Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR Campaign by Hager and Burton outlines how during the late 1990 s Timberlands West Coast Ltd. (a NZ government subsidiary logging company) employed Shandwick New Zealand Ltd., a Public Relations firm, as corporate activists. They embarked on an aggressive counter-campaign to undermine environmental campaigners opposed to the proposals for the dramatic expansion of West Coast logging. This is a prime example of how money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalise dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public (Chomsky, 1988:1-2). This logbook entry illustrates the Timberlands case in relation to Chomsky s Propaganda Model.
Listed below are the set of news filters as described by Chomsky (1988) and how they relate to the Timberlands Case.
1. The size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms The Timberlands case did not come to the attention of the general public until former Shandwick employees spoke out about the tactics used in the case, and Hager and Burton published Secrets and Lies . Only then did the media publish the story, their profit orientation being heavily dependent upon the goodwill of the government.
2. Advertising as the primary income source of the mass media This filter has particular bearing on the Timberlands case because many sections in the media relied heavily on advertising from associates of Timberlands, for example, the Furniture Association of NZ, and also from government funding.
3. The reliance of the media on information provided by the government, business and experts funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power The Timberlands case completely relied on this news filter. Shandwick would distribute press releases on behalf of various companies claiming support for Timberlands, which would contain expert opinions (sometimes falsified), environmental impact studies which were embellished to favour Timberlands, and because of the operatives sent to infiltrate target environmental groups and collect information these groups were undermined. This is also where the anti-communism filter came into play. These environmental groups were portrayed as left-wing hippies and were therefore seen as fringe-dwellers or radicals, they were used as a mechanism to control the ideology of the mainstream society .
4. Flak as a means of disciplining the media The media was partly to blame in this case as they printed press releases originating from Shandwick s as viable news stories. It took a book to be published before any story of misconduct was printed in the mainstream media.
These elements interact with and reinforce one another. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.(Chomsky, 1988:1-2)