Oops (sorta): CORRECTION clarification regarding the “Victory will be achieved” memo set

As I implied at this blog way back in 2013, I will never bury any of my errors or pretend they never happened. (Not so for the New York Times lately, but that’s a whole other matter)

In light of a particular revelation out of the very recent interview I conducted with former American Petroleum Institute VP / COO William O’Keefe, I need to basically correct what I’ve long said about the 1998 “victory will be achieved” memo set being unsolicited by API.

Within the entire “victory” memo set situation that I’ve analyzed in several blog posts, I’ve stated the memo set was unsolicited by API, and supported that statement with a screencapture of a transcript page from a May 1998 National Public Radio “Living on Earth” radio show, in which the program categorically stated,

CURWOOD: Living on Earth did contact the American Petroleum Institute for a response. William O’Keefe, an API vice-president, says reports of the public relations plan have been blown out of proportion. He says meetings at his headquarters and correspondence about them were the personal initiatives of a low-level employee.

O’KEEFE: I have not seen the document. I did not ask that it be prepared. This was an informal brainstorming activity. It wasn’t something that people were told to go off and develop a plan or that it is somehow that we want to manipulate the media.

Prior to my two week-old interview of Mr O’Keefe, I thought it was potentially plausible that the author appearing in the cover page of the memo set, Joe Walker, simply embarked on his own initiative to operate this 1-day workshop and then write it up, only to have it fizzle out upon the widespread realization that the Kyoto Treaty had no viable chance of being brought to the U.S. Senate for ratification. After all, the notorious “reposition global warming” memo set proposal to the Western Fuels Association’s “Information Council for the Environment” PR campaign, replete with oddball audience targeting ideas and alternative campaign names, was unsolicited by Western Fuels.

However, as Mr O’Keefe stated in my email interview of him:

I don’t recall being contacted by NPR and the so called quote is not the way that I talk. … Joe would not have undertaken this brain storming session on his own. I don’t recall whether I or someone else proposed it … I have no idea who may have spoken to NPR but that quote, as I said, is not how I speak.

I made the effort to ask for a further clarification which I could use in this blog post. Mr O’Keefe responded as follows, verbatim:

Since the comment wasn’t in quotes, he made it up. As I said earlier, I don’t talk like that, Joe Walker was not a low-level employee. I am fairly certain that the group that had the meeting was a subcommittee of the Global Climate Coalition. The main points are that this document never got translated into a funded program, that there was nothing sinister about it, and that it was based on countering the assertions that the science was settled which it wasn’t and isn’t.

I can empathize with the situation. I myself don’t remember who I talked to two decades ago, but I absolutely do know the way I talk and write and can recognize my colloquial way of speaking from all the way back in the late 1970s.

So, the elemental situation surrounding the notorious “victory will be achieved” memo set’s existence is that top people at the American Petroleum Institute basically decided that the initial news about the looming prospect of the Kyoto Treaty warranted some kind of counter-response, where the public could be told about the skeptic scientist’s assessments of the global warming issue. They convened a single-day workshop to discuss the matter, among prominent skeptics who closely followed the issue, and a writeup of the viewpoints happened – neither non-solicited nor solicited, it was just something that was a common sense thing to do after a formal meeting. Call it “minutes of the meeting” for lack of a better definition.

As I noted in my interview with Mr O’Keefe, when I first looked at that memo set, nothing within it struck me as a sinister evil plan to spread disinformation, and for emphasis again, the content could easily be mirror-flipped into something Greenpeace could use in gauging how effective their own messaging works.

Nevertheless, I relied on the single NPR “Living on Earth” item to say API never solicited this memo set; William O’Keefe said he didn’t recall being contacted by NPR and that the quote attributed to him is essentially a fabrication. So, I will* meticulously go back through every reference I can find here at GelbspanFiles saying it was unsolicited and line-through the word, and will* add an asterisk reference noting the clarification correction within this blog post.  [*Author’s 5/13/21 note: Done. 14 separate references, including ones in my dissections of particular lawsuit filings that cite the “victory” memos]

Let me end here where I started this post, on a note about who makes the effort to issue corrections and and who doesn’t. To their credit regarding the officer who died after the January 6th riot, NPR put out a news report that he died of natural causes, albeit with no mention in the balance of the piece that there was any other prior significantly different report. Did NPR place a prominent correction in their initial report the following morning about the officer dying from injuries resulting from the riot, or in a subsequent one about him being bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher? Read the initial report in its entirety, and the only correction is the one at the very bottom about the actual time of death for the officer. How about the slain-by-mob story? There’s no correction of any type seen anywhere in the report, even in a small way.

I guess NPR just found that effort too difficult to undertake.