Fun_People Archive
22 Dec
The Progress and Freedom Foundation (long but interesting)

Date: Thu, 22 Dec 94 13:46:12 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: The Progress and Freedom Foundation (long but interesting)

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: Wendell Craig Baker <>
From: Phil Agre <>

                T H E  N E T W O R K  O B S E R V E R

  VOLUME 1, NUMBER 12                                DECEMBER 1994


  The future of network politics.

  In the December 1994 issue of Wired (page 121) there appears 
  an ad for something called The Progress and Freedom Foundation.
  Under the headline "Cyberspace: It's Nobody's Highway", this
  advertisement announces the availability of a "Magna Carta for
  the Knowledge Age".  Small type at the bottom informs us that
  this document ...

    ... emerged from an August 23-24 conference in Atlanta,
    Georgia.  Participants included Jerry Berman, Esther Dyson,
    John Gage, George Gilder, Jay Keyworth, Lewis Perelman,
    Michael Rothschild and Alvin Toffler.  Major support for the
    conference was provided by BELLSouth and the Competitive Long
    Distance Coalition.  Additional support was provided by Agorics
    Enterprises, Inc., AT&T, Cox Enterprises, J.L. Dearlove and
    Affiliates, Forbes, Scientific Atlanta, Video Tape Associates
    and Wired.  Creative Consulting and Ad Production by J.L.
    Dearlove & Affiliates, Chicago, IL.

  Regarding the Magna Carta itself, it provides the e-mail address and some phone numbers,

    or, if you must, cross your fingers and send POM to 1250 H St.
    NW, Suite 550 Washington, DC 20005. 

  Listen to the language.  If you must?  It's as though they're
  trying to talk jive to ingratiate themselves with the kids on the
  street.  They don't even have a home page.

  So who are these folks?  The ad says that:

    The Progress & Freedom Foundation believes cyberspace is a
    frontier, not a government project.

  We can learn a little more by turning to journalistic accounts.
  For example, in the 12/12/94 Wall Street Journal's article on
  Republican plans for the Food and Drug Administration (page A16),
  we read the following:

    In September, Rep. [Newt] Gingrich [incoming Speaker of the
    House] told a biotechnology trade group that he was launching
    a project to design a replacement for the FDA.  Leading the
    effort is the Progress and Freedom Foundation, whose head,
    Jeffrey Eisenach, formerly ran Gopac, Mr. Gingrich's political
    action committee.  Without apology, Mr. Eisenach acknowledges
    that drug companies are financial contributors to the
    foundation, and notes that drug companies will be involved in
    the project.  And he dismisses suggestions that drug-company
    involvement could taint the results.  "So I should go to Ralph
    Nader and do it?" he says.  "That's silly".

  So the Progress and Freedom Foundation is active on more than
  just telecommunications issues.  But it is not just an industry
  lobbying organization.  In particular, the connection to Gopac is
  not at all coincidental.  The purpose of Gopac has been to train
  conservative Republican candidates in the particularly aggressive
  style of politicking that Mr. Gingrich pioneered during his early
  days in Congress, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation may
  contribute to a generalization of this model.

    [By 1994] "Newt World" was now far-flung, from GOPAC to the
    National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee; the
    Friends of Newt Gingrich campaign committee; a weekly TV show
    on the conservative cable TV network, National Empowerment
    Television, and a think tank called the Progress and Freedom

    Its messages were coordinated with talk-show hosts such as
    Rush Limbaugh and with Christian Coalition groups.  [...]

    "The goal of this project is simple", Jeffrey A. Eisenach,
    director of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, wrote in a
    fund-raising letter.  "To train, by April, 1996, 200,000-plus
    citizens into a model for replacing the welfare state and
    reforming our government."  (LA Times 12/19/94, page A31)

  What can we expect from this rising army?  The Gopac's record
  provides some evidence.  Much has been written about the tactics
  that Gopac suggested to its candidates.  An article about Gopac
  leader Joe Gaylord (Wall Street Journal, 8 December 1994, page
  A18), for example, says:

    Mr. Gaylord is one of the brains behind Gopac ... .  [He]
    wrote its how-to textbook, which urges challengers to "go
    negative" early and "never back off".  They must sometimes
    ignore voters' main concerns because "important issues
    can be of limited value".  The book suggests looking for a
    "minor detail" to use against opponents, pointing to Willie
    Horton as a good example.  Though it says a positive proposal
    also can be helpful, it counsels candidates to consider the
    consequences: "Does it help, or at least not harm, efforts to
    raise money?"  Mr. Gingrich has called the book "absolutely
  Even more has been written about the most famous Gopac document,
    ... a memo by Gingrich called "Language, a Key Mechanism of
    Control", in which the then-House minority whip gave candidates
    a glossary of words, tested in focus groups, to sprinkle
    in their rhetoric and literature.  For example, it advised
    characterizing Democrats with such words as "decay, sick,
    pathetic, stagnation, corrupt, waste, traitors".  (LA Times,
    12/19/94, pages A31)

  In my view, though, the most significant feature of Newt World
  is not its language, which is certainly fascinating, or its
  association with industry, which is hardly surprising or novel,
  but rather its use of technology.  Mr. Gingrich is a pioneer in
  the use of new technologies to build a political movement.  I do
  have to hand it to him -- he has worked hard and he has a genius
  for political organizing.  Having observed in the early 1980's
  that candidates spend a lot of dead time on the road traveling
  around during campaigns, he hit upon the idea of sending them
  videos and other materials about campaigning.  This is what Gopac
  did.  As time went on, they generalized this model to include
  scheduled conference calls and video broadcasts in which
  Mr. Gingrich and others would provide campaigners with advice
  about messages and methods.

