Corporate Plan to Smash
Anti-GE Movement

Ross Irvine, a PR flack who calls himself a "corporate activist," is sick
and tired of all the "good cop" PR techniques. He wants to see business
destroy citizen activists, and here is his prescription for it.

"Twentieth century conflict theory and practice provide bountiful
opportunities PR folks. They provide the means to deal with social activists
in new and effective ways. The question is: Are PR folks up to the
challenge? Or, are they too married to the past and their own self-interest
that they'll fail to provide the counsel and insight that their employers
and clients needs? Netwar is for biotech and other business PR folks who
truly believe in their employers and clients. Not only in their bank

21st Century PR:

The War for Ideas and Ideals


The biotechnology industry and more specifically the agrobiotechnology
sector just don't get it. They and their PR and communications consultants
believe that risk theory holds the key understanding and managing opposition
to biotechnology. In fact, much of AgBioForum (Vol 4, number 3 & 4, 2001) is
devoted to discussing risk perception, risk management, and risk
communications. Unfortunately, such devotion to understanding risk offers
only limited insight into appreciating the opposition to biotechnology.
(AgbioForum is "a quarterly electronic journal devoted to the economics and
management of agricultural biotechnology," financed by the Illinois Missouri
Biotechnology Alliance.)

If industry would open its eyes and cast a wider gaze it would find a much
more fruitful avenue of study to understand biotech opponents and how they

Twenty-first century conflict theory not only explains why anti-biotech
activists, other special interest groups and NGOs have been so successful in
promoting their views, it also offers practical models of how to deal with
critics. These are hands-on communications and organizational ideas which
activists have proven to be effective.

The biotechnology industry can learn much from activists but it needs a
dramatic change of mind. First, it must admit that it's in a conflict.
Second, it must face the fact that in a conflict there are winners and
losers. Third, it must acknowledge that while it's pleasant to talk about
win-win scenarios and building "relationships" with critics, activists are
pursuing absolute victory.

No compromise

On its website, a leading organization which provides communications
services to activist organizations has posted a document titled "Fight to
Win!" which lists a "10 point guide to social change." Among the points are:
"be oppositional," and "make enemies, not friends" There is no talk of
building relationships with the corporate world; there is no mention of
win-win outcomes; and, there is no willingness to concede on issues. For
activists, there is only one goal: complete victory! It may take years, or
even decades. The route may be tangled and indirect. There may be moments
when the corporate world appears to have satisfied, or at least appeased
activists. But, such relief is brief.

Activists are committed to winning, not compromising. They are constantly
waging battle. When corporate PR folks understand this, they will be in
position to offer truly valuable insights and practical solutions to their
employers and clients. PR for the 21st century is a war for ideas and ideals.

In the mid 1990s, RAND -- the think tank that has been supplying conflict
intelligence to the U.S. military since the 1940s -- identified "netwar" as
the most significant form of social conflict in the information age.

It must be emphasized that while there is a similarity between the words
"netwar" and "internet," the two are unique concepts. Just because trade
associations, such as those in the biotech field, are engaged in internet
activities such as websites, email messages, and internet monitoring of
anti-biotech groups doesn't mean they're involved in a netwar and are
netwarrior. A netwar is much broader and more inclusive concept and may or
may not include the internet.

In talking about the netwars, RAND researchers state:

"To be precise, the term netwar refers to an emerging mode of conflict (and
crime) at societal levels, short of traditional military warfare, in which
the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines,
strategies, and technologies attuned to the information age. These
protagonists are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups,
and individuals who communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in
an internetted manner, often without a precise central commandS
"The term netwar is meant to call attention to the prospect that
network-based conflict and crime will become major phenomena in the decades

The key to netwar is what RAND describes as an "all-channel network" form of
organizational design. In this design, everyone is connected to everyone
else. The importance of the networked structure cannot be overstated.

In discussing the all-channel network RAND states:

"Hierarchies have a difficult time fighting networksS" (Note: For corporate
PR folks, this means that the corporate hierarchy in which they are
accustomed to functioning is ineffective.)

"It takes networks to fight networksS" (Note: As result, corporate PR types
must develop all-channel networks to fight activities successfully.)

"Whoever masters the network form first and best will gain major
advantagesS" (Note: Activists have successfully used the all-network for
many years and now have a significant advantage. However, for corporate PR
folks who want to become netwarriors the lessons, models, plans, and
experiences of successful activist are readily available. They can be
adapted to the business world by PR folks who are willing to learn.)

