Disinformation Campaign

1) An effort to deprive human beings of knowledge so that they cannot see what choices are available to them.

2) A tactic used to prevent people from making decisions based on the facts or in their best interests because the facts are withheld from them, cast in doubt or buried in lies.

3) An effort by an entity or company to mislead or confuse the public about the consequences of the company’s actions in order to destroy any resistance to those actions.

4) A ploy by a company or entity to conceal harm or risks imposed on the public or to ecosystems; a way to increase informational asymmetries between the company and the public.

The purpose of lies and misinformation is to deprive people of choices.
The purpose of lies and misinformation is to deprive people of choices.

For example, cigarette makers were aware for decades of the dangers of smoking but claimed in public that smoking was safe. This disinformation distorted public policy in order to guard their profits.

Another example is the actions of Exxon. Exxon, whose own scientists warned as early as 1989 of the catastrophic consequences of increased CO2 levels and greenhouse gases (caused by the burning of fossil fuels), funds organizations that run campaigns of disinformation whose purpose is to sew doubt in the public’s mind about the existence or dangers of the warming of the planet. Doubt in the public about the dangers of greenhouse gases has delayed action against this threat.

One report showed that Exxon gave, despite knowing the dangers of climate change, almost $16 million from 1998 to 2005 to organizations who sought to discredit the scientific evidence related to climate change and convince the public that climate change was a hoax. Exxon also spends (if the company’s 2010 expenditure is typical) between $100 million and $300 million a year in advertising. Media companies are the beneficiaries of much of this expenditure.

See also risk asymmetryinstitutional pathology and media.

Institutional Pathology

1) The inability of an institution, or the people running that institution, from ceasing to do what they know to be harmful and destructive.

2) It is where a manager’s duty to a company or organization outweighs all other concerns, including his or her concerns about the viability of the planet to support the human beings and the other species that now reside on it. It is duty to an institution being stronger than anything outside of that institution, including the concerns for his or her own family.

3) It is the mixture, among those running an institution, of a) the knowledge by those running an institution that their actions and decisions cause harm to the living systems of the planet and b) the inability or unwillingness to halt that destruction.

The duty of a manager of a corporations is definite and unqualified: it is to serve the interests of the corporation—increasing profits, avoiding risks, perceiving threats, acting so that the company is unfettered in its growth and its plans to secure profits for its owners. Furthermore, institutions often defend themselves at all costs. A company has no investment in anything but itself and so sees no cost as too great to preserve itself and its source of financial support. In short, a manager is often a servant to an entity that is indifferent to what it destroys.

This pathology results in a dilemma for managers of those institutions. It is the dilemma of being torn between their duty to the institution and their feelings of obligation towards others and toward the planet’s living systems—as well as toward the lives of future generations. One response to this dilemma may be denial among the group of people running the institution or even a culture of silence surrounding these concerns. Another response to this ambivalence may to be to adopt destruction as a social norm by subsuming it into an ideology which gives a different meaning to the act and holds it as a virtue.


What Are Your Choices?

What can you do? Here are some choices that are available to you.

1) Share this definition with others.

2) Require corporations make public all internal and commissioned studies about the environmental impacts of their actions.

3) Subject managers of corporations who violate environmental regulations to criminal prosecution and change the law so they are not insulated from the consequences of their actions.

4) Make a company’s owners and shareholders financially liable for the actions of the managers they hire to run the company or institution.

5) Alter the legal framework of companies so that the legal and ethical responsibility to ecosystems and those outside of the company are equal or greater than the legal and ethical responsibility to their employer.

See also Risk Asymmetry.


1) A rapid decline in the planet’s oxygen production capacity and the destruction of both ecosystems and the species that inhabit them; the removal of a major component of the planet’s living systems.

2) A type of habitat destruction that results in a decrease in the species diversity.

3) A common practice of the industrial agriculture system and one fostered by a) the limited liability protections given to corporations and b) the logic of financial statements, which is indifferent to losses born by others.

See the speed at which deforestation can occur with current technology.

Deforestation leads to oxygen loss

Industrial Agriculture

1) A system that relies on monocultures, factory fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and depends on the undervaluing—or mispricing—of resources (such as land, air, atmosphere, lakes, ecosystems, and oceans) to extract profits.

2) A group of entities which includes chemical companies (who manufacture pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers), biotech companies (who product genetically modified seeds), industrial scale growers, and the processed food companies and industrial meat producers who buy the resource-intensive crops grown by them. These entities often use obfuscation, misdirection, lobbying and lawsuits to hide their practices from the public or gain preferential treatment from governments (such as subsides or the passing of laws that discriminate against small scale farmers).

Risk Asymmetry

The difference in the risk levels and possible outcomes between the decision maker—the person or entity that chose to take a risk—and the bystander who often bears the consequences for that decision maker’s actions.

In short, there are those who take risks and profit from them, and there are those people and things (ecosystems, habitats, the species within those habitats) who were excluded from the decision making process but who pay for the risks.

The duty of every company’s risk manager is to define the risks that result from the company’s activities and, as much as possible, push the costs and consequences of these risks to parties outside of the company. Another duty of the risk manager is to conceal the risks that result from their actions, and the quantification of those risks, from view, so opposition to the action cannot be organized. So because of this concealment there is, in addition to a risk asymmetry between the decision maker and the bystander, also an information asymmetry. This information asymmetry is widened by different methods of obfuscation and misdirection.

One example of a risk asymmetry: A fracking company causes an earthquake by pumping wastewater into the ground. The fracking company suffers no losses as a result but the residents of that area, who were not part of the decision to frack for oil but whose homes are damaged by the earthquakes and whose water is now undrinkable, do.

One reason for high levels of risk asymmetry is the protection afforded companies by limited liability laws.