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Slick maneuvers

from David Ruccio

Corporate duplicity, it seems, knows no bounds.

First, ExxonMobil misled the public about climate change for years, even as its research echoed the growing scientific consensus that global warming is real and caused by human activity. Then, while various states attorneys-general launched investigations of whether Exxon deceived shareholders and the public to protect its profits, the Wall Street Journal published 21 opinion pieces about current or potential Exxon investigations, all of which were critical of government entities investigating Exxon.

We now know, thanks to a study by two Harvard University researchers, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, that Exxon acknowledged that climate change is real and human-caused in 83 percent of peer-reviewed papers and 80 percent of internal documents. Yet, 81 percent of editorial-style advertisements it placed in the New York Times from 1989 to 2004 expressed considerable doubt.

Their conclusion?  

Available documents show a discrepancy between what ExxonMobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public. The company’s peer-reviewed, non-peer-reviewed, and internal communications consistently tracked evolving climate science: broadly acknowledging that AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable, while identifying reasonable uncertainties that most climate scientists readily acknowledged at that time. In contrast, ExxonMobil’s advertorials in the NYT overwhelmingly emphasized only the uncertainties, promoting a narrative inconsistent with the views of most climate scientists, including ExxonMobil’s own. This is characteristic of what Freudenberg et al term the Scientific Certainty Argumentation Method (SCAM)—a tactic for undermining public understanding of scientific knowledge. Likewise, the company’s peer-reviewed, non-peer-reviewed, and internal documents acknowledge the risks of stranded assets, whereas their advertorials do not. In light of these findings, we judge that ExxonMobil’s AGW communications were misleading. (references omitted)


And according to Media Matters (in a study of opinion pieces published between October 2015 and August 2016), the Wall Street Journal

has yet to publish a single editorial, column, or op-ed in support of investigating Exxon’s behavior, and many of its pro-Exxon opinion pieces contain blatant falsehoods about the nature and scope of the ongoing investigations being conducted by state attorneys general.

By comparison, the Washington Post published six opinion pieces about government investigations (4 in favor of Exxon, 2 against), USA Today published three (1 for, 2 against), and the New York Times published one (against)

Clearly, in the case of climate change, both ExxonMobil and the Wall Street Journal have been engaged in pretty slick maneuvers in order to protect their profits.

  1. September 1, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    We should keep in mind that a democratic president was given a very accurate report about global climate collapse 56 years ago.

    Lyndon Johnson decided against reason and sanity and instead bombed the totally innocent people of south east Asia. Many of those civilian families killed were so rural and isolated they did not fully connect explosions on the ground to high flying American murderers wearing snappy airforce uniforms.

    We tend to blame republicans for the 20 to 25 million people killed since 1945 by US military atrocities yet democrats have been as just as bloodthirsty and eager to kill as republicans.

    • robert locke
      September 1, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I’m a democrat and I wasn’t eager to kill. Get some proportionality in your critical comments. Johnson was reluctant to enter that war, Goldwater wanted to use atom bombs. Johnson was a victim of Macnamara’s numbers crunching Kennedy managerial whizz=kids. The democratic party opposed the war under McGovern, John Kerry helped organize Vietnam veterans against the war.

      • September 2, 2017 at 1:52 am

        “Johnson was reluctant to enter that war”? ” Johnson was a victim of Macnamara’s … “? Johnson a “victim”? Wow!
        As for “proportionality”, try this: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/09/01/seymour-hersh-honored-for-integrity/

      • September 2, 2017 at 3:02 am

        Write on econoclast.

      • September 2, 2017 at 2:44 am

        Goldwater warned against a land war in Asia and accented that warning with the approximate admonition; “If you really want a land war in Asia then you will be required to nuke them into the stone age.”

      • robert locke
        September 2, 2017 at 8:30 am

        I knocked on doors to register voters, canvassed for the democratic party, did everything I could to defeat Goldwater in 1964 I benefit today from the steps that Johnson took to bring benefits to the American people, in civil rights and medicare. Johnson did more for the people than any president has since WWII.

    • September 2, 2017 at 2:40 am

      Sorry, bud. You are on the wrong side of history. The Vietnam War under Nixon was 10 times the size of the Vietnam War under LBJ. Was LBJ a true progressive? Of course not! But if you give up on the political problems because both sides have been bought to some degree by the oligarchy then you are placing victory in the hands of the Oligarchs.

      • September 2, 2017 at 2:50 am

        We cannot progress until we have an agreed upon starting place. If one fogs the gargantuan US atrocities against peace and humanity it is impossible to decide what to do next.

