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The Control Game

Date sent:        Mon, 16 Mar 1998 19:59:41 -0500
From:    (by way of QPIRG )
Subject:          (act-mtl-d) The Control Game   
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CONTROL (or democracy) 

Subject: The Control Game 
Cc: Ed Deak , 


Environmental Information Network (EIN), Inc.TM 
P.O. Box 280087, Lakewood, CO 80228-0087 -- 
Paula Elofson-Gardine, Executive Director/Susan Hurst, Publications Director 

Tactic 1 -- Make it impossible for people to be involved: These typical 
control tactics set things up so that it's difficult and inconvenient for 
interested parties such as the affected public to participate. 

* Meetings are scheduled at inappropriate locations or times; i.e., 
  during regular working hours, highway rush hours, dinner times, or 
  deliberately conflicting times with similar interest meetings. Strict 
  meeting "guidelines" and use of question cards discourages real 
  dialogue and keeps attendees under control. 

* Schedule lengthy one-way presentations that will not allow give and 
  take exchange. This precludes the public (including the press) from 
  asking questions or clarifications. 
* Conveners may insist that all questions be held until the end, by which 
  time people are tired, the meeting area must be vacated, and the press 
  has had to leave to meet deadlines. 

* Allow the public limited time, and a limited number of questions that 
  must pertain to their predetermined set of allowable topics; while the 
  conveners drag out their answers, essentially filibustering away the 
  rest of the time for the meeting -- and coincidentally time for open 
  discussion of issues and answers that many attendees showed up for. 

* Staff may be trained to be nice, while having been trained to handle 
  the public by using subtle harassment or baiting techniques, which also 
  discourages public involvement. 

These tactics are used to fulfill requirements for public outreach in order 
to legitimize the process. If attendance is sparse it will be blamed on 
public apathy, rather than a deliberate effort to exclude public 
participation. Reject this pretense for public involvement. Short circuit 
this tactic by standing up as a group and announcing an immediate press 
conference that will give the press the real story from the citizens outside 
of the meeting room or across the street from the building, then get up and 
leave as a group. If this is not immediately possible, let the conveners 
know that your group will hold its own meeting, protest, and/or press 
conference the next morning and will continue to inform the media of their 
non-cooperation on these issues. 

Tactic 2 -- Divide and Conquer: This is a well-established tactic that 
effectively places similar interest groups at odds against each other, when 
they would otherwise be a formidable force for bureaucratic responsiveness 
and accountability. This tactic uses existing tensions and divisions between 
organizations. Name this tactic as soon as you recognize it to short circuit 
its effectiveness. Make sure that everyone understands what interests they 
share in common, and why it is in their best interest to continue to work 
together. A few favorite tactics are described below. 

* Divide a large issue into many small ones. This forces people and/or 
  organizations to fight many small battles, dispersing their energies. 
  Small groups working in isolation of each other may not be as effective 
  as coordinating efforts to maximize through solid communication and 
* Provide enough resources to cover only part of the problem. This can 
  include preparing only a few copies of handouts or important documents 
  so that self-imposed constraints prevent them from being able to 
  provide x, y, or z service -- while it is obvious that there is plenty 
  of budgetary allowance for gratuities, amenities, or items that fulfill 
  their bias or agenda. 
* Appoint a committee using key members of the public -- including 
  appointees with views similar to the convener, funder, or directing 
  agency to maintain their control of the committee. Their involvement is 
  then publicly highlighted -- whether or not they attend or participate. 
  Their names will be used strategically (sometimes in absentia), or 
  photos are used to imply consent, agreement, or consensus with the 
  committee -- although they may object or disagree with the viewpoint or 
  findings of the committee. Citizens (token) used in this manner may or 
  may not be aware of their names or pictures being used to artificially 
  lend credibility to the committee or findings in question. In some 
  cases, they may be unaware that they are considered to be a member of 
  the committee. 
* Many separate tables are used in large banquet or meeting rooms to 
  break a meeting up into small discussion groups. This effectively keeps 
  valuable information that would otherwise be revealed in the general 
  discussion from being heard by the larger group, which would have 
  enhanced communal brainstorming and questioning of the process or 
  problem at hand. These small group discussions may then be summarized 
  and reported back to the larger group. Carefully placed shills or 
  committee members may serve as group leaders to control group feedback. 
  This suppresses any controversial discussions that don't fit the 
  convener's agenda, and inhibits networking or brainstorming on the 
* Seating arranged in "audience fashion" delegates you to a passive role 
  in these meetings. Short-circuit this by playing Musical Chairs. Insist 
  that the tables and/or chairs be moved (circle or horseshoe shape) so 
  that everyone can be an active participant with the conveners or 
  presenters. Put yourselves at the same level and/or table with the 
  power brokers so there is no distance to allow them to feel comfortably 
  in control (no shield). Convert their agenda to your agenda. 

