There are several indicators lately that the protection of the environment is taking a distant back seat to profits and that this has included an enormous amount of propaganda that may have been an attempt at thought control and for a large percentage of the public this may have been largely successful. This may seem extreme and a rational amount of skepticism is understandable and perhaps even advisable; however I think that a close look at some of the details will indicate there is a serious problem even if it doesn’t turn out quite this extreme. Even if most people believe that protecting the environment should be at or near the top priority by keeping the argument going and acting on the best interest of the oil companies and the owners of intellectual property I suspect that the actions of the government and the business community may have the last word if this isn’t addressed.
There are at least three major things that are worth considering that may indicate how information may be distributed to the public in a distorted manner. The first one which inspired this blog is an article about how the Chinese are supposedly stealing intellectual property; this seems to indicate that the higher priority is protecting what they consider “property” and that the protection of the environment takes a distant back seat. The second is the recent investigation into Solyndra and the fact that they may have conducted some financial wrong doing and that political lobbying may have led to corruption and other events.
This is being played up as much if not much more than the activities surrounding the oil companies and the priorities here may indicate that the short term profit of the corporations may take priority over the environment; even though there won’t be any economy in the long run if the environment is destroyed. The third is the massive amount of scientific research being provided by the energy companies; thanks perhaps at least in part to the Supreme Court decision that “money equals speech” this may mean that fact based science that involves showing the work without bias may take a back seat to science that is bought and paid for by the corporations and we could wind up making some of the most important decisions in society based on the best interest of those that buy the scientific data to back it up. These activities aren’t the only things that indicate that thought control and propaganda outweigh protection of the environment and many other issues important6 to the majority but it is enough for this blog.
A recent article from the Boston Globe “Data theft case may test US, China ties Mass. Firm pressing charges; sales have slid” indicates the priorities that are routinely considered by the political establishment. There is some effort to reduce the damage currently being done to the environment but it is clearly not as important as the profits of the companies selling technology. I have provided more details about how copyrights and patents or intellectual property have been used to control the use of technology and research so that the privileged can profit from it at the expense of the majority in Copyright violators are thought criminals. In this case they may be taking this one step further since the human race is dependent on the environment and we will have to fix the damage that has been accumulating for decades or society will self-destruct one way or another. However the most powerful people continue to conduct business as usual instead of asking one simple question.
What is the most effective way possible to reverse this trend and repair the massive amount of damage that has already been done?
If they had done that they would have gone about things in a very different manner. Instead they’re continuing business as usual based on the same beliefs that they have always done and relying on the same small segment of society to make the most important decisions for the majority. When people raise serious issues with this tactic then they continue to rely on the same response they confuse the issue and maintain the debate while they conduct business as usual. Nowhere in this article or many if any others on a similar subject do they indicate any sincere consideration of the possibility that they should balance the best interest of those who develop the technology and the best interest of the majority of the public that includes the protection of the environment. Nor do they ever do an adequate job acknowledging the fact that if the environment is allowed to continue to deteriorate then the foundation of our society will gradually or suddenly collapse. This is inevitable one way or another whether it is through wars about water combined with increased air pollution, the war on terror, and economic collapse or something else. Yet the most powerful people aren’t even seriously considering this possibility.
They have clearly presented it almost solely as an issue of intellectual property which should be considered suspect on many grounds. They have indicated that this may be to defend jobs in America but this objective seems to be very limited and it is only part of the agenda when it serves the objective of the corporations. If they wanted to apply this consistently they could do so about many other issues that involve exporting jobs to countries with lower wages that often rely on sweat shop labor and the oppression of the workers. This trend has a long history and it often involves using the defense of jobs in America only long enough to change the policy to defend one issue or another and then as soon as they get the defense of that issue they often turn around and ship the jobs overseas anyway. One of the most blatant examples where this was done was with the tobacco industry which kept jobs in America longer than many other manufacturers for public relation reasons but as soon as the smoking rate started going down and the political environment became worse they shipped them overseas anyway which was where their growing clientele is and where the cheap labor is. They could be attempting to address the issue by providing more manufacturing jobs by selling more of this technology that is apparently used here in the USA instead of worrying about the fact that China is using the technology to help protect their own environment.
