Update 09/18/2011 12:25 AM PDT: I had mistakenly attributed certain quotes below to a (possibly non-existent) publication called “Music World”. The correct name is “Music Week” – and I have now amended this post accordingly.
“In PR-ing events, we like to create different moments that have [a] chance of being used by the media, creating several options for media to cover our clients […]
In PR, we cannot always promote an event […] but we can all see [an event] as a masterclass and apply the lessons across the board.
I doubt that in applying these lessons “across the board”, it would be too much of a stretch to conclude that – in their “very much in the background” handling of “reputation/crisis management” for a corporate client – the spinners at The Outside Organization (OO) would ‘create different storylines that have a chance of being used by the media‘, as they appear to have done in the aftermath of Climategate, in order to rescue the Norfolk based University of East Anglia (UEA)’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) who were mired in a bad press mess of their own making.
The university’s Climatic Research Unit wanted Outside to fire back some shots on the scientists’ behalf after leaked emails from the unit gave climate change skeptics ammunition and led to an avalanche of negative press about whether global warming was a real possibility.
“They came to us and said, ‘We have a huge problem – we are being completely knocked apart in the press,’” says (OO’s) Sam Bowen. “They needed someone with heavyweight contacts who could come in and sort things out, and next week there was a front-page story telling it from their side.”
The role of Neil Wallis, formerly editor of The People, deputy editor of The Sun and, most recently, executive editor of the News Of The World, is to lend heavy-hitting tabloid expertise, leading some jobs, following Edwards on others.
“Most of my career has been spent working at the top end of tabloid newspapers, so I know how they work and how they think,” says Wallis. “This is not that different, actually. You have very creative people, you have fastmoving situations, you have to think on your feet.”
Wallis led on the University of East Anglia “climategate” job, when Outside was drafted in[…]
As I had noted previously, Wallis was wearing his OO hat at UEA/CRU at the same time as he was on contract to Scotland Yard as a “media consultant”. Not too long ago, it subsequently came to light that Wallis was rather chummy with an Andy Hayman.
Hayman has had a rather interesting career; although his recent performance at the U.K. Select Committee Hearing on the 2006 investigation that he and his underlings determined could be closed after finding only 2 guilty parties, certainly made me wonder how he succeeded in rising as high in the ranks as he did. In 2006, Hayman was ‘Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and the the highest ranking officer responsible for counter-terrorism in the United Kingdom’. From 2002-2005, Hayman served as the Chief Constable of the Norfolk Constabulary.
The currrent Chief Constable of the Norfolk Constabulary is Phil Gormley; he was appointed to this position in January 2010. His bio on the force’s website indicates:
In 2004 he became Secretary of the Association of Chief Police Officer’s standing committee on Terrorism and Allied Matters (ACPO TAM). In this role he helped to shape the future of counter terrorism policing nationally.
From 2005 he led on the modernisation of Specialist Operations and took command of the MPS Special Branch, responsible for driving forward the merger of Special Branch and the Anti Terrorist Branch to form the new Counter Terrorism Command for the Metropolitan Police.
Hmmmm … Counter-terrorism at the Met? Looks like Gormley and Hayman might have been playing musical chairs! What a small world, eh? It must be sheer coincidence. But, in any event, I digress …
Hayman’s departure from the Metropolitan police was under a rather dark cloud and he subsequently turned up in the ranks of News International journalists, writing for the London Times and (on at least one occasion) producing an analysis for the U.K. “think tank”, Policy Exchange.
I’ve never been a believer in the conspiracy theory of history – nor do I have any skills in assessing probabilities; however, in light of Wallis’ involvement both with the Met and with CRU in their respective hours of need and his known ties to Hayman (and Hayman’s ties to the Norfolk Constabulary, to whom the UEA had reported the “data breach” in November 2009), there are some questions in my mind. Consider the following …
Prior to the circa Nov. 19, 2009 release of the emails in the public domain, despite all the run-up hype to Copenhagen, there were stories in the press indicating that many were anticipating failure. A few examples:
The Telegraph, Nov. 15, 2009
World leaders have finally accepted that it will be impossible to come to a deal on climate change this year and have moved their attention to setting new dealines for a global agreement.
TIME Nov. 15, 2009
[…] some of the most significant diplomatic news coming out of APEC in Singapore was an agreement not to do something. Confirming doubts that had been growing for months, the world leaders in attendance at APEC — along with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen — announced on Sunday morning that a legally binding deal on climate change would be impossible to achieve at the U.N. summit on global warming in Copenhagen next month. [emphasis added -hro]
UEA’s Mike Hulme in Ecologist (“Part of the Guardian Environment Network) Nov. 16, 2009
Expectations for the Copenhagen climate negotiations have, sadly, been raised far too high. Voices – some sombre, some shrill – have told us it must be a deal ‘to save the planet’ and ‘to protect civilisation as we know it’. That it is ‘the last chance we have to tackle climate change’.
