Filed under: Business + Politics, Society + Media | Tags: Adam Werbach, Center for Food Safety, consumerism, corporate spying, Greepeace, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Jones magazine, salt, spying, Wal-Mart
Photo courtesy of found_drama
Fellow classmates, the next time we meet for class on Thursday, take a good look at the person sitting to either side of you–chances are one of them is a corporate mole!
At least, that might have been the case if we had held this class between 8 to 10 years ago.
A recent Mother Jones article revealed that several major corporations (among them Wal-Mart and Taco Bell) hired security firms to spy on environmental groups:
A private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records—donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos—from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.
The story goes into great detail about the methods these firms used to spy on groups like Greenpeace, and the ominous-sounding Center for Food Safety, methods which mostly consisted of infiltrating groups with undercover agents, leaking information about their efforts to the corporate enemies they were battling, and digging through their trash for financial records and office memos (silly corporate spies, don’t they know environmental groups have minimal waste).
True, this happened years ago (back when we were still searching for the answer to, “Who let the dogs out” Who? Who? Who? I still don’t know…), but that doesn’t mean we should simply forget it.
I mean, we always knew that Wal-Mart liked to spy on its own employees, but is it somehow okay that they were spying on environmentalists, too?
It all makes me think of Adam Werbach’s efforts to green the retail giant. I understand why he would try to “change the system from within,” but at what point do we acknowledge that the “system” is far too nefarious to fix?
That is, I took great offense to Werbach comparing his consumer-friendly revolution to that of previous anti-imperialistic struggles, most notably that of Gandhi in India. As he states:
Gandhi rallied a nation against imperial British rule with the simple and radical call for a march to the sea to make salt.
Gandhi’s call for a salt march was more about sustainability than economics. His purpose was not to alter the marketing patterns of the British Empire, but to show that, through sustainable practices such as creating their own salt or spinning their own cotton they could eventually circumvent–and remove–a powerful empire. Big difference. It’s not like Gandhi was trying to get the British to create a more “colony-friendly” empire–he wanted them gone. So, unless Werbach is secretly trying to bring down Wal-Mart from within, I’m really not too interested in their latest “Green” efforts.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone should be attempting to live a green lifestyle–but I won’t suddenly jump up and down because one of the giant retailers decides to get on board. I’m glad changes are being made, but I think the bigger issue is teaching Americans that they simply don’t have to consume as much as they think they do–and that we can’t “buy” our way out of our environmental problems, no matter how eco-friendly the products are.
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