This is similar to the examples cited in the blog about copyright violators where US patent laws are being used to deprive millions of people in Africa of the drugs they need to treat HIV and AIDS. They won’t allow generic drugs to be used which are much cheaper; even though in many cases the drug research may have been at least partially funded with government money. These are both cases where the lives of millions of poor people are being threatened to protect the monopoly rights of powerful corporations that are already making enormous profits by gouging consumers. I don’t know if they’re making quite as much profit on the clean energy technology but if we can’t protect the environment without allowing the corporations to gouge people then there is little or no chance that it will be protected at all until the damage is so bad that those in power can’t hold onto it much longer.
The second example involving Solyndra is very similar in many ways; however the problems may be greater in some ways since the technology of solar panels may not be quite as profitable unless it is subsidized or unless other technologies are forced to take into consideration the long term costs being done by their pollution or in the case of nuclear energy the disposal of the nuclear waste. Once again society as a whole especially the most powerful segments of society aren’t asking one simple question:
What is the most effective way possible to reverse this trend of environmental destruction and repair the massive amount of damage that has already been done?
If we did this then we might take into consideration the fact that we are going to pay for all the damage to the environment one way or another either by doing what it takes to reverse this trend or allowing the destruction to the environment which would be much worse. One important way to addressing this problem could involve stopping the oil companies from receiving a massive subsidy, which has been virtually unacknowledged by most of society, by benefitting from the use of oil without paying the enormous costs that is created by it. If someone wanted to earn a profit by conducting business on the front yard of some of the richest and most politically connected people in this country in a manner that would destroy their environment they would be required to pay as they go. There is no way they would be able to get a free ride and to do so would be considered a subsidy if the people who controlled the propaganda machine wanted to portray it that way; Yet when the oil companies do the same thing all over the world on a much larger scale destroying the environment for millions of people this isn’t thought of as a subsidy.
Of course this wouldn’t be enough at this point it would also be necessary to develop alternatives that are cleaner and make them affordable. This should involve using the best technology available including Wind, Solar, Geothermal, and anything else that would help; perhaps the most effective thing that should be encouraged should be conservation. The problem with this is that conservation doesn’t turn profits for the most powerful people in society instead it provides benefits to the majority without enabling the most powerful to skim profits off the top since transactions are reduced by this method; yet this is the exact thing that we need to do to protect the environment in the most effective manner possible.
Although this almost certainly should involve solar this doesn’t necessarily have to involve Solyndra; if a more effective company does a better job that would be fine. Part of the problem is that the corporate and political environment often involves an enormous amount of “lobbying” which is often done behind closed doors; if records are made available to the public they’re often done in a very complicated manner that they know that few will take the trouble to sort them out. This enables an enormous amount of fraud to go on in just about any industry.
This is why I have indicated that the amount of secrecy being protected by the corporations should be drastically reduced if not eliminated in a previous blog about Proprietary information being, by definition, a conspiracy. this should especially be the case when these companies are relying on government for subsidies or legislation that provides them with various protections in addition to those that are designed to protect their secrecy. By providing them with the opportunity to get government protection without openness this is an invitation for fraud and it is also blatant corporate welfare. If a solar company, whether it is Solyndra or any other wants government protection in return for helping to provide a service to the public and help protect the environment they should do it out in the open where it is subject to scrutiny. If this is done then the current tr4end can be reversed and the best interest of the majority can begin to take higher priority than that of the most connected corporations.
Another issue that should be considered when reporting on the Solyndra scandal is the fact that, as bad as it is, it clearly isn’t nearly as bad as the enormous amount of damage being done by the oil, coal, nuclear companies or many other well connected companies; yet it is now receiving much more attention; and surprisingly Joe Barton and many other congressmen aren’t going out of their way to apologize or defend Solyndra. The same defenders of BP which was doing much more damage are lining up to argue that Solyndra should be pursued to the fullest extent. I don’t know whether or not this is intended to suppress competition for the oil companies to enable them to increase their profits even more in return for campaign contributions or not; however it does seem to be serving that purpose even if it isn’t intended to.
