Netvocates - Privatised Propaganda Services ?  

Posted by Big Gav

The professional blog trollers at Netvocates (well - semi-professional - if they knew what they were doing they wouldn't have left such a large slime trail behind them and thereby avoided a large amount of no doubt unwanted publicity) seem to have become a topic of attention in their own right.

A random sampling of posts from the blogging world shows they have been checking up on those who mention "climate change" and "al gore" (noticed here), along with "coke" and "fat tax", and "net neutrality".

Netvocates Big Brother act is brought to you by the guy who founded - I wonder what political outlook Chip has ?

See Trolling for Dollars, behind netvocates, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Get Out Your Tinfoil Hats, Another Inconvenient Truth - NetVocates, Strange Days Indeed: Shadowy Propoganda-for-Pay Group Targeting Web Logs, Has Netvocates visited your blog recently ?, Are You Paranoid If They're Watching You?, Paid Trolls (with one commenter pointing out "Their sub-heading "Blog Intelligence and Advocacy Service (BIAS)"...the [acronym] says it all"), netvocates: IP addresses and screenshots, Netvocates come out of the shadows and many more...

O'Reilly dubbed this proactive variant of traditional astroturfing (itself an outgrowth of the "thinktank" mechanism of propaganda dissemeination) "AstroSpamming" (see also The Abstract Factory).

There was a case a couple of years back where the biotech industry tried to destroy the reputation of a scientist called Ignacio Chapella who had discovered that GE corn was spreading rapidly through Mexico at a time when the industry was trying to assert that GE could be easily controlled. The PR company in question (The Bivings Group) posted multiple fake messages (under fake names) to a biotech message board besmirching the work of Ignacio Chapella.

The PR firm was successful in that Nature magazine took the unprecendented step of withdrawing it's support for the article after they had published it.

My point here is not to toast the success of an aggressive PR campaign but to talk about what happened afterwards: Eventually someone decided to trace the fake emails and found that they had originated from the computers of people who work for a biotech industry PR company. Since then the GE Free movement has taught the PR world the meaning of backlash by mentioning this episode at every available opportunity.

Even if he hasn’t heard this particular story our friend Chip at Netvocates has obviously learned the lesson. AND even if Chip just created these guidelines to maintain his own self-image of being a polite guy the fact remains that PR is currently the frontline of a war being waged on normal people by the elites of society. It doesn’t matter that the individual foot soldiers aren’t aware of the bigger, picture we’re still at a point now where the elites use their wealth to change what people think.

What the PR industry knows and relies on us not understanding is that they are working at the emotional level. In a debate people do not operate purely on logic. If you were to read a blog posting that was followed by a critical comment, unless you make a conscious effort to analyse the two arguments AND follow all the references to their bitter end your view of the posting will be coloured a little. Some people are more easily persuaded this way than others but it is impossible to be completely affected by it if you are human.

PR companies know that people don’t or can’t follow up the things that they say and that it is the fact of the rebuttal that counts. It gets worse though. With this understanding it is then safe to move on stating half truths and occasionally bald faced lies. It is a bit more difficult in the blogosphere however because people like Steven and Robin are so much better at cutting through the crap than your average journalist. All this means though is that the PR people have to develop a more sophisticated approach. Clearly they are in the process of doing this – as we all knew they would need to do as part of elite attempts to subvert the anarchic and democratic nature of the internet.

If you’re still unsure of how effective this approach is remember that that scientific journal backed dowon on the GE corn paper because of the pressure they felt. They certainly weren’t persuaded by the facts in this instance and if a group of supposedly rational scientists can be persuaded in this manner you can bet the rest of us will be too.

Remember too this is all being done in conjunction with the usual ongoing PR efforts including at last count 40% of mainstream news* originating from a PR office. I’m not going to use the phrase ‘mind control’ to describe all this because that would give the likes of Chip too much ammunition but at the same time I have difficulty finding another word to describe deliberate, large scale attempts to alter what people think.

I may have already given them the ammunition to do so by mentioning it even in that way but how much you wanna bet they won’t be providing a link to go with the quote?

For further info about the dirty world of PR I highly recommend the website PR Watch and also the book Secret’s and Lies by Nicky Hagar – an expose about a dirty tricks campaign against anti-logging activists in New Zealand, even my cynical expectations were exceeded by the behaviour of the PR firm and it’s client revealed in this case.

And lastly, I’m not going to even pretend to be even handed like the others have and give you a link to Chip’s blog. I refuse to buy into the need to appear to be even-handed especially when the blog in question is run buy a person who is an expert in disinformation and will be spinning who knows how many lies in a polite and convivial manner.

Slashdot shamed themselves by posting some global warming denial propaganda today, though the ensuing discussion showed that few people agreed with the article they'd grabbed from some Canadian wingnut tabloid called the Canada Free Press via Drudge (quoting the professional denier Bob Carter). AT least some outlets ran the article then removed it once they realised that it was just PR nonsense.

One slashdotter comments:
This article was pulled straight from the headlines of the Drudge Report, which should have tipped you off. He's notorious for linking to only right-wing-skewed news services, and here he's tapping an obscure Canadian newspaper. Gee, I wonder which way its politics lean? You should have done your homework...