Such an atmosphere is not conducive to calm, considered and realistic negotiating. And it is a task made harder because in recent years so many issues troubling the world have been dumped into the climate change bucket: the loss of biodiversity, the gross inequity in patterns of development, loss of tropical forests, trade restrictions, violation of the rights of indigenous peoples, intellectual property rights, etc. The list seems to grow by the month. [emphasis added -hro]
Spiegel Online Nov. 17, 2009
A few short months ago, it seemed almost inconceivable that the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen would end with anything less than a binding, legal agreement. The political pressure on the industrial states was too great, the expectations of their inhabitants too high.
Even before the summit starts on Dec. 7, the climate talks already look like they will be a failure — at least, if one considers what the original goal of the talks was. At the end of 2007, at a summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, the United Nations decided that a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, had to be reached within two years — and that its follow-up would be finalized in Copenhagen. [emphasis added -hro]
The emails hit the blogosphere on Nov. 19. Yet, there was no official word from UEA/CRU until Nov. 23. In this “CRU Update 1“, readers are told that at least some of the emails are “genuine”, that the police have been contacted, and that UEA will be:
“conducting a review, with external support, into the circumstances surrounding the theft and publication of this information and any issues emerging from it.”
This Nov. 23 “Update” also included a “Comment” from Phil Jones, in which he declared that, in effect, a trick is not a trick. The next day, UEA issued “CRU Update 2“.
CRU Update 2 was “released on November 24 at 3.30pm”:
The University of East Anglia has released the following press release and statements from Prof Trevor Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, Prof Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit, and from CRU.
In addition to “demonstrating” that decline is not decline, Phil Jones (or someone who put the words into his mouth for him) said:
In the frenzy of the past few days, the most vital issue is being overshadowed: we face enormous challenges ahead if we are to continue to live on this planet.
One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks.
At 17:10 p.m. on Nov. 24, according to the Guardian, Jones said the same thing, more or less:
Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, said that the past week had been “the worst few days of my professional life”. He added that since the emails were leaked he had received personal threats which have now been passed on to the police to investigate.
Jones said the timing of the theft suggested it was intended to cause maximum embarrassment ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks next month: “One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks.”
Trevor Davies, the University of East Anglia’s pro-vice-chancellor with responsibility for research, rejected calls – including from the Guardian commentator George Monbiot – for Jones to resign: “We see no reason for Professor Jones to resign and, indeed, we would not accept his resignation. He is a valued and important scientist.”
Davies said the university had now decided to conduct an independent review which will “address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed”.
Clearly, UEA/CRU were responding in their long-established pattern: let’s just keep our heads low and hope that this blows over – and nothing in the emails matters because, well, because we said so; so let’s get on with the important business of saving the planet.
If one wants to talk about “coincidence”, “Climategate” and Copenhagen, one cannot pretend (as Jones seems to have done) that news coverage (such as I had noted above) did not happen! Considering the timing, a far more logical speculation would be that Jones and his like-minded friends had decided to use Climategate as a very (coincidental but) convenient diversionary scapegoat for the failure they must have known Copenhagen would be.
About the only effect Climategate might have had on anything relating to Copenhagen is that it pushed the Nov. 24 ‘It’s worse than we thought, and happening faster than we thought’ non-IPCC (except for 14 of its 26 authors) “Copenhagen Diagnosis” press release off the front page (at the greenest of ’em all Guardian, it didn’t even make it into the print edition).
But lack of logic (not to mention the lack of even a shred of evidence) did not prevent this Climategate-Copenhagen meme from getting some high-powered recycling in the days, weeks and even months that followed. In PR-speak, it would no doubt be a good storyline to feed to the media (and perhaps to the Norfolk Constabulary!)
On Nov. 29, IPCC Chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri – courtesy of the Guardian’s Observer – lectured the world (in his unique “non-policy-prescriptive” way, of course):
Ahead of the Copenhagen summit, leading scientist and IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri warns of radical charges and regulation if global disaster is to be avoided
Hotel guests should have their electricity monitored; hefty aviation taxes should be introduced to deter people from flying; and iced water in restaurants should be curtailed, the world’s leading climate scientist has told the Observer.
Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), warned that western society must undergo a radical value shift if the worst effects of climate change were to be avoided. A new value system of “sustainable consumption” was now urgently required, he said.
“Today we have reached the point where consumption and people’s desire to consume has grown out of proportion,” said Pachauri. “The reality is that our lifestyles are unsustainable.”
Oh, and on the same day Pachauri had some words of wisdom to impart (also via the Guardian) on the likely impact of the leaked emails on the IPCC:
Rajendra Pachauri says there is ‘virtually no possibility’ of a few scientists biasing IPCC’s advice, after UAE hacking breach
There is “virtually no possibility” of a few scientists biasing the advice given to governments by the UN’s top global warming body, its chair said today.
Rajendra Pachauri defended the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the wake of apparent suggestions in emails between climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that they had prevented work they did not agree with from being included in the panel’s fourth assessment report, which was published in 2007.
