Bringing the wars home
How the frackers are handing the fractious
15 November 2011
Ah, there’s nothing like the big industry conference for finding out the truth.
Australian opponents of the coal-seam gas industry should really take note of the goings-on at the US oil industry’s recent conference in Houston, Texas.
The big topic for the assembled frackers was how to handle the public in the areas in which they drilled and what came out wasn’t pretty. The big idea is that you treat opposition as “insurgency” and bring in some psy-war mercenaries.
So how do we know this? Well, a devious environmental activist named Sharon Wilson, the director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project paid full price to attend the conference and wore a nametag identifying herself and her organization. And then she recorded the proceedings. Brilliant.
In a forum titled ‘Designing a Media Relations Strategy To Overcome Concerns Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing’, one Matt Pitzarella, communications director of Range Resources explained, in classic corporate-speak how to “overcome stakeholder concerns”.
“We have several former psy ops folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments,” Pitzarella said. “Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of psy ops in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”
Just to reinforce that message, Anadarko Petroleum’s manager of external affairs, a bloke called Matt Carmichael, speaking in a session on ‘Understanding How Unconventional Oil & Gas Operators are Developing a Comprehensive Media Relations Strategy to Engage Stakeholders and Educate the Public’ said this:
“Download the U.S. Army-slash-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency. There’s a lot of good lessons in there and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.”
Just to dramatise what Carmichael meant by this, Business Insider, a US mag, obtained a copy of Field Manual 3-24, the latest edition of the Marine Corp’s counterinsurgency bible and substituted ‘corporation’ for ‘government’ in the text. The result is an interesting insight into how corporations view the public and its concerns.
“ ... insurgency has been a common approach used by the weak to combat the strong. At the beginning of a conflict, insurgents have the strategic initiative ... the insurgents generally initiate the war. They may strive to disguise their intentions, and the potential counter-insurgent will be at a great disadvantage until [corporate] leaders recognize that an insurgency exists and are able to determine its makeup and characteristics to facilitate a coordinated reaction.
“While the [corporation] prepares to respond, the insurgent is gaining strength and creating increasing disruptions throughout the state. The existing [corporation] normally has an initial advantage in resources, but that edge is counterbalanced by the requirement to maintain order. The insurgent succeeds by sowing chaos and disorder anywhere; the [corporation] fails unless it maintains order everywhere.”
There it is kids. From their own mouths. Over this side of the Great Eastern Firebreak, if I was an opponent of fracking I’d be taking a long hard look at the activities of the cutely-named newDemocracy Foundation and its members. This thing is a big business ‘soft power’ think tank stuffed with consultation contractor types and devoted to new developments in community manipulation. Luca Belgiorno-Nettis (a manager of Transfield among other things) is its founder, and Infrastructure NSW svengali Nick ‘The Pusher Man’ Greiner is on the research committee along with Martin Krygier and Labor right-winger Geoff Gallop. Percy Allan, of Boral, a former secretary of the NSW Treasury, is listed as a supporter.