Astroturf corruption comes to Scotland

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  By Mark McNaught
 
The recent formation of scotlandagainstspin shows that there are no national barriers to astroturf corruption masquerading as the ‘will of the people’. 

This group held a protest at the SNP conference on Saturday 19 October, presumably with remarkably similar placards to those in the image below. 

  By Mark McNaught
 
The recent formation of scotlandagainstspin.org shows that there are no national barriers to astroturf corruption masquerading as the ‘will of the people’. 

This group held a protest at the SNP conference on Saturday 19 October, presumably with remarkably similar placards to those in the image below.

This followed the demise of Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS), an umbrella group that contained the likes of Donald Trump.  CATS had an advertisement banned by the Advertising Standards Agency that used broken rusty turbines in Hawaii to discredit Scottish renewable energy policy. 

For those unfamiliar with astroturf campaigns, they are attempts by multinational corporations and oligarchs to create the impression that there is widespread popular opposition to policies which could cut into their profits.

My favourite American example is the National Smokers Alliance formed in 1993.  Phillip Morris commissioned Burson-Marsteller to organize massive phone banks to call citizens throughout the country.  Telemarketers then read scripts encouraging citizens to call their Senator or Representative and tell them not to vote for a law that banned marketing cigarettes to children. 

In other notable episodes, the public relations industry has burnished the image of Nicolae Ceausescu, denied genocide in Nigeria, covered up atrocities for the former Argentinean junta, defended Union Carbide after their Bhopal disaster killed 15,000 people, and helped convince credulous Gulf Coast Americans that British Petroleum truly feels their pain in the wake of negligence that caused the worst oil spill in history.

Unfortunately, these techniques have become even more pernicious with the rise of the Tea Party in the US. 

Gullible citizens are misinformed on a mass scale through right-wing media like Fox News, fomenting anger and ignorance.  There is no clearer example of this than Sean Hannity’s climate-denial rants against basic chemistry. 

They are effective because any legislative attempt to deal with climate change is met with wild harangues from Tea Partiers, often fascist, who are unaware that they are ranting on behalf of billionaire petroleum oligarchs like the Koch brothers, who funded the Tea Party and are the kingpins of climate denial. 

Allied with the American Legislative Exchange Council ALEC, no two people have done more to obliterate democratic governance in the US on the federal and state levels, weaken environmental protection, and hinder international cooperation on green energy and climate change.  The recent government shutdown and near credit default over the expansion of medical coverage to the poor can all be traced back to Koch-backed groups such as Heritage Action. 

This webcast interview with scotlandagainstspin.org founder and member of Artists Against Wind Farms Graham Lang was conducted after the implosion of CATS, and is very revealing.  It took place on the program Wind Wise Radio from blogtalkradio.com, an organisation with a Los Angeles area code. 

This new ‘peoples’ movement is a subgroup of European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW).  It has close links to the Australian WAUBRA foundation, a front for the Australian Landscape Guardians, who modelled themselves on the UK Country Guardians (sourcewatch link), whose vice president is Bernard Ingham, avid nuclear consultant and former press secretary to Margaret Thatcher. 

WAUBRA’s ‘medical director’ and CEO Sarah Laurie has invented the disease ‘wind turbine syndrome’ as a means to launch lawsuits against wind turbine development.  We see WAUBRA plying their trade in Falmouth Massachusetts, using Fox News as their propaganda agent.  Their objective is to throw so many lawsuits at the development of wind farms that it becomes too expensive and politically unpalatable.  

They have thus far been unsuccessful in Scotland, which seeks to have renewable energy provide 100% equivalent of its electricity by 2020, and has become a global leader in renewable technology.  Billionaire oligarchs who see developments which will make renewable energy cheaper and cleaner than petroleum don’t like that, even if it will help keep the planet habitable for our grandchildren. 

Therefore, we can expect the oligarchs to continue with their Astroturf campaigns.  Our objective in an independent Scotland is to tune the political system to a frequency in which these farcical groups are inaudible and irrelevant. 

This can be done by constitutionally enshrining a protective wall between money and politics.  Election campaigns must be funded exclusively by the public.  Politicians, civil servants, and all in government must have only one job: serving their constituents. 

Scotland should have no equivalent to petroleum moguls moonlighting in the House of Lords, or mendacious Dickensian Australian tobacco and fracking lobbyists serving as chief political advisors to Prime Ministers.  Penalties for violating these rules must include immediate removal from office.

All research, advocacy, and public opinion survey groups wishing to have their work considered valid for formulating Scottish laws and policy must disclose the entirety of their methodology, along with complete information on funding and links to other groups.  All research and statistics cited in Parliamentary debate must be traceable.  Failure to do so will result in their work being banned from parliamentary consideration, pending a revision of their methodology.  Good information helps to make good policy; corrupt information can only make corrupt policy.

This would not violate the right to free expression and association.  Canadian polling groups can still make up all the results they want about Scottish voting intentions.  Shady Australian energy conglomerates can knock themselves out trying to convince Scots that their potential to revolutionise green energy production is illusory. 

In this borderless digital world, where individuals are free to form associations and peacefully pursue their objectives, Astroturf groups cannot be outlawed.  An independent Scotland can simply show the world how to make them irrelevant.