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"Our oil": Extractive populism in Canadian social media


Abstract and Figures

We trace the contours of extractive populism as it is increasingly expressed in Canadian social media. First, we explore the genesis of Canadian extractive populism in industry's efforts to target and 'activate' key constituencies of supporters to emulate the successes of their opponents' communication and engagement strategies. Following a description of our research, we dig deeper into the strategies of several Facebook groups that represent key nodes in the promotional infrastructure for extractive populism, focusing on the material they are sharing and how they are (re)framing extractivism.
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7 “Our Oil”
Extractive Populism in Canadian Social Media
Shane Gunster, Robert Neubauer, John Bermingham,
and Alicia Massie
“ink of this like a football game and we’re not putting enough players in the
eld. ey’ve got people in every local community trying to create delay and
create obstruction.” So said Cody Battershill, a Calgary realtor, founder of the
social media campaigns Oil Sands Action and Canada Action, and a vocal sup-
porter of Canadas oil and gas industry. In an interview with radio personality
and former right-wing provincial politician Danielle Smith, Battershill (2018)
described a beleaguered industry under attack from a “very sophisticated,
well-organized public relations campaign” intent on destroying the Alber-
tan economy. But rather than simply decry the conspiracies of what former
federal natural resources minister Joe Oliver (2012) famously described as
foreign-funded “radical groups,” Battershill spent the lions share of the inter-
view urging listeners to mobilize in response:
Call your MP today. It doesn’t matter what party they’re with. [...] On
our website, we have an email we sent out today asking everyone to call
the Prime Minister’s oce. Call [then natural resources minister] Jim
Carr’s oce. Go on social media. We have to apply the pressure. [...]
I would encourage people to be vocal. Email the mayor of Burnaby.
Email [BC premier] John Horgans oce. Call their oces. Let’s ood
the phonelines. Let’s ood their inboxes. Let’s stand up.
Listeners were invited to participate in a Vancouver Sun public-opinion poll
regarding a proposal by the BC government to study and possibly restrict
198 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
bitumen exports given the risk. Above all, he implored the audience to become
active in communicating about this issue within their social networks: “We
all have an opportunity to call friends and family. Use social media. Share Oil
Sands Action, Canada Action. [...] We are all on the same team. We all need
to be working together to make sure that Canada, Alberta, we are all getting
the best price for our oil.
“Our oil.” Battershill’s interview—and the success of his campaigns in
attracting social media support—exemplify what we describe as extractive
populism, an emerging eort to position extractivism as under attack from
elites, as an economic and political project that demands popular mobilization
to defend, and as a democratic expression of the public will to ght for an
industry that serves the common good. e term “extractive populist” has
been invoked to characterize the political economy of Latin American states
that rely upon extractive royalties to fund public services (Eisenstadt, Leon,
and Wong 2017). Our application of the term pursues a markedly dierent
ideological endeavour: to recruit and mobilize supporters of the (primarily
North American) fossil fuel industry to counter what Naomi Klein (2014) has
dubbed “Blockadia”—that is, growing regional resistance from environmental
organizations, Indigenous groups, and local communities to the expansion
of extractivism and associated infrastructure, such as pipelines. We situate
this extractive populist discourse as both derivative of and complementary to
contemporary forms of conservative populism that position “ordinary people”
as the victims of a powerful minority of liberal elites who use their control
over political and cultural institutions to impose their values upon society at
large (Frank 2004; Gunster and Saurette 2014; Saurette and Gunster 2011).
Such discourse is frequently dubbed “astroturf,” a pejorative moniker
implying top-down corporate public relations campaigns that simulate “grass-
roots” advocacy but with minimal linkages to real communities. Corporations
do engage in such campaigns, and it is essential to explore their use of this
strategy. Yet we believe that simply dismissing all industry-driven populist
initiatives as “astroturf ” underestimates the extent to which extractive popu-
lism genuinely resonates with (and amplies) selective aspects of the world
views and experiences of particular communities, especially those with sig-
nicant ties to extractive industries. Such dismissals not only risk reinforcing
populist narratives that accuse liberal elites of refusing to acknowledge the
legitimacy of perspectives other than their own but also fail to recognize the
potential of such campaigns to arm, reinforce, and combine with more
“Our Oil” 199
political forms of populism. Analyzing the authoritarian populism of atch-
erism, Stuart Hall (1988, 46) once cautioned that “the rst thing to ask about
an ‘organic’ ideology that, however unexpectedly, succeeds in organizing
substantial sections of the masses and mobilizing them for political action,
is not what is false about it but what about it is true. By ‘true’ I do not mean
universally correct ... but ‘makes good sense.’” We believe that extractive
populism deserves equally serious treatment.
Instead of characterizing these campaigns as astroturf, we nd Edward
Walker’s (2014) conception of subsidized publics a more useful framework
for analyzing such corporate-led civic engagement. Subsidized publics arise
from the use of industry resources to catalyze and rene the participation of
particular groups within the public sphere, thereby giving them a coherence,
focus, and elevated prole that they would not have on their own. Walker
traces the origin of such practices to the growth of business/trade associations
that work on behalf of an entire sector: “As business became more aware of its
political interests—especially in response to the crisis of corporate legitimacy
starting in the late 1960s—industry groups utilized the services of grassroots
rms in order to connect with the broader public and activate their stake-
holders” (74). Such publics frequently serve as a form of elite legitimation,
exacerbating existing political inequalities between those groups favoured
with such subsidies and those who lack such political sponsorship. But such
legitimation proceeds via active eorts to articulate corporate and popular
interests rather than through the orchestration of democratic simulacra that
conjure mass sentiments out of thin air.
e discourse of extractive populism is an ideal t for the explosive growth
of social media platforms as increasingly dominant venues for news con-
sumption and public communication. An August 2016 survey conducted by
Abacus Data found that the number of Canadians who rely on social media
as a primary source of news and information had more than doubled since
2015, and Facebook had become the leading source for those under forty-ve
years of age. A report on the ndings characterized Facebook as “a dynamic
platform that many Canadians use to consume content, share their thoughts
and comment on other people’s posts. It’s an interactive ecosystem ripe for
political discussion and persuasion. A place where public aairs professionals
can speak to a broad group of citizens or to a very specic argument” (Blevis
and Coletto 2017). Unlike traditional corporate public relations, over which
a company exercises control, speaking directly to its audience, extractive
200 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
populism depends upon the active mediation, curation, and circulation of
material through social networks. e hermeneutic labour signied through
posting, sharing, liking, and commenting on specic pieces of media occludes
the institutional origins and authority of extractivist discourse, dynamically
repositioning it as a form of “common sense” emerging organically from the
collective wisdom of communities of like-minded people. In this process,
pro-industry ideas and arguments originally produced by elite sources (such
as public relations rms, think tanks, and the editorial boards of newspapers
and magazines) are rechristened as populist—that is, reective of and emer-
ging from “the people”—as they pass through social media circuits.
