Actors Hired To Play Consumers In Bid To Thwart Renewable Energy in New Orleans

from the fake-it-'til-you-make-it dept

The nation's largest, incumbent utilities continue to engage in some pretty shady behavior to try and stop the unstoppable renewable energy (r)evolution. In Florida, for example, we noted how one utility created an entirely bogus consumer group with one purpose: to hamstring solar competition. The group, "Consumers For Smart Solar," was built specifically by utilities to try and push legislation that claimed to support solar energy, but actually applied all manner of backward and obnoxious restrictions to the alternative energy industry.

As these companies work to craft legislation that makes it harder on renewable competitors, they've ramped up the use of astroturfing to provide the illusion of broad consumer support for their efforts. Not to be outdone by their colleagues in Florida, one Louisiana utility appears to have hired a bunch of actors to express their enthusiastic support for the construction of a gas-based power plant that had been struggling with public approval. Locals had opposed the construction, arguing that claims that the plant was needed to shore up lagging capacity didn't hold up, and the utility should instead focus on modernization of existing lines.

Local utilities didn't like that, so they hired a bunch of actors to cheer the plant's construction, and jeer any conversation about renewable energy alternatives at a meeting in New Orleans:

"At least four of the people in orange shirts were professional actors. One actor said he recognized 10 to 15 others who work in the local film industry. They were paid $60 each time they wore the orange shirts to meetings in October and February. Some got $200 for a “speaking role,” which required them to deliver a prewritten speech, according to interviews with the actors and screenshots of Facebook messages provided to The Lens.

“They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power,” said Keith Keough, who heard about the opportunity through a friend.

"Astroturfing," or the act of generating bogus grass roots public support for arguably unpopular policies, was a concept perfected by the broadband industry years ago. Whether it was paying people to attend meetings or the creation of bogus consumer groups to attack net neutrality, creating the illusion of support is a longstanding American tradition. It tends to be confusing to the general public, so by and large it's something traditional press outlets don't deem worthy of covering. But it routinely pollutes public discourse, and directly and routinely results in crap policy and law that doesn't reflect the will of the (actual) public.

In this case, locals believe the actors were likely hired by a utility company by the name of Entergy through a company creatively named Crowds on Demand (there's a long list of companies that do this, though most like to operate under the radar). But Entergy denies the claim, and promises it will look into it and take "appropriate action if warranted":

"“While we reiterate that Entergy did not pay, nor did we authorize any other person or entity to pay supporters to attend or speak at Council meetings, we recognize that our interactions with our stakeholders must always be based on honesty and integrity,” the company said. The company said it’s finalizing an investigation “to determine if anyone retained by the company has acted in any way inconsistent with these values. We will take swift and appropriate action if warranted."

Because it's not illegal for companies to hire actors to actively mislead the public and corrupt the democratic process, nothing much comes of these revelations. And while these kinds of efforts obviously can't stop natural market evolutions like the shift toward renewable, lower-pollution alternative energy options, they certainly do a great job making meaningful evolutionary progress that much slower and cumbersome.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 11:30am

    All focus now off "needed to shore up lagging capacity".

    I think that near certain, given report yesterday
    that Texas hit a peak of use, and it's only May.

    That shift of focus certainly doesn't serve the
    democracy, either, regardless how much dislike that:

    > not illegal for companies to hire actors to actively mislead the public

    The "not illegal" bit does cut both ways, not just for pirates trying to dodge law and steal content.

    > and corrupt the democratic process

    Well, power requirements are NOT in any degree "democratic", so whether a new plant is needed must not be controlled by morons who want electricity from magic wishing, even though majority.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 12:57pm

      Re: All focus now off "needed to shore up lagging capacity".

      This is not about pirates or content.

      Maybe, you consider the power utilities to be pirating our future for today's profits?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 1:45pm

      Re: All focus now off "needed to shore up lagging capacity".

      Tell us again just exactly how renewable energy is a "pirate" attempt to "dodge law and steal content".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 10 May 2018 @ 11:36am

    Magic wishing

    You mean that magic wishing of using solar power in the sun belt instead of good ole american coal?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 12:18pm

      Re: Magic wishing

      Well, in this case it's using good ole american natural gas.

      For a short term solution, the company's idea is actually not that bad... but they really need to fix the infrastructure such that they can absorb daytime solar from multiple points and bank it for night time use. If their short term solution gets in the way of that, it's not really very useful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 10 May 2018 @ 11:53am

    I'm open to the possibility that the objections are mostly NIMBY.

    But that doesn't change the ethics of astroturfing.

    Any company that doesn't see the problem with paying for astroturf support also wouldn't have a problem denying that they were the source of the funds. Their denial does seem pretty complete, but it's worth noting that PR statements are not sworn testimony.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve Myers, 10 May 2018 @ 12:18pm

    Entergy admits astroturfing

    Entergy has just acknowledged that people were paid to attend and speak at meetings supporting the power plant. The company says it hired a firm to bring supporters to meetings, but didn't know they had been paid. https://thelensnola.org/2018/05/10/entergy-says-a-public-relations-firm-hired-people-to-speak-on-beh alf-of-its-new-power-plant/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 May 2018 @ 12:42pm

    Watched it happen to many times..

    For all this BS..
    How many understand that the PEOPLE paid for it..
    Corps pay for nothing, and just raise prices to cover the expense..
    They raise prices to ADD facilities, that were designed to SELL POWER TO OTHER STATES..and that states persons, PAY for all of it, and dont even get a CUT of the profits..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 1:01pm

    "Because it's not illegal for companies to hire actors to actively mislead the public and corrupt the democratic process, nothing much comes of these revelations"

    And yet we are supposed to believe them when they trot out their mission statements about how they are a good neighbor and member of the community. Honest, trustworthy, blah, blah - LOL, what a load.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 10 May 2018 @ 1:59pm

    Company Motto

    From the non-disclosure agreement:

    A few things to keep in mind:

    1) Tell nobody you're being paid.

    2) Tell nobody you're being paid.

    3) Media will be present, do not talk to them.

    4) Tell nobody you're being paid.

    5) If someone approaches you, don't tell them you are being paid.

    Wow. Michael Cohen is everywhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stan (profile), 10 May 2018 @ 2:31pm

    What type of actors?

    They're paid...they show up without admitting that they're paid...they're instructed to not reveal who is backing them...they're given a script...a script about a current issue.

    AHA.

    They're "Crisis Actors"!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 May 2018 @ 3:16pm

    I like that statement you hear on some ads ...
    "real people - not actors"
    as if actors are not people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Richard Bennett, 10 May 2018 @ 7:14pm

    You're wrong, Bode. So miserably, hilariously wrong.

    When Ajit Pai serves you and your pirate overlords at Google a big slice of humble pie I'm going to laugh long and loud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 May 2018 @ 2:54am

      Re:

      "You're wrong, Bode. So miserably, hilariously wrong."

      But, you'll refuse to tell anyone why or enter any kind of intelligent discussion, you'll just name call, lie and gloat over something that has nothing to do with the subject of the article. My God, you people are pathetic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 7:42am

      Re:

      Humble Pie - rockin at the Filmore


      What does "serves you ... a big slice of humble pie" equate to? Prison term for not sucking up to dictators?

      Perhaps you could express your opinions in a more lucid fashion. I was unaware that our esteemed FCC chairperson was an accomplished cook, and why would you laugh if this esteemed leader of democracy were to make a pie for someone?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 8:08am

      Re:

      And we'll be here to laugh at you when that doesn't happen and Pai gets slapped around by the courts for misconduct.

      Try again Richard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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