* Public relations campaigns (blitzes) into the community will seek out 
  homeowners associations, service groups, schools, and so on, to present 
  biased, incomplete, or misleading information to sidestep opposition to 
  mould and win over public opinion about key issues. 
* Conduct private (behind closed-door or impromptu) meetings with civic 
  groups, government, or public officials (i.e. city council, county 
  commissioners, etc.) of similar political or philosophical leanings -- 
  without informing citizens or organizations with opposing viewpoints of 
  these meetings. 
* Wrong information regarding time and location is provided -- too late 
  to be corrected (The scavenger hunt). This ensures that their message 
  will be presented without all sides of an issue being recognized or 
  openly discussed. 

Tactic 3 -- Pack the Meeting: The power brokers will encourage employees to 
attend x, y, or z meeting. They may also establish telephone trees (which we 
should be doing) to get employees and supporters to pack a meeting to 
simulate public support for their position on an issue, and to set the tone 
of the meeting. 

* Comment or question cards are used in place of a communal microphone 
  for participants to go to, so everyone can hear and participate in the 
  discussion. Their supporters will stack the deck of comment cards with 
  time wasters, and may continue filling out more cards throughout the 
  meeting to defuse opposition discussion (see tactic 1 -- 
Short circuit this by meeting with your neighbors, colleagues, or 
constituents for a pre-meeting conference to discuss opposition tactics and 
strategy that are barriers to getting your views aired. Come up with your 
own list of strategy and critical points, then divide them up among 
yourselves. Go to the meeting prepared with fact sheets, questions, and 
comments that support your views. Brainstorm with your colleagues, refine 
the information, then pass it around the neighborhood, or the target 
audience for and after the meeting. Call the tactics as you see them occur 
in the meeting to defuse them. Insist on a fair airing of the issues, within 
everyone's hearing. 

Tactic 4 -- Economic Blackmail: When dealing with politically heated issues, 
especially "company town" polluters, the first threat may be that massive 
layoffs will occur if they have to: change a process, stop polluting, fix 
safety problems, clean up contamination, and so on. This is a Red Herring 
scare tactic that should be immediately brought to everyone's attention. 

* In 1988, the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Facility (RFP) was faced with 
  changes that included decommissioning, the contractor threatened 
  massive layoffs. Economic developers and chambers of commerce predicted 
  local devastation. To the contrary, the cleanup has been a huge 
  economical boost for subcontractors and RFP personnel, who have nearly 
  doubled the numbers of employees that were needed for full production 
  and chemical recovery of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads. 
* Retraining and educational programs have blossomed at local colleges. 
  The people to watch are the Developers and Chambers, who will attempt 
  to create new projects, while "dumbing down the workforce" by bringing 
  in minimum wage workers for cleanup jobs, lay off union people, and 
  funnel profits to special interest chums. Stay united, call that 
  tactic, and make them accountable. 

No one likes to be picketed, boycotted, or pictured negatively in the press 
- -- these citizen tactics are relatively easy to implement. 

Tactic 5 -- Give the appearance of action without doing anything: When faced 
with an obvious need for change, bureaucrats may try to give the appearance 
of taking action without actually doing anything. These tactics may sound 
like this: 
* "We have decided to appoint an advisory, special, sub-committee, or 
  commission to study or handle the problem. We want (or need) members of 
  our group to volunteer assistance because we do not have money for 
* "Your knowledge, input, or time is so valuable (and so on), we would 
  like you to help us with x, y, or z to work out solutions" (but they 
  will fail to assimilate your information, suggestions, or concerns). 

* "We would like to help you by doing x, y, or z for you" -- but the 
  reciprocal help never appears (carrot on the stick). 

* "We plan to issue a policy or statement regarding that problem next 
  week, month, year..., so that everyone will know what to do in the 
  future..." Beware of bureaucrats stealing your uncompensated time to 
  tie you up, keeping you out of circulation in the community. 
  Volunteerism can be abused, becoming a time quicksand. 

Don't accept inconsequential actions, excuses, and "donothingitis". Set a 
reasonable amount of time for genuine action, and then tell everyone that 
you expect action by that date. Think twice before joining "study committees 
or advisory groups" that are not policy-changing bodies that have no real 
power to do anything about the issue or problem in question, are funded and 
directed by your adversary, or by those that represent the other side of 
your issue. There may not be an accurate record of what has happened from 
the beginning, during, or at the end of these efforts. Refusal to allow the 
recording of meetings, or have an accurate paper trail to document important 
meetings and proceedings is a serious red flag of cover-ups and problems. 

