Multinationals Take Aim at Protesters

Date Sun, 17 Dec 2000 00:13:31 GMT

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In These Times

December 25, 2000

Multinationals take aim at protesters
By Bill Berkowitz

In response to the anti-globalization movement's
numbers and vigilance, multinational companies and
right-wing think tanks are beginning to take aim at
the protesters.

According to a document obtained by the newsletter
Inside EPA, the Sony Corporation has been preparing an
"action plan for counteracting the efforts of several
domestic and international environmental
groups--including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition" that are involved in
a campaign to hold electronics manufacturers
responsible for their toxic waste.

Last summer in Brussels, Belgium, Sony representatives
presented a paper called "NGO Strategy" to the
European Information and Communications Technology
Industry     Association's conference on environmental
policy. Sony's strategic suggestions included
"pre-funding intervention" to reduce the financial
support that liberal foundations give to environmental
organizations; a recommendation that companies ratchet
up their capability to quickly respond to
environmental critics and pre-empt future legislation;
and the development of a "detailed monitoring and
contact network" to keep tabs on these organizations.

Inside EPA suggests that this monitoring might be
carried out by "one of the dozens of new Internet
'intelligence' agencies--such as the London-based
Infonics PLC--that monitor chat rooms, e-mail lists,
electronic bulletin boards, online news services,
newsgroups and other sources of public information for
specific data requested by a company or industry

Sony executives have acknowledged that the company is
monitoring environmental groups. "We are obviously
concerned about our image," Mark Small, Sony's vice
president of environmental and health and safety
issues, told the InterPress news service. "If
Greenpeace is pushing something, we want to be on top
if it."

Sony's interest in "pre-funding intervention"
dovetails with the publication of "Who Props Up the
Protesters," an extensive report from Truth About
Trade, a new organization that purports to "tell the
truth" about the organizations active in the Seattle
demonstrations and the foundations that fund them.

Truth About Trade is a Des Moines, Iowa-based
agriculture industry group headed by Dean Kleckner,
former president of the American Farm Bureau
Federation, a leading agribusiness lobby. Kleckner
says that Truth About Trade's mission is "to stand up
for farm exports and advancements in biotechnology
based on sound science," and to prevent environmental
extremists and radical protesters from limiting
America's economic and technological potential.

Truth About Trade's report (
provides "an outline of the history, goals, financial
strength and level of activism for ... organizations
involved in the anti-trade protests in Seattle." "Who
Props Up the Protesters" contains profiles of more
than 50 "environmental groups actively opposing trade,
"including the Ruckus Society, Direct Action Network,
Earth Island Institute, Friends of the Earth, Global
Exchange and the National Wildlife Federation, and
details how these groups participated in the Seattle
protests. [*]

For just one example, in its profile of the Berkeley,
California-based Ruckus Society, Truth About Trade
asserts that Ruckus uses its training on nonviolent
civil disobedience as a cover for its real agenda:
"violent lawbreaking" by "leaders [who] are no
stranger to violence themselves, [and who] might
actually have expected the vandalism by the anarchist
members of their protest."

One of Truth about Trade's most significant
contributions to intelligence gathering is
documentation that the fair-trade network is
bankrolled by "grantmakers [who] are funneling large
sums of money to environmental groups." Among the
major foundations highlighted are the Bullitt
Foundation, HKH Foundation, John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust,
Rockefeller Foundation, Turner Foundation, W. Alton
Jones Foundation and C.S. Mott Foundation.

There are several other conservative institutions focusing on the
foundations who are providing the financial lifeblood for the
environmental movement. The Washington-based Capital Research Center is
one of the rising stars in the crowded universe of right-wing think
tanks ( Established in 1984, the Capital
Research Center analyzes how "those organizations with tax-exempt, tax
deductible--and sometimes tax dollars--mix advocacy and 'direct action'
to promote their own vision of the public interest." It also looks at
how closely individuals in the corporate and foundation sectors are
sticking to the "donor intent" of the founders of these corporations
and foundations.

Conservatives become apoplectic when they discover that a significant
amount of money earmarked for environmental groups comes from
foundations established by free-market entrepreneurs who accumulated
enormous wealth based on decidedly anti-environmental activities. "The
source of wealth for the Pew Trusts comes from energy exploration and
development," the Capital Research Center's President Robert Huberty
told the House Resource Committee at a May hearing.

Complaining about Pew support for a forest protection campaign, he said

that the original intent of the founders of the foundation was to
"acquaint the American people [with] the evils of bureaucracy, the
values of a free market and the paralyzing effects of government
controls on the lives and activities of people."

Frustrated, Huberty asked, "How do the Pew Trusts honor the intentions
of their donor by supporting a campaign to permanently end logging in a
large portion of the national forests?" Anti-globalization activities
clearly are becoming a direct threat to global corporate power.
Surveillance, propaganda and counter-intelligence efforts mounted by
the rich and powerful are just beginning to reveal themselves, but they
surely are a harbinger of things to come.

Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering the religious right and
related conservative movements.
Contact him by e-mail at

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