In what follows, we trace the contours of extractive populism as it is
increasingly expressed in Canadian social media. First, we explore the genesis
of Canadian extractive populism in industry’s eorts to target and “activate”
key constituencies of supporters to emulate the successes of their opponents’
communication and engagement strategies. Following a description of our
research, we dig deeper into the strategies of several Facebook groups that
represent key nodes in the promotional infrastructure for extractive popu-
lism, focusing on the material they are sharing and how they are (re)framing
The Shift: Subsidizing Canadian “Energy Citizens”
In “Energy’s Citizens: e Making of a Canadian Petro-Public,” Tim Wood
notes that CAPP rst explored the idea of civic engagement in the wake of
internal-opinion surveys about a decade ago that found industry employ-
ees were reluctant to participate in public debates around the oil and gas
sector. He quotes Je Gaulin, vice-president of communications at CAPP, as
saying that people who might otherwise support the fossil fuel industry “felt
it was like smoking. You were socially stigmatized to stand up and defend the
oil sands or natural gas or pipelines” (quoted in Wood 2018, 11). e rapid
expansion of production in the Alberta oil sands, combined with high-prole
“accidents” such as the death of sixteen hundred migratory birds in Syncrude
tailings ponds in 2008, had signicantly elevated the industry’s prole in Can-
adian media. Faced with increasing public scrutiny of its environmental and
social impacts, industry sought to make its employees more active partners
in championing the virtues of oil and gas development.
“Our Oil” 201
Cenovus, among the most aggressive rms in using advertising campaigns
to shape public opinion (Turner 2012), was the rst to engage its workforce, in
October 2013, with the distribution of “wearable pride in the form of ‘I Oil’
T-shirts, toques, and ear-warming headbands; a ‘Speak Up’ package with tips,
examples and industry facts all designed to encourage (or support) conversa-
tions with friends and family; and an update to the company’s social media
guidelines designed to encourage greater participation in online discussions
and debates” (Staneld 2015, 9). e following year, CAPP launched Canadas
Energy Citizens, a hybrid marketing and engagement strategy designed to
showcase public support for the sector and encourage ordinary Canadians—
especially employees and their families—to become vocal industry advocates.
In April 2015, this new emphasis on targeted engagement was proled in a
special issue of Context, CAPP’s member magazine: “CAPP is building toward
a full-blown grassroots outreach program that will begin to take shape in the
coming months. e goal will be to shi industry supporters from a mode of
passive endorsement to active engagement” (Staneld 2015, 10). “We know the
support is out there,” explained Christina Pilarski, CAPP’s campaign manager.
“We’ve made some good progress in identifying that support. e next step
is to build relationships with our supporters, and inspire them to become
visible and vocal champions for industry” (quoted in Staneld 2015, 10).
Industry polling suggested that while strong supporters of industry outnum-
bered strong opponents two to one, supporters felt too uncomfortable and
embarrassed to speak out in favour of an industry that had allegedly been so
eectively demonized by a vocal minority (Hislop 2015). e Canadas Energy
Citizens campaign aimed to embolden supporters, assuring them that their
views were valid, broadly shared, and essential to express.
Anxiety about the power, skill, and determination of environmental-
ist opposition looms large in industry accounts explaining the shi from
conventional public relations—prioritizing mass-market ad campaigns and
information subsidies to corporate media—to a movement-based model of
advocacy. Environmental organizations were perceived as far more eective
campaigners in using social media to deliver values-driven, emotional appeals
aimed at mobilizing small but motivated constituencies to become active par-
ticipants in public debates. In an October 2014 speech, for example, CAPP’s
then president, David Collyer, observed that “high-priced advertising could
nudge the needle of public opinion in the industry’s favor, but a well-timed
counterpunch from opponents on social media would almost always push it
202 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
right back. In the new age of handheld-to-handheld combat, oil and gas was
getting badly outanked” (quoted in Coyne 2015). Industry therefore had
little choice but to adopt its opponents’ tactics, reconceptualizing social media
as a space where supporters could envision themselves as part of a broader
political movement.
While CAPP primarily describes its Canada’s Energy Citizens initiative
as stimulating more balanced conversations about energy in everyday life,
assembling a network of impassioned supporters schooled in the necessity of
political action (for example, participating in public consultations, pressuring
politicians) has been a core program objective. In April 2015, CAPP invited
Deryck Spooner, senior director of external mobilization for the American
Petroleum Institute (API), to come to Calgary to discuss API’s own “Energy
Citizens” campaign. Titled “Harnessing Passion rough Grassroots,” Spoon-
er’s presentation opened with a frank acknowledgement of industry’s desire to
drive its supporters to “take to the streets” in the same way as its opponents
(Spooner 2015, 4). Building such support, he explained, involved a three-stage
process—”recruit,” “educate and train,” and “motivate and activate”—to be
implemented through various online and oine venues including town halls
and rallies, social media, letters to the editor, petitions, and lobbying of elected
ocials. e program aimed to build “key, long-term ally relationships” based
upon “the principle that conditioned allies are likely to be better advocates
(19; emphasis in the original). ree dierent constituencies were identied
as priorities: “local inuentials” (small business owners, community lead-
ers, media), “industry voices” (companies, pro-industry think tanks), and
energy voters” (rank-and-le constituents, industry employees) (19). Subse-
quent slides described the millions of supporters cultivated by API who could
duly be “activated” to pressure politicians and local and state governments
to support industry objectives. e presentation concluded with three exam-
ples in which such mobilization produced tangible results: rst, generating
over 120,000 comments in support of an LNG export facility in Maryland,
which helped to win an uphill battle to secure regulatory approval; second,
defeating a “Community Bill of Rights” in Youngstown, Ohio, that would have
constrained local oil and gas development; and third, defeating a “Waterfront
Protection Ordinance” in South Portland, Maine, that would have banned
bitumen exports from the harbour.
Advocates and supporters have also developed their own social media
campaigns to defend the Canadian oil and gas industry. Ocially, these
“Our Oil” 203
supporter groups claim to operate at arm’s length from industry, although
the extent to which they receive support is an ongoing question (Linnitt and
Gutstein 2015). Over the past several years, Cody Battershills Oil Sands Action
and Canada Action have attracted hundreds of thousands of followers on
Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Battershill—a regular contributor to
the Hungton Post who occasionally pens op-eds in the Calgary Herald
has indicated that his activism emerged out of frustration with the anti–oil
sands messaging of environmental groups as well as the ineectiveness of
the oil industry’s response. In his perception, wrote National Post commen-
tator Claudia Cattaneo (2015), “industry’s own eorts have been hampered by
too little co-ordination, too many unchallenged claims, and industry leaders
censoring themselves from what needed to be said.” More recently, similar
groups have appeared on the scene: Oil Sands Strong, Oileld Dads, Alber-
tans Against the NDP, and Alberta Proud combine a relentless advocacy of
extractivism as a Canadian public good with caustic attacks on industry crit-
ics. ey are playing a key role in building a more robust and dierentiated
promotional eld around the fossil fuel sector that is especially well suited to
the compartmentalized echo chambers of social media.
The Seven Groups in Our Sample
On the basis of an initial review of pro-industry social media, we selected
seven Canadian Facebook groups that are broadly representative of four dif-
ferent types of organizations—corporations, industry engagement groups,
supporter/activist groups, and elite advocacy groups—involved in social
media extractivist advocacy. First, we identied Cenovus and Enbridge as
two of the most active corporations on social media; both companies have also
spearheaded signicant advertising and public relations campaigns to build
public support for the sector. Second, we selected CAPP’s Canada’s Energy
Citizens (CEC), as well as Oil Respect (OR), the engagement initiative of
the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, an Alberta-based
industry organization representing small and medium enterprises. ird,
we identied Oil Sands Action (OSA), headed by Battershill, and Oil Sands
Strong (OSS), founded and run by Robbie Picard—an oil and gas worker from
Fort McMurray—as two of the most popular industry-oriented supporter
groups on Facebook. Finally, Resource Works (RW), a BC-based policy and
204 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
advocacy organization promoting resource development, was selected as a
more traditional lobby group that is active on social media.
Table 7.1 compares the level and growth in group likes for these seven pages
with the proles of some of the most popular Canadian and BC environmental
organizations to illustrate the relative size and reach of industry-friendly social
media communications. As the table illustrates, both CEC and OSA have
attracted a sizable number of followers, comparable to Greenpeace Canada,
though still many fewer than the David Suzuki Foundation, the largest Can-
adian environmental organization on Facebook. OR and OSS possess a smaller
but still signicant social media footprint, with RW and the two corporations
attracting less attention. With the exception of RW, the growth in group likes
has been very strong for all of the industry advocacy groups and is generally
much higher than those for many environmental groups.
Table 7.1. Group likes, 2017 and 2018
  Growth
Cenovus 5,839 8,645 48.1%
Enbridge 10,714 30,529 184.9%
CEC 153,810 216,055 40.5%
OR 50,180 57,895 15.4%
OSA 112,843 134,835 19.5%
OSS 30,226 38,927 28.8%
RW 7,174 7,369 2.7%
David Suzuki Foundation 477,614 492,440 3.1%
Greenpeace Canada 197,330 213,034 8.0%
Dogwood BC 28,563 32,140 12.5%
Sierra Club BC 9,286 11,249 21.1%
Note: In 2018, group likes were all collected on the same day (February 23). In 2017, the
collections for the various groups were made on several different days spanning roughly a
two-week period (January 30 to February 15).
Using NVivo, we scraped data about our seven groups’ 2016 posts to
explore the volume of content they were generating as well as their level of
engagement with Facebook users. is generated a total sample of 3,725 posts.
As table 7.2 illustrates, uneven patterns of posting and audience engagement
were visible among the groups.
“Our Oil” 205
Table 7.2. Facebook engagement metrics, 2016
 posts Likes per post Shares per post Comments per post
Total Per day Average Max Average Max Average Max
Cenovus 171 0.47 46 1,743 13 967 3 114
Enbridge 155 0.42 148 1,393 10 467 10 245
CEC 693 1.90 1,621 25,298 841 48,870 187 5,416
ORa551 1.69 305 13,401 191 5,812 56 2,635
OSA 631 1.73 1,369 44,865 1,271 76,841 88 4,181
OSS 290 0.79 317 7,505 702 28,064 25 345
RW 1,232 3.38 8 153 3 126 2 67
a Oil Respect launched on February 11, 2016; thus, the sample does not include a full year of
During 2016, the seven groups generated a total of 3,723 posts. Cenovus
and Enbridge were the least active, with less than one post every two days,
and they attracted comparatively few likes, shares, and comments. RW had a
much higher volume of posts, but, like the corporations, it struggled to attract
audience engagement. Conversely, the two industry engagement groups, CEC
and OR, and the two supporter/activist groups, OSA and OSS, were much
more successful in generating engagement. We incorporate these dierent
levels of engagement in our analysis through a measure called the composite
engagement metric (CEM), which adds together likes, shares, and comments
to provide a quantitative weighting for each post based on the engagement it
generated. A post with one like, one share, and one comment has a CEM of
3, while a post with ten likes, ten shares, and ten comments has a CEM of 30;
the second post would be assigned a weighting ten times larger than the rst.
We then calculated each group’s share of the total number of posts (prior
to weighting) and of the total CEM score for the seven groups (see table 7.3).
Once engagement metrics are taken into account, CEC and OSA emerge as
clearly dominant, accounting for over 80 percent of total engagement, while
OR and OSS attracted much smaller but still signicant levels of interest from
Facebook users. However, posts from RW and the two corporations generated
only minimal engagement.
206 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Table 7.3. Group shares of total volume of posts and of total engagement
with posts
Proportion (%) of
total post volume
Proportion (%) of total
post engagement
Cenovus 4.6 0.2
Enbridge 4.2 0.7
CEC 18.6 43.5
OR 14.8 7.2
OSA 16.9 40.8
OSS 7.8 7.2
RW 33.1 0.4
Accordingly, we focused our analysis on a smaller sample of items con-
sisting of all 2016 posts (a total of 2,165) from the top four groups—CEC, OR,
OSA, and OSS—which accounted for 98.7 percent of engagement in the total
sample. We coded each post for two variables: the type of content and its pri-
mary frame, that is, the dominant theme of the post.1 In the case of posts that
contained links to external content (such as an article in the National Post),
we included the source of the content and its author in our analysis, but we
did not code the linked material itself.
Types of Posts and an Analysis of Frames
Types and Sources of Posts
Social media platforms such as Facebook are primarily used to circulate and
share content among social networks, but the content itself is naturally diverse.
We coded posts (including the source and author of linked content, if any) for
fourteen dierent types of content, as described in table 7.4.
e distribution of types for each of the four groups is shown in table 7.5.
Sharing favourable content from mainstream media and the trade press was
a clear priority for both industry association groups: 42.2 percent of CEC
posts and 46.8 percent of OR posts consisted of material produced by news
organizations. In contrast, the two supporter/activist groups emphasized
the circulation of memes, which occupied close to half of CEC’s posts and
almost 80 percent for OSS. Memes were especially eective in generating
“Our Oil” 207
user engagement, accounting for close to 40 percent of engagement across
the four groups.
Table 7.4. Types of content
MSM news Mainstream news items
MSM opinion Mainstream media commentary and opinion (including
journalists’ blogs)
Trade press Specialized industry and business media (including journalists’
Alt. media Alternative media
Corporate PR Promotional material produced by a corporation
Group PR Material produced by CEC, OR, OSA, or OSS to promote itself
Meme A combination of visuals/text designed to convey/support an
Infographic A combination of visuals/text designed to convey impartial
Government content Material produced by a government ministry or agency
Industry content Material produced by a company, business association, or
industry-friendly think tank
Other social media Links to social media content of other groups or individuals
(including personal blogs)
Other photo Photos not accounted for in the above categories
Other video Video not accounted for in the above categories
Other content Material not accounted for in the above categories
Virtually all memes circulated by these groups were self-produced, prom-
inently branded with group names and logos, and served to communicate
industry-friendly arguments and claims in a simplistic, highly accessible, and
oen memorable style. Indeed, we argue that one of the core functions of these
groups is meme labour, that is, the ideological and rhetorical work of mining
news media, trade publications, industry public relations, and think-tank
research for ideas, images, and soundbites that can be circulated quickly and
easily, inviting audiences to actively conrm pro-industry world views by
liking and sharing memes. One of the most popular memes in the sample, for
example, asserted, “I’m a Canadian. I have the right to choose! So why can’t
I choose Canadian oil over Saudi Arabia oil!” (OSS, January 30). (All posts
208 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
date to 2016.) Produced by OSS—with a graphic that urges readers to “help us
reach our goal of 100,000 likes!”—the meme received 7,500 likes and nearly
30,000 shares. While one might justiably criticize such a blatant misrepre-
sentation of how individual consumers intersect with global energy markets,
it oers the stark and compelling proposition of celebrating Canadian values
by choosing “our oil” over imports from authoritarian regimes.
Table 7.5. Percentage of post types per group, by volume and level of
Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM
MSM news 20.2 17.1 26.9 24.0 3.2 2.0 1.0 0.3 . .
MSM opinion 15.2 14.1 16.0 15.5 9.7 12.3 0 0 . .
Trade 5.6 5.8 2.4 1.9 3.2 1.9 0 0 . .
Alt. media 1.2 0.6 1.5 1.5 0.6 0.4 0 0 . .
Corporate PR 3.2 3.2 0.2 0 0.5 5.8 0.3 0.3 . .
Group PR 15.6 13.3 14.7 5.8 1.3 0.6 3.1 0.5 . .