There is only one other article by Tom Harris at CFP, but I found another at National Post , both attacking climate change. Canada Free Press and National Post are both conservative newspapers, particularly the latter. According to the byline, Tom Harris is mechanical engineer and Ottawa Director of High Park Group. And what is the High Park Group, seeing as how their web page say absolutely nothing of substance? Why it's an industry shill.

Mr. Egan is president of the High Park Group, a public policy consulting firm that focuses largely on energy issues out of its offices in Toronto and Ottawa. He is retained by the Canadian Electricity Association on a range of issues, including U.S. advocacy (monitoring the U.S. Congress and Administration on issues of interest to the Canadian electricity industry).


Of course, articles about "scientists" refuting global warming are a dime a dozen, and go against the plain fact that the vast majority of climate scientists are firmly convinced of its existence.

And for the record when I looked at the article before it was running an ad pushing Condaleeza Rice for president... in a Canadian newspaper no less.

And another:
From the article:
Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change.

What a weaselly way of putting it. Here's what 30 seconds of Googling says about Professor Robert Carter: He's a member of the Institute for Public Affairs, a corporate-funded think tank.

You see, he isn't working for the coal industry per se. He's working for a think tank that is funded by corporate donors that may or may not include the coal industry. See the difference?

In piling up "scientist" after "scientist" while failing to refute Gore's arguments, this article is reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda pamphlet "100 Scientists Against Einstein." Einstein's response still applies: "If I were wrong, one would be enough."

Some other interesting links in the commentary included an interesting video on Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" conspiracy theory book and the biased treatment of global warming science in the media, and Science magazine's survey of global warming papers.

The Washington Post has a report on the latest political stunt by the government, delivered in their usual doublespeak - a 10 hour debate on a resolution "declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror [and] the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary". These guys make some of the more bizarre communist dictatorships of the 1970's look sensible.
... the strongest misgivings may be practical. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) called the entire exercise "a dumb idea" that will highlight precisely the issue that is threatening Republican political fortunes.

"When the country is war-weary, when the violence is still playing out on TV, I don't know why we want to highlight all that," he said.

But Gilchrest, who won the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his Marine service in Vietnam in the 1960s, believes political considerations have already played too large a role in the debate. In November, after Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) announced his support for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, Republican leaders hastily pushed a resolution to the House floor calling for immediate pull-out. But the cursory two-hour debate was noteworthy less for serious policy discourse than for the suggestion by the House's newest member, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), that Murtha, a decorated war veteran, was a coward.

"It was ludicrous," Gilchrest said. "It had nothing to do with saving lives. It had nothing to do with the war. It was one-upsmanship against the Democrats."

That sentiment spurred Gilchrest and four other Republicans to break with their leadership this spring and sign on to a Democratic petition pushing for debate. Boehner pledged to do so weeks ago.

But GOP leaders are trying to make sure today's debate is on Republican terms. The resolution, "declaring that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror [and] the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary," was introduced with unabashed partisan overtones. The rules of debate will not allow the resolution to be amended, nor will alternative resolutions be allowed on the floor for a vote.

Some war opponents -- sensing a political trap -- vowed yesterday not to participate. Five House members -- three Democrats and two Republicans -- held a news conference with a yellow rope tied around their hands to denounce the terms of debate.

"This is nothing more or less than really a charade," said Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), who made headlines in the run-up to the Iraq invasion by changing french fries to "freedom fries" in the House dining room but has since turned strongly against the war.

Moving away from the propaganda industry, Russia has decided that the next time they have a Chernobyl disaster, it would be fun to have it at sea - so a floating reactor is being constructed in the arctic.
Rosenergoatom chief Sergei Obozov said the plant was the ideal solution for providing power to remote Arctic sites. He said Russian authorities were looking at 11 other possible sites for such reactors, and that customers from abroad were already interested in the technology.

Environmentalists have been highly critical of the proposals. Charles Digges, editor of the Norwegian-based Bellona website, told the Associated Press that floating nuclear plants were "absolutely unsafe - inherently so". "There are risks of the unit itself sinking, there are risks in towing the units to where they need to be," he said.

But Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Power Agency, dismissed such concerns, saying the country had more experience of building nuclear submarines than any other in the world. "There will be no floating Chernobyl," he said, according to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, referring to the the world's worst ever nuclear accident, which took place in 1986 in Ukraine.

Russia currently generates up to 17% of its electricity from 31 reactors at 10 sites, and President Vladimir Putin has said he would like to increase the figure to a quarter.

Rigzone reports that high oil prices have failed to increase production in Asia.
Asia's expanded oil drilling, spurred by record prices, has failed to increase supplies and ease the region's growing reliance on the Middle East, Fereidun Fesharaki, chief executive officer at the oil consultancy Facts, said Monday at the Asia Oil & Gas Conference.

Fesharaki, who is presiding over the conference, said that Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Middle East producers will provide 70 percent
of any additional oil demand over the next five years. Asia's annual oil demand may grow as much as 800,000 barrels a day, more than double Sweden's consumption, he said.