So what does an all-channel network look like? RAND provides an illustration
similar to this:

This illustration highlights a number of points, including:

? there is no command-and-control center

? each node (person or group) is connected to every other node

? there is extraordinarily dense communications among the nodes

? there is great redundancy within the network. A node or nodes can be
removed or destroyed with little or now impact on the overall network,

? new nodes can be added easily, especially through the internet

? each node is independent and autonomous. Each node is free to take action
when and where it pleases.

? some or all of the nodes may coordinate their activities against targeted
businesses ad interest groups

? nodes are active at all levels of society and government from the local to
the international

Now let's apply this to the biotechnology industry and how anti-biotech
activities are attacking it. An illustration such as this can be developed:

Each of the nodes becomes a special interest group or an issue on which the
biotech industry is being challenged and coming into conflict with. The
lines of communication among the various nodes is actually much more
extensive than shown with each node connected to all others. Putting in all
the lines in would make the illustration too complex.

Other industries ­ forestry, mining, chemical, etc. ­ can be substituted for
biotechnology and the general illustration remains the same. Even more
service-oriented industries such as accounting can be put in the center and
many of the surrounding nodes or issues remain unchanged.

From the perspective of this illustration and netwars, risk is but one node
or point of conflict. If the biotech industry were able to resolve all
concerns about risk, it would continue to be confronted on other fronts.
Some risk communicators would suggest that risk is a far-reaching issue with
tentacles into may of the nodes. As a result, they would say, risk concepts
and communications theory should be front and center in dealing with critics
and easing public concerns. But such an approach fails to appreciate the
enormity of the task.

To work, risk communications theory and concepts would need to be targeted
at every node, at every level from the local town council to the United
Nationals on a global basis. For risk communicators who believe in tightly
controlled messages delivered by approved and appropriate messengers, the
task is impossible.

So, what's the option for the biotech industry? It's simple and clear.
Become part of an all-channel work. Become netwarriors. Challenge the
activists and their issues. Bring other related issues into the discussion.

Such an all-channel network would take this form:

A few points to highlight:

? in this all-channel biotechnology is but one industry taking on the
activists (Note: PR folks must expand their horizons beyond their current
employers, clients, and industries.)

? new issues such as freedom, capitalism and property rights must be brought
into the discussion. The business community in general has much to gain and
lose in these areas. (Note: PR folks need to appreciate the importance of
the these issues to the future of business. Focusing on current branding
efforts and the fiscal quarter is too shortsighted in these matters.)

? no one can control how and when the networked business, industries and
issues groups will attack the activists groups and their ideas. (Note: PR
folks need to give up control of the communications process. They need to
focus on empowering others within the all-channel network to take action.)

? coordination of activity among players in the all-channel network is
possible. (Note: PR folks can play a vital role in identifying issues and
events around which coordinated action is needed. They then need to ensure
that the various players have the resource to participate effectively.)

? dense communication among network players is essential. (Note: PR folks
must share information ­ intelligence, media lists and contacts, artwork,
campaign strategies and tactics, etc. Sharing information makes the network
stronger and more powerful. As they say, information is power. Are PR folks
willing to share?)

? new players need to be welcomed and encouraged to join the all-channel
network (Note: Bringing more participants in the network should be a
priority of PR folks.)

? network participants need to be active from the local council level to the
United Nations and WTO. (Note: Recruiting, encouraging and supporting
participants at all levels need to be a PR priority. Working with the "big
boys" at the provincial, state or national level is insufficient when
activists are working at all levels.)

This all-channel network provides hope and opportunity for biotech
communicators and their employers and clients. But, only if they adopt the
mindset of a netwarrior. This all-channel network shows that:

? there are a number of business and trade associations that share -- or
should share -- common concerns about activists. However, relying on trade
associations to be active netwarriors is inadequate. It's important to tap
into the members of those associations.

? within the all-channel work there are shareholders, employees, suppliers,
etc. and can and should be encouraged to act at the local community level.

? there are a number of think tanks and special interest groups that deal
with a number of related issues from the biotech or broader business

? the internet has matured sufficiently that it's an important vehicle for
the extensive information sharing and communications that are vital to a
healthy and effective all-channel network. Other forms of communications,
however, are also essential.

Twentieth century conflict theory and practice provide bountiful
opportunities PR folks. They provide the means to deal with social activists
in new and effective ways. The question is: Are PR folks up to the
challenge? Or, are they too married to the past and their own self-interest
that they'll fail to provide the counsel and insight that their employers
and clients needs?

Netwar is for biotech and other business PR folks who truly believe in their
employers and clients. Not only in their bank accounts.

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