups, confronted Greenpeace at a public event and accused it of "eco-manslaughter" through its support of international policies limiting development and the expansion of technology to the developing world's poor.'"

Who covered that 2003 counter-protest for CNSNews? Marc Morano, in a glowing article made up almost entirely of quotes from Innis and a CORE press release on the event.

Let's keep going:

"In September 2003, CORE's national spokesman presided over a mock awards ceremony at the World Trade Organization meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun. The ceremony included participants carrying "Save the Children" placards while the awards went to those Innis termed advocates of "lethal eco-imperialism.""

Who wrote about the pro-biotech CORE event for CNSNews? Marc Morano.

Four months later CORE organised a "Teach-In" in New York entitled, "Eco-Imperialism: The global green movement's war on the developing world's poor".

Oh, I can't bear to look. Did CNSNews cover this one too? Yes. But we're in a bit of luck, because CNSNews "Morning Editor" Susan Jones covered the event, which was organized by the aforementioned frequent CNSNews contributor and CORE senior advisor Paul Driessen.

The key speaker at the event, just to ensure that no CNSNews story about pro-biotech CORE publicity stunts goes by without a reference to Morano, was Patrick Moore, a distantly ex-Greenpeace figure with a consultancy business supporting mining, logging, biotech, and other corporate anti-environmental efforts -- who Morano made a quite a name for himself with as reporter in a 2000 documentary piece for American Investigator Television (and available for purchase in the WorldNetDaily store, Joseph Farah would like to ever-so-whorishly point out) in which Moore asserted that the Amazon rainforest was over 90% intact, and unharmed by logging, mining and agriculture.

Moore's own connections to Monsanto were touched upon by the Manila Times in a 2001 article:

A flurry of such pro-GM/anti-Greenpeace publicity centering on Moore, was originally prompted by Moore's appearance at the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification in New Zealand, after Moore was flown in by the biotech industry as one of its expert witnesses.

"There are so many real benefits from genetic modification...", Moore told the Commission, but he ran into some difficult questions as to what exactly had qualified him to appear as an expert on genetic modification. Moore proferred:

"I have.. recently had a full tour of the Monsanto labs in St Louis for example. I have also been briefed thoroughly by the people in Novartis in Basel Switzerland..."

That hardly describes the relationship. Although Moore's consulting records are, obviously, unavailable, Moore has proved prominent in the Monsanto-linked lobbying groups BIO and AgBioWorld, supporting [the Monsanto supported] "Golden Rice", as well as on the Monsanto news site.

Yeah, yeah, circle of life. What a coincidence. Now, is it just me, or does it seem that CNSNews has gone to some lengths to write, worldwide, about every significant pro-biotech activity of the pro-biotech, Monsanto and ExxonMobil-backed CORE of the past few years? And by "CNSNews", I mean with a Marc Morano connection more often then not?

Lest you think I'm picking on him unnecessarily, Marc Morano has done anti-environmental articles for CNSNews that do not rely explicitly on the ExxonMobil and Monsanto-backed, Innis-led CORE. This April 2004 article mocking dry toilets quotes only a Robert Bidinotto, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. The same Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in which CORE's senior policy advisor, Paul Driessen, is also a senior fellow, and the publisher of Driessen's book. So, is Bidinotto another remarkably pro-biotech source?

You had to ask? He's also a writer of books on the "Hollywood Left" and John Kerry, among other voluminous claims to fame. What an odd person to run across for a quote in an occasional series mocking dry toilets. (And how does that even work? Did Morano call Bidinotto up, and say "I'm working on a story about crap, and I thought of you?")

Other anti-dry-flush-toilet experts called upon by Morano included Dennis Avery, then the "director of global food issues" for the Hudson Institute -- the very same Hudson Institute in the news because of the $60,000 kickback by Monsanto to Hudson Institute figure Michael Fumento. Among other activities, GMWatch notes that the Morano-quoted Avery himself had previously joined in an open letter criticizing Starbucks for the decision "to stop serving milk products from cows treated with Monsanto's genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone." The Hudson Institute, site of the Fumento scandal, is itself backed by Monsanto, Dow, and other biotech-related companies.

