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Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!

Archive for November, 2010

Wikileaks: Governments Apologising In Advance For Being Rude

Posted by keith on 28th November 2010

Well, it seems that a few politicians have been saying rude things about each other, and now they are really desperate to cover it all up. I don’t know; we expect “our” representatives to be paragons of virtue and then damn Wikileaks spills the beans. Bad Wikileaks!

On the other hand, given the shit that ordinary people are forced to put up with – especially in terms of living under constant CCTV surveillance, every email you send and every web site you visit being tracked, and being locked up or at least fined for not carrying ID – it seems rather appropriate that the shoe is on the other foot. And remember what we keep getting told?


Cheers, Wikileaks.

Frantic behind the scenes wrangling was under way last night as US officials tried to stem the fallout from the expected release of up to three million confidential diplomatic communiques by the Wikileaks website.

Over the past 48 hours, American ambassadors have had the unenviable task of informing some of the country’s strongest allies that a series of potentially embarrassing cables are likely to be released in the coming days.

The latest tranche of documents, described by Wikileaks as being seven times as large as its last exposé – the 400,000 secret war logs from Iraq that were published last month – are thought to be cables taken from SIPRNet, the Pentagon’s global secret-level computer network which is accessible online for those with clearance.

US officials say the publication of such reports, which often contain candid assessments from embassy staff and ambassadors about foreign governments and leaders, has the potential to harm relations between Washington and its allies.

Downing Street yesterday confirmed that the US ambassador in London had already briefed the Government on what might be contained in the files. Similar meetings were also reported in Turkey, Israel, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Australia.

Wikileaks has made no official confirmation other than through brief messages posted on its Twitter page claiming that the Pentagon was “hyperventilating again over fears of being held to account”.

It is not clear whether the whistle-blowing website will black-out the names of people who might face persecution if they were known to be co-operating with American embassies abroad. A source at Wikileaks said that the website was “proceeding with caution, as always” with regard to the details it would put into the public domain, suggesting that some form of redaction would be used.

But US officials have nonetheless reacted angrily, arguing that any publication of the cables would make diplomacy in sensitive parts of the world much more difficult.

“WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people,” said James Jeffrey, US ambassador to Baghdad. “I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents. They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”

Early indications suggest the communiqués – thought to be from the last five years – could be a major source of embarrassment both for Washington and its allies, shining a light on the kind of candid opinions and policies that governments like to keep secret.

Quoting a Wikileaks “administrator”, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat said some of the cables suggested that Turkey had been turning a blind eye to fighters from the group Al-Qa’ida in Iraq slipping across into Turkey from the south. According to the same report, separate cables also reveal that Washington has been allowing fighters from the Kurdish separatist group the PKK safe havens in northern Iraq to stage attacks on Turkey.

Sources familiar with the US State Department reports told Reuters that some of the missives are thought to contain allegations against politicians in Russia, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.

The Russian daily business newspaper Kommersant said that the cables will contain general assessments of the political situation in Russia and “unflattering characteristics” of Russian leaders.

Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, also admitted yesterday during a Cabinet meeting in Rome that the Wikileaks documents could have “negative repercussions” on the country’s embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

That Wikileaks is in possession of the secret communications has been suspected by US officials ever since Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was arrested six months ago on charges of leaking confidential information to the whistleblowing website.

In an online chat with former hacker Adrian Lamo, who eventually turned Manning in to the authorities, the Iraq-based analyst boasted how he had handed over a cache of secret foreign policy documents that revealed “almost-criminal political back dealings” by US officials.

In the online chat made available by Lamo, Manning added: “Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public.”

(from The Independent)

Posted in Exposure, Political Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Operation Christmas Child: Christian Fundamentalism in a Box

Posted by keith on 18th November 2010

Operation Christmas Child convert christian samaritan's purse

Somewhere in the minds of millions of children there exists a place where Christmas is every day, and gifts appear beneath the eternal tree and at the foot of the magical fireplace whenever their back is turned. In the hearts of millions of children the joy of giving is equally precious as the joy of being the recipient of gifts, given in good faith and without prejudice. This Christmas as every Christmas for the last 20 years, the organisation called Operation Christmas Child has been hard at work across the world persuading children, along with their parents, to pack a shoebox with simple things to provide a seasonal present to someone without the financial ability (or desire) to have such things.

In the UK, the message is clear:

Operation Christmas Child is the largest children’s Christmas project in the world, run by the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. In 2010, we celebrate 20 years of this special shoebox appeal, which has already brought joy into the lives of over 80 million children worldwide.

In its simplest form, it is all about a gift – given by you to a child in need. You wrap and pack it, we check and send it, and our partners overseas deliver it. It’s that simple.