        The oligarchs have one plan for the rest of us. Austerity plus a procreation bonus. Oligarchs run both political parties and own the US government.

        Autonomous democracy waits in the wings.

      • September 3, 2017 at 9:15 pm

        Sorry, Jeff
        Garrett may be on the wrong side of your history, but your history is myopic.

        Vietnam was our 30-years’ war. History books in United States schools conveniently omit these facts:
        1. Immediately upon the end of WW2, the United States government freed and armed Japanese POWs in Saigon and sent them off to hunt our former allies, the Vietminh.
        2. The United States government rebuffed Ho Chi Minh’s request for support of his move for independence, because, in words from the top, the US didn’t want to get crosswise with its colonial ally, France. Undeterred, Ho modeled his August 1945 independence speech after our Declaration.
        3. During the 1960 presidential debates, which I watched live, candidate Kennedy red-baited candidate Nixon about Laos more effectively than Nixon ever red-baited leftists throughout his career. JFK also hammered Nixon about “Cuber”, thus establishing himself as a major Cold War anticommunist, one of the requirements for reaching the presidency.

        I could go on. I visited Vietnam for the first time in 1990. Then, a mere 15 years after the fall of Saigon, I found that Vietnamese citizens, including a former Viet Cong colonel who offered to show me (as a tourist) the Cu Chi tunnels, had not only moved beyond the United States invasion, they’d also moved beyond their own civil war.

  2. charlie
    September 2, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    i was a linguist in Vietnam 1969, veteran against the war in the 70’s, sponsored boat people immigrants in 1980, it was egregiously wrong to kill so many innocent vietnamese and leave a poisoned countryside I still feel great pain and remorse … it was an egregious error by political forces at home. EXXON is an example of the moral failure of our culture and country …

  3. Enquiring Mind
    September 3, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    Exxon was not likely to have acted alone. The other Seven Sisters companies shared information routinely and interacted with many in the public and private realms of DC and elsewhere around the world. Once the extent of their perfidy becomes known, those companies will join the ranks of the tobacco companies and Monsanto. Where is the shame of employees and shareholders and consumers? I boycott those companies, and even with that effort there is probably some subsidiary selling something I don’t know about, or some stock holding in a mutual fund or other way that the cockroaches slip through the cracks.

    At one time, tobacco company attorney was a morally corrosive job. Think of how the ranks have swelled. :(

  4. September 4, 2017 at 2:41 am

    I am glad for this discussion. I am glad Charlie is telling us what is what. And Econoclast nails it with “Cuber.” Wow!

    There is a sufficient intellectual mass at this site to focus powerful distributed intelligence and plot a course to where fun replaces insatiable want, Earth heals and mammals do not go extinct from unregulated capitalist profit quest.

    Most saving Earth work will probably be mundane and devoid of high math.

    I suggest economists have the ability to account for the real cost of every product and service in a way that informs every purchase. An invisible hand via intellectual awareness taught in public schools with much bigger budgets should do the trick.

  5. MRW
    September 11, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Mr. Ruccio,

    You are out of touch with the NY AG findings about #ExxonKnew, and why they had to drop the case.

    Oreskes is not a climate scientist. She’s a science historian. She peddles the 97% consensus claim about climate change (derived from reading abstracts) as a certainty. The first footnote in her recent paper is Cook, et al, the cartoonist and webpage developer who came up with the six questions that determined the 97% consensus schtick and whose paper (written with Rob Painting an ex-cop who helps run his Skeptical Science website; Dana Nuccatelli, Guardian columnist and employed by Tetra Tech, an oil services co, and six other assorteds) was verified by the commenters on his website. Those are who verified the abstracts. Such was his statistical rigor. Of course, when Obama anointed the 97% claim Cook rose to fame, and is now pursuing a masters in psychology at a university in Australia where he also has a title as a Climate Something-or-Other Fellow (or some such).

    Here is the other side of what Oreskes claims, and why AG Schneiderman had to drop the case:

    After Terrible Year for #ExxonKnew, Rockefeller-Funded Website Tries Spinning a Defense, Dec 29, 2016

    #ExxonKnew is Dead: Top Three Things to Know, Sept 9, 2016

    Rockefellers Admit Paying For #ExxonKnew Media Coverage, March 24, 2016

    • September 13, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Mr MRW and energyindepth.ord’s are here referring to a journalistic summary and lawyers’ opinions on likely effect on stock prices, not to the scientific consensus on global warming, which is based on an understanding of the physical facts.

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