by Bill Berkowitz
The Progressive magazine, December 2000
In response to the anti-globalization movement's numbers and
vigilance, multinational companies and right-wing think tanks
are beginning to take aim at the protesters.
According to a document obtained by the newsletter Inside
EPA, the Sony Corporation has been preparing an "action plan
for counteracting the efforts of several domes tic and international
environmental groups-including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace
and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition" that are involved in
a campaign to hold electronics manufacturers responsible for their
Last summer in Brussels, Belgium, Sony representatives presented
a paper called "NGO Strategy" to the European Information
and Communications Technology Industry Association's conference
on environmental policy. Sony's strategic suggestions included
"pre-funding intervention" to reduce the financial support
that liberal foundations give to environmental organizations;
a recommendation that companies ratchet up their capability to
quickly respond to environmental critics and pre-empt future legislation;
and the development of a "detailed monitoring and contact
network" to keep tabs on these organizations.
Inside EPA suggests that this monitoring might be carried
out by "one of the dozens of new Internet 'intelligence'
agencies-such as the London-based Infonics PLC-that monitor chat
rooms, e-mail lists, electronic bulletin boards, online news services,
newsgroups and other sources of public information for specific
data requested by a company or industry group."
Sony executives have acknowledged that the company is monitoring
environmental groups. "We are obviously concerned about our
image," Mark Small, Sony's vice president of environmental
and health and safety issues, told the InterPress news service.
"If Greenpeace is pushing something, we want to be on top
Sony's interest in "prefunding intervention" dovetails
with the publication of "Who Props Up the Protesters,"
an extensive report from Truth About Trade, a new organization
that purports to "tell the truth" about the organizations
active in the Seattle demonstrations and the foundations that
Truth About Trade is a Des Moines, lowa-based agriculture
industry group headed by Dean Kleckner, former president of the
American Farm Bureau Federation, a leading agribusiness lobby.
Kleckner says that Truth About Trade's mission is "to stand
up for farm exports and advancements in biotechnology based on
sound science," and to prevent environmental extremists and
radical protesters from limiting America's economic and technological
Truth About Trade's report (www.truthabouttrade.com) provides
"an outline of the history, goals, financial strength and
level of activism for ... organizations involved in the anti-trade
protests in Seattle." "Who Props Up the Protesters"
contains profiles of more than 50 "environmental groups actively
opposing trade," including the Ruckus Society, Direct Action
Network, Earth Island Institute, Friends of the Earth, Global
Exchange and the National Wildlife Federation, and details how
these groups participated in the Seattle protests.
For just one example, in its profile of the Berkeley, California-based
Ruckus Society, Truth About Trade asserts that Ruckus uses its
training on nonviolent civil disobedience as a cover for its real
agenda: "violent lawbreaking" by "leaders [who]
are no stranger to violence themselves, [and who] might actually
have expected the vandalism by the anarchist members of their
One of Truth about Trade's most significant contributions
to intelligence gathering is documentation that the fairtrade
network is bankrolled by "grantmakers [who] are funneling
large sums of money to environmental groups." Among the major
foundations highlighted are the Bullitt Foundation, HKH Foundation,
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Pew Charitable
Trust, Rockefeller Foundation, Turner Foundation, W. Alton Jones
Foundation and C.S. Mott Foundation.
There are several other conservative institutions focusing
on the foundations who are providing the financial lifeblood for
the environmental movement. The Washington-based Capital Research
Center is one of the rising stars in the crowded universe of right-wing
think tanks (www.capitalresearch.org). Established in 1984, the
Capital Research Center analyzes how "those organizations
with tax-exempt, tax-deductible-and sometimes tax dollars-mix
advocacy and 'direct action' to promote their own vision of the
public interest." It also looks at how closely individuals
in the corporate and foundation sectors are sticking to the "donor
intent" of the founders of these corporations and foundations.
Conservatives become apoplectic when they discover that a
significant amount of money earmarked for environmental groups
comes from foundations established by free-market entrepreneurs
who accumulated enormous wealth based on decidedly anti-environmental
activities. "The source of wealth for the Pew Trusts comes
from energy exploration and development," the Capital Research
Center's President Robert Huberty told the House Resource Committee
at a May hearing.
Complaining about Pew support for a forest protection campaign,
he said that the original intent of the founders of the foundation
was to "acquaint the American people [with] the evils of
bureaucracy, the values of a free market and the paralyzing effects
of government controls on the lives and activities of people."
Frustrated, Huberty asked, "How do the Pew Trusts honor
the intentions of their donor by supporting a campaign to permanently
end logging in a large portion of the national forests?"
Anti-globalization activities clearly are becoming a direct
threat to global corporate power. Surveillance, propaganda and
counter-intelligence efforts mounted by the rich and powerful
are just beginning to reveal themselves, but they surely are a
harbinger of things to come.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering the religious
right and related conservative movements. Contact him by e-mail
at wkbbronx@aol. com.