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Rigged

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I do get a lot of press releases. It had not occurred to me that at one time such things were rare, and that someone had to invent them. It turns out that was Ivy Ledbetter Lee – someone I had never heard of – early in the twentieth century.

“Before Lee, companies had a pretty adversarial relationship with the press and vice versa. Lee thought businesses would do better to tell journalists more of their story themselves. It was so unusual that when he first began sending press releases to The New York Times, the paper printed them verbatim.”

So I had better not do that then. Except that I really do not know much more about this new web site other than what I read in the Press Release and what I found when I went to that link to find out that was there.

I do think that misinformation is a problem. It is not confined to one country, although this one commits itself to “the history of disinformation in America” by which I take it to be the United States. Having just read “Cuba“, I am more than usually alert to this misleading name given to just one part of a very large continent. Or Two. America includes Canada, Mexico and everywhere else all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. Misinformation bedevils all of that and most other places too. We call it Public Relations but its true name is propaganda. There really is not much of a distinction anymore between “spin” and flat out lies. Anyway, it seems to me that this web site will be a useful resource, and it is also unlikely to get a great deal of coverage from the sort of media outlets that rely on PR for so much of their content because they have gotten rid of most their real journalists.

So everything from this point onwards is indeed from the Press Release, but I do urge my readers to go check out rigged.media

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Today, just ahead of Congress’s Big Oil disinformation hearings this Thursday, independent investigative climate journalist Amy Westervelt launches Rigged, a new web project and companion podcast focused on the history and functionality of disinformation. It’s a rich archive of rare or never-seen disinformation material that Amy has dug up over years of research. 

“I started Rigged because I realized I had hundreds of documents on my desk that weren’t doing any good there, and that could be useful to other reporters working on stories about disinformation, ranging from climate denial and Covid hoaxers to the Big Lie around the election,” Westervelt explains. “There’s a general sense out there that disinformation is a relatively new thing, and I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s more than a century old, that American corporations invented many of the techniques we’re still seeing today, and that it was created largely to help American industry circumvent democracy when it needed to.” 

The website offers a rich archive of documents, many rarely or never-before seen, which Westervelt organizes and puts into context. Through her original reporting and writing, she demonstrates that disinformation is not only not a new phenomenon from Russia or Facebook, but it even predates Big Oil and Big Tobacco’s adoption of science denial. Westervelt also introduces readers to some of the key figures in the rise of disinformation, like Standard Oil publicist Ivy Lee, the self-proclaimed “father of public relations” Edward Bernays, corporate exec-whisperer Earl Newsom, tobacco spinmaster Daniel Edelman, and many more. A companion podcast, also called Rigged, will tell some of their stories in vivid detail. The first episode, “Fake Experts and Real Bacon,” explores how Beech-Nut food company publicist Edward Bernays convinced doctors to tell Americans that a heavier breakfast was healthier, thus giving birth to the “classic American breakfast” and sending bacon sales soaring. Rigged is available now on all podcast platforms.

Amy Westervelt is the founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, and an award-winning print and audio journalist. She contributes to The Guardian, The Nation, and Rolling Stone, and has previously contributed to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. In 2007, she won a Folio for her feature on the potential of algae as a feedstock for biofuel. In 2015 she was awarded a Rachel Carson award for “women greening journalism”, in 2016 she won an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada, in 2019 she won the Online News Association award for “Excellence in Audio Storytelling,” and in 2021 she won Covering Climate Now’s audio award. As the head of Critical Frequency, she has executive produced more than a dozen podcasts, including projects with Stitcher’s Witness Docs and Crooked Media. Her book “Forget Having It All: How America Messed Up Motherhood, and How to Fix It” was published in November 2018 by Seal Press.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 26, 2021 at 11:31 am

Posted in Misinformation

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