Dennis Avery, in addition to his Monsanto-backed Hudson Institute duties, penned a complementary review for Driessen's anti-environmental book -- as did Patrick Moore (and an Alan Caruba, who himself has penned several CNSNews pro-biotech commentaries.) Niger Innis, of CORE, did one better -- he wrote the book's introduction.

Like a spiderweb, isn't it? All quotes leading back to pro-biotech, pro-GMO, Monsanto-linked figures?

You get the feeling CNSNews reporter Marc Morano doesn't exactly have to get his ass off his chair to get leads on what stories to write?

But let's momentarily give Morano a bit more credit. After all, his very first CNSNews article on the menace of the dry toilet was written way back in 2002. From Johannesburg, at the same summit that saw U.S. corporate interests such as the pro-biotech, Monsanto and Dow Chemicals funded Competitive Enterprise Institute caught sponsoring fake pro-biotech demonstrations involving fake local farmers.

The first person interviewed, in that article?

Competitive Enterprise Institute President Fred Smith.

Well, oops. Three rather odd anti-dry-toilet articles by Marc Morano, picked at random from Morano's other anti-environmental articles at CNSNews, yield three more thinly-veiled Exxon-funded and Monsanto-funded quotes.

Knock me over with a feather.

Just a series of rampant coincidences, I'm sure. I mean, please -- anyone who previously worked for Rush Limbaugh is, I'm certain, above such petty ideological considerations.

But I think maybe media critics like Howard Kurtz, who yesterday pushed the Murtha-bashing story from CNSNews into the Washington Post, might want to revisit the story and put a bit more meat behind the bones of who CNSNews is, and how they operate. Just a hunch.

Because it seems Marc Morano and CNSNews have some pretty interesting choices of which stories to go with. And they don't seem to have to go very far to get them.

Here, though, is the rub.

Mother Jones also published this year, alongside a separate Chris Mooney story, Some Like It Hot, describing ExxonMobil's connections to various right-wing groups and media outlets (including ample mention of Paul Driessen himself), this chart of the over forty "think tanks; media outlets; and consumer, religious, and even civil rights groups that preach skepticism about the oncoming climate catastrophe" and which have received funding from ExxonMobil. Notable groups receiving the cash include the American Enterprise Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, CORE, Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institute, Hudson Institute, Tech Central Science Foundation...

... and the Media Research Center, parent foundation of CNSNews.

I suppose that might be one reason why even Media Research Center head Brent Bozell went out of his way to praise and highlight Marc Morano's CNSNews report on the ExxonMobil "counterprotesters" in Bozell's syndicated column, even including some of Morano's quotes from CORE's Niger Innis in his own column.

Welcome to your right-wing "news."

Bought and paid for by the people funding the quotes.

Additional Notes:

(1) In addition to the ExxonMobil-linked Niger Innis of CORE, Morano's 2002 report on the pro-ExxonMobil counter protests cited one other pro-Exxon nonprofit figure: Ron Arnold, cited only as Vice President of the nonprofit Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, of which the aforementioned Exxon-linked Paul Driessen is a senior advisor. The CfDFE itself also receives funding from Exxon. According to ExxonSecrets.org, Arnold himself was formerly a consultant for Dow Chemical, among other things, and was briefly head of Washington State chapter of the American Freedom Coalition, the political arm of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise was itself founded by convicted tax felon and notable gun activist Alan Gottlieb.

See here for detailed information about the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise's Ron Arnold, including interviews in which Arnold stated his purpose against environmentalists was to "kill the bastards. [...] People in industry, I'm going to do my best for you. Environmentalists, I'm coming to get you." In addition, links between Arnold's "Wise Use" movement and right-wing militias have been reported.