Meme 10.8 27.4 17.4 33.4 48.7 47.9 79.7 86.1 . .
Infographic 2.7 2.1 1.3 0.8 10.5 5.7 1.0 1.5 . .
Government 2.9 2.7 1.6 1.3 0.5 0.3 0.7 0.1 . .
Industry 1.6 0.5 0.9 0.2 1.9 1.2 0 0 . .
Other social
7.6 2.9 3.3 1.0 0.2 0 1.0 0.1 . .
Other photo 8.9 6.3 11.1 12.3 11.6 12.3 3.1 1.9 . .
Other video 2.5 1.1 2.4 2.3 3.5 5.9 6.9 8.6 . .
2.0 2.9 0.5 0.1 4.9 3.6 3.1 0.8 . .
Memes oer a condensation of core factoids, arguments, and values
that enable audiences to easily understand the world and their relation to
it: “Another foreign oil tanker on the East Coast. Where are the protesters?”
(OSA, September 1, 16K shares); “Canada is oil rich, and imports 736,000
barrels of oil every day. Energy East can x that” (CEC, March 3, 10K shares);
“Share if you think Leo [DiCaprio] should stop lecturing you about your
carbon footprint” (OSA, November 1, 6K shares); “77% of Canadians surveyed
support the Trans Mountain pipeline” (CEC, November 4, 4K shares). In 2016,
OSA posted over three hundred memes, close to one per day (oen adding
“Our Oil” 209
additional memes in the comments section), providing Battershill with not
only a constant supply of feedback about the comparative ecacy of dierent
arguments but also a steady accumulation of extractivist agitprop that can
easily be recycled as required depending upon circumstances and events.
Such memes furnish the core ingredients of an extractivist-oriented world
view that is simple, self-evident, and appealing to many, helping inoculate
readers against countervailing arguments and evidence, and hardening views
about energy politics.
Self-generated content was the largest source of material for all four
groups: 33.2 percent for CEC, 41.7 percent for OR, 72.9 percent for OSA, and
92.8 percent for OSS. Overall, 57.6 percent of the posts in the total sample were
produced by one of the four groups or parent organizations.
e most signicant external sources of content shared by these
groups were news and commentary from corporate media and the trade
press, accounting for over 70 percent of all such external links. Given the
well-documented tendency of Postmedia to oer sympathetic coverage of the
industry (see, for example, Gunster and Neubauer 2018; Gunster and Saurette
2014), as well as the conglomerate’s dominance of English-language Canadian
print media, it was unsurprising to nd that articles, columns, and op-eds
from Postmedia papers constituted almost one-half of all links to mainstream,
trade, and alternative media items. Figure 7.1 illustrates the top een sources
of links to news sources in the sample. e National Post and the Calgary
Herald lead the list, with Postmedia papers constituting seven of the top een
sources. Also noteworthy, however, was the high volume of links to the CBC,
an organization oen maligned by conservatives as possessing a le-wing,
anti–fossil fuel bias (for example, Cross 2014) yet one that supplied a range
of news and commentary that clearly t with these groups’ pro-extractivist
bias. Indeed, when posts are weighted according to audience engagement, the
CBC constituted the top source in the sample. A January 2016 Rick Mercer
“rant” railing against Canadians who accept equalization payments but are not
willing to support the Energy East pipeline was the highest weighted post in
the entire sample—shared by OSA, it generated nearly 45,000 likes and over
62,000 shares (the video was also posted by CEC, attracting over 5,000 likes
and almost 5,000 shares).
Another surprising nding was the prominence of news media that have
little prole in the broader public sphere but loom large in pro-industry
social media. e online BOE Report, for instance, was founded in 2013 by
210 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Josh Groberman, a former trac helicopter pilot from Calgary. It primarily
serves up industry-oriented business news, yet it also regularly publishes
pro-extractivism commentary. It claimed that over 1.4 million users visited
the site in 2016, including a core user base of y thousand oil and gas sector
employees from Calgary (BOE Report Sta 2017).
Figure 7.1. Top een news sources (unweighted). Postmedia newspapers
appear with an asterisk.
One of the BOE Reports proudest accomplishments was a piece by Terry
Etam, a Calgary-based oil and gas consultant, which it published on January
25, 2016. Titled “Saudi Oil Filling a New Brunswick Renery—What Kind of
Domestic Energy Policy Is at?” (Etam 2016), the piece made the case for
Energy East by decrying the seeming absurdity of importing oil from Saudi
Arabia to service a Canadian renery that could be processing Alberta oil.
Both CEC and OSA promoted the piece on the day it was posted, generating
Montreal Gazette*
Regina Leader Post*
Alberta Oil Magazine
Alaska Highway News
Toronto Sun*
Global News
Edmonton Journal
Huffington Post
Vancouver Sun*
Globe and Mail
BOE Report
Calgary Herald*
National Post*
020 40 60 80 100 120 14 0 160
CEC Oil Respect Oil Sands Action Oil Sands Strong
“Our Oil” 211
close to 6,000 shares that drove trac to the site and attracted attention to
the argument. Two weeks later, columnist Claudia Cattaneo (2016) wrote
a piece that recycled Etam’s arguments, probably hoping to capitalize on
the social media buzz that CEC and OSA had helped to create. Both OSA
and CEC then immediately shared Cattaneo’s column (OSA, February 9;
CEC, February 10), generating over 4,000 likes and 3,500 shares between
them. A week later, OSA posted a meme referring to both the Etam piece
and a second National Post story on the same theme, which generated a
further 1,200 likes and almost 1,300 shares (OSA, February 18). At the end
of the year, OSA pitched Etam’s piece a nal time, attracting 4,000 likes
and almost 5,000 shares (OSA, December 29). e BOE Report described
Etam’s piece as its most widely read and circulated story of 2016, boasting
that it had been shared over 50,000 times (BOE Report Sta 2017). Together,
CEC and OSA posts and memes about the Etam article in 2016 generated
12,800 shares and were likely responsible for a signicant proportion of the
attention it ultimately received.
We also coded for the presence of seventeen primary frames, described in table
7.6. As mentioned earlier, a single primary frame was coded for each post.
Given that posts oen contained more than one frame, we used a sequence
of coding based upon four tiers of priority. In posts containing memes, info-
graphics, photos, and videos, coding priority was assigned to the embedded
image or visual (with the rst thirty seconds used for videos). In the case of
posts that contained embedded links, coding priority was assigned to the
text preceding the embedded link. If such text contained multiple frames, the
most prominent frame, as dened by the number of sentences, was selected. If
multiple frames had equivalent amounts of text, the frame in the highest tier
(see table 7.6) was selected. If multiple frames in the same tier were equally
present, the frame appearing rst was selected. In posts without prefatory
text, the embedded visual was coded.
212 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Table 7.6. Primary frame values
Tier  frames
Canadian/public interest Representations of extractivism as serving the Canadian
public good and/or national interest
Public opinion/support Expressions of public support for extractivism
Attack on opponents Criticism of individuals/organizations that oppose
Energy lifeworld Assertions of the necessity of fossil fuels in everyday life
Ethical oil Positioning of Canada’s fossil fuel sector as ethically
superior to that of other countries
Indigenous nations References to the support of Indigenous communities
for fossil fuel development
Tier  frames
Mobilizing support Requests to supporters to engage in specific actions
Government sustainability Assertions that government regulation of environ-
mental impacts ensures the long-term sustainability of
the fossil fuel industry
Tech/corporate sustainability Assertions that the long-term sustainability of the fossil
fuel industry is ensured by ongoing technological innov-
ations and/or other industry-driven initiatives
Petro-civilization Assertions of continuing global demand for fossil fuels
Tier  frames
CSR (corporate social
References to CSR in contexts other than sustainability
(e.g., charitable gifts)
Industry news News about policy and market trends and their impact
on industry
Resource history Historical accounts of fossil fuel industry
Low-carbon transition Positioning of fossil fuel industry as essential in a
low-carbon future
Non-FF nationalism Expressions of nationalism not connected to the fossil
fuel industry
Self-promotion Promotion of a group’s identity/brand, objectives, and/
or achievements.
