Deny, Discredit, Disinform, Diffuse and Defray

The five D’s. As a now 55-year-old man, I have witnessed over time the aggressively managed handling of criticism whether it is in politics or in big business. In my view, the defense could be summed up in the following order – Deny, Discredit, Disinform, Diffuse and Defray – where you keep drawing lines in the sand as you retreat. With each D and line drawn, you want to see if that will stave off the criticism.

The fossil fuel and petro-chemical industries have been deploying these tactics for decades, as what they do for a living is not easy and has a history of impacting the health and welfare of humans and the environment. When you add money on top of these approaches, it takes an Erin Brockovich to make any headway against them. Yet, what people fail to realize is these five D’s are an aggressive risk management strategy.

But, the approach is definitely not limited to big business. Vladimir Putin is probably the best games player around. He knows your weaknesses and hot buttons, so he has and continues to use these approaches. In the US, politicians value and pay dearly for spin doctors like Karl Rove, who in essence are paid liars. Their job is perfume any pig that comes their client’s way. However, most politicians who have won more than one election become increasingly artful in these defense tactics – Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Obama and the Bushes – all could be considered good at these approaches. With Nixon, the lies caught up with him as he taped himself. He only resigned once the courts ordered him to release the tapes that showed he was not only paranoid, but ran a burglary and disinformation ring out of the White House.

First, when criticism is made against what you do or have done, you deny it aggressively. That is absolutely not true will be words usually spoken. Note, with false claims, denial does not mean the accuser is correct as that is part of the defense strategy under discredit. Putin claims that Ukraine is fascist, but you really cannot call Ukraine fascist if they are trying to have democratic elections. The toxic fracking slickwater is not getting into people’s water supply, is a good example of denial. The NSA is not spying on Americans is another one.

Second, when the denial ceases to work, the discredit strategy begins. Sometimes, the discrediting comes with the denial. The Putin example is a good one. The global warming is a hoax is a prime example, where the fossil fuel industry through its public relations engine wanted to paint Al Gore and all of his imperfections as the reason why global warming was not happening. He lives in large mansion and is using this as a publicity stunt. Name calling or branding people comes part and parcel. Using terms like Hitler, Apartheid or Stalin to paint something you dislike is a common tactic. I have often been called an Environmentalist, which I am, but the term is used to smear me because it is meant to construe that I do not care about jobs. The fact that there are tens of thousands of jobs in solar energy in my own state and they are growing in number, seems to get overlooked as unimportant.

Third, if denials and discrediting don’t work, disinform. This probably frustrates me most, as it is a very common tactic on partisan news shows, to spin the truth, overlook the issues or just lie. I tell people often and write on this blog and emails for people to stop watching Fox news and its counterpart, MSNBC. Your are better off watching no news as the spins can be so severe that you are not informed –  you have been propagandized. The real truths include: Global warming is not a hoax. Fracking is not perfectly safe. Creationism is not science. Voter fraud is virtually non-existent. Business is not inherently bad, but needs governance. Protecting our environment costs us less in the long run. While there are a few abusers, people on food stamps are not gaming the system.

Fourth, if we are still in trouble, the next line in the sand is to diffuse. This is a measured  mea culpa which allows some concessions, but does so on your terms. You have already thought through beforehand what would be an acceptable position to come to, when the avalanche of truth gets too big. You have done some internal investigations and found there is some truth in what we are being accused of, so we will fix it. You are right, climate change is real, so we are going to focus on natural gas, as it burns cleaner than coal. The data breach is bigger than we first imagined, so we are doing the following. We are only getting Metadata and not listening to your phone calls and reading your emails.

Fifth, if this fails, then we need to defray. We need to settle claims as quickly and expeditiously as possible. We must avoid class action suits. We need to divide and conquer. Pay people a pretty penny, but limit the number of pennies and limit the number of hands. No one goes to jail. We just pay out of expenses what we have already accrued when the problem first reared its head. Or, let’s recall every car that has any minor defect now. This will be far cheaper than the potential lawsuit.

