On Monday, January 17, over one hundred brave souls trudged through several inches of Wisconsin snow to see Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) Senior Fellow on Health Care, visit Madison's Goodman Community Center as part of his cross-country tour signing Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving A
Jack O'Dwyer, who publishes a newsletter that follows the public relations industry, reports that he and his staffers were blocked from entering an assembly of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). PRSA officials demanded O'Dwyer pay $3,825 in registration fees to enter and report on the conference, while journalists from similar organizations, like PR News and PR Newser, were let in free. Arthur Yann, PRSA's Vice President of Public Relations, said that O'Dwyer and his staffers had to pay because people from O'Dwyer's newsletter "attended last year's conference but never wrote about it." But O'Dwyer did in fact write about the 2009 conference. O'Dwyer also reports other harassment while attempting to attend the conference, like getting an anonymous letter in which the writer threatened to beat him "to a pulp," and being set upon by a flash-mob while he was conducting an interview. O'Dwyer has criticized PRSA for withholding transcripts of their organizational assemblies over the last five years, concealing the names of their delegates and refusing to make available a PDF version of their members' directory. O'Dwyer has also exposed techniques now in wide use by big PR firms that violate PR ethics, like working through front groups and creating and disseminating fake news.
Wendell Potter, author of "Deadly Spin," told a capacity crowd of 200 in New York last night that backers of a single-payer health plan must adopt the techniques and strategies of the opponents of such a plan.
Potter, speaking to Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) at the Murphy Institute for Education and Labor Studies, said the PNHP must seek allies, get "others" to tell their story, use appeals to basic emotions, and create memorable slogans.
"Special interests have kicked your butt with the skillful use of language," he said. They have been able to "demonize" single-payer, he added.
Politicians, he said, are not going to support such a health plan unless their constituents are in favor of it, he said. He faulted the single-payers for lacking a "long term strategic plan," something that he said the healthcare insurance industry excels at.
Citizens of Nash County, North Carolina have hired the Raleigh-based public relations firm Campaign Connections to help stop Sanderson Farms from building a chicken processing plant in their community. Citizens call the slaughtering plant an "industry of yesterday" and say locating the plant in Nash County will make it harder to lure higher-tech businesses to the area, like biotech, pharmaceutical and alternative energy companies. Campaign Connections says citizens sought their help to correct misinformation, like the notion that they oppose bringing jobs to the area. Citizens say they aren't opposed to jobs, or to Sanderson Farms, but feel the company is not a "good match" for their community. As part of a strategy to oppose the plant, some Nash County citizens have bought stock in Sanderson Farms so they can be included in the company's Board of Directors meetings.
(Part two of a two-part series)
In the first part of this series, the Center for Media and Democracy reported how the 2009 coup d'etat that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was successfully maintained not through the use of force, but through the power of lobbying and spin. That tale, whose details were revealed through Wikileaks' publication of diplomatic cables and research into lobbying activities, had some echoes of the role PR played in an earlier "regime change" in the region. Here is the story of how the Chiquita banana company successfully used PR spin to help topple Guatemala's left-leaning government in 1954, and how they may have done it again in Honduras, 2009.
Part one of a two-part article. (Go to part two).
Wikileaks recently published documents suggesting that PR spin helped determine the final outcome of the June 2009 Honduran coup. At the same time that a July 2009 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras to top government officials confirmed that the Honduran president's removal was illegal, professional lobbyists and political communicators were beginning a PR blitz, eventually managing to manipulate America into believing the coup was a constitutional act.
First, a weird photo of thick, pink, gooey sludge appeared on the Internet that was purported to be the raw material that chicken nuggets are made of. Then, in April, New York photographer Sally Davies purchased a Happy Meal, set the burger and fries on a plate in her apartment and photographed them every day for six months as an art project, only to discover that the Happy Meal looked exactly the same six months later -- no mold, no decomposition, nothing. Her "Happy Meal Project" started garnering attention from the media and time lapse video of it appeared on YouTube. The project led to speculation about the meal's composition, nutritional value and health effects, and put McDonalds in the unenviable position of arguing that its food can grow mold. Then in September, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ran a gruesome anti-McDonalds "Morgue Ad" that advocated vegetarianism. Finally, in November the City of San Francisco effectively banned Happy Meals after it passed a law prohibiting restaurants from offering free toys with meals that contain excessive amounts of calories and fat. All in all, McDonalds took what some call its worst PR beating ever in 2010.
The Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, has a new tell-all book coming out November 9, Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans. The book details disinformation campaigns that health insurers use to cover up their misdeeds and manipulate public policy, reveals insurers' public relations tricks, like commissioning bogus scientific studies, working through fake "grassroots" organizations, and disseminating rhetoric designed to scare the public. (Think phrases like "socialism" and "death panels," that Wendell reveals were created by health insurance companies.) Wendell tells about the methods insurers use to "dump the sick," discusses the skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles that are putting health care out of reach for working people, and discloses the outrageous salaries that insurance companies executives make while denying care to patients. As the former head of Corporate Communications for CIGNA, Wendell is uniquely to qualified bring this important information to the public. The book, published by Bloomsbury, can be ordered at Amazon.com.
Journalists working for Utah's oldest continuously-published daily newspaper, the Deseret News, are leaving the paper in a dispute over the new direction in the paper's journalism.