Tier  frame
Other Any post that does not include the above frames
“Our Oil” 213
Two dominant frames in the sample—the representation of extractivism
as a Canadian public good and attacking fossil fuel industry opponents—
accounted for close to 40 percent of all posts (see table 7.7). Additional
prominent frames included public support, ethical oil, mobilizing sup-
port, technologically-driven/corporate sustainability, and self-promotion.
Comparing the proportion of posts (“Posts”) to the proportion of engage-
ment (“CEM”) illustrates how dierent frames generated varying levels of
engagement both in the overall sample and within particular groups: overall,
Canadian public interest, attacks on opponents, energy lifeworld, ethical oil,
and eorts to mobilize supporters produced strong levels of engagement,
while public support and especially self-promotion were less successful (with
some notable dierences between groups).
Table 7.7. Percentage of weighted and unweighted frames
Primary frame
Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM Posts CEM
Canadian public
22.2 25.3 23.0
24.2 14.8 8.8 20.8 23.6
Public opinion/
13.3 8.6 12.7 22.1 4.6 2.8 10.7 7.9 10.3 7.1
Attack on opponents 12.7 15.5 19.6 19.8 24.9 25.5 15.2 11.0 18.3 19.8
Energy lifeworld 2.7 1.4 4.0 3.5 2.7 7.4 0.0 0.0 2.7 4.0
Ethical oil 5.2 7.9 3.4 6.8 12.7 10.6 11.4 25.3 7.8 9.9
Indigenous peoples 0.9 1.0 0.4 0.2 4.0 2.3 4.8 2.2 2.2 1.5
Mobilizing supporters 14.9 21.0 6.2 8.8 0.2 0.1 6.9 12.7 7.3 10.8
1.2 1.2 2.0 1.9 3.0 4.3 1.4 1.2 1.9 2.5
5.9 5.2 4.4 3.7 8.2 7.3 6.9 11.1 6.3 6.3
Petro-civilization 2.7 2.3 2.4 3.1 5.4 3.8 2.1 1.3 3.3 3.0
CSR 0.6 1.1 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.7 0.2 0.4 0.5
Industry news 4.2 2.9 2.9 2.3 0.3 0.1 1.4 1.9 2.4 1.6
Resource history 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4 1.3 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.6
Low-carbon transition 0.1 0.0 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.2 0.1
Non-FF nationalism 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.0 3.2 1.9 2.8 3.5 1.4 1.0
Self-promotion 5.2 1.1 10.0 2.6 2.9 1.8 8.3 4.3 6.1 1.7
Other 8.1 5.7 8.2 4.6 6.3 6.4 12.4 8.6 8.2 6.0
214 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Figures 7.2 and 7.3 provide a visual representation of the relative prom-
inence of the signicant frames in the sample. (CSR, resource history, and
low-carbon transition are not included owing to their low frequency), the
comparative signicance of each group in mobilizing dierent frames, and
dierences between these groups’ posting and engagement patterns. In the
remainder of this section, we explore the most prominent frames in more
detail to esh out the vision of extractive populism developed in these groups.
Figure 7.2. Frequency of frames (unweighted)
e Canadian public interest frame primarily emphasized the economic
benets of the fossil fuel industry to the country, including economic
growth, employment, and taxation revenue. ese benets were described
both abstractly, through statistics, and concretely, through allusions to the
many Canadian families who depend upon the sector. In the latter case, the
interactivity of social media was oen leveraged to reinforce perceptions of
collective dependence upon the sector while positioning this dependence as
a source of national pride. For example, one meme featured an image of an oil
0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25%
Non-FF nationalism
Government sustainability
Indigenous peoples
Industry news
Energy lifeworld
Tech/corporate sustainability
Mobilizing supporters
Ethical oil
Public opinion/support
Attack on opponents
Canadian public interest
CEC Oil Respect Oil Sands Action Oil Sands Strong
“Our Oil” 215
pump set against an iconic backdrop of snow-capped mountains and invited
readers, “Share if Canadian oil put food on your table” (CEC, July 11). e
post was shared over een thousand times.
Figure 7.3. Frequency of frames (weighted)
Elsewhere, this process has been described as a form of symbolic national-
ization (Gunster and Saurette 2014) in which a thoroughly capitalist enterprise
organized to prot private corporations and shareholders is depicted as if it
were a public endeavour that had been nationalized, oriented around serving
the interests of citizens and the common good. Such a rhetorical strategy is
profoundly hypocritical given the bitter and strenuous opposition of industry
(and many of its supporters) to any attempt by federal and provincial govern-
ments to increase the publics share of revenues from the sector or reduce the
negative ecological and health impacts of bitumen extraction and processing
(Gunster and Saurette 2014).
ese groups lled their social media with signiers of Canadian national
identity to make the case that oil and gas development is intrinsically Canadian.
0% 5% 10% 15% 20%
Non-FF nationalism
Government sustainability
Indigenous peoples
Industry news
Energy lifeworld
Tech/corporate sustainability
Mobilizing supporters
Ethical oil
Public opinion/support
Attack on opponents
Canadian public interest
CEC Oil Respect Oil Sands Action Oil Sands Strong
216 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Posts referenced iconic events, places, people, activities, and objects designed
to invoke national pride and then gra these sentiments on to the fossil fuel
sector. A strong performance by Team Canada at the Olympics, a national
holiday, Vimy Ridge Day—these groups used any and all opportunities to fuse
pride in Canada with pride in extractivism. is is symbolic and emotional
terrain that these groups worked hard to claim as their own, advancing the
case that a healthy oil and gas sector is itself part of what makes “us” Canadian
(Barney 2017).
While this frame was generally celebratory and upbeat, it was at its most
emotionally resonant when conveying stories of loss and hardship. OR’s feed,
in particular, was lled with posts emphasizing the lived experiences of unem-
ployed workers harmed by a sectoral downtown that was framed as having
predominantly political origins, namely, excessive regulation and the govern-
ment’s failure to facilitate pipeline expansion rather than the boom-and-bust
cycle of global commodity markets and layos imposed by corporations.
“More and more Canadians losing their jobs, homes and businesses,” lamented
one OR post, “while shovel ready projects sit waiting, and carbon levies and
corporate taxes chase investment away” (OR, July 30). Pitting employment
against environmental protection has long been a staple of pro-industry com-
munication (Beder 2002), but the populist trope of standing up for embattled
working-class families was a striking characteristic of this communication.
e public opinion/support frame recalls a key claim underlying CAPP’s
engagement initiatives: that most Canadians support oil and gas development
but have been eectively silenced by a small but vocal minority of opponents.
ese groups advance this claim by highlighting sympathetic media stories
that give play to the “silent majority” argument (for instance, “Chilliwack
farmer says hes among silent majority in favour of oil pipelines,” CEC, Feb-
ruary 25) and trumpeting polls showing support for projects. Such posts not
only aspire to legitimate oil and gas advocacy as representative of what most
ordinary” Canadians desire but also set the stage for a populist David and
Goliath narrative, in which a naïve and helpless industry (and its employees)
are victims of biased media that largely showcases opposition to extractivism.
