From the mail bag: an early round of questions

Tue, 2005-12-06 15:26Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

From the mail bag: an early round of questions

An e-mail correspondent sent these questions (with answers appended).

What was your motivation? 
Annoyance. I have often stood up to criticize sleazy and misleading PR campaigns in the past. I find it irksome to see people getting away with spreading disinformation and refusing to take responsibility, and I think it reflects badly on my industry. That said; this is a bigger issue than any I have tackled previously, and a more public forum.
  
Do you fear hurting your business at all by having a single-issue “activist” blog?
Is it possible that I will lose some business? Perhaps. But in my experience, there are lots of honest and ethical business people looking for good good public relations advice, and those are the people we want to work with anyway.

Why the single focus on “public relations” as the onus of your complaints against those who would deny global warming?
Public relations is what I know. There are lots of good scientists out there criticizing junk science. I just thought it was time that the public relations side came under the same kind of scrutiny.

How narrow or broad a definition do you give this aspect – are you talking about the publicity pushers at the lowest level or the positioning and communications strategists who by trade are political operatives, lawyers, scientists, marketing executives, economists and others?
 
The public relations function overlaps heavily into all the areas that you mentioned. But a cynical PR campaign can spread even further; it can look like science (if someone orchestrated a “spontaneous” response from several scientists). It can look like economics – or math. On this issue, there is lots of blame to go around: If you have a guilty conscience, you’re probably on the list.

And finally, what physically do you hope to achieve with your blog?  Do you plan to extend in any way?  Are you writing a book, for example?  Are you setting yourself up as a subject matter expert?
 
On the question of a book: I have no current plans for one, but don’t count it out.

On being a subject matter expert: I am already a subject matter expert in public relations, but have no pretensions in the field of climate science. In general, the deSmogBlog team is hoping to end the confusion as quickly as possible – to open the door for an honest debate on the urgency of this issue.

Often, there is no real cause to criticize this kind of a campaign because, ultimately, spin never succeeds. Sooner or later, misinformation campaigns collapse on their own lies. But this is a special case. First, there is a huge amount of money at stake, so the ExxonMobile/Peabody Coal fellow travelers are willing to spend a fortune furthering the campaign. Second, the goal is easy: they don’t have to win and argument or even prove a point; they only have to sew confusion. Doubt and delay enable them to continue operating as if there is no problem.
Unfortunately, this is not an issue on which we can continue to delay. Every day the problem is not getting better, it’s getting worse – and compounding faster than a 1980s savings account. We have to act.

And – I have to ask this – is this blog and the content contained in any way connected to one of your clients, or other vested interest?  How so?  And if so, are you being completely transparent in this effort?

No. If you check our client list, you will see some ‘green’ companies (with which we are proud to be associated), but none is contributing in any way to the deSmogBlog and we expect no financial benefit of any kind for pursuing this debate.

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This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

A now-famous 1972 photo of Earth taken by Apollo 17 astronauts from 45,000 kilometres away became known as “the blue marble”. The late scientist Carl Sagan described a 1990 picture taken from six billion kilometres away by the unmanned Voyager 1 as a “pale blue dot”.

The vision of Earth from a distance has profoundly...

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