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A REFERENCE GUIDE FOR RECOGNIZING POLITICAL / SOCIAL CONTROL TACTICS BY POWER BROKERS, LARGE CORPORATIONS, PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRMS AND GOVERNMENT ENTITIES (AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS). Environmental Information Network (EIN) Inc.
Tactic 1 -- They, the conveners of meetings, will make it impossible for people to be involved: These typical control tactics set things up so that it's difficult and inconvenient for interested parties such as the affected public to participate.
* They will schedule lengthy one-way presentations that will not allow give and take exchange. This precludes the public and the press from asking questions or clarifications.
* They may insist that all questions be held until the end, by which time people are tired, the meeting area must be vacated, and the press has had to leave to meet deadlines.
* They only allow the public limited time, and a limited number of questions that must pertain to the conveners predetermined set of allowable topics; while the conveners drag out their answers, essentially filibustering away the rest of the time for the meeting -- and coincidentally time for open discussion of issues and answers that many attendees showed up for.
* Their staff may be trained to be nice, while having been trained to handle the public by using subtle harassment or baiting techniques, which also discourages public involvement.
These tactics are used to fulfill requirements for public outreach in order to legitimize the process. If attendance is sparse it will be blamed on public apathy, rather than a deliberate effort to exclude public participation.
Solution: Reject this pretense for public involvement. Short circuit this tactic by standing up as a group and announcing an immediate press conference that will give the press the real story from the citizens outside of the meeting room or across the street from the building, then get up and leave as a group. If this is not immediately possible, let the conveners know that your group will hold its own meeting, protest, and/or press conference the next morning and will continue to inform the media of their non-cooperation on these issues.
Tactic 2 -- Divide and Conquer: This is a well-established tactic that effectively places similar interest groups at odds against each other, when they would otherwise be a formidable force to ensure bureaucratic responsiveness and accountability. This tactic uses existing tensions and divisions between organizations.
Solution: Name this tactic as soon as you recognize it to short circuit its effectiveness. Make sure that everyone understands what interests they share in common, and why it is in their best interest to continue to work together.
Examples of a few of their favorite tactics:
Warning: Small groups working in isolation of each other may not be as effective as coordinating efforts to maximize through solid communication and networking.
* They will provide enough resources to cover only part of the problem.
This can include preparing only a few copies of handouts or important
documents so that self-imposed constraints prevent them from being able
to provide x,
* They will appoint a committee using key members of the public --
including appointees with views similar to them, the convener, funder,
or directing agency to maintain their control of the committee. The
key members involvement is then publicly highlighted -- whether or not
they attend or participate. Their names will be used strategically -
sometimes in absentia,
* They will arrange for many separate tables to be used in large banquet or meeting rooms to break a meeting up into small discussion groups.
Warning: This effectively keeps valuable information that would otherwise
be revealed in the general discussion from being heard by the larger
group, which would have enhanced communal brainstorming and questioning
of the process or
Solution: These small group discussions should be summarized and reported back to your larger group.
* They will arrange the seating in "audience fashion" delegates you to a passive role in these meetings.
Solution: Short-circuit this by playing Musical Chairs. Insist that the tables and/or chairs be moved (circle or horseshoe shape) so that everyone can be an active participant with the conveners or presenters. Put yourselves at the same level and/or table with the power brokers so there is no distance to allow them to feel comfortably in control (no shield). Convert their agenda to your agenda.
* They will make public relations campaigns (blitzes) into the community to seek out homeowners associations, service groups, schools, and so on, to present biased, incomplete, or misleading information to sidestep opposition to mould and win over public opinion about key issues.
* They will conduct private (behind closed-door or impromptu) meetings with civic groups, government, or public officials (i.e. city council, county commissioners, etc.) of similar political or philosophical leanings -- without informing citizens or organizations with opposing viewpoints of these meetings.
* They will provide wrong information regarding time and location -- new information is provided too late in order for people to make the meeting. This ensures that their message will be presented without all sides of an issue being recognized or openly discussed.
Tactic 3 -- Packing the Meeting:
* They will have Comment or question cards used in place of a communal microphone for participants. Their supporters will stack the deck of comment cards with time wasters, and may continue filling out more cards throughout the meeting to defuse opposition discussion (see tactic 1 -- filibustering).
Solution: Short circuit this by meeting with your neighbors, colleagues, or constituents for a pre-meeting conference to discuss opposition tactics and strategy that are barriers to getting your views aired. Come up with your own list of strategy and critical points, then divide them up among yourselves. Go to the meeting prepared with fact sheets, questions, and comments that support your views. Brainstorm with your colleagues, refine the information, then pass it around the neighborhood, or the target audience for and after the meeting. Call the tactics as you see them occur in the meeting to defuse them. Insist on a fair airing of the issues, within everyone's hearing.
Tactic 4 -- Economic Blackmail:
Solution: Regard this is a Red Herring scare tactic that should be immediately brought to everyone's attention. No one likes to be picketed, boycotted, or pictured negatively in the press -- these citizen tactics are relatively easy to implement.
* In 1988, the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Facility (RFP) was faced
with changes that included decommissioning, the contractor threatened
massive layoffs. Economic developers and chambers of commerce predicted
local devastation. To the contrary, the cleanup has been a huge economical
Tactic 5 -- They will give the appearance of action without doing anything: When faced with an obvious need for change, bureaucrats may try to give the appearance of taking action without actually doing anything. These tactics may sound like this:
* "We have decided to appoint an advisory, special, sub-committee, or commission to study or handle the problem. We want (or need) members of our group to volunteer assistance because we do not have money for staff."
