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Bivings Group

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The Bivings Group is a PR firm whose clients include Monsanto, a company with a long history of harmful practices impacting the environment and human health.[1][2] [3]. They seem to specialize in the creation of fake grassroots Astroturf supporters for their clients.

An article on the Bivings web site, titled "Viral Marketing: How to Infect the World," originally recommended covert and deceptive Internet activity, "there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organisation is directly involved... it simply is not an intelligent PR move. In cases such as this, it is important to first 'listen' to what is being said online... Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party... Perhaps the greatest advantage of viral marketing is that your message is placed into a context where it is more likely to be considered seriously.... Sometimes, we win awards. Sometimes only the client knows the precise role we played." After this message was criticized publicly, Bivings removed the offending passages, placing a note at the bottom of the article that states, "Recently edited for clarification."

Client List

[4]

Bivings and Monsanto

In May 14, 2002, Guardian journalist George Monbiot reported on "invisible persuasion" techniques used by Bivings that included the creation of fictional individuals on the Internet. "Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents on the Internet," he wrote. ... Detective work by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews and the freelance journalist Andy Rowell shows how a PR firm contracted to the biotech company Monsanto appears to have played a crucial but invisible role in shaping scientific discourse."

Bivings apparently played a behind-the-scenes role in persuading Nature magazine to retract a scientific paper which it had published, claiming that native maize in Mexico had been contaminated by genetically modified pollen.

"On the day the paper was published, messages started to appear on a biotechnology listserver used by more than 3,000 scientists, called AgBioWorld," Monbiot wrote. The first came from a correspondent named 'Mary Murphy.' Chapela is on the board of directors of the Pesticide Action Network, and therefore, she claimed, 'not exactly what you'd call an unbiased writer.' Her posting was followed by a message from an 'Andura Smetacek,' claiming, falsely, that Chapela's paper had not been peer-reviewed, that he was 'first and foremost an activist' and that the research had been published in collusion with environmentalists. ... The messages from Murphy and Smetacek stimulated hundreds of others, some of which repeated or embellished the accusations they had made. Senior biotechnologists called for Chapela to be sacked from Berkeley. AgBioWorld launched a petition pointing to the paper's 'fundamental flaws.' ... The pressure on Nature was so severe that its editor did something unparalleled in its 133-year history: last month he published, alongside two papers challenging Quist and Chapela's, a retraction in which he wrote that their research should never have been published." However, sleuthing by Monbiot and others shows that "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek" are apparently pseudonyms used by Bivings employees (Update: "Mary Murphy has subsequently been shown to be an e-mail front for Monsanto's PR company, Bivings, while the postings of Andura Smetacek have been traced back directly to Monsanto in St Louis" [5]). For more on the Monsanto connection see [6].

Bivings and the Republican Party

Bivings has received $79,811 in 2004 [7] from the Republican National Committee, and designed their GOP Teamleader website.[8]

Bivings defends their role in creating fake letters to the editor via GOP Team Leader. Regarding the consternation one letter writing campaign caused they gloat "The editors of these papers, which include The Boston Globe, The Cincinnati Post, and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, are crying foul - they feel that they were duped. All major publications have policies against publishing form letters, but these managed to slip through, as they had the look and feel of genuine grassroots responses." [9]

"Republicans spent up to $60,000 to create www.gopteamleader.com, which launched in late March. The site was designed to give more than 90,000 Republican activists information on contacting local radio stations and newspapers to disseminate President Bush's and Republicans' views on issues ranging from energy to terrorism". [10]

External links