Last year, over 500,000 people from right across the UK and Ireland got involved – including many churches, schools and workplaces. Children and adults alike wrapped and packed almost 1.2 million shoeboxes (from the UK) and over 200,000 (from Ireland) full of gifts and goodies, which were then sent to orphans and vulnerable children living in often difficult circumstances overseas

This is a message of God’s love allowing those with to help those without. Ok, so there is the matter of this being a Christian charity: “For the past 20 years, Operation Christmas Child has shown that there’s power in a simple gift. It has grown to become the largest Christmas shoebox appeal in the UK, demonstrating God’s love in a tangible way to millions of children around the world.” But who are we to begrudge believers the ability to be generous from their heart.

And now the American version:

8 MILLION CHILDREN received your shoe boxes last year

OVER 130 COUNTRIES have received shoe boxes since 1993

ONE MISSION: To demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Same organisation, different wording: now it is a mission, with the aim of spreading The Word. I guess the USA has a greater tolerance to Evangelism than the UK for, make no mistake, that is what Operation Christmas Child is about. For a few years a small group of people have been trying to make this clear to the millions of children and adults who take part in the scheme that the “gift” being sent by the parent organisation Samaritan’s Purse, is not the box, but the message that comes with the box. Here’s a frame from that message:

It is the stated aim of Samaritan’s Purse that wherever possible the booklet “The Most Important Story Ever Told” is to be enclosed in or accompany every shoebox – that is why the boxes are not allowed to be sealed prior to shipment: so that the literature can be enclosed where the destination country has deemed it acceptable. Of course, even if the destination country doesn’t allow the booklet inside, it will be sent with the box. As OCC Alert UK was told, when posing as a supporter:

Greetings from Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child.

You are correct in your assumption that “The Most Important Story Ever Told” and “The Greatest Gift Of All” are basically one in the same. Samaritan’s Purse has adopted this version for distribution with each shoebox gift as a tool for evangelism. Should you need additional assistance, please let us know. It is because of caring people like you that this project is so successful. Have a blessed day!


Jessica Tabler
Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan’s Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607
(828)262-1980 ext. 1493

Despite the nice words of OCC in the UK, the shoebox is a tool for evangelism.

Now let’s suppose you are the kind of person who maybe tolerates, or even welcomes, the conversion of non-Christians into Christians; after all, it is the duty of a Christian to convert others to their faith. What would you think if I told you that the organisation responsible for Operation Christmas Child views all other beliefs as “dark”, to the extent that people who do not follow the particular form of Evangelical Christianity espoused by their leader, Franklin Graham, are accused of witchcraft and occultism?

This excerpt from the newsletter of October 2009 makes me feel sick:

I’d like to share with you just one story about what God did in a little village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mimbulu is a collection of mud-brick houses and thatched huts with no electricity or running water. Most of the villagers are subsistence farmers living on far less than $1 a day. You can imagine how happy and excited the children were when our team handed out shoe box gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Later, hundreds of girls and boys signed up for our Discipleship Program, and most of them made commitments to Jesus Christ through the Bible study course.

Traditional religions and occult practices are common in this part of Africa, but many people in Mimbulu have been delivered from spiritual darkness as a result of this evangelistic outreach. Three girls, all under the age of 10, confessed to being involved in witchcraft, repented of their sins, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ. One cult leader, after reading his son’s Bible lessons, renounced his false religion and surrendered his life to the Lord. Other adults turned to Christ at the graduation ceremony where they heard their children recite Scripture and listened to a pastor preach the Gospel.

The Lord is doing great things in Mimbulu, and we give Him all the glory!

We treat every single gift box as a Gospel opportunity. That’s why prayer is the most important thing we ask people to do when they pack their shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. We want each person to pray for the child who receives the box and ask God to touch that child’s heart. That’s where the real power of Operation Christmas Child lies—in God’s answers to those millions of heartfelt prayers.

Next time someone asks you to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, or your child receives a letter home from school asking for a “gift to make a child happy”, think about the level of hardline fundamental evangelism being foisted upon people whose only “sin” was to have their own cultural beliefs. Do you really want to be responsible for that?

Posted in Campaigns, Cover Ups, Religious Hypocrisy | 8 Comments »

McDonald’s and PepsiCo to Help Write UK Health Policy

Posted by keith on 15th November 2010

This article from The Guardian will come as no surprise to anyone who watches how much food companies and supermarkets are allowed to influence public education in the UK. What might come as a surprise is how blatant the level of influence is – in the words of the UK government:

“A ‘Responsibility Deal’ is a Conservative response to societal challenges which we know can’t be
solved by regulation and legislation alone. It’s a partnership between Government and business that
balances proportionate regulation with corporate responsibility.”

Proportionate Regulation, means very little regulation at all; Corporate Responsibility means business as usual…

The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

The leading supermarkets are an equally strong presence, while the responsibility deal’s physical activity group is chaired by the Fitness Industry Association, which is the lobby group for private gyms and personal trainers.

