If the voice of the people is heard, you’d better control what that voice says, meaning you have to control what they think … One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there’s a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. -Noam Chomsky, Stenographers to Power
Emails obtained by Awesome Ocean show deep division and outright hostility among leading anti-captivity activists. The emails give a glimpse into the level of behind-the-scenes coordination that activists engage in when promoting projects for their personal profit – particularly attacking SeaWorld. The emails also detail a level of censorship and message control that label independent thought as dangerous and delineate narrow margins of acceptable propaganda-like talking points.
The Orwellian discussion focuses squarely on shameless self promotion and the propaganda campaign against SeaWorld, the supposed plight of animals in captivity is only referenced as a tool for taking down the company.
The main antagonist appears to be Animal Welfare Institute’s Dr. Naomi Rose. In emails between Rose, Blackfish star and Beneath the Surface author John Hargrove, and Blackfish Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, she in no uncertain terms attempts to dictate what opinions are acceptable for the public to know and tries to make herself the center of media attention.
Rose’s antagonism prompted Hargrove to reply, asking Rose: “Who the f**k do you think you are …”
In a lengthy email (1,733 words to be exact) to Hargove and Cowperthwaite from September 12, 2013, Rose is clear that she wants to piggyback on the Blackfish train to promote her own organization and causes.
Gabby, you want John and me to be your Blackfish “team” for media and promotional purposes going into the future. I am grateful for the opportunity, as it allows me to promote my organization and the cause of captive orcas via the juggernaut that the film has become.
But Rose also wants to use David Kirby’s Death At SeaWorld book to promote herself and she is not a fan of people being critical of the book.
However, I told you in our previous conversation that the book is also very important to the cause and to me and that while I would live with the book being ignored by Magnolia (for whatever legal reasons the company may have), whatever attention you could give it in your individual interviews would be appreciated and certainly I could not tolerate any active denigration of the book. I also told you I did not want to hear any of your accusations against David because I had no intention of being in the middle of whatever problems you have with him. That still stands.
Rose becomes more blunt when discussing Death At SeaWorld and her involvement in its development. The use of the term campaign seems to make it clear what this effort has always been about.
The book and the film are major steps forward in the campaign – they are both powerful and useful tools in their own ways. They are complementary, not in competition. The book’s research is rock solid – I was there for most of it and David relied heavily on my files and recommendations for contacts. I also of course am one of two main characters in the book. Any public insult to the content of the book is a public insult to me, my work and my experience. (emphasis added)
In order to protect the propaganda Rose is pumping out, she seems intolerant of anyone disagreeing with her or the anti-SeaWorld rhetoric she has created. Here she appears to lecture and attempt to put Hargrove back in line. Her only apparent concern is that anyone exhibiting independent thought or opinion hurts the propaganda campaign. A campaign not to save animals, but to attack SeaWorld.
John, I also don’t understand how you can criticize Death at SeaWorld as you did without realizing the harm you are doing to the cause and to your allies in the cause. Criticize the book and you criticize everyone involved with the book, including all those who endorsed it – Jane Goodall, Richard Ellis, Erich Hoyt, Louie Psihoyos, the list goes on. It helps no one but SeaWorld for anyone associated with one product (the film or the book) to denigrate the other product. Gabriela, this was a point I was trying to make to you when we spoke on the phone and perhaps I did not succeed as well as I hoped: it hurts the cause, but also the film, for anyone to give SeaWorld any ammunition against the book – and vice versa. We are literally all in this together – if we are seen to be fighting amongst ourselves, the only winner is SeaWorld. If nothing else, please be self-interested in this – harming the book harms the film. (emphasis added)
Rose doesn’t end there. She then kicks into message consulting mode.
She offers what appears to be unsolicited advice to Hargrove and Cowperthwaite on what type of messaging they should and should not be using in the promotion of Blackfish.
Hargrove repeatedly talks about his “love” for the whales and the “bonds” he’s formed with them in media interviews about Blackfish. He directly contradicts the claims made in the movie and pushed by the resulting campaign. Rose doesn’t approve of this. Hargrove’s opinions clearly give weight to the truth behind many of SeaWorld’s claims and when disseminating propaganda – the debate must be tightly controlled.
The film (and the book and all of us in this campaign) are telling people that the bond SeaWorld glorifies between whale and trainer is a fantasy and a wish – the whales can decide in an instant to change the dynamic with the trainers (and do). For you then to describe in interviews your special relationship with Takara and Kasatka (which every little girl in the SeaWorld audience wants to have) and the bond you had with the whales (which is exactly what SeaWorld is selling to its customers and to the court) will confuse people more than ever, since it’s embedded in a message that SeaWorld is a bad place where trainers are at risk and the whales are suffering. (emphasis added)
Wow. The tirade against independent thought or opinion is reminiscent of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth.” Her message appears to an attempt at stamping out any analysis by Hargrove that could open up honest debate. And that hurts the campaign.
John Hargrove didn’t care for Rose’s lecture.
In his reply dated Thursday, September 12, 2013. 1:53pm Hargrove opens with reinforcing the truth about the power of human/whale interaction:
I have so many things to say to you so these are in no specific order.
I (sic) every right to and will continue to “glamorize” my relationships with the whales because it was. Regardless if it’s not the message you want to send or not, it’s the truth and I’m not changing my truth to suit your needs you want accomplish. You have no experience at all in building relationships with orcas so you don’t know what you’re talking about on this matter. And I will continue to speak about the incredible relationships I had with these whales because is part of the truth.
Hargrove goes on to drop an F-bomb on Rose while clearly telling us all what the truth is, despite the dictate by Rose that there must be narrow margins of debate for the propaganda campaign.
And I will be much more blunt and say who the f*ck do you think you are to tell me what I can and cannot say about my career and life with these whales? I’m not retooling the truth so it supports your book with David or your message.
And I don’t If you’ve realized it yet but people want to hear about the relationships we had with the whales that’s what is connecting people to this issue not your science jargon.
You used the word appalled and I will use it also. The audacity of what you have stated in your email is appalling. (emphasis added)
And Hargrove keeps it classy with his closing.
And as far as refusing to work with me … Lady I haven’t been working with you nor have I requested it, especially now.
This email exchange is particularly intriguing given the fact that now Naomi Rose is cited by Hargove’s Beneath The Surface publisher MacMillan in their book review roundup.
We wonder if the two of them have made up after this incident or did Rose sufficiently whip Hargrove back into line so he could continue to march in lockstep with the propaganda campaign?
Anyway you look at it, this is a fascinating look into the world of activism-for-fame-and-profit world and how propaganda campaigns must rid itself of independent thought. The truth becomes secondary to the propaganda. Strict adherence to the narrow margins of the campaign must be enforced.
The truth according to this “Orwellian campaign” – would be a revolutionary act.
Naomi Rose’s September 12, 2013 email:
John Hargrove’s September 12, 2013 reply email.