Tactic 6 -- Give them a Red Herring, or Get them to Chase the Wrong Bunny: 
This is an issue or information offered to belittle, patronize, or confound 
and derail your efforts. When a bureaucrat tries to change the subject from 
what you are concerned about to what they want you to focus on, they are 
using a "Bait and Switch" routine. 

* "I don't know what you're talking about; You don't know your facts; 
  That issue is not important; Why are you interested in that issue?; You 
  have not done enough research; You aren't an expert; Your issue is 
  beside the point, irrational, emotional, or not practical; Why don't 
  you check into, or work on x, y, or z, instead?" 

* Engaging attendees in detailed explanations or debates that are 
  intended to sidetrack the issue of concern, hoping that in the heat of 
  debate, you will: Give up, get tired, go home, and forget the key 
Be aware of time wasters that will eat up meeting time, and are designed to 
wear you down. When confronted with this tactic, don't get side tracked. You 
don't have to be an expert to ask questions, ask for information, or to have 
legitimate concerns. 

Write notes throughout the meeting -- this will help keep you on track. 
Stick to the issues you want to discuss, while making a special note to 
follow up, or address the other person's issue later, if they genuinely 
desire to do so. 

Tactic 7 -- Refuse to give out information, or make it impossible to get it: 
Bureaucrats plan that this tactic will discourage you, so that you will give 
up and go away. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) format may have to be 
invoked to get cooperation. You must know what information you need, what 
agency to request it from, and what to look for. The "Key and Lock" 
buzzwords and descriptions must be included, or the very information you 
seek may be withheld from you. 

* Bureaucracies protecting damaging information may try to charge 
  exorbitant fees for information to be searched, copied, and sent to 
  you. Request fee waivers based upon public interest needs and public 
  right-to-know laws. 
* The requestor may be flooded with huge amounts of useless information 
  that is out of order and out of date. This is called a data dump in 
  legal circles. This is a common tactic used by legal rivals on cases to 
  eat up valuable pre-trial discovery time. It takes a critical eye, 
  speed reading, and some research or historical knowledge to be able to 
  weed through the useless information to find what you want. 

To deal with the system effectively, you need the facts. If you have the 
facts, the system has to deal with you more openly. Democracy depends on 
people having the information needed to allow meaningful input and 
interaction with the system. The refusal to give out information may sound 
like this: 

* "We don't have that information; x, y, or z is not in today, and I'm 
  not authorized to fulfill this request; We can only give out a summary 
  (They decide what is meaningful, included, excluded, or redacted); Why 
  do you think that's important?; Justify your interest, or legitimize 
  your need; We don't think you need that information." 
Recognize these tactical phrases meant to put you off the track of the 
information you need to level the playing field with your opponent, and 
don't accept lame excuses for non-performance or non-compliance. 
  tactic publicly, it loses its power. You can counter these tactics with 
  a minimum of wasted effort by keeping the lines of communication open 
  with your colleagues and other similar interest organizations. 
  SHOTS BEHIND THE SCENES: Recognize that although individuals make up 
  the bureaucracy, they should not be the targets of your efforts. 
  Evaluate where strategic counter-tactics would be the most effective. 
  Good mottoes to keep in mind. Always go to the top, and the squeaky 
  wheel gets fixed. 
  or as someone with emotional or personal problems (i.e.: 
  "Psychiatrically" linked to a site or set of issues, don't have a life 
  because you volunteer a lot of your time, are a paid staffer or 
  knowledgeable citizen, so your opinion doesn't count, or don't have "x" 
  number of constituents behind you.) to legitimize side stepping serious 
  issues and/or your concerns. Be alert to the evaluative patronizing 
  concern look. This is contrived to give the appearance of questioning 
  your mental or emotional stability to elicit a reaction. Keep cool and 
  don't give them the reaction they want from you. Any person might 
  become dedicated to seeking solutions, and become angry or frustrated 
  over the distancing treatment bureaucracies and corporations use to 
  keep the public at arm's length over difficult issues. 
  questioning your previous conclusions about them. Get all the 
  information you can and keep getting it. Put this information to 
  productive and meaningful use, then network it around. 
* NEVER RELAX AFTER A VICTORY, and don't underestimate the power of 
* RENEW YOUR OWN OUTREACH REGULARLY by having current concerns and 
  information prepared and ready to distribute at every opportunity. Use 
  their meetings for opportunities to pass out your own targeted 
  information. Use several people to see that all attendees end up with 
  copies of your information. Ask local copiers or businesses to help 
  duplicate materials. 
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens 
 can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 
 -- Margaret Mead, Anthropologist 

"Ignorance is compounded by the sins of omission." -- Dr. Edward 
A. Martell, Radiochemist 

Cliff Boldt 
Union Bay, BC, Canada 
- -- 

research		       education	  		   action
Q u e b e c   P u b l i c   I n t e r e s t   R e s e a r c h   G r o u p
at Concordia University
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