June 5, 2021

Dirty Tricks Dept.

“Disinformation Playbook.” It sounds sinister, and it is.

This disturbing term was coined by the Union of Concerned Scientists 50 years ago, although corporate malfeasance has been a thing for a lot longer. 

How much longer? Corporations have been around since medieval times, so about that long.

The Catholic Church is thought by some to be the first ever corporation, and their dirty tricks across the centuries to this very day are infamous.

Malfeasance is synonymous with misconduct, misbehaviour, misdoing, and wrongdoing, all of which are things too many people are willing to do to make a buck. Or win souls. Or both.

The "Disinformation Playbook" describes the strategies dirty tricks departments use to manipulate, attack, or create doubt about science and the scientists conducting important research that is unfavourable to their interests.

More broadly, these tactics are used against any and all truth-tellers that threaten power and profits, regardless of who or where they are.

Here are the 5 parts of the Dirty Tricks Playbook, with an example of each from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Fake – Conduct counterfeit science and try to pass it off as legitimate research.

"In an attempt to reduce litigation costs, Georgia-Pacific secretly ran a research program intended to raise doubts about the dangers of asbestos and stave off regulatory efforts to ban the chemical. The company used knowingly flawed methodologies in its science as well as publishing its research in scientific journals without adequately disclosing the authors’ conflicts of interest."

The Blitz – Harass scientists who speak out with results reviews inconvenient for industry.

"Rather than honestly dealing with its burgeoning concussion problem, the National Football League (NFL) went after the reputation of the first doctor to link the sport to the degenerative brain disease he named Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy."

The Diversion – Manufacture uncertainty about science where little or none exists.

"The top lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry in the western United States secretly ran more than a dozen front groups in an attempt to undermine forward-looking policy on climate change and clean technologies."

The Screen – Buy credibility through alliances with academia or professional societies.

"Coca-Cola quietly funded a research institute out of the University of Colorado designed to persuade people to focus on exercise, not calorie intake, for weight loss."

The Fix – Manipulate government officials or processes to influence policy inappropriately. 

"After meeting with and listening to talking points from chlorpyrifos producer Dow Chemical Company, the EPA announced it would be reversing its decision to ban the chemical that is linked to neurological development issues in children."

These are only some of many, many examples of how corporations corrupt all the checks and balances that are supposed to keep us safe and healthy.

In a society where power and profits are paramount over the health of people and the planet, such a playbook should come as no surprise. 

We are constantly bombarded by religious, business, and government misinformation, and have been for a very long time. 

Learning more can help us avoid companies we would rather not support with our purchasing choices. 

Dirty tricks should not be rewarded, or covered up.

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