Why did I put dollar signs in ex-Greenpeace USA / ex-Ozone Action Executive Directors John Passacantando’s name, the man who arguably was the first to infuse the “reposition global warming” phrase with sustainable major media traction as an indictment of skeptic climate scientists colluding with Big Coal/Oil executives to undercut the ‘settled science’ of man-caused global warming? Hold onto that question until the latter part of this blog post. If you are an aspiring journalist, are you assured good good grades in your journalism classes and great job prospects if you never question anything you are told about that whole “reposition global warming” phrase situation? Hold onto that question as well.
Meanwhile, in my December 31, 2014 blog post, I hinted that a shipping industry reporter’s attempt to casually mention that phrase in an article still ended up looking like he was fed a pre-scripted propaganda line. [[Author’s 5/14/22 addition, piling on: a June 2016 “Throwback Thursday” article reproduction of an eight+ years earlier article at the Australian MarketingMag.com website featured Naomi Oreskes’ 928-to-zero ‘study,’ and then said that despite the presence of that 100% science consensus conclusion,
…analysis of articles in the most influential American dailies, however, found that 53 percent expressed doubt as to global warming. The strategy of playing up the confusion and controversy, repositioning global warming as theory rather than fact has worked well.
Who knows where such ordinary non-enviro writers got the phrase, maybe someday an activist talking points guide may surface showing writers how to casually and surreptitiously insert that otherwise really awkward phrase into basically unrelated articles. But let’s now have a look at “the Passacantando way” – in a literal sense of the term – ]] of casually dropping a variation of that awkward phrase into a sentence, which may serve to illustrate just how wide, far, and long his influence has been. It may explain the dollar signs in his name as well.
While I was utilizing my free 7-day trial at Newspapers.com to find the actual published advertorials out of the Information Council for the Environment to show in my prior blog post, I also utilized it for searches of John Passacantando’s name that appeared back in the 1990s, and to see how often the “reposition global warming” phrase appeared along with the way it appeared way back then. Here’s how both appeared at the same time.
As seen in the Dayton Daily News January 10, 1998 op-ed page, Passacantando wrote a letter-to-the-editor in response to a prior article about the Citizens for a Sound Economy:
It is the height of irony that CSE should even write about the climate-change debate going on within the science community. CSE is funded by a long list of fossil-fuel companies. Many of these companies have underwritten the handful of skeptics in the scientific field who, working largely outside the peer-reviewed literature, have attempted to reposition global warming as a theoretical phenomenon rather than fact.
Pretty slick, huh? Such is the benefit of the Newspapers website when internet searches of that specific phrasing otherwise yield no results.
This isn’t the only time Passacantando did that. His same letter-to-the-editor stunt is seen a day prior over 100 miles and one state away in the 1/9/98 Indianapolis News “Other Opinions” page in a nearly identical reply about the Citizens for a Sound Economy.
How many additional times did he try to plant that essentially disingenuous phrasing out in the public and in front of newspaper editors/reporters? And how many times did members of the media or the public dutifully regurgitate that accusatory line or a variation of it without questioning anything about it or where it sourced from? Keep holding onto that question.
In my search through the old newspapers archives, I turned up another entertaining and basically contradictory detail about John Passacantando.
It’s one of those “local youth becomes internationally recognized” news stories from the August 8, 2000 Morris County New Jersey Daily Record, titled “Morris native set to take the helm at Greenpeace USA,” concerning Passacantando’s pending step up out of Ozone Action and into the Greenpeace organization (full text at the bottom of page 1 in this PDF file I downloaded, and continued under the “Activist”-titled continuation here – zoom in as needed.) The gem within it is a quote from his proud father (following the disclosure of the $80,000 per year his son was paid at Ozone Action):
Whether he’s got fatherly pride or a keen eye for success, Raymond, a former columnist for the Daily Record, is confident that his son will make magic. “His interests never turned him onto chasing money,” he said.
