“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” — Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda during the Third Reich.
Goebbels took an innocuous word, “propaganda,” and turned it into what we understand it to mean today: “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” (https://www.google.com/#q=propaganda+definition). Back in 1622, “propaganda” was the word given to a committee of cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church responsible for foreign missions, founded by Pope Gregory XV. So the meaning of the word has traveled quite a bit.
We have come to expect all kinds of propaganda from politicians. But you would think a private utility that was granted a monopoly by the state to provide electricity in exchange for putting the public interest first would not stoop to cheap propaganda in order to get approval for a lucrative project it wants to build for its investors.
But alas, such is not the case with Puget Sound Energy and its boondoggle Energize Eastside project. It is using focus-group tested PR gimmicks to press an aggressive and misleading ad campaign based on Two Big Lies: 1) that future Eastside “consumer demand” is some 10 times greater on the Eastside than it is in booming Seattle, so matching that demand with enough supply makes the project necessary; and 2) the grid on the Eastside supposedly has not been updated since the 1960s, back when Bellevue and Redmond were pretty much cow towns, and Newcastle mostly trees.
These lies have been challenged by CSEE’s attorney, Larry Johnson, who sent a letter today to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Committee to refute them. You can read it here: letter to utc et al.
To head up PSE’s aggressive PR campaign, PSE has not just relied on its smarmy mouthpiece, ex-TV weatherman Andy Wappler, they went as far as Wisconsin to hire lawyer Mark Williamson to act as its chief consultant for getting the project through the approval processes. Williamson’s website brags about his prowess in getting projects like Energize Eastside approved by treating them the same way as a political campaign:
“Williamson has developed a strategic communications technique patterned on ‘election campaigning’ – polling, message development and communication – tools that he employs, and has for years, to get utility projects approved, sited, built and on-line.” (http://prwcomm.com/now/?page_id=71)
So the PSE/Williamson strategy is clear: it’s all about winning; forget about fairly arguing the merits of the project and considering possible options that would serve the public interest better. It’s all about the hard sell. It’s all about PSE’s Australian and Canadian owners cashing in on their hedge-fund investment in Energize Eastside.
Even though PSE has yet to submit permit applications with the cities through whose residential neighborhoods they want to build Energize Eastside, PSE has already spent $26 million on such things as the dozens of ads it has placed in various media outlets throughout the Eastside, along with relentless mailings of slick brochures and postcards, all repeatedly touting the Two Big Lies.
And who pays for all this?
In the end, you do, in your electricity bill.