Pachauri said the large number of contributors and rigorous peer review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be rapidly uncovered.
“The processes in the IPCC are so robust, so inclusive, that even if an author or two has a particular bias it is completely unlikely that bias will find its way into the IPCC report,” he said.
“Every single comment that an expert reviewer provides has to be answered either by acceptance of the comment, or if it is not accepted, the reasons have to be clearly specified. So I think it is a very transparent, a very comprehensive process which insures that even if someone wants to leave out a piece of peer reviewed literature there is virtually no possibility of that happening.”
Some commentators, including the former chancellor Nigel Lawson and the environmental campaigner and Guardian writer George Monbiot, have called on Jones to resign but Pachauri said he did not agree. He said an independent inquiry into the emails would achieve little, but there should be a criminal investigation into how the emails came to light.
Pachauri said he doubted that trust in the IPCC would be damaged by the affair. “People who are aware of how the IPCC functions and are appreciative of the credibility that the IPCC has attained will probably not be swayed by an incident of this kind,” he said.
Clearly Pachauri had read very few (if any) of the emails, and no one seems to have fed him (or his interviewer) the Climategate-Copenhagen meme storyline.
But two days later, on Tues. Dec. 1, UEA released “CRU Update 3“. This Update was very brief (compared to Updates 1 and 2) – and very different in tone:
Professor Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review resulting from allegations following the hacking and publication of emails from the Unit.
Professor Jones said: “What is most important is that CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible. After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director’s role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this. The Review process will have my full support.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Edward Acton said: “I have accepted Professor Jones’s offer to stand aside during this period. It is an important step to ensure that CRU can continue to operate normally and the independent review can conduct its work into the allegations.
“We will announce details of the Independent Review, including its terms of reference, timescale and the chair, within days. I am delighted that Professor Peter Liss, FRS, CBE, will become acting director.”
Wow! What a difference a week of bad press makes! Clearly at this point OO’s Wallis and Bowen were on board. It is not difficult to imagine that their very first piece of advice would have been: “Get Jones out of the picture”. Then let’s ‘create different storylines that have a chance of being used by the media’.
No doubt the Climategate-Copenhagen meme would have been music (pun intended) to an OO man’s ears – although they appear to have, well, jazzed it up a bit.
UPDATE 08/17/2011 07:59 PM The date of the Ben Webster article immediately following was Dec. 7, not Dec. 4. I have now amended accordingly.
4 7, Ben Webster at The Times (erstwhile home of Wallis’ buddy, Andy Hayman) had a very convenient article on offer. IPCC Vice Chair, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, UNEP’s Achim Steiner & UNFCCC’s Yvo de Boer were all quoted, quite extensively:
UN officials have likened the theft of e-mails from university climate researchers to the Watergate scandal, after claiming computer hackers were probably paid by people intent on undermining the Copenhagen summit.
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that the theft from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was not the work of amateur climate sceptics, but was a sophisticated and well-funded attempt to destroy public confidence in the science of man-made climate change. He said the fact that the e-mails were first uploaded to a sceptic website from a computer in Russia was an indication that the culprit was paid.
Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Programme, said that the theft of emails had echoes of Watergate — the burglary of the Democratic Party’s offices at the Watergate building in Washington DC in 1972.
“This is not ‘climategate’, it’s ‘hackergate’. Let’s not forget the word ‘gate’ refers to a place where data was stolen by people who were paid to do so. So the media should direct its investigations into that.”
Ironically, de Boer (who stepped down and moved on to greener pastures shortly after Copenhagen) was the most reasonable of this triumvirate:
[de Boer] said that the stolen e-mails looked “very bad” and were fuelling scepticism, but said the media scrutiny was not unwelcome. Mr de Boer said: “I think it’s very good that what is happening is being scrutinised in the media because this process has to be based on solid science. If quality and integrity is being questioned, that has to be examined.”
And less than a week later (Dec. 12), Seth Borenstein (never known for saying an unkind word about any alarmists, let alone a big name “climate scientist”) had a very shallow AP piece splattered across front pages of several newspapers.
It is difficult to imagine that UEA/CRU would not have been aware of these upcoming stories circa Dec. 1 (when Jones stepped down and they announced the “investigations”) if such stories had been in the works at the time they are presumed (at least by me!) to have called on the services of OO’s Wallis and Bowen. In the Music
World Week piece, Bowen (the OO “strategy” guy) is quoted as saying:
“They needed someone with heavyweight contacts who could come in and sort things out, and next week there was a front-page story telling it from their side.”
Heavyweight contacts? Check.
Sort things out? Check.
Front-page story telling it from their side? Check.
(To be continued in Part 2)
UPDATE 08/17/2011 01:16 AM I am still working on Part 2; but just in case anyone at UEA should decide to take a leaf out of the pages of the U.K. Daily Mail, I’m appending links to pdfs of the CRU documents mentioned above (and or in my comment below)