* "Your knowledge, input, or time is so valuable (and so on), we would like you to help us with x, y, or z to work out solutions". Warning: They will fail to assimilate your information, suggestions, or concerns.
* "We would like to help you by doing x, y, or z for you". Warning: The reciprocal help never appears.
* "We plan to issue a policy or statement regarding that problem next week, month, year..., so that everyone will know what to do in the future..."
Warning: Beware of bureaucrats stealing your uncompensated time to tie you up, keeping you out of circulation in the community. Volunteerism can be abused, becoming a time quicksand.
Solution: Don't accept inconsequential actions, excuses, and
Tactic 6 -- They will give you a Red Herring, or get you to Chase the Wrong Bunny:
Warning: This is an issue or information offered to belittle, patronize, or confound and derail your efforts. When a bureaucrat tries to change the subject from what you are concerned about to what they want you to focus on, they are using a "Bait and Switch" routine.
* They will engaging attendees in detailed explanations or debates that are intended to sidetrack the issue of concern, hoping that in the heat of debate, you will: Give up, get tired, go home, and forget the key issue.
Warning: Be aware of time wasters that will eat up meeting time, and are designed to wear you down. Solution: When confronted with this tactic, don't get side tracked. You don't have to be an expert to ask questions, ask for information, or to have legitimate concerns. You are to write notes throughout the meeting -- this will help keep you on track. Stick to the issues you want to discuss, while making a special note to follow up, or address the other person's issue later, if they genuinely desire to do so.
Tactic 7 -- They will refuse to give out information, or make it impossible
to get it: Bureaucrats plan that this tactic will discourage you, so
that you will give up and go away.
Examples: * Bureaucracies protecting damaging information may try to charge exorbitant fees for information to be searched, copied, and sent to you.
Solution: Request fee waivers based upon public interest needs and public right-to-know laws.
* You, the requestor, may be flooded with huge amounts of useless information that is out of order and out of date. This is called a data dump in legal circles. Warning: This is a common tactic used by legal rivals on cases to eat up valuable pre-trial discovery time. It takes a critical eye, speed reading, and some research or historical knowledge to be able to weed through the useless information to find what you want.
To deal with the system effectively, you need the facts. If you have the facts, the system has to deal with you more openly. Democracy depends on people having the information needed to allow meaningful input and interaction with the system. The refusal to give out information may sound like this:
* They will say: "We don't have that information; x, y, or z is
Solution: Recognize these tactical phrases meant to put you off the track of the information you need to level the playing field with your opponent, and don't accept lame excuses for non-performance or non-compliance.
STRATEGIES TO SHORT CIRCUIT THE CONTROL GAME
* BE OBSERVANT OF INTERACTIONS, TACTICS, AND WHO MAY BE CALLING THE
SHOTS BEHIND THE SCENES: Recognize that although individuals make up
the bureaucracy, they should not be the targets of your efforts. Evaluate
* DO NOT ALLOW BUREAUCRATIC FIGUREHEADS TO LABEL YOU as a troublemaker, or as someone with emotional or personal problems (i.e.: "Psychiatrically" linked to a site or set of issues, don't have a life because you volunteer a lot of your time, are a paid staffer or knowledgeable citizen, so your opinion doesn't count, or don't have "x" number of constituents behind you.) to legitimize side stepping serious issues and/or your concerns. Be alert to the evaluative patronizing concern look. This is contrived to give the appearance of questioning your mental or emotional stability to elicit a reaction. Keep cool and don't give them the reaction they want from you. Any person might become dedicated to seeking solutions, and become angry or frustrated over the distancing treatment bureaucracies and corporations use to keep the public at arm's length over difficult issues.
* MAKE YOUR ISSUE OR ADVERSARY AN OBJECT OF INTENSE STUDY: Never stop questioning your previous conclusions about them. Get all the information you can and keep getting it. Put this information to productive and meaningful use, then network it around.
* NEVER RELAX AFTER A VICTORY, and don't underestimate the power of determination.
* RENEW YOUR OWN OUTREACH REGULARLY by having current concerns and
information prepared and ready to distribute at every opportunity. Use
their meetings for opportunities to pass out your own targeted information.
How To Disrupt The Delphi Technique, tips on how to protect yourself from those who would use the "Delphi Technique."
How To Deal With Difficult Parents describes how some administrators are trained to deal with questioning, opposing and dissenting individuals.
Dealing With Difficult People, the information referenced in "How To Deal With Difficult Parents" from the Association of California School Administrators, EDCAL - Volume 25, - April 22, 1996
Unmasking The Crime Against Parents: In many ways, the experiences described in this article about Plano, Texas parallel those encountered by parents and community members in Reading, Massachusetts. Reading school administration "mantra" says one thing but their actions reveal a different intent.
A Reference Guide For Recognizing Political / Social Control Tactics - Useful for recognizing the tactics of some school officials and school administrators.
Are You Being Delphied? - The goal of the Delphi technique is to lead a targeted group of people to a predetermined outcome, while giving the illusion of taking public input and under the pretext of being accountable to the public.