By Bob Ferris
In my twenty-five years working on wildlife issues I have rarely seen anything as reprehensible as the above billboard slated to be displayed in Spokane, Washington. Those involved should be ashamed not only for the content and imagery but also for being part of so transparent a propaganda device.
What we see above is part of what is known as an “echo chamber.” How does it work? Someone or a small group wants a certain message to reach the public so they put it out and then bounce it off other like-minded groups until it is amplified and appears larger and more meaningful than it really is. Volume in this instance is meant to correlate with truth. Often times with each “bounce” the message gets shriller too as we see above. And when there are not enough groups to bounce off to have the appearance of diversity you manufacture those groups—Washington Residents Against Wolves (WARAW) and the Science First Coalition are good examples of this deceptive strategy.
The echo chamber associated with the billboard consists of the above groups and was likely orchestrated by Jamie Henneman who is the communications guru or spokesperson for many of the groups spouting similar messages—including WARAW. When you look at the members and leaders we start to see many familiar names including the Dashiell brothers—Dave of Huckleberry pack fame and Don who signed the anti-wolf resolution coming out of Stevens County. These gentlemen are also active in Cattle Producers of Washington and the Science First Coalition respectively. And so the net gets more entwined and the actual constituency smaller as original voices are separated from the resulting echoes.
When you look at Ms. Henneman’s profile on LinkedIn, the story on this becomes clearer. Although she has worked for small market newspapers, her proof-reading skills (see above) and ethical behavior are not those of a trained journalist. What we do see here and what is consistent with this “echo chamber” approach is her coursework at the on-line institution American Military University which includes a course entitled Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation (INTL653). And if you visit the current syllabus for that course you will see that this course covers important topics such as “dirty tricks.” Add that to her emphasis on social media and the sudden explosion of websites and Facebook pages—all with anti-wolf messaging—in this sector makes sense.
"Hedquist noted that the parasitic disease that affects an estimated 2–3 million people and results in an annual monetary loss of over $750,000,000 worldwide. Incidents of human infection increase as exposure to the canine feces that carry the parasite also increases. The Centers for Disease Control and every state where wolves are present, except Washington, warns the public of the dangers via public information campaigns." WARAW Press Release
The intemperate and misleading comments by Luke Hedquist in the press release associated the launch of the above billboard are somewhat surprising as he—in the absence of anything resembling any apparent grounding in science beyond his high school coursework—is suddenly expounding authoritatively on a very complicated issue of parasite epidemiology. It is not surprising that he got it wrong (see Little Worms, Big Lies) Moreover, his use of global figures is purposely done to induce panic when the reality is that hydatid disease in humans is extremely rare in North America and the incidence in the lower 48 states is so rare that individual cases generally rate a journal article and typically are about people coming to the US with the disease. But this constant overstatement of risk is what we have come to expect from this fear machine.
All in all, the participants in this broader effort to promulgate biological bigotry in eastern Washington from the various cattlemen’s associations and these shadow “groups” should take some time to see where their moral compasses are pointed, because there is nothing about this complicated web they have constructed that bespeaks of integrity, principle or much in terms of stand-up character. The choice is fairly simple: Do you want to be known for being honest brokers or for your dirty tricks?