In early meetings, these commercial partners have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed. They have been assured by Lansley that he wants to explore voluntary not regulatory approaches, and to support them in removing obstacles. Using the pricing of food or alcohol to change consumption has been ruled out. One group was told that the health department did not want to lead, but rather hear from its members what should be done.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, the leading liver specialist and until recently president of the Royal College of Physicians, said he was very concerned by the emphasis on voluntary partnerships with industry. A member of the alcohol responsibility deal network, Gilmore said he had decided to co-operate, but he doubted whether there could be “a meaningful convergence between the interests of industry and public health since the priority of the drinks industry was to make money for shareholders while public health demanded a cut in consumption”.

He said: “On alcohol there is undoubtedly a need for regulation on price, availability and marketing and there is a risk that discussions will be deflected away from regulation that is likely to be effective but would affect sales. On food labelling we have listened too much to the supermarkets rather than going for traffic lights [warnings] which health experts recommend.” Employers are being asked to take on more responsibility for employees in a fourth health at work deal. The fifth network is charged with changing behaviour, and is chaired by the National Heart Forum. This group is likely to be working with the new Cabinet Office behavioural insight unit, which is exploring ways of making people change their behaviour without new laws.

Lansley’s public health reforms are seen as a test case for wider Conservative policies on replacing state intervention with private and corporate action.

While public interest groups are taking part in drawing up the deals, many have argued that robust regulation is needed to deal with junk food and alcohol misuse.

The Faculty of Public Health, represented on several of the deal networks, has called for a ban on trans fats and minimum alcohol pricing. Professor Lindsey Davies, FPH president, said: “We are hopeful that engaging with the food industry will lead to changes in the quality and healthiness of the products we and our children eat. It is possible to make progress on issues such as salt reduction through voluntary agreements, and we’re keeping an open mind until we see what comes out of the meetings, but we do think that there is still a role for regulation.”

Responding to criticism that industry was too prominent in the plans, the Department of Health said: “We are constantly in touch with expert bodies, including those in the public health field, to help inform all our work. For the forthcoming public health white paper we’ve engaged a wide range of people, as we are also doing to help us develop the responsibility deal drawn from business, the voluntary sector, other non-governmental organisations, local government, as well as public health bodies. A diverse range of experts are also involved.”

He added that the government wanted to improve public health through voluntary agreements with business and other partners, rather than through regulation or top-down lectures because it believed this approach would be far more effective and ambitious than previous efforts.

An over-arching board, chaired by Lansley, has been set up to oversee the work of the five responsibility deal networks, with representatives of local government and a regional health director – but it too is dominated by the food, alcohol, advertising and retail industries. Gilmore called for a better balance of commercial interests and independent experts on it.

Other experts have also expressed concern at Lansley’s approach. Professor Tim Lang, a member of the government’s advisory committee on obesity, doubted the food and drink industry’s ability to regulate itself. “In public health, the track record of industry has not been good. Obesity is a systemic problem, and industry is locked into thinking of its own narrow interests,” said Lang.

“I am deeply troubled to be sent signals from the secretary of state about working ‘with business’ and that any action has got to be soft ‘nudge’ action.”

Jeanette Longfield, head of the food campaign group Sustain, said: “This is the equivalent of putting the tobacco industry in charge of smoke-free spaces. We know this ‘let’s all get round the table approach’ doesn’t work, because we’ve all tried it before, including the last Conservative government. This isn’t ‘big society’, it’s big business.”

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy, Sponsorship | No Comments »

BT Adastral Plan Wipes Out “Green” Promises At A Stroke

Posted by keith on 12th November 2010

Adastral Park is part of BT’s (formerly British Telecom) Martlesham Heath technology complex, a combination of defence research laboratory and industrial park, situated close to the busy Suffolk town of Ipswich, and adjacent to a large area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can find Adastral Park by going to their website, which isn’t very well designed, but is replete with stories about how the staff of Adastral are playing such a big part in keeping the Suffolk coast clean and tidy. This is no coincidence, because when you have so many technology companies on site, dependent on your ignorance of global environmental and human rights issues for their success, then it’s always good to keep casual viewers thinking about nice things.

BT, who own the site, make a huge deal about their environmental credentials, with “Sustainable Business” (there’s an anachronism) right on the front page of their corporate web site, and the following headline statement:

As a company, we are always looking for ways to minimise our impact on the environment.

Indeed, we are very proud of our environmental management track record having set our first carbon reduction target back in 1992.

Now we’re committed to reducing the carbon intensity of our global business by 80 per cent by 2020 – so far we have achieved a 54 per cent reduction by becoming more energy efficient and by increasing our use of renewable energy.

Ah, that phrase “carbon intensity” – used worldwide by expanding economies and companies to pretend they are reducing their net emissions – but let’s ignore that one, because among their many other commitments are included all sorts of schemes for reducing carbon emissions within the business and their products, as well as their data centres. One thing missing, though, seems to be impact on habitat: I wonder why that can be:

A bit of history.

