Bonum Certa Men Certa

The Serious Implication of Controversial FTI Consulting Contract: Every Press Article About EPO Could Have Been Paid for by EPO

This now-infamous example, as shown below, isn't an article but an EPO advertisement pretending to be an article (actually a recruitment puff piece)

Fake EPO article



Summary: With nearly one million dollars dedicated in just one single year to reputation laundering, one can imagine that a lot of media coverage won't be objective, or just be synthetic EPO promotion, seeded by the EPO or its peripheral PR agents

THE EPO did something very foolish two months ago. It did this secretly, naïvely assuming that the public would never find out. But it did. We broke the story here just before the weekend and we shall see if corporate media, i.e. the target of the EPO's media campaign, will actually choose to cover it.



"Good reputation can not only be bought these days. It can be demanded."Techrights has written extensively about the Gates Foundation paying a lot of the world's media companies (to the tune of, an average, one million dollars per day) to say how wonderful Bill Gates is and promote companies that he is investing in, for profit. He turned a lot of publications into his mouthpiece and many journalists into propagandists for his political agenda. A recent article (a few days old) called it “Bill Chill” effect [1]. Bribed-for coverage became rather normal when it comes to this area of coverage and objections or criticism subsequently marginalised, or drowned aside in a sea of puff pieces. Good reputation can not only be bought these days. It can be demanded. Attacks on opposing voices are possible too, e.g. by paying lousy legal firms to intimidate people.

Let's face the simple reality that the EPO now has a reputation catastrophe. Thanks to our coverage, even Private Eye is now on the EPO's tail. What the EPO is doing here might not be unusual, especially among corporations that are in a similar crisis. Many large companies disseminate money or 'soft' bribes (e.g. gifts) to the media via PR agencies (see our pages about Microsoft PR agencies and AstroTurfing), but the EPO isn't a private company. Well, it increasingly is, but that's another big problem.

The New Scientist page from January says “Advertisement” on the right pane (see screenshot above), but it should also say so above the ‘article’ itself as it’s essentially an EPO-funded advertisement. This is clearly not an article, it’s a placement paid for by the EPO. "Even a blind cat would see that it's only an ad," wrote this one person in Twitter. "Even with a link at the end..."

"Attacks on opposing voices are possible too, e.g. by paying lousy legal firms to intimidate people.""Advertisement is on an unrelated link," wrote this person, "not on the article, which is a regular section ("careers")."

Is there more coming? With a budget of €880,000? As we noted here before, the Les Échos débâcle [1, 2, 3] (now Battistelli's mouthpiece not just 'media partner') may be just the edge of a much larger iceberg. La Débâcle is now a better, more suitable name for Les Échos.

Related/contextual items from the news:



  1. How the Gates Foundation Reflects the Good and the Bad of “Hacker Philanthropy”
    Despite its impact, few book-length assessments of the foundation’s work have appeared. Now Linsey McGoey, a sociologist at the University of Essex, is seeking to fill the gap. “Just how efficient is Gates’s philanthropic spending?” she asks in No Such Thing as a Free Gift. “Are the billions he has spent on U.S. primary and secondary schools improving education outcomes? Are global health grants directed at the largest health killers? Is the Gates Foundation improving access to affordable medicines, or are patent rights taking priority over human rights?”

    As the title of her book suggests, McGoey answers all of these questions in the negative. The good the foundation has done, she believes, is far outweighed by the harm. In education, she maintains, most of its initiatives have either gone bust or failed to deliver on their promises. The foundation’s first great education initiative focused on creating small schools in place of big ones, on the assumption that doing so would allow students to receive more individualized attention. From 2000 to 2008, it spent $2 billion to establish 2,602 schools across the United States, affecting a total of nearly 800,000 students. Unfortunately, the experiment failed to improve college acceptance rates to the degree that the Gateses had hoped, and so they abruptly terminated it.

    Instead, the foundation channeled its resources into a host of other initiatives — increased data collection on teacher effectiveness, the introduction of performance-based teacher pay, more standardized testing for students. The foundation has invested heavily in charter schools and vigorously backed the Common Core, which sets national reading and math standards. These are all key elements of the so-called school reform movement. Arne Duncan, as head of Chicago’s public schools, worked closely with both the Gates and Broad foundations, and as President Obama’s secretary of education he sought to implement many of their ideas.

    McGoey (along with many others) is sharply critical of this movement. She cites studies that show that charter schools have performed no better or worse than traditional public schools, and she notes that the Gates Foundation itself has backed away from its once vocal support for assessing teacher performance on the basis of student test scores. While the willingness of the Gateses to change their minds in the face of evidence is admirable, McGoey writes, the reforms they championed “are now entrenched. For many teachers and students, their recent handwringing over the perils of high-stakes testing has come a little too late.”

    [...

    On one point, however, McGoey is convincing — the need for more analysis of this powerful foundation and the man and woman at its head. Bill and Melinda Gates answer to no electorate, board, or shareholders; they are accountable mainly to themselves. What’s more, the many millions of dollars the foundation has bestowed on nonprofits and news organizations has led to a natural reluctance on their part to criticize it. There’s even a name for it: the “Bill Chill” effect.

    That’s not to say that there has been no critical coverage of the foundation’s work. Diane Ravitch has excoriated Gates along with the rest of the school reform movement in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, as well as on her blog. The New York Times and other papers have offered occasional close examinations of Gates’ work. And Joanne Barkan, in a 2011 article in Dissent titled, “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools,” offered a thoroughgoing critique of the education work of Gates and its fellow foundations. In another Dissent article on “how big philanthropy undermines democracy,” Barkan complained that “the mainstream media are, for the most part, failing miserably in their watchdog duties. They give big philanthropy excessive deference and little scrutiny.”

    That may be changing. Alessandra Stanley, writing in the Times in late October, offered a skeptical assessment of the outsized claims made by Sean Parker and other Silicon Valley philanthropists. “Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is,” she observed. “But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.”

    [...]

    We need more probing accounts of this sort. The power of the new barons of philanthropy is only going to grow. The risks they take and the bets they make will no doubt become bolder. If journalists don’t hold them accountable, who will?


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