"Higher prices have kept production flat" in Asia, Fesharaki said. "If prices were any lower, there would definitely be a decline" in output.


Increased spending in Asia by explorers such as Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron reflect soaring costs as they chase oil in deeper waters offshore and prices of steel and raw materials rise.

"The spending will go up, but I don't think they're drilling more wells," David Morrison, chairman of Wood Mackenzie, an oil consultancy, said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. It's because of "the cost inflation in the service sector."

Costs for the Shell-led Sakhalin II oil and gas project in Russia doubled to $20 billion because of higher contractor rates and prices for raw materials.

The company, based in The Hague, said last month that it may not meet a target of replacing all the oil and gas it pumps because rising costs were forcing it to hold back on some projects.

"Costs to find, develop, and produce oil and gas has increased by an average of 50 percent over the last two years," said Hassan Marican, chief executive of Petronas, Malaysia's state- run oil company. "The increase in capital expenditure and shortage in capacity in contracting services may result in the deferment and delays of some projects."

Also at Rigzone - Global Energy Crisis Cooks to Surface, Energy Security Tops EU's Foreign Policy Agenda and Once in Nigeria, ExxonMobil Assets Now in Cameroon.
The growing scarcity of oil and natural gas has provoked worldwide political conflict and a mad rush for renewable resources.

Like a volcano before it erupts, the crisis has heated up for decades, out of sight of oil-heated homes and petrol-powered cars. But the signs of trouble are now evident, and not only at the pump, where $70-a-barrel prices eat into the pocketbook.

War in Iraq, tensions over Iran's nuclear plans, the international standoff over genocide in Sudan, kidnappings and killings in Nigeria's oil fields--all give frenzied expression to the world's rocketing, insatiable thirst for oil.

German media talk of a "new" Cold War. U.S. columnist Thomas Friedman regularly warns New York Times readers that America's appetite for fuel supports the very movements intent on its destruction.

At the upcoming G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July, energy issues are expected to dominate. With just weeks to spare beforehand, the European Union--which has haggled for years over a unified strategy --is expected to agree later this month to nail down an energy cooperation deal with Moscow and start talking to China.


As pressure has grown, so have opportunistic political alliances.

The U.S., where imports make up 60 percent of consumption, gave full official backing to the $3.6-billion, 1,800-kilometer Trans-Caucasus oil line from the Caspian to the Mediterranean last year--even though the project originates in Azerbaijan, targeted by the U.S. for its human rights violations. The U.S. hopes the Baku-to- Ceyhan,Turkey line, which bypasses Russia, will undermine the region's dependence on Iranian oil.

China has vigorously cultivated ties to Africa and Venezuela for energy resources, and it has drawn criticism for taking a softer line on Sudan and Iran by opposing sanctions and ultimatums at the U.N. Security Council.

India's about-face on Myanmar, where it has dropped its support for the democracy movement and now courts the military junta, has provoked outcries at home from democracy activists. Investments by the state-run ONGC Videsh, Ltd. (OVL) in Sudan, where the government has been charged with genocide in the rebellious Darfur region, have also drawn fire.

The looming specter of "peak oil production"--the point at which oil production is expected to drop because reserves are too difficult to pump out--has combined with high prices and increasing political insecurity to boost the search for renewable energy sources. Oil experts say peak oil could come as early as 2010 or as late as 2047.

TreeHugger points to Steven Colbert interviewing Tim Flannery.
Tim Flannery, author of the Weather Makers, was interviewed on the Colbert Report yesterday. Colbert was glad to see him, because being from Australia he is a member of that small club of Kyoto rejecting countries, the Coalition of the Willing to Burn Fossil Fuels. It is very funny.

And to close, as usual, Billmon.
In the aftermath of the three suicides at the notorious Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba last Saturday, reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island today . . . The Pentagon spokesman told E&P that Rumsfeld's office was overruling any of the permissions from military at the base.

Editor & Publisher
Pentagon Orders U.S. Reporters to Exit Guantanamo
June 14, 2006

I have no doubt that free and well-informed people can and will sift through the increasing volumes of information and over time develop a balanced view of our government, our Armed Forces, and our values and principles.

Donald Rumsfeld
War of the Words
July 18, 2005

That must be what he's afraid of.


Anonymous   says 4:11 AM

Go to for an example. There's some idiot with an IQ equal to normal room temperature on a forum I frequent citing junkscience in his attacks on Global Warming.

A quick seacrch on digs up a lot of dirt.

I've got a small blog with few readers and hardly any commenters, and suddenly I get 3 or 4 commenters on the 'net neutrality' issue! But they are all the same, looking like corporate PR guys. What a disappointment.

btw gav great blog, keep up the good work.

Pete - junkscience has been around for a long time - its an astroturf site that will deny everything from global warming to cigarettes causing lung cancer - basically they'll spout any line that contradicts any criticism of any industry.

Bernard - thanks for the comment - I check your site occasionally and hadn't noticed your net neutrality post - got a link for it ?

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