Really? How big of a salary increase was it to go from Ozone Action to Greenpeace? I’ll save that analysis for others, since the complicated way John Passacantando was paid was via Greenpeace Inc and the Greenpeace Fund – for example, $110,886 & $46,046 direct compensation in 2004 alone. Whatever his total take was from Greenpeace (including the “$134,000 for zero hours worked” payout after he left for either “benefits plans / deferred payments” or possibly a large bonus that could have been better spent on saving more whales), it must have been a big step up when it comes to ‘not chasing money.’ A reasonable guess of an overall average of $155,000 direct compensation per year might put his total at $1,279,000 for his 8¼ year tenure there.
The killer irony to his father’s claim is John Passacantando’s mysterious post-Greenpeace work at his “Our Next Economy LLC” company which does not disclose what it does …. while bringing in just under $10 million in a span of time only a year longer than he worked at Greenpeace. And that’s not including the most current IRS forms which are not publicly accessible yet. If he doesn’t chase money, it somehow falls out of the sky on him in heaps.
Meanwhile, back to ye olde “reposition global warming” phrase and how it traces all the way back to Passacantando’s days at Ozone Action. When was the most recent time it was prominently repeated? The last time wasn’t, as it turns out, in Naomi Oreskes’ November article at the UK Guardian, which was so misinforming that it prompted me to center much of my November 30, 2021 blog post around it.
No, instead the most recent time was a Medill Reports (ironically a product of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism) December article with the supposedly helpful title of “Climate conversations: How to talk with friends who repeat misinformation,” written by the ‘aspiring journalist’ I noted in the opening paragraph of this blog post ….. who repeated outright misinformation about the “reposition global warming” phrase (Western Fuels never operated under that directive or even understood how they could), while channeling both Naomi Oreskes on the basic notion of science consensus validating science conclusions (consensus is not science) and Ross Gelbspan on the notion that skeptic climate scientists ever actually received equal airtime in news coverage (they have not).
The sources for the quotes the ‘aspiring journalist’ relied on there are not stated, but the giant clue on where they came from is in his second paragraph, John Cook (no relation to me), the man who essentially owes his PhD Philosophy degree to Naomi Oreskes.
Imagine if this aspiring ‘journalist’ actually followed his own advice to be at least minimally curious about the sheer awkwardness of the “reposition global warming” phrase itself, what it looks like in its actual original context, where Oreskes sources it and why it can’t be seen there, along with where John Cook got the idea about unnecessary media balance and where his source got the idea.
Imagine if this aspiring ‘journalist’ fully comprehended all of those problems and took his own advice to avoid looking like he had a killer expert argument and instead tried to show that he cared about how John Cook may have been misled, using the analogy of how the global warming issue resembles a religious cult that abhors anyone questioning anything about it. Then imagine if this aspiring ‘journalist’ had been persistent in trying to point out all of the apparently flaws in the accusation about ‘industry-led disinformation’ to everybody he knows.
In this current era of “cancel culture” censorship, the result is not hard to imagine at all. He’d be cut from Medial Reports, whatever tenure he has within the Medill School of Journalism would be erased, he’d be stripped of his Pulitzer Center fellowship (especially if he dared to mention that “Pulitzer winner Ross Gelbspan” actually never won a Pulitzer), and any chance he had at advancing anywhere within the National Public Radio system would vanish.
Imagine that. And instead of becoming a propagandist posing as a journalist, he’d become a real journalist.
As ever, the global warming issue continually showcases how we don’t actually seem to have a ‘climate crisis,’ we instead have every appearance in the world of a growing crisis within the mainstream media, where journalism schools aren’t teaching people how to become true journalists, they’re teaching them how to be disinformation specialists.
There’s always more.
Coming up in another future blog post Now seen here, as the result of other old newspaper bits I found: “John Passacantando co-founded Ozone Action in 1992 … or July 1993 … or not”