The GPO moved its research centre from Dollis Hill to what is now Adastral Park in the late sixties. One of the main attractions of the site was the amount of flat open land in the area which was essential for radio testing.

Over many years BT have put forward various proposals and plans to expand the business park activities. Nine years ago the first amendment to the Local Plan (dated June 2001) created a framework for expanding the business park but they did not link it to building any residential housing on the site. At the time BT forecast 3000-3500 additional jobs by about 2010 – but in reality we believe there are probably fewer people employed on the site now than in 2001.

As recently as 2007 BT said that they could develop the business park without the need for the income from selling land for housing.

The BT land

Despite what is said in the LDF and various BT documents the open land outside the BT fence IS greenfield. Farming is still carried out on some of it, and a license has been granted for mineral extraction on part. However that license requires that the land be returned to farming at the end of the extraction – the existence of extraction does not mean that it is no longer technically greenfield land.

At its closest the site comes within 88 metres of an AONB, and there are several sites of special status close by, which are home to protected species – eg Newbourne Springs. The new development will increase the local population by about 4,800 people, placing an unnecessary burden on these valuable protected wildlife sites. Proposals to employ a warden will not stop people visiting.

As recently as 2006, SCDC rejected a planning application for 120 log cabins on a site next to Waldringfield Road. The rejection was on the grounds that it was too near the AONB etc, and would result in an unacceptable increase in visitor numbers to those sensitive areas. BT objected to this application

In October 2008 BT wrote to the East of England Regional Assembly in response to a request for landowners to put forward further land for housing up to 2031. BT responded to this request by saying that their site could potentially accommodate up to 3000 – 3500 houses in total – ie around 8500 people – it is inconceivable that this many people would not a have major impact on the nearby natural areas.

That slice of information is from the No Adastral New Town campaign group, who seem to be a bit of a lone voice in protesting against the “development” (i.e. killing off) of a major slice of Suffolk countryside in order to satisfy the perceived need for new housing. Yet, according to Empty Homes, there were about 1,500 empty homes in Ipswich in 2008, along with nearly 1,700 more empty homes in the adjacent Suffolk Coastal district. Bear in mind also, that the projections for new homes are heavily influenced by the lobbying of housing developers, and also the organisations upon whose land the houses could be built upon, and you get a situation which is completely absurd: no new houses needed whatsoever, in reality.

But BT can make a heck of a lot of money out of this, so they are only too willing to toss aside any weasel words (apologies to weasels) they say about their “green” business commitments if it means a hefty amount of money in the company coffers.

If you live anywhere near this area, then please get in touch with the campaign group (more details here) or just go it alone and let everyone know what hypocrites BT and Suffolk Coastal District Council really are.

Posted in Company Policies, Corporate Hypocrisy, Government Policies, Public Sector Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Monthly Undermining Task, November 2010: The Online Infocrunch

Posted by keith on 9th November 2010

Where do you go for information? I guess, because you are reading this as a web page, then your primary resource for information that you need in a hurry (and aren’t we all in a hurry nowadays?) is the Internet. As far as corporations go, online presence has now eclipsed printed and television media as the primary location for information. Well, I say “information” but that would be crediting the corporate world with far too much honesty: what I really mean is that the Internet is the primary location for propaganda. Call it PR, corporate information, spinning…whatever you like, but what the corporate world presents to the public is always going to be propaganda.

The Internet is manna to business, not particularly because it presents new opportunities for selling stuff – after all, the richest man in history (John D. Rockefeller, whose fortune is still being used to fund organisations like made his fortune in an era when newspapers were king – but because the “information” can be so much more tightly controlled. Want to know about ExxonMobil, and most people will just type “Exxon” into Google and, at the time of writing, the three top hits will be ExxonMobil corporate links. The fourth proper link, not unexpectedly, is to the Wikipedia entry; something I will come to later. By controlling the portals of “information” ExxonMobil are able to control the message that is sent out to the world – to wit:

And a lovely spinny molecular graphic which, presumably is some kind of hydrocarbon.

What if the logo changed?

There, that’s a lot more accurate – it would really piss the company off, and take the rosy hue from the public perception that ExxonMobil have been so careful to cultivate. But here’s the thing: no one is going to see my new logo because (a) it’s not on the official ExxonMobil websites, (b) my own website doesn’t have much presence compared to the other links, (c) even if it did, it wouldn’t fool anyone that this is the real ExxonMobil logo because it’s not on a corporate web site. And that’s besides the obvious problem of being sued for passing the logo off as genuine.

That said, spoofs are most definitely part of the game on the Internet, which is why none of mine have ever been subject to a “take down” demand; the corporations are far too savvy to draw any attention to something they really wouldn’t like in the public eye, whether it’s a more truthful logo, the wording on a pretend “genuine” website, or a Wikipedia entry. Which brings me to the next point: I bet from time to time you have wanted to change something on Wikipedia; you might have even made a change, only to find that the article reverts back to the original as soon as your back is turned. Moderation exists on Wikipedia – by far the most referenced source of general information on the Internet, if not the entire global information corpus – to prevent vandalism; regardless of how well-meaning changes may be, if a change is made for nefarious reasons then it is considered to be vandalism. This isn’t looking very easy, is it?

So what about creating a new website that will be referenced as much, if not more than the corporate propaganda one? You’ll be lucky. It can be the finest example of the genre; it can be Digg-ed, Like-d and Reddit-ed to the hilt, but to hit a major corporation with a Googlebomb is asking for a minor miracle. There have to be easier ways to undermine the world of online information.

Well, there are; but you can also do all of the aforementioned as well – you just have to be smarter than smart about it, which is what I am going to try and help with here. I may not be clever enough to actually execute all of this, but I reckon the two of us (and anyone else you want to work with) can do a pretty good job screwing up the online corporate propaganda machine if we set our minds and hands to it…

Quick Wins

The following Undermining actions are low risk and easy to do, so there’s really no excuse not to do at least a couple of them when you have a moment to spare. The first one, is one that sticks pins in corporations’ feet. Social networking has been monopolised by Facebook – and there are plenty of bad things to say about Facebook now, including how it makes people feel they have achieved something useful, when they haven’t – and many corporations, along with the more corporate-friendly NGOs (like The Nature Conservancy and WWF) have created Fan Groups to give themselves a wider online presence. If you have a Facebook account, then I would encourage you to look for these Groups, join them and make mischief. The worst that can happen is that you get blocked, but as with the Nestle group, enough people who “Like” but don’t like has completely destroyed their social networking presence, despite Nestle recruiting hundreds of people to make positive comments.

You might like to try the same with The Nature Conservancy and Chevron; keep your eye out for more, because the corporations would love to control social media as much as they control the mass media.

Talking of the mass media, virtually every newspaper in the industrial world now has a web presence, and in very many cases it positively loves people to comment on stories. Some papers like The Guardian have a very high level of comments per article, but some – like the New York Times, surprisingly – get very few comments on the articles they open up. This one on BHP Billiton, is crying out for a few negative comments. The point is that you and I are almost certainly not going to get enough web connectivity to attract readers to blogs about companies; the big newspaper web sites, on the other hand, are highly syndicated and reposted, so that’s the place to do the Undermining.

Some of the more widely read blogs, such as Huffington Post and Mashable, cover corporate stories on a regular basis – again, negative comments, correcting the assumption that growth and profit are a good thing (amongst other lies) are always worth a shot. Even if you get flamed, you will have still made a point in a place where lots of people are likely to see it. The Technorati list is a good place to start looking for potential Undermining targets.

The following three Undermining Actions are a little more involved – in fact they can be very involved if you want them to be – and are listed in approximate order of both risk and also effort. There is no real correlation between risk and effort, and often the more effort you put into something, the less risk you entail; but if something requires more effort full stop to attain, then there are more opportunities to make mistakes, so be careful if you find yourself biting off more than you can chew: it may be that you are not up to the task, and that’s no bad thing to admit.


I’m not one of those people who generally looks at Wikipedia and thinks, “That’s completely wrong, it must be changed!” Part of the reason is that as a media form, Wikis are supposed to be self-regulating, and the more people involved in the Wiki – in general – the better the self-regulation. Ok, there are some Wikis, like the infamous Conservapedia, that have such a bulk of prejudiced users that any attempt to correct information is doomed to failure (that said, it would be fun to try…) but in the main, a good Wiki, like Wikipedia is going to end up about as balanced as it’s possible to be in the context of Industrial Civilization. You can’t really expect it to go against the tenets of the industrial system, but you can make it more objective.

As an example, I stumbled across an article (presumably) posted by an employee of either IBM or one of their PR firms. The article in question was promoting the virtues of IBM’s Green Computing, and was a blatant advert. Simply by marking the article with the appropriate “Speedy Deletion” tag – in this case {{db-promo}} – the article was deleted by an administrator, never to be seen again. One bit of greenwash consigned to the virtual dustbin.

Of course, there is more to Undermining than just correcting obvious bias: what about exposing the real truth behind the corporate system? Yes, you can do it on Wikipedia, but you need to tread lightly…

It is easy for a person to vandalize Wikipedia. Since anyone can edit any page, the possibility is always there. The vandal might add profanity or inappropriate images to a page, might erase all the content of a page, etc.

However, there are tools that make it easy for the community to find and remove vandalism. There are also other tools available on Wikipedia to help corral users who are persistently destructive. For example:

* It is easy for anyone who sees vandalism to revert pages back to a pre-vandalism state.
* It is easy for any user to alert the rest of the Wikipedia community to vandalism that is in progress.
* It is possible for an admin to block or ban users (or IP addresses) who are persistently destructive.
* It is possible for an admin to protect a page temporarily to keep people from changing it.
* It is possible for an admin to delete an inappropriate page.

Tools like these make it easy for members of the community to quickly eliminate vandalism and prevent vandals from coming back.


It’s no good just steaming in with a rant as, certainly in the case of higher-profile pages, the changes will be undone. Therefore, you have three options:

1) Make sure the changes you make are evidence-based, referenced and written properly. Anything that suggests vandalism will be reverted. You have to justify inclusion of new information, and removal of someone else’s, so you might need to refer to “reinstating balance” or suchlike in your notes.

2) Make subtle textual changes that alter the meaning of entries, undermining any positive image the company or organisation may benefit from. Always mark changes as “This is a minor edit”, and explain it is for clarity.

3) Make changes to unwatched entries. From the point of view of a Underminer, the most useful Wikipedia page by far is (this is probably second: as it indicates those entries you cannot “vandalise” (a.k.a. make more accurate) without comeback. Also, look for the last edit date: if it is more than a year ago then you should be able to get away with more nefarious changes, even blatant hacking without the change being reverted.

In all cases, make changes either anonymously (for minor edits) or under a disposable alias.

Online Subvertising

Subvertising is the act of undermining the message that advertisers wish to present. There are many ways to do this, and I have gone into a great deal of detail elsewhere on The Unsuitablog. Here is the related Monthly Undermining Task, here is the Subvertising Gallery, and here is the Earth First! guide to subvertising billboards for anyone who wants to take it to a more practical level.

Assuming you have a new, more accurate graphic, the wider the coverage of it, the better; this does not mean getting a few mates to post it on their blogs – unless those blogs are read by thousands of people* – it means that the subvertising has to effectively usurp the advertisers’ message in situ, just like a subvertised billboard does. The difficulty is that, as I said above, you can’t just change the corporate web site (I’m sure there are a one or two people willing to hack sites just to change a logo, but it’s a big risk for a change that will likely only last a few minutes); you need to find places where the logo or advert is normally placed online and find a way of replacing it. Wikipedia is, of course, one such place – with the provisos above; and as an experiment I have changed the logo on the Rainforest Alliance entry:

Somehow, I don’t think this will last long, but are there better places for subvertising? What about getting your logo on Google Images? Google Images is often used as a place for people to download corporate graphics. If you have a fairly well connected blog, like this one, or are able to contribute to something like that then you could be onto a winner at least with smaller companies, organisations or campaigns. The Avon “Hello Green Tomorrow” campaign was something I blogged about, and as a result it immediately went to near the top of the Google search rankings for “hello green tomorrow”, but the graphic I used didn’t do so well in the Google Images ranking. What I did wrong was not to include anything in the Alt Text – so as another experiment, I have inserted the following: “Hello Green Tomorrow Avon logo”. Prior to making that change, the logo languished on page 3. Almost immediately, the image search has placed it; well, here you go:

I’m sure you can be more creative than that.

*You can check how many visitors almost any site has by going to


The final action, and no doubt the most complex, is the act of Spoofing. “Spoofing” means pretending to be somone or something you aren’t, but appearing on the surface to be that thing; a very common spoofing method is usually known as Phishing, which you will no doubt have encountered from time to time and, I’m sure, not been fooled by.

The basic techniques of phishing are certainly valid in spoofing a company or organisation, but like any method in this arena, they are not for the faint-hearted. However, by using a generic example of spoofing a corporation, including the option of phishing – not for money, but to damage their reputation – I can give an insight into at least the fundamentals of carrying out a large-scale spoof.

The best recent example of a corporate spoof (in both senses of the word) was that carried out by The Yes Men on Chevron in October, 2010. The non-technical details have been blogged by Andy Bichlbaum; but in a technical sense, what they did falls pretty much within the scope of the following, give or take a few steps.

1) Create your web page(s): make it as close to the look and feel of those of your target as works with the nature of the spoof you are carrying out. Ideally you should use as much of the source code of the original web site as you can, as well as (for all that you are not changing) using the original links. Test your page(s) thoroughly in every common browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari should cover it).

1a) If you are doing a complete bait-and-switch, i.e. presenting something completely different than the original, then the code is up to you; though be aware that anything more than a fake “holding” page will immediately be seen as a spoof.

2) Work out your hosting and URL redirection methodology. I’m assuming here that you have bought an appropriate domain name, such as, otherwise your spoof will have to be of the Phishing variety (see 2a) If you have admin rights where the web page(s) will be hosted then you can control the way the URL displays, but will need to change the DNS record for the domain, and anyone with a bit of nous will be able to find out the details of your server(s). Alternatively, you can just set up a Framed Redirection via your domain provider, which will mask the URL of your spoofed page(s).

2a) For a straight Phishing attack you will be using what appears to be the official URL to go to the spoof page(s). Most anti-virus software will detect phishing in emails, but you could always use this technique in forums and blogs where you can edit the HTML. Even if you use phishing, you will probably still need the redirection or DNS change in place.

3) If you are not sending out a press release or invitation to view and just relying on the spoof, then that’s all you need to do; but you won’t get much traffic unless you have a really convincing URL (see so you will at least need to publicise your efforts as in 2a) above. If you are sending out a press release then you will need to set up at least one mailbox under your fake domain name, otherwise your information will lack credibility. If you can use a third party email client then that will protect your personal details (and the security of your own computer); most domain providers have that facility for a small additional fee. Be aware, though, that this is a form of abuse, so you may lose your account if you are found out.

4) Send out your press releases: make them as similar to the official press releases as you can, including embedded logos (proper ones) and contact details as appropriate. It is up to you whether you respond (the Yes Men don’t tend to), but if you do then keep all responses in the official form of the original. Telephone numbers are not recommended unless you have a call centre to hand.

5) Follow up. As per the Chevron spoof, a good follow up, turning the tables, can really extend the life of any spoof: my own blog on this contains the original text of the Yes Men emails.

Note that I have been fairly light on technical detail: if you are not technically adept at something like this then you either need to learn, or find someone who is and you can trust to help you. This is also only a rough template – there are so many ways of spoofing that are more complex, but I think this provides as least a starting point for those of you who may, very soon, be undermining the very fabric of the online corporate propaganda machine.

Posted in Advice, Monthly Undermining Tasks, Spoofs, Subvertising | 4 Comments »

George Monbiot on the Fake Biodiversity Agreement

Posted by keith on 2nd November 2010

There is something stirring, and I don’t think it’s just in the air – I think George Monbiot is turning his back on industrial civilization, and about time too. We could do with someone like him in the ranks of the “heretic unbelievers”. Here is his take on the Agreement That Never Was:

Everyone agrees that the new declaration on biodiversity is a triumph. Just one snag: it doesn’t appear to exist.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 2nd November 2010

“Countries join forces to save life on Earth”, the front page of the Independent told us. “Historic”, “a landmark”, a “much-needed morale booster”, the other papers chorused(1,2,3). The declaration agreed at the summit in Japan last week to protect the world’s wild species and wild places was proclaimed by almost everyone a great success. There’s only one problem: none of the journalists who made these claims has seen it.

I checked with as many of them as I could reach by phone: all they had read was a press release, which, though three pages long, is almost content-free(4). The reporters can’t be blamed for this: though it was approved on Friday, the declaration has still not been published. I’ve now pursued people on three continents to try to obtain it, without success. Having secured the headlines it wanted, the entire senior staff of the Convention on Biological Diversity has gone to ground: my calls and emails remain unanswered(5). The British government, which lavishly praised the declaration, tells me it has no written copies(6). I’ve never seen this situation before: every other international agreement I’ve followed was published as soon as it was approved.

The evidence suggests that we’ve been conned. The draft agreement, published a month ago, contained no binding obligations(7). Nothing I’ve heard from Japan suggests that this has changed. The draft saw the targets for 2020 that governments were asked to adopt as nothing more than “aspirations for achievement at the global level” and a “flexible framework”, within which countries can do as they wish. No government, if the draft has been approved, is obliged to change its policies.

In 2002, the signatories to the convention agreed something similar: a splendid-sounding declaration which imposed no legal commitments. They announced that they would “achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss”. Mission accomplished, the press proclaimed, and everyone went home to congratulate themselves. Earlier this year, the UN admitted that the 2002 agreement was fruitless: “the pressures on biodiversity remain constant or increase in intensity”(8).

Even the desperately cheery press release suggests that all was not well. The meeting in Japan was supposed to be a summit; bringing together heads of government or heads of state. It mustered five of them: the release boasts of coralling the President of Gabon, the President of Guinea-Bissau, the Prime Minister of Yemen and Prince Albert of Monaco. (It fails to identify the fifth country: Lichtenstein? Pimlico?) One third of the countries represented there couldn’t even be bothered to send a minister. This is how much they value the world’s living systems.

It strikes me that governments are determined to protect not the marvels of our world, but the world-eating system to which they are being sacrificed; not life, but the ephemeral junk with which it is being replaced. They fight viciously and at the highest level for the right to turn rainforests into pulp, or marine ecosystems into fishmeal. Then they send a middle-ranking civil servant to approve a meaningless (and so far unwritten) promise to protect the natural world.

Japan was praised for its slick management of the meeting, but still insists on completing its mission to turn the last bluefin tuna into fancy fast food. Russia signed a new agreement in September to protect its tigers (the world’s largest remaining population)(9), but an unrepealed law effectively renders poachers immune from prosecution, even when caught with a gun and a dead tiger(10). The US, despite proclaiming a new commitment to multilateralism, refuses to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity.

It suits governments to let us trash the planet. It’s not just that big business gains more than it loses from converting natural wealth into money. A continued expansion into the biosphere permits states to avoid addressing issues of distribution and social justice: the promise of perpetual growth dulls our anger about widening inequality. By trampling over nature we avoid treading on the toes of the powerful.

A massive accounting exercise, whose results were presented at the meeting in Japan, has sought to change this calculation. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) attempts to price the ecosystems we are destroying(11). It shows that the economic benefit of protecting habitats and species often greatly outweighs the money to be made by trashing them. A study in Thailand, for example, suggests that turning a hectare of mangrove forest into shrimp farms makes $1,220 per year, but inflicts $12,400 of damage every year on local livelihoods, fisheries and coastal protection. The catchment protected by one nature reserve in New Zealand saves local people NZ$136m a year in water bills. Three-quarters of the US haddock catch now comes from within 5km of a marine reserve off the New England coast: by protecting the ecosystem, the reserve has boosted the value of the fishery(12).

I understand why this approach is felt to be necessary. I understand that if something can’t be measured, governments and businesses don’t value it. I accept TEEB’s reasoning that the rural poor, many of whom survive exclusively on what the ecosystem has to offer, are treated harshly by an economic system which doesn’t recognise its value. Even so, this exercise disturbs me.

As soon as something is measurable it becomes negotiable. Subject the natural world to cost-benefit analysis and accountants and statisticians will decide which parts of it we can do without. All that now needs to be done to demonstrate that an ecosystem can be junked is to show that the money to be made from trashing it exceeds the money to be made from preserving it. That, in the weird world of environmental economics, isn’t hard: ask the right statistician and he’ll give you whichever number you want.

This approach reduces the biosphere to a subsidiary of the economy. In reality it’s the other way round: the economy, like all other human affairs, hangs from the world’s living systems. You can see this diminution in the language the TEEB reports use: they talk of “natural capital stock”, of “underperforming natural assets” and “ecosystem services”. Nature is turned into a business plan, and we are reduced to its customers. The market now owns the world.

But I also recognise this: that if governments had met in Japan to try to save the banks, or the airline companies, or the plastic injection moulding industry, they would have sent more senior representatives, their task would have seemed more urgent, and every dot and comma of their agreement would have been checked by hungry journalists. When they meet to consider the gradual collapse of the natural world, they send their office cleaners and defer the hard choices for another ten years, while the media doesn’t even notice that they have failed to produce a written agreement. So, much as I’m revolted by the way in which nature is being squeezed into a column of figures in an accountant’s ledger, I am forced to agree that it may be necessary. What else will induce the blinkered, frightened people who hold power today to take the issue seriously?






5. On Sunday I emailed all the addresses given by the CBD. On Monday I phoned the secretariat several times: it was unable to put me through to anyone who could tell me where the declaration was. I also left a message on the press officer’s mobile phone and landline. The secretariat either would not or could not give me any other numbers to try.

6. I spoke to the Defra press office on Monday.

7. See document 3 on this page:

8. These quotes are repeated in the preamble to the draft declaration – as above.




12. All these examples can be found in TEEB’s summary for policy makers:

Posted in Government Policies, Political Hypocrisy | 1 Comment »

Chevron Spoof Posters: Just The Start

Posted by keith on 2nd November 2010

On the coattails of their Chevron spoof (see here for the full story) the Yes Men have opened up the original graphics from their web sites for public subvertising.

Angry and frustrated that oil companies like Chevron think they can ignore their environmental and human rights abuses while cleaning up their image with high-cost ad campaigns? We agree! Enter our contest now and help hold Chevron accountable by making sure the company doesn’t get away with its greenwash.

If you’re game, study “Chevron’s real “We Agree” campaign and their TV and print ads. Figure out the funniest mashups, image swaps, collages, rewrites, or remixes of their print, web, and/or TV productions. And make sure to post whatever you do to your Facebook, and twitpic them with the hashtag #weagree. If you can, wheatpaste your posters around town, and twitpic photos of them with the same hashtag (#weagree). The best ad gets a big prize, the best picture of an in-situ Chevron ad gets another, and I’m sure we’ll be coming up with some other categories.

While you can enter the contest, and use the graphics for postering, don’t forget that this is just a seed of an idea that can spread across the entire mass media, and address all forms of ethical hypocrisy. The aim should be to drown out the greenwash with spoofing such that it becomes impossible for the corporate media and, of course, the general public, the tell which is a genuine bit of corporate greenwashing, and which is the truth. The corporate media won’t risk publishing the truth, so greenwashing will die.

That’s just the start: yes this is a big battle, but the war on the system is just beginning…

Posted in Spoofs, Subvertising | No Comments »