Both Sides: Coercive marketing tactics used to push wind project

By Paul Reese

We all have opinions based on a certain level of information or personal experience. When we do not have enough personal knowledge or experience, we trust in the opinions of others that we respect or deem more knowledgeable. This is the foundation of marketing.

When it comes to the kind of cars we drive or the kind of cola we drink, being persuaded by public relations firms is harmless enough — often we are not even aware of the mechanisms employed to persuade us. When it comes to public policy, however, the art of persuasion can become downright dangerous. You see, it is the job of a public relations firm to lead us into an opinion before we have a complete understanding of the issues. Once an opinion is formed, it can easily be reinforced by selectively introducing "facts" to lead us into believing that we are informed.

When we begin to learn more, the new facts that we learn often disagree with our opinions. This leads to cognitive dissonance, the foundation of the "emotional issue."

Cognitive dissonance is the public relations firm's best friend because it often manifests itself as anger and distrust, which only serve to marginalize opposing viewpoints. Re-examining deeply held beliefs is uncomfortable. Rather than risking the humiliation of being "wrong," it is much easier to distance ourselves from the information that contradicts our opinions.


In an "emotional issue," each side believes that the other is uninformed or misinformed. They are right. Each side then attempts to gain support by stating the "facts" to persuade those that might not have formed an opinion yet. The cycle is self-reinforcing and the issue is never resolved. Unresolved issues lead to inaction by public officials and regulating authorities. This inaction allows big business to operate unimpeded, unregulated, and with a somewhat conflicted blessing from government in a sort of de facto corporatism, or fascism.

Here in Minnesota, one of the public relations firms lobbying for your allegiance without your knowledge is Weber Johnson. Weber Johnson boasts of clients including GE, Exxon Mobil, Elk Farm LLC, Midwest ISO (operators of the power grid), and attorney for the large wind developers, Frederickson and Byron PA.

If you are unaware of the battle for your soul that rages behind the closed doors of your public officials' offices, it would do you well to visit Weber Johnson at A quote from the website:


"We engaged WeberJohnson Public Affairs to garner grass-roots political support for a rezoning decision by a City Council. The proposed project had received favorable City planning staff support, but had encountered significant neighborhood opposition. WeberJohnson successfully mobilized support from citizens, businesses and stakeholder groups to target City Council members. We received unanimous City Council approval at the end of WeberJohnson's 45-day engagement, after months of struggle. As a company that has dealt with similar problems like this all over the world, we found real value in WJPA's work."

—Texas-based Multinational Developer

This is what we are experiencing right now in the Goodhue area. Before the general public knew about the wind project that was supposed to be community based, several large landowners had been approached in secret, and significant acreage was placed under easement. Next, members of the community were invited to "invest" in the project in increments of $10,000, with the caveat that it was possible for the investment to disappear in its entirety if the project does not go through. Imagine the kind of leverage that a scheme like this can place on "Minnesota nice."

In our experience, the "citizens, businesses and stakeholder groups" that have been mobilized to target local government are not the people who will be living in the footprint of the proposed project. Our neighbors have been led to believe that anyone who does not want to endure a life within the trajectory range of ice throw or noises well above the established threshold for sleep disturbance are the reason that their "investment" will fail.


Granted, in a partially regulated market, big business has no motivation to protect the public, as government or the landowners will be there to pick up the liability when someone incurs damages, but holding money from the community hostage in exchange for public support is just dirty.

The key to proper turbine placement is property rights. No one should have the right to tell you what you must or cannot do on your property as long as your neighbor's use and enjoyment of his property is not impeded. You have no right to tell your neighbor what will not affect him; you could be wrong.

Paul Reese of Goodhue is a member of the group Wind Truth.

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