I binge-listened this podcast recently. It explains how energy companies successfully waged a campaign against the idea of global warming.
It's a beautiful case study on how to sustain a marketing messaging campaign.
- Back in the 1980s, the story was totally different – Exxon were the good guys leading massive R&D initiatives aiming to innovate out of the climate change problem.
- But then oil prices fell, margins were squeezed and business regulations started closing in. So the energy companies created a lobby and decided to go on a multi-pronged offensive to protect their businesses. This included campaigning with these strategies:
- Spread mixed messages to create confusion
- Make people on the other side appear "out of touch" (e.g. tree-huggers, hippies, etc.)
- Move the debate away from rational debate towards core fundamental beliefs and theology ("being American means being pro-business")
- Divert budgets to academic research at top universities; sit on the committees which approve the initiatives which will get funded
- Put the blame on individual bad habits ("use plastic bags") to shift the narrative away from business interests.
I was blown away by the extent to which these firms went to hide the problem.
💡I also came across an important term: "false equivalism" that affects good, ethical journalists in particular.
These journalists are wary of not being objective or biased so they always want to present a balanced argument.
🤢False equivalism means "giving equal converage to both sides even when they are not equally valid".
For example, in the climate change "debate", deniers are often given an equal voice even though their beliefs are shaped by non-scientific reasons. This can serve to legitimise their arguments.