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By Candice Bernd
January 11, 2012
Caption : During a fracking PR conference in Houston, company representatives openly advocated for the use of military counter-insurgency tactics as well as the use of military-style psychological operations in drawing-up local drilling ordinances.     

When Sharon Wilson registered for the Media & Stakeholder Relations Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative conference in Houston, she expected to hear the typical oil-and-gas industry line on relating to the press and public.

She didn’t expect to hear talk of psychological operations, the military’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual, and Rumsfeld’s Rules.

Wilson, an employee of the Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, registered for the event to keep tabs on the industry—and it’s a good thing she did.

Matt Pitzarella, Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for Range Resources, told conferees: “We have several former PSYOPS [psychological operations] folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable with dealing with localized issues and localized governments. Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that.” The comments are available as an audio recording published in the Denton Record-Chronicle. “But very much having that understanding of PSYOPS in the Army and in the Middle East as applied is very helpful for us here in Pennsylvania,” Pitzarella told his peers.

Psychological operations are used by the U.S. military to influence foreign governments and populations through the use of selected information.

Another industry spokesperson, Matt Carmichael of the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, told conference attendees to “download the U.S. Army-slash-Marine Corp counter-insurgency manual because we are dealing with an insurgency.”

Carmichael also told his peers during the conference: “I have a copy of Rumsfeld’s Rules, if you’re all familiar with Donald Rumsfeld. That’s kind of my bible, by the way, on how to operate.”

Rumsfeld’s Rulesis a collection of quotes from the former Secretary of Defense.

The conference was markedly Orwellian, Wilson noted on her drilling reform blog site. One thing is for sure—the language used by industry public relations practitioners is about as scary as the late author’s classic novel 1984.

Calling shale critics and anti-drilling activists “insurgents”—especially within a military context—conjures up images of war and terrorism.

Is equating families who want clean air and clean water to terrorists next?

It seems the oil-and-gas industry has its own Ministry of Truth—and PR executives are throwing many facts to the memory hole.

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