As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products.
But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsantocommunications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked.
I knew the company did not like the fact that in my 21 years of reporting on the agrochemical industry – mostly for Reuters – I wrote stories that quoted skeptics as well as fans of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. I knew the company didn’t like me reporting about growing unease in the scientific community regarding research that connected Monsanto herbicides to human and environmental health problems. And I knew the company did not welcome the 2017 release of my book, Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, which revealed the company’s actions to suppress and manipulate the science surrounding its herbicide business.
But I never dreamed I would warrant my own Monsanto action plan.
The company records I’ve obtained show a range of actions. One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name. The correspondence also discussed a need to produce “third party talking points” about me. In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work.
Something to remember.
Richard Murphy at Tax Research UK:
It seems to have received little publicity but I have to say I’m pleased that the government is going to be taken to court over rates bills.
Hospitals in England and Wales will pay a combined £408.6 million in business rates this year – a rise of 42.8% since 2017 when the Government carried out a revaluation of all commercial premises, research by rates specialists Altus Group.
Private hospitals are not businesses but charities so are unsurprisingly exempt from business rates. Yet surely NHS hospitals are not businesses either?
It is another example of a purposely skewed unlevel playing field where the NHS is looked upon to ‘compete’ with private hospitals but with automatically higher overheads. It is contrived legislation.
Private schools also benefit from the tax break, along with Free Schools – although local authority schools still have to pay rates.
This is another topsy turvy regulation – the more you run your school along business lines the less you have to pay business rates.
Matt Taibbi in the Washington Spectator:
Pick up any major newspaper, or turn on any network television news broadcast. The political orientation won’t matter. It could be Fox or MSNBC, The Washington Post or The Washington Times. You’ll find virtually every story checks certain boxes.
Call them the 10 rules of hate. After generations of doing the opposite, when unity and conformity were more profitable, the primary product the news media now sells is division.
The problem we (in the media) all have is the commercial structure of the business. To make money, we’ve had to train audiences to consume news in a certain way. We need you anxious, pre-pissed, addicted to conflict. Moreover we need you to bring a series of assumptions every time you open a paper or turn on your phone, TV, or car radio. Without them, most of what we produce will seem illogical and offensive.
The rules are excellent.
The City regulator has fined Bank of Scotland £45.5m for failing to disclose information on the £245m fraud scandal at the bank’s Reading branch for two years after signs were first discovered.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), which is now owned by Lloyds Banking Group, had “risked substantial prejudice to the interests of justice” by withholding information.
The fine is in relation to a scheme by managers at HBOS’s Reading branch that drained the bank and small businesses of about £245m and left hundreds of people in severe financial difficulties. The fine was reduced by almost £20m because the bank agreed to settle.
HBOS first identified suspicious behaviour in its impaired assets team – which handled struggling business – in early 2007 but failed to notify regulators fully until July 2009.
The theme of lies — the destruction of truth by a regime devoted to self-preservation — pervades “Chernobyl” in a way that is wildly relevant to America in the age of birtherism, Sarah Sanders, and “very fine people” who are neo-Nazis. The corollary is unmistakable. At one point, an engineer who is partly culpable for the nuclear accident tells an investigator that her search for honesty, and his desire to avoid a firing squad, are futile. “You think the right question will get you the truth?” he says. “There is no truth. Ask the bosses whatever you want. You will get the lie, and I will get the bullet.”
“Chernobyl” can be considered the best political film of our times because it illuminates a core problem of the Trump era: the nonstop jackhammer of falsehoods that are drowning out what’s true. The risk is that Americans who are inundated with moral rubbish from the White House and Fox News may lose the will to care about the difference between right and wrong, echoing what happened in the Soviet Union. When everything becomes gray and sluggish, there is no battle worth fighting.
The craft behind “Chernobyl” is transporting — the dialogue, the visuals, the acting, the music. It excels as a horror movie, action film, political thriller, documentary, and fable. You hardly notice the show’s gutting message up to the finale, which is like a dagger you don’t sense until it pierces your heart and you gasp. But the creator and writer of the show, Craig Mazin, has been, like his central character, explicit in saying what it means. “We are now living in a global war on the truth,” Mazin told the Los Angeles Times. “We look at this president who lies, not little ones but outstandingly absurd lies. The truth isn’t even in the conversation. It’s just forgotten or obscured to the point where we can’t see it. That’s what Chernobyl is about.”
Owen Jones tweets:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The quote by WB Yeats “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity” is so true, bearing in mind where we find
ourselves at the moment. I have just been watching Civilisation on BBC
iPlayer. Never seen it before. I must admit I was very impressed
particularly the last episode. It was filmed in 1969 and its call to
humanism and education and tolerance almost seemed as though they were
from a totally different time.
My innate optimism says this is but a blip in the road but my heart
thinks it is something much worse.
Jay Rosen tweets: