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South Africa’s neo-con spin factory June 1, 2007

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", activism, Environment, News, Nuclear Power, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.

After my recent bumbling forays into the local public relations industry’s spin doctoring efforts in promoting nuclear power (or, in fact, their self-avowed non-participation therein – see here and here), I stumbled onto what has got to be the most sophisticated South African spin machine of them all, The Free Market Foundation.

Actually I kind of found them courtesy of Noseweek. They describe themselves as

an independent non-profit policy organisation founded in 1975 to promote and foster an open society, the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic and press freedom as fundamental components of its advocacy of human rights and democracy based on classical liberal principles.

The FMF website is, however, full to the brim with articles that:

  • are pro-nuclear energy (e.g. “Nuclear energy is safe and reliable“)
  • are pro-biotech and genetic engineering (e.g. “Genetically modified foods mired in false controversy“)
  • are pro-oil (e.g. “Oil bashing, round two“)
  • deny global warming and climate change and are anti-Kyoto (e.g. ““Global warming” has become a European religion“)
  • are pro-privatisation, corporate and financial globalisation and neoliberalism (e.g. “Globalisation is hope for the developing world“)
  • are-pro gun (e.g. “Good news from the U.S. about guns: they save lives“)
  • are pro-death penalty (e.g. “Capital punishment saves lives“)
  • etc.

Taken together, that all makes for a deeply conservative economic/political/social/environmental platform that could have been taken straight out of the play book of The Project for the New American Century.

Why am I so offended by all this? After all, its no secret that there are many conservative people out there and they do have a right to their opinion on all of these issues.

My problem lies with the companies who fund the FMF to pump out their right-wing propaganda drivel. They include corporations who are “Proudly South African”, who are always on our side as consumers and who have us believe that they are as concerned as we are about the environment. Here is just a small selection:

BP Southern Africa, British American Tobacco, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Toyota, Gold Fields Limited, Investec Limited, Pick ‘n Pay, Sasol, Monsanto South Africa, British Airways, Truworths Limited, Southern Sun Hotel Holdings, Microsoft, Independent News & Media, Edgars Consolidated Stores Limited, Natal Witness, etc.

A paragraph from Noseweek is highly relevant here:

Why do they [people who write articles denying global warming] do it? One simple answer is that many of them are paid to, or are linked to organisations that benefit from denialist propaganda. As we’ve previously pointed out, the Free Market Foundation is strongly linked to oil company-funded “think tanks” and PR-generating institutes in the US, and they work in the same way. British journalist George Monbiot has documented at length how the fossil fuel industry has used “free market” advocacy organisations and PR men to deny global warming, using the same strategies that tobacco giants used to deny links between smoking and cancer. […]

I suggest that we all remember the proverbial pinch of salt when reading articles, opinion pieces, “readers’ letters” and experts’ pronouncements about important issues in the local media.



1. Ian - June 1, 2007

Great post – I took a look at their list of articles. Rather unfree in their thinking 🙂

2. Andreas - June 1, 2007

Ja, Ian, some of their stuff borders on the bizarre…

3. ds - June 2, 2007

Really cool blog. i particularly like the idea of a ‘revolution of everyday life’. Anyway, you might find it interested in looking at the role of an outfit called The Urban Foundation – particularly in the early part of the South African transition. Established by a section of white capital just after the 76 uprising (basically they realised the apartheid ship was sinking) the foundation was massively successful in shaping the neoliberal bent of post apartheid municipal policy, particularly housing.

4. Andreas - June 4, 2007

Thanks, ds. The “revolution of everyday life” thing is inspired by the Situationists of the 60’s and Raoul Vaneigem’s book of the same name.
Thanks for the tip about The Urban Foundation. Sounds interesting and I’ll certainly have a look at them. Ta!

5. Steve - June 5, 2007

They certainly sound like a bunch of neoliberal neocons!

6. Andreas - June 5, 2007

Yup, Steve, “neo” by name, but backwards in all other things me thinks…

7. Steve - June 6, 2007

Well, I was inspired, partly by you and partly by DionysiusStoned, to blog about it here: Notes from underground: Liberalism, neoliberalism and neocons

8. Andreas - June 6, 2007

Brilliant, let’s spread the word…

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