One of the most distinctive elements of this frame are photos of people—
both celebrities and non-celebrities—proudly wearing “I oil sands”
merchandise. OSA and OSS showcased athletes from the Calgary Flames and
the Calgary Stampeders displaying their apparent love for pipelines, oil sands,
and Canadian energy (for example, OSA, January 22, February 25, and May
“Our Oil” 217
23). Several posts showed NDP MLAs from Alberta wearing OSA merchan-
dise, including a well-travelled photo of then Alberta premier Rachel Notley
posing with OSS founder Picard (OSA, March 4), implying that supporting
industry ought to be viewed as a bipartisan cause.
Groups also sought to mobilize supporters to take specic actions: this
was the third most engaging frame in the sample and especially prevalent in
CEC posts. Readers were asked to contact elected ocials to express support
for projects, write letters to the editor, call in to talk shows, and participate
in public hearings. e spectre of industry opponents dominating public
reviews was invoked regularly. “You only have two days le!” warned an OR
post linking to a survey from Natural Resources Canada. “So don’t let rad-
ical environmentalists monopolize the TransMountain Expansion pipeline
questionnaire. Have your say on Canadian jobs and natural resources” (OR,
September 28).
Alongside calls to action were stories about “ordinary” Canadians engaged
in the movement, helping to give supporters a sense of their collective power
and responsibility to intervene in public debates around industry. Support-
ers were addressed not simply as individuals who benet from or support
resource development but as members of a collective movement whose
actions (or inaction) would determine their community’s future. At one level,
this rhetoric serves the instrumental goal of getting people to do things. But
it also aims to redene extractivism as itself emerging from the democratic
will of a social movement (and not corporate power and special interests). If
enough supporters mobilized, the payo would be government decisions such
as the federal approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion project, portrayed
as emanating from the activism of Canadian “energy citizens.
Failure to mobilize would abandon public and policy-making spheres
to liberal elites and radical activists devoted to ending Canadian resource
development. Measured in terms of both frequency and engagement, the
attack on opponents frame was the second most prominent in the sample,
accounting for just under 20 percent of overall posts and engagement.
Fear-mongering about environmental groups and demonizing of industry
opponents were pervasive in all four groups but especially dominant (and
oen intensely personalized and caustic) in OR and OSA. Actor and environ-
mental advocate Leonardo DiCaprio was a favourite target because he enabled
the symbolic condensation of all the negative attributes of industry critics
into a single gure. Such criticism, the argument goes, is invariably rooted in
218 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
wealthy, foreign, fear-mongering celebrities and elite organizations that attack
Canadas industry while ignoring other producers or the role of consumer
demand. Industry opponents were ridiculed as being ill informed about Can-
adian operations and hostile to the fate of Canadian workers. e storyline of
Canada—or, more particularly, Alberta—as under attack from outside inter-
ests played extremely well for these groups and resonates with long-standing
Alberta tropes of western alienation.
Canadian environmental organizations and activists generally received
less attention than foreign celebrities and groups, presumably to avoid draw-
ing attention to the fact that there are many within the country (even within
Alberta) critical of how industry operates and is (or is not) regulated. Can-
adian environmentalists were consistently denigrated as “paid protesters,” with
posts framing domestic environmental NGOs as little more than the lackeys
of wealthy US foundations, thereby positioning criticism itself as a foreign
import. e arguments of commentator Vivian Krause that “the anti-pipeline
machine is a ‘directed, network campaign,’ a new breed of professional, staged
activism” (OSA, October 4) received much attention. Environmentalists were
unequivocally presented as objects of ridicule and outrage who are either
naïve and ill informed or as misanthropic, dangerous hypocrites who care
little about workers, their families, and the broader Canadian economy. One
post, a photo of smiling sta members from Greenpeace Canada, was prefaced
with the assertion “Getting paid good money spreading misinformation while
hurting Canadian family’s [sic]!” (OSS, March 4). Industry critics appeared
not as political opponents with whom one negotiates but instead as devious
political enemies whose ideas and actions represent an existential threat to
Canadian prosperity.
Both the ethical oil and energy lifeworld frames reinforced the argument
that criticism of Canada’s fossil fuel industry is unfair and irrational. e
ethical oil frame—originally popularized by conservative activist and Rebel
Media founder Ezra Levant—dened global energy markets as oering a stark
choice between authoritarian oil-producing regimes and a democratic Canada
that respects human rights, the rule of law, and strong environmental regula-
tion. “I want to know that the oil used in my car was not generated using slave
labour in a country without a free press,” one pro-industry blogger declared.
“I want my oil being produced by well-paid Canadians in a country with a
demonstrably free press, strong government oversight and a strong tradition
of NGOs to watch over the regulator’s shoulder” (OSA, January 30).
“Our Oil” 219
e ubiquity of oil in everyday life was the focus of the energy lifeworld
frame. Although it played a comparatively small role in the sample as a pri-
mary frame, the theme was oen present in posts that attacked opponents as
hypocrites for condemning an industry that enabled their quality of life. A
cartoon from the American Energy Alliance caricaturing a nude divestment
protester’s alarm once stripped of his oil-based clothing and accessories—pre-
sented as “an oldie but a goodie” by CEC—was shared over six thousand times
(CEC, October 6). e most widely circulated item in the entire sample was
a 2010 ad from Occidental Petroleum that likewise dramatized the shock of
a suburban man experiencing the sudden disappearance of petroleum-based
products from his life: it was shared nearly 77,000 times (OSA, December
12). Beyond the invocation of hypocrisy, such stark “life with oil” versus “life
without oil” binaries helped shi discussion of extractivism out of the realm
of politics and policy (where industry is vulnerable) and into the sphere of
everyday life and personal consumption, in which it becomes so much harder
to envision individually reducing one’s fossil fuel dependence.
A nal frame worth discussing given its emerging public signicance is
Indigenous nations. In contrast to their relentless denunciation of environ-
mentalist opponents of the industry, these groups were almost entirely silent
about Indigenous resistance to extractivism. CEC and OR, closely connected
to key industry lobby groups and probably concerned about accusations of
racism, were especially quiet on this topic, with fewer than ten posts between
them (out of a total of more than twelve hundred). Recognition of Indigen-
ous criticism would also have posed a serious narrative threat to storylines
that emphasize the benets to all of fossil fuel development, an unmitigated
celebration of Canadian nationalism, and the demonization of opposition as
foreign. Perhaps exploiting their greater rhetorical autonomy, OSA and OSS
challenged conventional associations of Indigenous groups (especially First
Nations) with opposition, instead arguing that most Indigenous people were
themselves part of a silent majority of industry supporters and beneciaries.
e views of pro-industry Indigenous spokespeople such as Fort McKay Chief
Jim Boucher and Métis Nation BC president Bruce Dumont were showcased,
as were the sentiments of “ordinary” Indigenous supporters. Relevant memes
celebrated the revenues from oil sands operations accruing to Indigenous
businesses and suggested that Indigenous support for oil and gas development
was much more widespread than opposition.
220 Gunster, Neubauer, Bermingham, and Massie
Given ongoing debates surrounding social media, populist discourse, and the
polarization of Canadian energy politics, it is tempting to brush o extract-
ive populism as “astroturf ” or deride it as “fake news.” Such dismissals, we
argue, should be resisted insofar as they misrecognize the cultural and ideo-
logical force of these groups’ political communications and strategy. A more
urgent task is to understand how the skillful but partial assemblage of factual
raw material by these groups constructs a world view that is simultaneously
compelling and pernicious. e selective mining, framing, circulation, and
amplication of decontextualized factoids has subsidized the formation of
online and oine publics encouraged to (re)conceptualize extractivism not
only as serving the public good but also as a fragile project that depends
on political mobilization to save it from the insidious eorts of powerful,
well-funded industry opponents.
Canadian extractive populism rests upon the presumption that all Can-
adians—as workers, as taxpayers, as consumers—benet extensively, and
equally, from fossil fuel development. e relentless circulation, via social
media, of exaggerated claims and decontextualized statistics about royalties,
equalization payments, and employment obscures the rationale for wide-
spread regional opposition to projects such as Northern Gateway, Kinder
Morgan, and Energy East. e groups who indulge in pro-industry rhet-
oric fail to mention, for example, that the vast majority of economic benets
from these projects would accrue to predominantly corporate actors out-
side the provinces where they would be built. Such narratives also belie how
Indigenous and coastal communities, taxpayers, and workers would be forced
to absorb the majority of ecological and economic risk from a spill or leak
(Hoberg 2013). e inequities baked into these projects mirror the much
deeper inequality that structures the oil sands industry in toto, in which low
royalty and taxation rates, high capital intensity, and low employment intensity
generate large corporate prots, comparatively modest (and unpredictable)
state revenues, and a boom-and-bust cycle that provides little employment
security to workers (Campanella 2012). Such a disproportionate allocation
of benets is hardly surprising within a regional political economy that has
become subservient to the international oil industry (Adkin and Miller 2016),
a condition that former Alberta provincial Liberal leader Kevin Ta (2017)
has described as oil’s “deep state.
“Our Oil” 221
In a similar vein, the conspiratorial depiction of industry criticism as
emanating from a small number of foreign-funded and -controlled elite
organizations both ignores and delegitimizes the broad popularity and grass-
roots organization of resistance to new pipeline and tanker projects in British
Columbia, Québec, and other regions across Canada (Hoberg 2013). While
some Indigenous leaders and communities are partners in resource extrac-
tion on their territories, such arguments willfully obscure the long history
of Alberta First Nations opposing oil sands development in their traditional
territories (Audette-Longo 2018). And they neglect the erce opposition of
many West Coast Indigenous communities to pipeline and tanker projects
such as Northern Gateway or the Trans Mountain expansion.
Identifying and challenging the inaccuracies and omissions that constitute
the monochromatic portrait of the fossil fuel industry oered by extract-
ive populism is an essential task. We argue, however, that such critical work
depends upon a substantive engagement with how and why extractive popu-
lism has begun to empower and motivate what industry sees as its natural
constituency, transforming alienated workers and other pro-industry individ-
uals into an engaged petro-public that can forcefully advocate for the sector
in social media, everyday life, and the public sphere. Taking such groups
seriously requires moving beyond simply dismissing them as astroturf or
peddlers of fake news. e strength of these groups lies predominantly in their
capacity to strategically cull and repurpose information from a wide variety of
sources so as to generate compelling narratives that distort and misrepresent
the structure of, degree of public support for, and negative externalities of the
industry. ose seeking to build the political will for a rapid transition away
from an extractivist economy would do well to think seriously about what
makes these narratives attractive and how to develop compelling alternative
visions organized around democracy, social justice, and sustainability.
1. Intercoder reliability was measured through Krippendor’s alpha coecient,
based on coding a random selection of one hundred items from the sample. It
was assessed at 0.894 for the post type variable and 0.877 for the primary frame
variable, well above the 0.8 threshold normally required for consistency in
content analysis (Krippendor 2004). All posts in the smaller sample were also
qualitatively analyzed by the rst author to identify dominant themes, rhetorical
strategies, and patterns of representation.
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... Beyond simply linking to such material more consistently, the creative and provocative translation of this material into more shareable forms, such as memes that foreground key quotes, facts or images, could significantly increase levels of active engagement. Where right-wing Canadian actors make extensive use of such techniques to drive the sharing of particular claims and ideas (Gunster et al., 2021), they are much less common on the left. The higher active engagement metrics of pages such as North99, Keep Canada Beautiful and LabX Mediaamong the only pro-climate action actors in the sample to use memes on a regular basis, for examplesuggest that more creative forms of connective leadership could have significant impacts in terms of triggering connective action on the part of progressive audiences. ...
This article explores how competing discursive and political formations about climate change structure and circulate in social media by mapping a year of climate-related Facebook posts and links by Canadian civil society actors. Drawing upon the concept of connective action, it traces the efficacy and impact of the social media strategies of actors favouring stronger climate action against those aiming to delay or block such action. Distinguishing between self-referential vs network-building connective action and active vs passive types of user engagement, it finds the most significant use of Facebook by Canadian civil society actors was the sharing of mainstream and alternative news sources. Such activity plays a key role in building networked publics around shared perspectives on climate change as well as generating audience subsidies through which users are mobilized to amplify particular news stories, columnists and media outlets. In Canada, conservative actors tend to be more focused upon network building and more effective in producing these subsidies, especially for right-leaning commercial news organizations and alt-right digital outlets.
... Extractive populism appeals to the common-sense wisdom of "the people," pictured as being derived from authentic lived experience as opposed to the rarified, abstract knowledge of liberal elites. 39 Stephen Harper also used petro-nationalist discourse after the Chinese governmentowned oil giant, CNOOC, bought bitumen operator Nexen Inc. in 2012. Ottawa allowed the takeover but said it would henceforth limit foreign state ownership of Canadian resource companies. ...
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Using a case study of Alberta, Canada, this paper demonstrates how a geographic critique of fossil capitalism helps elucidate the tensions shaping tar sands development. Conflicts over pipelines and Indigenous territorial claims are challenging development trajectories, as tar sands companies need to expand access to markets in order to expand production. While these conflicts are now well recognised, there are also broader dynamics shaping development. States face a rentier’s dilemma, relying on capital investments to realise resource value. Political responses to the emerging climate crisis undercut the profitability of hydrocarbon extraction. The automation of production undermines the industrial compromise between hydrocarbon labour and capital. Ultimately, the crises of fossil capitalism require a radical transformation within or beyond capital relations. To mobilise against the tar sands, organisers must recognise the tensions underpinning it, developing strategies that address ecological concerns and the economic plight of those dispossessed and abandoned by carbon extraction.
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This paper interrogates how the notion of hypocrisy is invoked in relation to climate change and offers two key findings. First, it demonstrates that invocations of hypocrisy are not only deployed by conservative opponents of climate action, but also by progressive proponents of such action. Second, this article shows that while hypocrisy discourse is used to support both anti- and pro-climate change perspectives, its nature and function fundamentally differs depending on who is using it. The article identifies four discrete types of climate hypocrisy discourse. Conservatives who reject climate change action tend to use two “modes” of hypocrisy discourse. The first is an “individual lifestyle outrage” mode that cultivates outrage about the hypocritical behavior and lifestyle choices of climate activists to undermine the urgency and moral need for climate change action. The second, an “institutional cynicism” mode, encourages a cynical fatalism about any proposed governmental action regarding climate change by suggesting that governments are necessarily climate hypocrites because of the economic and political impossibility of serious emissions reductions. In contrast, progressives use hypocrisy discourse in two different modes. The first involve an “institutional call to action” mode that uses charges of hypocrisy to attack government inaction on climate change and demand that effective action be taken in line with their public commitment to climate action. Secondly, they also employ a “reflexive” mode in which explorations of the ubiquity of climate change hypocrisy illuminate the dilemmas that virtually all responses to climate change necessarily grapple with in our current context. Overall, the article seeks to contribute to our understanding of climate change communications by (i) showing that hypocrisy discourse is not simply a sensationalist PR strategy of conservatives but is rather a broad, significant and multi-faceted form of climate change discourse; and (ii) suggesting that certain modes of hypocrisy discourse might not only represent genuine attempts to make sense of some of the fundamental tensions of climate change politics but also help us understand the challenge that the “entanglement” of personal agency/choice within broader political structures presents, and thus heighten positive affective commitments to climate change action.