The five D’s. Next time criticism is flying toward someone or some entity, watch how the issue is handled. Usually, the higher the revenue stream potential, the more aggressive the defense. The truth is usually further away from the speaker with the most to gain financially. Not always, but often enough.





15 thoughts on “Deny, Discredit, Disinform, Diffuse and Defray

    • Merci. I agree. Usually, the more aggressive the defense does tend to suggest that. The more contrite, usually the opposite. However, those are both generalizations. Thanks for stopping by. By the way, my son is dating a young lady who has been to Ecuador a couple of times with her grandmother. I told them of my friend Z.

  1. Governor Christie’s [recent] use of the 5-Ds could very well have been THE current example of political issue obfuscation.
    With mid-term elections coming up this year and the 2016 national already in full swing, reblogging this piece periodically (every 3 months?) might put accountability back where it belongs…at the beginning of what we could call the “A-List” when sorting through candidates and issues…but that’s just me. (Apologies, but thanks for the quote cop, Barney. It won’t happen again.) R.

    • Thanks Raye. Christie’s is a good example. So, is the NSA one. The best two, though, are the climate change deniers and fracking proponent examples portrayed by the same group with the same PR firm, who I am sure gets paid a lot. In NC, with a GOP majority in the House, Senate and Governor’s office, the process is used to the hilt. The head of the commission (which is industry weighted) to implement fracking rules speaks of fracking criticism as “urban myths that are easily disproved” and notes “we stand a greater chance of being hit by a meteor than having a fracking leak.” I do not make this up. Both of these statements can easily be proven to be false, but that does not stop the train.

    • Raye! Welcome Back. Hope you had a wonderful holiday and b’day. Believe it or not, I got a speeding ticket, first in about 20 years, on my day!

  2. Note to Readers: I was thinking more on Nixon and his demise. One of the interesting aspects to his Watergate scandal is he believed others were out to get him even after he was caught. It was as if he felt justified in doing what he was doing. So, he continued saying “I am not a crook” when the evidence revealed the contrary. Judge Sirica making him release the tapes was the final straw, but nine months before on an October weekend when he wanted the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, fired and Elliott Richardson refused to go along and resigned and one other person also refused. It took one Robert Bork to fire them. That was the beginning of the end. An ironic twist is in the 1980s, Bork was refused confirmation as a Supreme Court justice candidate.

  3. There are so many examples of the 5 D’s. Clinton’s sex scandal strikes me as the most ludicrous and harmful. Had he just come out in the beginning with a humble “mea culpa, I screwed up”, most of the country and all of the world would have moved on to the next crisis. Instead he drug us all through hell with his foolish attempts to deny, then discredit, disinform, defuse, and defray his guilt.

    • Linda, you are so right. It would have been better for all. If he said, “I messed up. I have let my wife, myself and my country down. I will do better. Please forgive my poor behavior.” The press would have had a field day, but eventually it would have been over. And, if Hillary runs, we get the pleasure of going through this again. Thanks, BTG

  4. You nailed it. I believe Teflon Reagan was also prolific and expert at using these tools. Our current leader is a classic Denier, he takes no responsibility and nothing is his fault, because, somewhere along the line he gave a speech.

    Great post

    • Thanks. Reagan was classic on the Iran/ Contra affair. Fortunately for him Oliver North took the fall, but Reagan did have to go TV to apologize. Many forget that.

  5. Note to Readers: I did hear a couple of good denial/ discredits from the Chair of the NC commission who is clearing the way to frack in NC. The industry loaded commission is not too keen on hearing dissenting comment about the subject. The Chair has uttered a couple of key phrases as prima facie evidence. “The fracking opponents are spreading urban myths about fracking problems.” And, my personal favorite, “There is a greater chance of being hit by a meteor than having fracking fluid spill into the water supply.” Since the industry has settled with claimants over a few spills already in PA, TX and other states, I guess meteors are hitting the earth with greater frequency. In fact, in Texas the other day, a jury awarded a family $2.95 million over such a leak.

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