The third example that I have cited involves the research that is being funded by the oil companies and other energy companies backed up with an expensive public relations campaign to convince us that fossil fuels are clean and efficient and that they don’t damage the environment nearly as much as the more sincere research seems to indicate. They often even attempt to make it appear as if coal is “clean” energy. This is utterly false, of course. When the term “clean coal” first came out as far as I can remember it referred to technology that used something they referred to as scrubbers to ensure that the emissions aren’t quite as dirty as ordinary coal emissions, which presumably would be considered “dirty coal” although for some reason the industry never seems to use that term. The truth is that this technology may be cleaner than the dirtier coal but it is still far dirtier than other technology that is truly clean like wind and solar and even natural gas.
Newer technology may involve processing coal in a different fashion that doesn’t involve burning it; instead it supposedly involves some kind of chemical reaction that produces energy in a different manner; however to the best of my knowledge this technology hasn’t been proven tried and true and cost effective and even if it did it would still involve the mining of the coal which still does and enormous amount of damage. They’re spending an enormous amount of money promoting their views on TV as a part of a public relations campaign that is designed to appear to have scientific backing; and this campaign isn’t limited to TV commercials targeting the general population.
Energy companies are also attempting to promote their biased research in schools as well to children before they learn to sort through the details for themselves. In the late seventies during the energy crisis there was a generation being taught about clean energy including wind and solar and other technologies that were being researched and Jimmy Carter famously advised people to wear a sweater and turn down the heat. He put solar panels on the roof of the White House and began to turn this country in a different direction at least when it comes to how we handle the energy crisis. Of course this all changed after the election when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. One of the first things he did was to have the panels removed; the reason for this was purely symbolic since it wouldn’t save any money at all. In fact since the panels were already installed it would cost more to remove them than it would to let them stay there and they would also lose the energy that could have been saved by keeping them there. This could presumably have been offset by selling the panels but they wouldn’t have received nearly as much money as they lost. Clearly this was a massive gift to the oil companies and it was just the beginning of the change in policy that was also accompanied by a major public relations campaign to deceive the public.
My generation which was taught about how we should change the way we use technology is now approaching our, er, well, thirties, (rumors that we’re approaching our thirties for the third time are ridiculous,) and the generation being taught in schools may be learning something very different in many cases at least where Channel One is present. Susan Linn wrote about how corporations including energy company companies are influencing the education that children receive in “Consuming Kids”. The following is an excerpt from her book, “In-school advertising began escalating in earnest in 1990. It now includes (but isn’t limited to) corporate-sponsored newscasts, field trips, classroom materials, vending machines, gymnasiums, walls, and whole buildings. Have you visited your child’s school lately? Perhaps she’s learning about energy production and consumption through the lens of companies like Exxon Mobil or professional associations like the American Coal Foundation (“Unlocking Coal’s Potential through Education”). Her inspiration for reading may be coming from Pizza Hut-complete with coupons to be redeemed at your local franchise. She may be attending mandatory assemblies where she can learn about job interviewing from McDonalds. If she lives in Washington, D.C., and wants to go into the hotel business, she might be attending the Marriot Hospitality Charter School. If she’s a kid in trouble, she could attend a Burger King Academy.”
“Materials from energy companies and professional organizations such as Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) or the American Coal Foundation, for instance, were found to be biased in their presentations of the pros and cons of reliance on fossil fuel.” (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.75-6, 81) Advertisers and public relation companies have found that children are much more susceptible to propaganda, which is the proper way to describe this than adult. They have found out by consulting with psychologists that their propaganda would be much more effective if they reached children before they developed critical thinking skills and repeated things over and over again without scrutiny. There have been many researchers that have studied the marketing to children including in schools and they’ve found that they are much less able to sort through the details and figure out whether the corporations are sincere or not. Roy Fox, author of Harvesting Minds has found that many of these children who he studied actually believe that the advertisers on Channel One are actually benevolent.
They have also come up with an enormous amount of TV commercials to convince the rest of the public they’re looking out for the best interest of children including one about Melody Stacy, a statistics teacher from Kentucky. this appears very pleasant; however it should raise some questions about what it is intended to accomplish and how. After a closer look and careful considerations it may appear that this is nothing but a fluff piece that is designed to improve the image of Exxon Mobil without actually improving education at all; in fact it may actually do more to harm education since it presents a false image.
This doesn’t involve the examination of any facts or any scrutiny; instead Melody Stacy is essentially flirting with the audience and showing a bunch of benevolent looking images that indicate that “they care,” without actually scrutinizing the damage that is being done to the environment or considering the motive of Exxon Mobil or Melody Stacy.
