Or I should say, everybody will know, a whole lot more about corporate sponsored disinformation campaigns. (But the chance to use a great Leonard Cohen song as a title of my post, I could not pass up.) In any case, the site I’d mentioned earlier, FRONT GROUPS, has a wiki. I think this will take off, especially after hearing about the rule of five: over at the blog Hyperpeople:
Earlier this year, I was privileged to go “on tour” with Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, the founder and public face of Wikipedia, as we crisscrossed the nation, talking to educators in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. Everywhere we went, people asked the same question: why is Wikipedia such a success, while my wiki languishes? What do you need to achieve critical mass? The answer, Jimmy said, is five people. Five individuals dedicated to an altruistic sharing of collective intelligence should be enough to produce a flowering similar to Wikipedia. Jimbo has learned, through experience, that the “minor” language versions of Wikipedia (languages with less than 10 million native speakers), need at least five steady contributors to become self-sustaining. In the many wikis Jimbo oversees through his commercial arm, Wikia, he’s noted the same phenomenon time and again. Five people mark the tipping point between a hobby and a nascent hyperintelligence.
Let’s not forget that web 2.0 places new challenges for those who would repress organizations promoting progressive social change. So when we add together: (1) a very motivated user group, much greater than five in number; (2) the possibilities of Web 2.0, to uncover and distribute secrets that many would like to remain secret and (3) an understanding of any conflict as being primarily about connectivity, a la Col Boyd, it’s my conclusion that those progressive social forces have every likelihood of unleashing the full revolutionary potential of democracy. So this process will grow.
Some interesting stories from the “Did you know?” section of frontgroup.org’s wiki:
APCO Worldwide, a PR firm affiliated with the law firm of Arnold & Porter, has created front groups for the tobacco industry such as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Other tobacco industry front groups have included Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment, the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, the California Political Empowerment Committee, Contributions Watch, the European Science and Environment Forum, and the Hospitality Coalition for Indoor Air Quality.
Former Arkansas Governor and U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee raised money to support his political career through a tobacco-funded front group called Action America.
Lexington Communications, a PR firm based in the United Kingdom, has sponsored pro-biotechnology organizations in the UK including the Agricultural Biotechnology Council and CropGen.
Alaska’s Future is a front group created to promote a natural gas pipeline on behalf of companies including ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
America’s PAC, a conservative political action committee, has one of the top ten election-season advertisers in American markets, featuring vitriolic attack ads that attempt to discourage African-Americans from voting at all. Using a group that is not formally affiliated with the Republican Party to engage in negative campaigning is a tactic designed to minimize public backlash against this type of negative campaigning.
The American Center for Voting Rights actually campaigned to make it harder for Americans to vote, under the guise of preventing “voter fraud.”
Funded by the chemical and food industries, the American Council on Science and Health campaigns to defend sugar, pesticides and chemical additives in foods.
With funding from Enron, a group called Americans for Affordable Electricity campaigned in the 1990s for deregulation of the electricity market in the U.S., undermining the reliability of the electricity supply and trigging rising electricity prices and blackouts in California and the northeastern states of the US.
Americans for American Energy, a front group created by Pac/West Communications to campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, attempts to link environmental concerns to terrorism, accusing “liberal lawyers and environmental extremists” of subverting “America’s access to vital energy supplies.”
Bureaucrash, an anti-regulatory website targeting a youth audience, is actually a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a corporate-funded think tank.
Some front groups like to use the word “responsible” in the name they choose for their organization, usually as a weaselly way of positioning themselves to advocate against the cause that the rest of their name seems to support. Examples include the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions (which opposed environmental action to prevent global warming); the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (which advocates expanded oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge); and the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Reform (created in 2007 by Blue Cross of California to oppose health care reforms being pushed by Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger).