Propaganda apparently works. The Helena Independent Record recently published an article entitled “Majority favors death penalty, less regulation to develop fossil fuels.” It reported a poll indicating a majority of Montanans favor removing environmental protections in order to spur strip-mining and fracking across the state.
Reading this article, I couldn’t help but think that it shows the success of an apparently deliberate campaign by Lee Newspapers to influence public opinion to favor expanded strip-mining in Montana. The evidence: 1. Numerous reports that the IR has refused without explanation to publish letters to the editor (including one from a city commissioner) questioning the wisdom of increased strip-mining and shipping coal to Asia.
2. a recent IR editorial strongly advocating increased coal exports to Asia while ignoring the negative impacts of such coal exports.
The motive (and further evidence): a clear conflict of interest, which the IR failed to disclose with its coal-export editorial. That is, the editorial board never reported that Berkshire Hathaway — which stands to directly profit from increased coal exports due to its ownership of BNSF
Railway — also owns (by recent purchase, which it sought to hide) a significant stake in the IR’s parent corporation — Lee Enterprises.
Given that Lee Enterprises owns not only the IR, but four other major Montana newspapers, the extent of its statewide influence is considerable. So, in this respect, the poll results are not entirely surprising.
And if you glimpse the ghost of the Anaconda Copper Co., that wouldn’t be entirely surprising either.