The Watchers

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 toxic waste.

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 if it."

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 fund them.

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 potential.

Truth About Trade's report ( 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 protest."

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 ( 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.

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