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This article presents a critical discourse analysis of the principal storylines through which the Calgary Herald framed the oil sands between May 1, 2010, and May 31, 2011. The analysis reveals that rather than avoid coverage of environmental protests and critiques, the Herald’s narratives used these events to portray the oil and gas industry (and the province and people of Alberta) as victims of an aggressive and well-funded global environmental lobby. This framing not only defends the industry by dismissing environmental criticism of the oil sands as ill-informed and ideologically motivated, it also champions the idea that the provincial government must become a promotional petro-state whose main role is to actively defend the industry. Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Cet article partage les resultats d’une analyse de discours critique des narratifs utilises par le Calgary Herald du 1er mai 2010 au 31 mai 2011 a propos des sables bitumineux. Notre analyse demontre que le Calgary Herald n’evite pas les questions et critiques environnementales. Nous avons plutot trouve que le Herald les utilisent pour representer l’industrie du petrole (et, par extension, la province et les citoyens de l’Alberta) comme des victimes de campagnes mediatiques agressives subventionnees par de puissantes ONG. Nous suggerons que cette strategie discursive non seulement rejette toute critiques comme ignorants et ideologiques. Ca justifie aussi l’idee que le gouvernement de l’Alberta doit devenir un « petro-Etat » en defendant plus activement les interets de l’industrie.
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Global Spin reveals the sophisticated techniques being used around the world by powerful conservative forces to try to change the way the public and politicians think about the environment. Large corporations are using their influence to reshape public opinion, to weaken gains made by environmentalists, and to turn politicians against increased environmental regulation. The corporations' techniques include employing specialized PR firms to set up front groups that promote the corporate agenda whilst posing as public-interest groups; creating 'astroturf' - artificially created grassroots support for corporate causes; deterring public involvement by imposing SLAPPS-strategic lawsuits against public participation; getting corporate-based 'environmental educational' materials into schools; and funding conservative think-tanks, which have persistently tried to cast doubt on the existence of environmental problems and to oppose stricter environmental regulations. In the media, corporate advertising and sponsorship are influencing news content, and industry-funded scientists are often treated as independent experts. In the shops, 'green marketing' is being used to reassure consumers that corporations are addressing serious environmental problems. Global Spin shows how, in a relentless assault on democracy and its institutions, the massive, covert power of large corporations has enabled corporate agendas to dominate the international debate about the state of the environment and the most effective means of solving environmental problems.
Background Canada's fossil fuel industry has recently put citizen outreach at the centre of its political strategy. This is manifest in a public outreach campaign known as Canada's Energy Citizens (CEC), undertaken by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Analysis This article uses interviews with CEC organizers and members to demonstrate how participation subsidies are used to enlist members. While much scholarly literature assumes corporate grassroots campaigns will hide the use of professional public relations labour and industry ties, findings show instead that CEC foreground its members' professional backgrounds and connections to the oil sector. Conclusions and implications Transparency does ideological work in the campaign, framing pro-oil advocacy as a licit social aim, and public relations labour as a normative model of citizen political participation.
Background Social licence refers to the idea that corporations and governments require broad public support for resource development projects from affected communities, citizens, and stakeholders. Talk of social licence has become pervasive in media discussions of resource development in Canada and especially prominent in debates around oil pipelines. Analysis This article explores changing Canadian newspaper coverage of social licence over the past two decades. It identifies and analyzes the formation of four distinct "logics" of social licence: corporate, regulatory, oppositional, and conservative attack. Conclusions and implications This analysis provides a more robust framework for understanding how different groups have advanced competing visions of social licence within the public sphere, while illuminating the active role that news media have played in shaping the definition of social licence to fit their own editorial cultures.
Background This article examines a week-long road blockade that took place in northern Alberta in January, 1983, organized by members of the Fort McKay First Nation and the Fort McKay Métis Community. The communities leveraged their blockade against a logging company, expanding the conversation to demand compensation, tougher oil sands pollution management, and better healthcare access. Analysis A critical discourse analysis of newspaper coverage of the blockade in the local Fort McMurray Today and the provincial Edmonton Journal shows how links between the blockade and broader oil sands politics were minimized. Conclusions and implications The article closes with considerations for contemporary journalistic practices of covering oil development, energy politics, and Indigenous resistance.Contexte Cet article examine le blocus d’une semaine organisé par la Première Nation de Fort McKay et la Communauté Métis de Fort McKay au nord de l’Alberta en janvier 1983. Ces communautés ont mis à profit leur blocus contre une entreprise forestière pour demander des compensations, une gestion plus stricte de la pollution provenant des sables bitumineux et un meilleur accès aux soins.Analyse Une analyse critique du discours utilisé pour parler du blocus dans les journaux, au niveau local dans le Fort McMurray Today et au niveau provincial dans le Edmonton Journal, démontre comment les liens entre le blocus et les politiques plus larges des sables bitumineux ont été minimisés.Conclusion et implications L’article conclut avec des considérations pour les pratiques journalistiques contemporaines dans la couverture du développement pétrolier, politiques énergétiques et résistance autochtone.
The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option. In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now. Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.
In a recent article in this journal, Lombard, Snyder-Duch, and Bracken (2002) surveyed 200 content analyses for their reporting of reliability tests, compared the virtues and drawbacks of five popular reliability measures, and proposed guidelines and standards for their use. Their discussion revealed that numerous misconceptions circulate in the content analysis literature regarding how these measures behave and can aid or deceive content analysts in their effort to ensure the reliability of their data. This article proposes three conditions for statistical measures to serve as indices of the reliability of data and examines the mathematical structure and the behavior of the five coefficients discussed by the authors, as well as two others. It compares common beliefs about these coefficients with what they actually do and concludes with alternative recommendations for testing reliability in content analysis and similar data-making efforts.
La possibilité d’accroître, sur les marchés, l’offre de pétrole canadien provenant de sables bitumineux est de plus en plus contestée, les projets de nouveaux pipelines suscitant beaucoup de controverse. Dans cet article, je conçois un cadre d’analyse du risque politique dans ce domaine, et je l’applique à cinq projets de pipelines. Le risque politique lié aux projets d’infrastructures majeures est ainsi fonction : du nombre de droits de veto des institutions ; du fait que les groupes d’opposition ont ou non un droit de veto ; du fait qu’un projet peut ou non être réalisé grâce à l’utilisation d’infrastructures existantes ; de l’importance des risques environnementaux ; et de la répartition des risques et des avantages entre différents gouvernements. Mes résultats montrent qu’un risque politique considérable est lié à chacun des cinq projets étudiés, mais que le type et l’ampleur de ce risque varient selon les projets. Market access for Canada’s oil sands has been increasingly contested as proposals for new pipelines have become so controversial. This article develops a framework for political risk analysis and applies it to five pipeline proposals. The political risk to major infrastructure projects is a function of the number of institutional veto points; whether opposition groups have access to veto points; whether the project can take advantage of existing infrastructure; the salience of concentrated environmental risks; and the jurisdictional separation of risks and benefits. Each of the projects faces formidable political risks, but the risks vary in type and magnitude by project.