(2) The odds are low, of course, that either ExxonMobil, Monsanto, or other corporate sponsors of right-wing "news" and "think-tanks" would have a direct corporate involvement in Swift Boating Congressman Jack Murtha. But there are other people who do; Newsweek's Howard Fineman stated on MSNBC's Countdown, on November 18th, that the attacks on Murtha were being orchestrated directly by Karl Rove himself, inside the White House.

So any links between this group, and that? You might say that. Jonathan Matthews, one last time.

"The night before CORE's UN biotech conference this January, the organisation hosted a reception at the New York Hilton to honor, amongst others, Karl Rove - the Bush election strategist widely credited with having overseen black voter disenfranchisment in Florida and Ohio. This might seem a curious way of marking the MLK holiday, particularly for an organisation that features on its website images of murdered freedom riders killed during the drive for black voter registration in the Civil Rights Summer of 1964. Recently, however, those images were joined by Monsanto's logo. The organisation now styles Monsanto, which also sponsored its film "Voices from Africa", "CORE's corporate partner". [...]

[W]hen it came to honoring Bush's election strategist at CORE's celebratory dinner at the New York Hilton, Monsanto was certainly no ghost at the feast. Hugh Grant - not the actor but the CEO of Monsanto -- presided as chairman of the occasion. [...] Only days before Grant's appearance, news had broken that his company was to pay $1.5 million in penalties under US anti-bribery laws, for passing $50,000 to a senior Indonesian environmental official in an unsuccessful bid to amend or repeal the requirement for an environmental impact statement on new crop varieties. The bribe in question was just the tip of the iceberg: Monsanto has admitted to paying over $700,000 in bribes to more than a hundred officials over a five year period. The Monsanto executive in charge of Indonesia at the time the bribery got underway was none other than Hugh Grant.

Grant and Rove were far from the only controversial invitees to CORE's King Day celebrations. Others have included the Austrian politician and Nazi-sympathizer Jorg Haider, and the right-wing radio host Bob Grant, who once called Martin Luther King a "scumbag". But CORE itself has become increasingly controversial--and in some ways downright strange--since Roy Innis took its helm. Innis once branded opponents of racial segregation in the US as "house niggers", and dismissed the struggle against Apartheid as "a vicarious, romantic adventure" with "no honest base". When asked in 1973 why CORE supported Idi Amin despite the Ugandan president's hatred of Jewish people and praise of Hitler, Innis is reported to have said, "we have no records to prove if Hitler was a friend or an enemy of black people." "

(3) In addition to anti-environmental quotes for Marc Morano, CORE spokesman Niger Innis features prominently in a great many CNSNews stories, typically showcasing instances of black-vs-black political attacks with Innis as the go-to attack source on each story. A partial list of CNSNews stories quoting Innis show an unmistakable pattern:

Amid Race Flap, Lott Urged to Pull Out of Belafonte Award Dinner By Marc Morano, October 10, 2002

Trent Lott Retreats From Belafonte Awards Dinner by Marc Morano, October 11, 2002

Belafonte's Racial Remarks Prompt Criticism, Anxiety by Marc Morano, October 24, 2002

Bush Administration, GOP Slammed Over Bilingual EducationBy Robert B. Bluey, November 22, 2002

Bush Urged To Oppose Race-Based College Admissions by Robert B. Bluey, December 26, 2002

Bush Administration 'Duped' by Jesse Jackson Event By Marc Morano, January 06, 2003

Administration Officials Call Jackson's Conference 'Wonderful,' 'Marvelous' By Marc Morano, January 17, 2003

Anniversary of Desegregation Case Sheds Light on New Challenges By Robert B. Bluey, May 15, 2003

Dem Influence on 2004 GOP Convention Worries Conservatives By Marc Morano, June 23, 2003

Enron-Linked Bush Official Named in Labor Dept Lawsuit By Marc Morano, July 17, 2003

Enron-Linked Bush Official Gets Another Chance to Restore Funds by Marc Morano, October 30, 2003

Black Conservatives Join Fight Over Stalled Judicial Nominees By Robert B. Bluey, November 05, 2003

