So if you saw my last post, hopefully you went to YouTube and watched our new campaign video focused on the UK government doing a u-turn on protecting the Moray Firth dolphins. Right now, I'm the one "looking after" our presence on the YouTube site, and I have to tell you, it's a happening place - but not necessarily for all the reasons you might think.
Online video has become a big thing in the past 3 years, as have social networking sites. Let’s face it; it’s fun to share, contact your friends online, and maybe make some new ones. The trouble is, that’s not all that people use it for.
Right now there is a propaganda war being fought on the digital battlefield between conservationists like WDCS and pro-exploitation and pro-whaling factions. The tactics are a good deal more subtle and insidious than you might think. Propaganda isn’t new, protagonists have been using it since way before the printing press was invented, but the social engineering tactics behind it have got increasingly sophisticated over recent years.
If you do a search for “whaling” on YouTube, you’ll find a great many videos condemning the Japanese so-called “scientific” whaling program – but you’ll also find an increasing number of videos posted by pro-whalers accusing conservationists of everything from poor science to cultural imperialism, and most disturbingly, of racism. The tactic is designed to move the focus of debate from whaling to race relations, and the comments are deliberately incendiary to provoke a heated response – thus playing into the whaler’s hands and giving them license to play the victims in this sorry charade. WDCS isn’t playing that game – but the unwary can be caught out and pulled into a debate about Japanese vs western culture which is really not the issue at stake.
Sure, WDCS uses YouTube and other sites to campaign through– we want our message to reach as many people as possible, so in that regard you might consider it as “propaganda”. However, I can tell you that WDCS is very strict on publishing in any medium, and we have to qualify everything we say. We don’t publish unless we can prove it.
Each of us as individuals has to decide what to do with the information presented to us. In this age, we are bombarded with information from all different angles. The trick for organizations – governments, companies, NGOs and those who want to exploit whales for commercial gain – is to ensure that it is their interpretation of the information that is the one most widely believed; that’s what propaganda is about. There are many different tactics involved; some are genuinely honest; many are not. The choice of tactics used depends on your morality and ethics but also sometimes it would appear, your end goal and how far you are willing to go in order to secure that goal.
WDCS will always endeavour to tell the truth, as the evidence suggests (although of course, we would say that, wouldn’t we). The “truth” depends greatly on your point of view, but “our truth” is founded on scientific and conservation principals and as a charity we have high standards set for us by regulators. We don’t need to use diversionary or FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) tactics for our campaigns, because fundamentally we believe that what we’re doing is right.
If you have to lie to the public, selectively choose information to pass on, or even seek to mislead, that’s a pretty good indicator that what you’re doing is wrong. So just because someone keeps saying there are 700,000 minkes in the southern oceans doesn’t mean its true. Why not look at the evidence yourselves. It’s interesting what you might find.