2 hrs February 25, 2016 Sandy Robson
Once again, Cherry Point fossil fuel industry advocate Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA), under the leadership of its President Tony Larson, uses propaganda that misleads the public, in an effort to motivate people to submit WBA’s form-generated comments on the Cherry Point Amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan Update, currently under review by Whatcom County Council. Below, is my February 24, 2017 public comment I submitted to the County Council, regarding the WBA’s current comment campaign for the Cherry Point Amendments:
Dear Whatcom County Council members:
Please consider this an official public comment on the proposed Cherry Point Amendments to the 2016 County Comprehensive Plan Update, currently under review by the Council. I would like to bring some information to your attention regarding public commenting on the Cherry Point Amendments.
The Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA) made a February 20, 2017 Facebook post on its organization’s Facebook page which has been being disseminated as a sponsored ad throughout Facebook. In the WBA’s Facebook post, there was text placed above a link. The text read: “2,100 family wage jobs. That is what is at risk if Whatcom County Council votes to prevent growth at Cherry Point.”
That sponsored Facebook ad has come into my Facebook feed, and other Whatcom County residents’ Facebook feeds on multiple dates this month. Oddly, when I went to the WBA Facebook page, the February 20, 2017 post that is featured in the sponsored ads does not appear on WBA’s page. That likely indicates that the post was hidden by the WBA Facebook page so that only the page administrator/s can see it, but the public can not see it.
One might wonder why an organization would want to create a post, then send it out as a sponsored ad multiple times, but then make it so that post would not be visible to the public visiting the organization’s Facebook page?
Perhaps the answer to that question can be found by examining that Facebook post sponsored ad. The link in the WBA’s February 20th-dated Facebook page post takes people to a webpage (“preservecherrypoint.com“) showing the WBA logo at the top, with information displayed, a request that visitors “Take Action,” and ultimately a form-generated comment directed to the County Council, regarding the Cherry Point Amendments. I will discuss the specifics of the “Action” the WBA wants people to take after I first discuss the propaganda that was/is fed to people before they would move/scroll down that webpage to then submit their form-generated communication.
Let’s look at the propaganda. The WBA’s “preservecherrypoint.com” webpage has a bolded header that is placed below their organization’ logo. The header reads:
“The Whatcom County Council is considering passing a study to kill jobs at Cherry Point and cut education funding for schools in our communities.”
Then, there are two paragraphs of text that follow beneath the header. Those two paragraphs read:
“The study written into the Cherry Point UGA amendment is the first step in the County Council’s attempts to harm Cherry Point stakeholders and it will have a severe impact on their ability to be flexible, grow, create new family-wage jobs, and fund education and other important social services.
“The Whatcom Business Alliance and Cherry Point stakeholders are united in their opposition to County Council efforts to kill family-wage jobs and cut education funding to schools in our communities.”
Below those two paragraphs there is a link that says, “Read The Proposed Update,” which, if clicked, takes visitors to a document containing both the County Planning Commission’s “Findings of Fact and Reasons for Action” and the commission’s “Final Recommendations” on the Cherry Point Amendments it approved on January 12, 2017.
Then, below that link is the a bolded header that reads: “We Need Action.” Below the header, there is a paragraph that reads:
“Tell the County Council not to pass a study to kill jobs at Cherry Point and cut education funding for schools in our communities.”
In terms of the “Action” that the WBA asks visitors to its “preservecherrypoint.com” webpage, to take, first, I’d like to be clear in stating that I do not have a problem with the idea of form-generated comments often used by various organizations. I understand the positive aspects of that practice when conducted in a responsible and accurate manner by organizations. However, I do have a problem when an organization, in its zeal to impassion and/or motivate people to take action to submit comments which were form-generated by that organization, feeds information that can easily be described as propaganda, and at best, is inaccurate and misleading, to the audience at which it is directing its comment campaign.
Now, onto the specifics of the “Action” that WBA asks/encourages readers to take. The “Action” requested is to fill-out and submit a pre-written, form-generated comment that is directed to the County Council, regarding the proposed Cherry Point Amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan Update.
The WBA form goes like this:
The first section shown is “Step One – Compose a Message,” under which there is a pre-written subject line, a pre-written message, and a pre-written closing line. Under the closing line, it shows that a commenter’s name, city, state, and zip code will appear there, after the close.
Below that, is the “Step 2 – Add Your Information” section, under which it provides fields for the commenter to fill out: First Name, Last Name, Email, City, State, and Zip Code. Then when completed, commenters would click on the “Submit Your Comment Button.”
After receiving the sponsored ad in my Facebook feed this week, I have visited the WBA’s “preservecherrypoint.com” webpage about 30 or so times. The form-generated communication is somehow set up so that the “Subject,” the “Message,” and the “Close,” for those comments/communications to the Council will periodically vary, such that the form comment that people will be sending will be presented in at least 22 differently worded versions (seen so far) depending on which version was presented on the WBA webpage according to when people visited the webpage.
I felt it important to have provided Council with the information I have outlined here so that you all have a full understanding of the context in terms of exactly what information that WBA fed to people who responded, and are responding, to their organization’s sponsored Facebook ads, who took action to submit the form-generated comments to the Council.
I hope that you keep all of this in mind when you read any of the WBA form-generated comments I’ve described because there are at least 22 different versions with various subject lines above them, but all of those comments/communications stemmed from the same inaccurate and misleading information provided by the WBA on its “preservecherrypoint.com” webpage. And, that inaccurate and misleading information gave those commenters a specific framing of the Cherry Point Amendments proposal, with particular emphasis on alleging that the study referenced in the proposal is the “first step in the County Council’s attempts to harm Cherry Point stakeholders,” and that there are “efforts to kill family-wage jobs” and “to cut education funding for schools in our community” by the County Council.
Those various 22 comments/communications are each shown at the bottom of this email. You can also see examples of some of those in screenshot photos attached at the bottom of this email.
Thank you for considering my comment on this matter.
Birch Bay, WA