No 385 Posted by fw, January 10, 2012
Chapter 3 of Tim Gee’s book, Counterpower: Making Change Happen, examines the tactics governments have used to thwart Counterpower movements.
In his lead-in to Chapter 3, How Government Responds to Counterpower, Gee says his purpose is to help activists understand and overcome the tactics used by government and corporate power elites to thwart Counterpower movements. He writes —
“Politicians often bemoan people’s lack of interest in politics. When they do so, they are usually bemoaning the lack of people supporting their politics. Because when a real political movement rises to challenge a government, that government will do everything it can to hold the people concerned back. Governments will try discrediting the movement, smearing it, co-opting it, dividing and ruling it, or – if all that fails – crushing it. In general, it would seem that the greater the strength of the Counterpower movement, the greater is the repressiveness of the government response.” —Tim Gee
Movement organizers, cautions Gee, must carry no false illusions about the struggle they face:
The historical evidence suggests that there is no inevitability about the eventual victory ahead. Governments and other sources of elite power have a whole raft of tactics available to them. Only by understanding them can we overcome them.
This post, Part 7, focuses narrowly on one aspect of Gee’s Chapter 3 — it samples the tactics that governments and corporate power elites have employed to manage, suppress and restrict the scope of decision making related to climate change. Although there has been irrefutable scientific evidence of a causal relationship between human activity and global warming for at least 50 years, governments have largely ignored the evidence and the threat. Consider the tactics governments have employed to stymie action, often with the conspicuous help of powerful corporate elites —
“None has produced a decision that climate scientists have declared capable of stopping climate change.”
“This means that the panel’s reports are extremely conservative – even timid. . . . Then, when all is settled among the scientists, the politicians sweep in and seek to excise from the summaries anything that threatens their interests.”
The climate change campaign that backfired
Almost as an aside, Gee mentions a 2009 study by the World Wildlife Fund, Simple and Painless? which revealed that even do-gooder environmental NGOs sometimes take action that is self-defeating. In this case, a decision to by-pass do-nothing governments in favor of working directly with the public ended up by playing right into the hands of governments and corporations. To explain, given the improbability of governmental action on climate change, some environmental campaigners decided to ignore government in favor of approaching the public directly to encourage individuals to change their climate-related attitudes and behaviour. However, the outcomes were unforeseen —