The five word slogan that cost millions
There is a room at the Parliament House where disaffected ex-ministers meet. Other Parliamentarians refer to it as the Monkey Pod. Chief monkey was once famous for three word slogans. It was thought quite impressive that a monkey could string three words together convincingly enough to cause humans to repeat and discuss them as a meaningful phrase.
Westender can reveal, however, that the ape did not invent the phrases on its own. Humans were employed to invent them and teach them to him. Yes, that’s right, Moulah changed hands.
Of course, the monkey did not pay the money. Money is poured into the monkey pod – not generated there. The money was paid by vested interests for global use and the monkey was just trained to use the important lines. The fossil fools are those who are bought, not those who do the buying.
“Coal is good for humanity” was developed by Burston Marstellar for a global campaign by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately held company. It was such an important campaign that they decided to use five words. Not only that, but there are a flotilla of other phrases: energy poverty, little black rock, amazing things, watch what coal can do for you. Murston Marstellar used the same techniques for decades on the payroll of big tobacco.
Even after the world wildlife fund successfully took Peabody to court in the UK for misrepresenting the facts, those phrases are still being used. “This little black rock can do amazing things” is still being promoted across social media as I write. The moulah is still being spent even though the monkey is rattling the bars of a much smaller cage.
It was something of a slap in the face then, for Westender to be offered a tiny amount of money to run a piece of PR fluff on the civil contribution of the fracking industry. At a word rate we are talking here around thirty cents a word. While competition from out of work journalists has caused word rates to drop, both owners of Westender have earned considerably more than a dollar a word at many points in their somewhat chequered careers.
Only a dozen words actually did the work, the rest was designed to carry them. Thousands of jobs; world class natural gas; exciting economic and employment boost. There was a mangled piece of logic about falling oil prices that makes no sense when you parse it.
Compared to the hundreds of thousands spent on three word slogans it is an absolute pittance. Of course, Westender was not being asked to craft the words, merely mouth them like a member of the monkey pod. And that is the greater insult.
Of course, Westender has to live. We regularly write puff pieces for local eateries, we run advertisements for local politicians, and once – without payment – we even ran a puff piece for the Australian Air Force about a local girl who was allowed into a plane.
Our reporting on coal has gone through a similar arc to the rest of the media. During the 2013 election campaign (doesn’t Gillard and the Carbon Tax seem like a century ago) we argued internally whether anti-coal campaigns were too Green or just too radical, divestment was still considered weird, an idea that students had got out of Rolling Stone and coal was generally considered reliable, even though it had not yet been found to be good for humanity.
Since then, the Greens have started winning lower house seats in rural areas with the backing of farmers, Glen Lazarus has reinvented himself as a representative of Lock the Gate, conveniently forgetting it was a coal magnate who put him into power in the first place, and the banks have walked away from Adani in the Gallilee Basin.
What has changed is the hysteria with which the fossil fuel advocates are screaming from the sidelines. Even though they are now throwing money at small independent publications to try and build grass roots support, we’re not picking it up.
In the interests of fairness and even-handed reporting we have given you the three key phrases, free of charge, in the context of the truth. Anyone who wants the original press release which we were offered a hundred bucks to publish, just ask.