March 11, 2014. Washington. A notorious Washington DC PR agency has launched another front group to attack three specific environmental non-profits. Our good friends at Food and Water Watch just happen to be one of the organizations in the crosshairs of the Wall Street corporations suspected of funding the attack ads. The first salvo appeared in the form of a full page Wall Street Journal ad slandering the three groups.
The image from the full page attack ad in the WSJ targeting Food & Water Watch. Image courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.
We at Whiteout Press have never been die-hard environmental activists. Instead, we’ve always tried to take a common sense approach with a healthy balance of industry and environment. In the event of uncertainty or confusion, we’d error on the side of safety and not eradicating mankind. But that moderate stance on the issue hasn’t stopped us from recognizing the most active grassroots organization we’ve possibly ever encountered - Food and Water Watch. And that’s why the group has found itself as one of the top 3 enemies of a Wall Street-backed PR firm.
Food and Water Watch under attack
“Yesterday, an industry front group launched an attack on Food and Water Watch with a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal, and a website calling us a ‘big green radical’,” FWW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter told supporters, “This front group is led by notorious corporate PR flack/lobbyist Rick Berman, a man that 60 Minutes calls ‘Dr. Evil’. He’s been behind many industry front groups shilling for everyone from the tobacco industry to the fast food industry.”
“We knew this day would come,” Hauter added, “If you're doing effective work to challenge corporate control, eventually those corporations will attack you. As you know, the industries that we're up against have nearly unlimited resources to spin lies about us, and try to discredit our work, but we have you and over half a million others who stand with us.”
Echoing this author’s compliment about FWW’s impressive results compared to their limited resources, the group’s Executive Director reiterates that honor and as a result, makes a humbled call for help. “We know this attack shows our outsized effectiveness in relation to our relatively small budget, and we're honored to be recognized for our work to hold corporations accountable and force government to do its job,” Wenonah Hauter appeals, “But we need to treat this as a real threat. We don't know what else this industry front group has up its sleeve. While you know Food and Water Watch is doing good work, we're still a relatively new organization, and don't have nearly as many resources as other large national groups to defend ourselves in the media.
The DC-based attack campaign
A call to action on Food and Water Watch’s website exposes the identity of the person behind the full page attack ad and the campaign against FWW. “He’s been called an ‘arch-enemy of do-gooders’ by 60 Minutes,” FWW’s Darcey Rakestraw writes, “Thanks to his orchestration of massive corporate PR campaigns using ‘deceptive corporate front groups’ to discredit public interest efforts, he’s earned the nickname ‘Dr. Evil’.”
There’s no shortage of other grassroots organizations that have been the victims of Berman’s slander-for-hire campaigns. Some of the DC-based, corporate-funded front groups the PR agency does business under the name of include, ‘Berman & Co.’, ‘Environmental Policy Alliance’, ‘Center for Union Facts’, ‘American Beverage Institute’, ‘Center for Organizational Research Education’, and the ‘Center for Consumer Freedom’.
Berman’s previous slander campaigns have included targets such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Humane Society. Some of his firm’s past and current customers include Phillip Morris, Monsanto, Cargill, and Tyson Foods. The website BermanExposed.org documents how the attack-agency’s owner has been shown by one count to hold 24 executive positions at 23 different Wall Street-funded front groups. Another entry documents his leadership in 15 corporate-funded front groups.
Big Green Radicals
That’s the title and theme of the attack campaign from Berman & Co. With laser-guided precision, the targets of the attacks, including the full page WSJ ad, are three specific groups - Food and Water Watch, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The screaming headline of the ad reads, ‘THE REAL GREEN AGENDA: DRIVING UP COSTS, RUNNING OVER JOBS.’
The obviously staged image included below the headline gives a dishonest impression of what the average environmental activist’s car looks like, complete with offensive bumper stickers like one that proclaims, ‘I care more about My Agenda than your job.’ The ad goes on to deceptively warn readers, ‘well-funded environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Food & Water Watch are using scare tactics and junk science to push policies that increase the cost of energy.’
"This feeble attempt at a smear campaign is a good reminder to always consider the source," the Huffington Post quoted a National Resources Defense Council spokesperson, "As opposed to this newly re-named front group, we've been around for decades. We cite our research. We sign our names on our materials. And we don't lurk in the shadows because there's no reason to hide our good work to protect our air, our water and our communities."
Blatant DC and Wall Street lies
Finding examples of dishonest scare tactics on Berman’s own BigGreenRadicals.com website isn’t difficult. Right off the bat on the home page, the corporate slander firm lays out some blatant lies regarding the above three organizations.
‘By focusing solely on wind and solar, Big Green Radicals will eliminate the energy sources that provide 95 percent of our current electricity needs, raising prices dramatically and reducing reliability,’ the site proclaims. Of course, none of those groups endorses limiting humanity to those two specific energy sources and those two alone.
‘Radical environmentalists are trying to convince consumers to ignore the scientific consensus regarding the safety of genetically modified foods and scare the public and companies into reliance only on organic foods,’ the following paragraph falsely accuses. None of the three organizations under attack insist on the consumption of only organic foods. The first half of their statement is false as well. There is no scientific consensus regarding GMO foods, other than the fact that nobody knows the truth due to the industry’s secrecy of side effects, health hazards and the fact that GMO plants are actually made with the genes of predatory animals like E-coli.
"The news shouldn't be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent" - Mark Wachtler, Whiteout Press founder
‘Each Big Green Radical group is pushing to prohibit the mining of natural resources and search for domestic sources of energy,’ the final dishonest quote from Berman’s website proclaims. Of course, none of the three groups has ever endorsed or suggested banning everyone from seeking new domestic energy sources. If anything, the opposite is true. Environmental groups would love nothing more than for America to discover a new, less-harmful source of energy.
While we at Whiteout Press have no history of interacting with either the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, we do consider Food and Water Watch one of our favorite grassroots organizations. When we show up to local events, protests or sit-ins in the neighborhoods or at state capitols around the country, it’s the local volunteers from Food and Water Watch that are there. They’re not just active in Washington or the Arctic like many environmental groups. FWW is active in every state, every city and every precinct in America. And they’re some of the most sincere, good-hearted, educated volunteers you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. At least that’s been our experience.
For more information, visit Food & Water Watch.
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