Clearly the motive of Exxon Mobil is about improving their reputation.
Perhaps Melody Stacy may be doing this for the money or perhaps she is doing this because they’re also helping to finance schools; however a closer look at what the costs are from this sponsorship will clearly indicate that it is too high. I’m not aware of any attempt by her to question the damage being done to the environment or challenge the false science being presented to the students and if she were to do such a thing then she almost certainly wouldn’t be funded by Exxon Mobil. Yet the research being presented by Susan Linn, Roy Fox and many other academics who don’t have financial incentives to bias their work clearly indicates that it is coming at too high a cost. The fact that she does this commercial without scrutiny at all should be enough to raise doubts about the credibility of Melody Stacy.
And of course, the propaganda doesn’t stop there. There are an enormous amount of public relation commercials, which clearly fit the definition of propaganda after close examination, that are attempting to follow up on the indoctrination to children and adults alike. One of them is a part of a series that presents two opposing sides debating the issues and coming to the conclusion that they agree and that the oil companies appear benevolent. The biggest problem is of course that the Oil companies pay the actors presenting both sides of the argument and the real critics aren’t welcome at all; but clearly they’re counting on many people not to think of this. This commercial starts with a male blue collar critic that says something like, “Oil companies are making a huge amount of profits.”
A pleasant looking and friendly female representative responds by admitting, “Yea, It’s true we made a lot of money last year.”
“Where does it go?” “Every penny and more goes back into the economy and the community.” Etc.
This sounds good if you don’t think about it at all and accept this without any scrutiny, which is what many people do and the oil companies are counting on; however if it is subject to scrutiny then it can and will fall apart very quickly. The claim that “Every penny and more goes back… the community.” is utterly absurd when you think about the primary motive of for profit corporations. In fact the mere fact that they’re playing this commercial, which costs a lot of money, provides conclusive evidence of the fact that some of the money isn’t going back; other wise where would the money for the commercial come from? In order to argue that this is making accurate claims they would have to do an enormous amount of spin indicating that somehow the money that is spent for advertising is beneficial and the money that is kept for profit is spent and returned back to the economy without considering that it is spent for the benefit of the stock holders with little or no benefit to the majority. Otherwise they would have to argue that the money is coming from some where else which blatantly contradicts the core principles of for profit companies.
Most important is one thing that is notably not said by either of the people, in this commercial or any other commercial paid for by the oil companies including Melody Stacy, or their spokespeople and front organizations:
“The Mass Media that receives financing from the oil companies is fully aware of the fact that they’re much less likely to receive much if any revenue from the oil companies if they do good investigative reporting and provide an accurate picture of how much damage the oil companies are doing. There fore the Mass Media has an enormous incentive to help the oil companies with their propaganda by looking the other way and slanting their news coverage.”
Twenty or thirty years ago skepticism of the possibility that the Mass Media would do such a thing might have seemed reasonable but now the Mass Media has become so incompetent and biased that it is hard to believe many people would doubt that they would. The exceptions could include those that were raised with Channel One in their schools though since many of these children failed to develop basic scrutiny skills and have become exceptionally complacent.
And of course when they developing this propaganda and presenting it to the public they never once ask the important question:
What is the most effective way possible to reverse this trend of environmental destruction and repair the massive amount of damage that has already been done?
Clearly we need major changes in the way we address this issue if we’re going to reverse this trend and we can’t do this by continuing to allow the corporations have virtually complete control over the government and the Mass Media and many of the other most powerful institutions. This country is in desperate need of Election reform that is controlled by the public. It won’t be good enough to enact another round of “campaign finance reform” that is controlled by the same corrupt politicians that got us into this mess in the first place and passed the last round of reform which merely shifted the rules slightly and were quickly eroded again. Fortunately there are some signs of hope that many more members of the public may be ready to stand up to the corruption in the corporations and in Washington as indicated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and there appears to be another movement that may be starting to protest the unjust wars as well that could begin major protest in just a couple of days according to “The Voters” who are calling on voters to “Evolt” by writing in a candidate of their own choice regardless of who the corporations say are legitimate contenders. More organization may be needed to actually elect an independent president and many other members of Congress and other offices but that can come with time. This may not be enough to turn things around but it is a start and if they work together and include other issues like the environment then they could go a long way to changing things.
(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)