New Targeting Software
to Smart-Bomb Activists
Recon c/o Michael Morrill, PCAN
This info comes from the Center for Media and Democracy. We've been talking about how to research Big Bodies. Here's how Big Bodies research us. This is a sample of the kinds of things corporations will be using against us in the future. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.
Mad as Hell?
This Program May Have Your Number
by Bob Burton
Is ToxicSludgeCo trying to build in your neighborhood? Are you and your neighbors swarming like angry bees to attack and drive away the intruder? If so, you may be have become a blip on someone's "Outrage" meter.
"Outrage" is a software package based on Peter Sandman's risk communications theories. As the name suggests, it is designed to assist companies in "predicting and managing" the anger of "stakeholders" affected by corporate actions.
Like many PR consultants, Sandman says he is working to make corporations more open and accountable. His theories about "outrage" can be used, he says, both to help companies reduce community anger and to mobilize activism for improvements in public health.
A glance at the software, however, suggests where its loyalties lie. A demo version for Windows is downloadable at
Obviously, these prices were not set with grassroots community groups in mind. Corporations with deep pockets are Sandman's primary market, and the demo package is tailored to appeal to that audience.
The demo offers a hypothetical sample "situation definition" which lays out the following scenario: "Our factory in the South Side neighborhood has long had visible air emissions, sometimes very thick. The poor, minority residents, with whom we have very little relationship, recently began organizing to do something about the problem, maybe even shut us down."
The demo then leads users through the steps needed to track and categorize people as allies, neutrals, or opponents. Among the sample "opponents," it lists names including "S.S. Latino Assn.," "Mrs. Charles," "City Air Quality Board," "Sierra Club," "Greenpeace," "South Side Elementary School" and "nearest neighbors."
"For obvious reasons, we are also interested in how much power each important stakeholder can bring to bear," the software explains.
Sandman's strategy relies on a fairly crude but undoubtedly effective formula which invites PR managers to map the overlap between "passion" and "power" among stakeholders. Depending on how they rank in these two areas, the company can choose one of four strategies: "deflect, defer, dismiss, or defeat."
Stakeholders with power but no passion should be "deflected." Distract them, change the subject, or just wait them out until their attention wanders elsewhere.
People with passion but no power, on the other hand, can be "defeated." Sure they care, but can they do anything about it? And people with neither passion nor power are easier still. Just "dismiss" them.
The one occasion when Sandman says real reform is necessary is when dealing with people who have both high passion and high power. Those people he says, are "a force to reckon with," and the company will eventually have to "defer" to their demands--"one way or another, to one extent or another."
The "Outrage" software is marketed by the Qest Consulting Group, an Australia-based joint venture between Sandman and the global environmental consulting firm Dames and Moore. The Australian launch of the software included a panel discussion at which community activist Colleen Heartland was invited to participate as a representative of the Hazardous Materials Action Group (HAZMAG).
HAZMAG, a local activist group in Melbourne, Australia, was formed after a series of chemical plant fires in the area. More recently, it has worked to organize area residents affected by a massive explosion that destroyed much of the Coode Island chemical plant and sent a toxic plume across Melbourne.
"The more I sat through the presentation, the more worried I became," Heartland said after the demonstration of Sandman's software. "The program is very, very sophisticated and based on the assumption that working with the company can be effective and the company can be trusted," she said. "From my practical experience neither assumption is true."
Heartland said she "found the concept behind the software frightening. No longer are we up against PR people just trying to be nice to us, but they are being quite systematic in analysing activists to make sure they get their way."
This sample screen from the demo version of Peter Sandman's "Outrage" software invites users to "list your opponents -- declared opponents and potential opponents. This is the group we're going to analyze further, so don't stint on your list."