5 Signs To Spot Anti-Cleantech Propaganda From Seemingly Innocuous Sources

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It’s an election year, so, well, everything must be viewed skeptically. So it was that recently an ad popped up purporting to stand up for free speech, which, according to the ad, knows no political colors. Hm. Cool. Seems innocuous. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I checked out their site, and the front page is as middle of the road as it can be. People of all stripes deserve free speech! Rah rah!!!

Uh huh.

I’ve covered this topic before, but unlimited Dark Money flows through our society in a gigantic influence campaign. A lot of it comes from fossil billionaires, given to Donor Advised Trusts (DAT), which gives the billionaires tax relief due to their 501(c)3 tax status, and then the DATs take that money and give it to organizations that push the agenda of the billionaires themselves. The billionaires can claim they simply have no possible way to know where that money is going… so…everyone wins! Except, of course, the entire world, which loses when the average Joe can’t tell the difference between truth and fiction, and might be more likely to believe fake news about EVs, solar, wind, or fill-in-the-blank clean technology, and to vote against them as well.

Creating this propaganda-led FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) basically allows fossil billionaires and companies to extend the life of their polluting products and infrastructure. It only slows the inevitable, but it’s the playbook by which every major industry that is seeing their dominance slip away uses to slow the momentum of change.

So how do we start to spot this?

Five Signs It’s Probably Propaganda

First sign it’s propaganda: Who’s behind it? I’m of the mindset that…unless there’s a clear path to knowing why someone is advertising their campaign to you, it’s probably propaganda. In this particular case, I clicked through a couple of clicks on their site to find some information about who is behind this non-profit organization. The about page was particularly vague. There’s a PO Box, a picture of a large (though nameless) team on the steps of the US Capitol, and a generic email intake form. Uh huh.

Second sign it’s propaganda: How do they make money? I’m thinking…with all the great *actual* charities out there, who would just click on an ad on a sidebar and start donating for…free speech, without even knowing what types of speech we’re protecting? Not the biggest passion point, I would imagine, for most people. Beyond that, there’s a magazine subscription, but again…who is so passionate about free speech that they’re buying a physical magazine subscription? Not enough to make a magazine (already a tough business model) into a viable financial model, I would bet. So….how does this free speech organization make money?

Third sign it’s propaganda: Check their news. No matter what’s on a website, google them. In this case, I googled the organization, and as it turns out, they are actively involved in quite a few political storms, all of which are aligned with the values of the current Republican party, which is also pretty strongly aligned with the fossil industry. Think — defending the rights of those who speak out against wind farms! Rah rah!! In one item of news, I found an analysis of the methodology of the organization’s “rankings,” written by a Harvard Professor in the political science department, calling the organization’s methodology “arbitrary and misleading.”

Fourth sign it’s propaganda: They conduct and put out their own polls. I remember wayyyy back in the early days of CleanTechnica, noting another little media startup that was actively hating on Barack Obama. Their website looked like it had been built in 1982, and their content was full of grammatical errors, but somehow, they had a lot of money to advertise their polls. Every poll I took of theirs included leading questions, and antagonistic language against the political left, and, shockingly, the results were always very negative.. wow, who would have guessed? I have a screenshot that we’re probably not allowed to publish because of copyright law, of the website, Newsmax.com, with a question reading, “Do you support Barack Obama’s plan to allow every illegal to cross the border anytime they want and get the same rights as you?” (OK, it’s parody, but the real one was a picture of Obama winking a side-eye slyly and looking devious, with the headline “Obama’s Amnesty plan – do you support Obama’s Executive Action for illegals? Vote here now.” Another “article” had a photo of a VERY teary baby, and a headline that read, “Americans are ready to KILL over Obamacare” Yep, that Newsmax — the one that is now a cable TV channel, started with a really bad website, no monetization strategy whatsoever (see #2, above), and polls paid for by…someone…and now influences public opinion with a wide cable TV reach, and still using those same biased polls.

Fifth sign it’s propaganda: Look for keywords. If you do a Command F or other search function on your computer, and search words libertarians love, like “Liberty,” you might find a common theme.

Bonus – sixth sign it’s probably propaganda: They’re anti-clean tech. Well, this one is satirical and just completely my opinion, but let’s face it, clean tech is the present and the future, and things like EVs, solar, wind, efficiency, and energy storage have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Who could be against cool companies saving the planet with cool products?


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Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.

Scott Cooney has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Scott Cooney