  How does this model scale to 200,000-plus people?  Well, at that
  point it starts to sound a lot like the information superhighway
  -- a technology for centralized broadcast of programs to a group
  that isn't the "mass audience" of conventional TV broadcasting
  but is distributed across the country.  More tailored programming
  could be distributed as well -- to particular geographical
  regions, to activists on particular issues, and so forth.  It's
  not a decentralized model like the Internet, but then it's not
  the political vision that normally goes with the Internet either.
  It's closer to the asymmetrical distribution model found in the
  plans of many cable and regional phone companies -- some of whom,
  you might recall, sponsored the Progress and Freedom Foundation's

  This is not to say that Newt Gingrich and company are engaged
  in a conspiracy against the Internet.  After all, Mr. Gingrich
  has made some encouraging statements about making Congressional
  materials available to citizens on the Internet, and this
  is certainly a good and laudable thing.  The situation and the
  participants' views are often complicated.  The point is that
  technologies are not neutral.  Technologies certainly do not
  determine how they will be used, but neither are they simply
  tools that can be used for any old purpose at all.  Rather,
  technologies and social forms evolve together, according to the
  affordances of the machinery and the forces of the social system.

  None of this coevolution goes simply or smoothly in practice, of
  course, nor is any of it inevitable.  As the Internet illustrates
  extremely well, machines frequently have uses that nobody ever
  thought of, and these can often be resources for people wishing
  to engage in genuine, bottom-up democracy.  The machines can't
  restore the health of our democracy, though -- we have to do that
  ourselves.  And in doing so, we need to be aware of the complex
  and ambiguous interactions between the workings of our machinery
  and the forms of our political life.

  In particular, we should not assume that the Internet's open
  and decentralized architecture necessarily makes it a force
  for democracy, or that it necessarily levels the field for
  all players.  The practice of politics on the Internet is
  increasingly complicated, with new kinds of players and new
  variations on the existing games.

  As a case study in these issues, let's consider an organization
  called the Wireless Opportunities Coalition.  The WOC has
  circulated an alert on the net seeking support for a certain
  position in a fairly arcane regulatory fight within the FCC
  over the rules in certain frequency bands for digital wireless
  communications.  The WOC's materials are also available on WWW:

  The basic idea of the WOC's arguments is that companies with very
  sensitive communications devices shouldn't be able to displace
  other users of certain frequencies, including low-power digital
  wireless communications used for educational purposes, for
  example in local community networking in areas that do not have
  high rates of telephone service.  This certainly sounds like a
  good cause, and it probably even *is* a good cause.

  But note that the Wireless Opportunities Coalition, is a creation
  of a public relations firm called Issue Dynamics Inc, whose
  largest clients include Bell Atlantic and a lobbying alliance of
  the US regional phone companies.  (To be fair, they also include
  the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.)  I couldn't find
  this information by searching through the WOC web pages, but
  you can verify it easily enough by aiming your web client at the
  underlying index:

  As recently as December 9th this page was entitled "IDI Index";
  it is now, as of December 20th, called "Policy.Net".  Click on
  "Issue Dynamics", read down to the bottom, and click on the IDI
  logo, which will take you to:

  Why is it "" and not ""?  Never mind.  My point
  is not that these folks are evil or that they have no right
  to speak.  My point is that they are a public relations firm
  practicing their craft on the Internet.  In the future, I expect
  that ordinary citizens using the Internet will want to inform
  themselves about who's behind all of those slick web pages.

  Public relations and its place in society is a fascinating and
  important topic, and I encourage everyone to learn more about it.
  If you're interested, here is a brief reading list:

    Edward L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent, Norman:
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.

    Bill Cantor, ed, Experts in Action: Inside Public Relations,
    New York: Longman, 1984.

    Oscar H. Gandy, Jr., Beyond Agenda Setting: Information
    Subsidies and Public Policy, Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1982.

    Jack A. Gottschalk, Crisis Response: Inside Stories on Managing
    Image Under Siege, Detroit: Visible Ink, 1993.

    James E. Grunig and Todd Hunt, Managing Public Relations, New
    York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984.

    Elizabeth L. Toth and Robert L. Heath, eds, Rhetorical and
    Critical Approaches to Public Relations, Hillsdale, NJ:
    Erlbaum, 1992.

  Finally, let me close with a pertinent quote:

    "One practice which I believe should be eliminated is that of
    the so-called "paper front".  A client is advised to finance
    an "organization" to promote or fight for its cause under the
    guise of an independent and spontaneous movement.  This is
    a plain public deceit and fraud and of course is a technique
    developed with consummate skill and in great profusion by the
    Communists.  In a free country any interest with a cause has
    a right to present its case to the public, to inform and, if
    possible, to persuade to its heart's content.  But that right
    of free speech also carries the obligation that the source of
    it will be in the open for all to see.  Attempts to fool the
    public by making it believe an "organization" existing only
    on paper is really a vociferous group favoring this or that
    cause have helped to cast a shadow upon the business of public
    relations counseling.  No counsel who wants to preserve his own
    reputation will ever be a party to the issuance of any public
    statement by a client unless the source is clearly set forth.
    Obviously, when a client is involved in a public relations
    controversy, supporting statements are welcomed from every
    responsible source.  But such statements should be issued by
    real-live people or organizations and not phoneys."

  This quote is from the autobiography of John W. Hill ("The Making
  of a Public Relations Man", recently republished by NTC Business
  Books, pages 139-140), who founded one of the largest public
  relations firms, Hill and Knowlton.


[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []