It was a bad time to be working for the chemical industry as a public relations manager. In June of 1962, Rachel Carson had published Silent Spring, a soon-to-be-bestseller that prompted a wave of public concern over pesticides and pollution. A young man named E. Bruce Harrison, the newly minted PR rep for the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association, launched a series of personal attacks against Carson (she wasn’t a “real” scientist, she was biased because she had cancer, maybe she was a communist). The tactic failed: The industry was branded as a villain, and it got stuck dealing with new regulations.
Out of that failure, Harrison came up with a new strategy in the 1970s that would inform his work advising polluting industries in the coming decades. The key to sidestepping regulation was not about antagonism, he figured, but compromise, as the scholar Melissa Aronczyk has documented. What if the environment, energy, and the economy would all be given equal weight? Calling for “balance” between these “Three Es” would lend credence to the industry’s position, making it look reasonable and responsible — and leave environmentalists looking like the ones trying to destroy the... Read more