NAACP Legal Group's Integrity Called Into Question by Robert B. Bluey, April 15, 2004

Latest 'Memogate' Developments Fail to Generate Media Buzz By Robert B. Bluey, April 21, 2004

President of NAACP Legal Group Won't Discuss Role in 'Memogate' By Robert B. Bluey, April 29, 2004

Attendance Down for Anti-Gun Million Mom March By Robert B. Bluey, May 10, 2004

Black Conservatives Demand Return of 'Principled Leadership' by Susan Jones, February 18, 2005

(4) For reference, a partial list of stories by Marc Morano and other CNSNews figures heavily laden with quotes from Exxon or Monsanto-backed groups, along with the pro-biotech, anti-environmental series carried by CNSNews as "commentary" by Paul Driessen, senior advisor to CORE, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and other groups that have taken money directly from ExxonMobil and/or Monsanto. (It should be noted, in passing, that Driessen is also omnipresent on the ExxonMobil-funded Tech Central Station, where he writes similar fare.)

Oil Giant 'Guilty' of Crimes against Humanity, Protesters Say by Marc Morano, May 29, 2002

ExxonMobil Protesters Seek to Inflict 'Death of a Thousand Cuts' By Marc Morano, May 30, 2002 -- quotes Ron Arnold of the Exxon-funded Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, (publisher of Driessen book) and Innis.

Study Claims Global Warming Helped US Avert Deeper Recession By Marc Morano, July 09, 2002 -- featuring quote by Monsanto-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute figure Myron Ebell.

Greens Praise ExxonMobil for Efforts to Save Tiger By Marc Morano, November 22, 2002

Protest Planned Against Greenpeace's 'Eco-Manslaughter' By Marc Morano, May 09, 2003

Free Market Advocates Fight Back at WTO By Marc Morano, September 12, 2003

Mexican Village Plays Host to Fight Over Genetically Modified Food By Marc Morano, September 15, 2003

Killing Millions to 'Save' the Earth by Alan Caruba, November 21, 2003 -- self described "public relations counselor" Alan Caruba, an "Adjunct Scholar" at the ExxonMobil-funded Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, is one of those linked on Driessen's website with a glowing review of Driessen's anti-environmental book. This article is a glowing review of the book, quoting both Driessen and Innis, and is one of at least two very similar pro-Exxon, anti-environmental "commentaries" by Caruba carried by CNSNews. Caruba is also author of a large number of other articles for the group, including... well, you'll really have to see for yourself.

Civil Rights Group Blames Greens for Africans' Plight By Susan Jones, January 16, 2004 -- At this point, you may be forgiven for thinking that CNSNews writes the same pro-Exxon, pro-Monsanto story, coupling it with the plight of the poor indigenous peoples who could benefit from Exxon and Monsanto products, on a clockwork basis. You'd be right.

Environmentalists Accused of Promoting 'Eco-Imperialism' By Marc Morano, April 23, 2004 -- Morano interviews Paul Driessen

Country-Club Anxieties vs Malaria Victims By Paul Driessen, November 01, 2004

Prophets, False Prophets and Profiteers By Paul Driessen, December 15, 2004

When Visions Collide By Niger Innis and Paul Driessen, January 03, 2005

Facts v. Fears on Biotechnology by Paul Driessen and Cyril Boynes, Jr., March 08, 2005

Sustainable Development = Sustained Poverty By Paul Driessen, March 21, 2005

Earth Day 2005 by Paul Driessen, April 22, 2005

Killing People to 'Save' the Environment By Alan Caruba, April 22, 2005 -- see above, re: 4/23/04. This article, like many of the others at CNSNews, coincides with a Monsanto/Dow effort to use fears of malaria as a reason for promoting both pesticide and GMO use in Africa.

Tags: Cybercast News Service, CNSNews, Murtha, ExxonMobil, Monsanto, Congress of Racial Equality, CORE, Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ron Arnold, Marc Morano, Swift Boat Vets, Niger Innis, Paul Driessen, Patrick Moore, Media Research Center, Recommended (all tags)


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