When Sharon Wilson, director of the Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project for Earthworks!, and the activist blogger on texassharon.com signed up to attend a much ballyhooed gas industry confab in Houston last week, she wasn’t sure what to expect.
“It had this long name,” she said, ‘The Media and Stakeholder Relations Hydrolic Fracturing Initiative, 2011’ and it was going to be about the use of new social media, so I thought I should attend.”
But what she heard–and videod–in the two days of the event that she attended, made her skin crawl.
“At one of the talks, a fellow named Matt Carmichael from Anadarko told people to download the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual because what the gas industry was facing was an insurgency. When he said that I got very scared,” said Wilson. “I perceived it as being very sinister.”
Another presenter, Range Resources communications director Matt Pitzarella told attendees that Range had several former “psy ops folks” working for them because they knew how to deal with local issues and governments. Pitzarella was quoted in a CNBC story as saying they spend “most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But…having that understanding of psy ops in the Army and the Middle East has applied very helpfully for us here in Pennsylvania.”
The CNBC story, which was sparked by audiotapes Wilson supplied, followed up with Pitzarella who said that Range had only one employee who had worked in psychological operations who is “particularly good at handling emotional meetings with local representatives.”
“At first I was afraid but then I got angry,” Wilson told the Fort Worth Weekly. “This is really how the gas companies see us, as insurgents. They’ve been using these tactics against us from the beginning but if you suggested that people just called you paranoid. Now we have proof.”
The worst part, Wilson said, was how such things were talked about as if they were just par for the course. “It’s like it’s one of their bullet points for working with the new social media: Put out some Tweets, post something on Facebook, employ psy-ops.”