Fracking Companies Using ‘Psychological Warfare’ Tactics To Silence Critics?

by Steve Horn, via DeSmogBlog

Roughly a year ago today in Houston, the shale gas industry was caught red-handed discussing its use of military tactics and personnel on U.S. soil to intimidate and divide communities in order to continue its fracking bonanza.

In a gathering thought to be exclusively among friends, one industry public relations professional representing Range Resources, Matt Pitzarella, said his company utilizes psychological warfare (PSYOPs) tactics on citizens living in the Marcellus Shale basin. The Marcellus is one of the epicenters of the global hydraulic fracturing boom (“fracking”).

Matt Carmichael, External Affairs Manager at Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, told attendees, “we are dealing with an insurgency,” referring to citizens concerned about the impacts of oil and gas development in their communities. He advised the PR pros in the room to use the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, along with Donald Rumsfeld’s book, as guidebooks for suppressing dissent.

A year later, we’re learning that the oil industry is taking its aggressive military-style approach global. According to a press release published by Food and Water Europe, the industry is spying on fracking critics in Poland.

“Recent media reports from Poland show that heavy-handed tactics such as spying and undercover operations are being used against groups and individuals who question shale gas development,” explains the release. “Shale gas companies have sent spies to anti-fracking meetings and reported their findings to the highest levels of the Polish government and internal security services, according to reports in a Polish daily newspaper.”

An internal government report provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and conducted by shale gas investors was given to Gazeta Prawna, a Polish newspaper. The Gazeta reported that anti-fracking activists have been deemed to “breach public security and order” by the investors, serving as the motive for the spy ops. This parallels anti-fracking activists in the Marcellus Shale being labeled “insurgents” by Matt Carmichael, Manager of External Affairs for Anadarko Petroleum Corporation at the Media and Stakeholder Relations Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative conference held in Houston in October 2011.

​This development is a breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which reads, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Fracking for commercial use has yet to begin in Poland, but as the Associated Press reported in March, could begin in 2014. Voices of dissent, though, are already being squealched before the fun has even begun.

“[L]ocal communities increasingly find that their concerns about the environmental and health impacts of shale gas activities are not taken seriously,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch. “This lack of an independent, science-based assessment of risks involved in shale gas in Poland is the reason why numerous local associations there are not welcoming this industry with open arms.”

Steve Horn is a Research Fellow for DeSmogBlog. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.


11 Responses to Fracking Companies Using ‘Psychological Warfare’ Tactics To Silence Critics?

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    I hope Josh Fox reads this. He dropped in on Dot Earth a few months ago, without knowing what that blog was all about. Not only did the commenters viciously attack, Revkin argued that fracking is a good idea.

    The vitriol and paranoia among oil industry people is legendary. They are hard right, and have private security forces, surveillance, and sophisticated disinformation campaigns, managed by big money subcontractors.

    Maybe activists need to stop talking in a conciliatory way about different “energy options” and expose those people for what they are. The American people would respond if a way to reach them is found. Again, the media is failing. Pipeline protests in Texas were ignored by MSM, for example. Plenty of people are trying, but we need to go to the next level.

  2. Lionel A says:

    Yes Mike I agree, but then you will be labelled insurgents with all the baggage that can bring. I can see it coming.

    I have heard that FEMA and others in the alphabet soup of supposed government agencies have been busy building detainment camps. No longer can you expect a holiday in sunny Cuba.

    Seriously, the US political system is broken and of course those in the EU and UK are not far behind by being controlled by entities representing big business rather than the people.

  3. “…but then you will be labelled insurgents with all the baggage that can bring. I can see it coming…”

    All the more reason to stand up and speak out. Remember the famous saying:

    “First [the Nazis] came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

  4. lisa wright says:

    fyi–Sue Heavenrich reported on this in 2010.
    “Do we Still Have the Freedom to Protest?”

  5. robbie rob says:

    This is just silly Si-ops is simultaneous fracking operations used to save money by doing all their fracking at one time. Maybe this person was confused by their ignorance in the subject matter

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Line in the Sands shared a link.

    The Latest Science from Europe—Safe Fracking is a Fairy Tale « EcoWatch: Uniting the Voice of the Gr
    Ajoint reportfrom Germany’s Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety was released in September. Among the conclusions about the environmental impacts of fracking:

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Portals shared a link via Line in the Sands.

    Watch out New England, Tar Sands Pipeline is Headed Your Way « EcoWatch: Uniting the Voice of the Gr
    We’ve written before about Big Oil’snew playbookon tar sands: using stealth tactics to make it harder for the public to figure out what dangerous projects they have in mind and trying to pull one over on the public. Bearing locally-based labels like “Portland Pipe Line Corporation” and “Montreal Pip…

  8. Vic says:

    The same PSYOPs tactics are being employed in Australia as well.

    Keep up the good fight people, they’re getting nervous.

  9. robbie rob says:

    the only thing sinister is that web address that makes you believe it’s affiliated with american broadcasting company…. If people are actually using PSYOPS that’s pretty outrageous and seems like a waste of money. All i’m saying is that tactic seems a little “aluminum deflector beanie” strange…I love think progress for politics but you guys seem a little tin foil on the head crazy in your environmental blog. I blame lack of scientific understanding on both sides and skepticism of the scientific community.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Big Oil is just Big Business. The character formation is the same. Supreme egotism and total, often violent, contempt for others are hallmarks of the type. They hate others, but others who refuse to bow down and grovel and who actually oppose them send them into paroxysms of rage. The years of ‘counter-insurgency’ wars to subjugate various untermenschen in the ‘Injun Land’ (as I believe it is known) of the Third World, are coming home, like mutant chickens, to roost, in ‘the Homeland’. There will be a rapid progression to more and more repression as the public rises up in resistance to the dead souls and their omnicidal greed and destructivenes, but did anyone ever imagine that it could be otherwise?

  11. Lionel A says:

    Don’t get me wrong Philip I am not advocating lying down and taking it from these thieving, lying excuses for humanity it is that I expect more dirty tricks from them.

    After all they have been working at controlling election voting by disenfranchising those who they perceive as election threats.