Trust and privacy on the internet are two of the most important issues of 2017. The internet is undoubtedly amazing and has expanded communications and the sharing of information around the world.
We’ve seen great advances in technology that enable us to have access to any information, anywhere we go, plus the ability to share it and discuss it with our network of friends, family, and connections instantly.
However, simultaneously as this noble exchange of international information has been developing, corporations and large special interest groups of all kinds have been using the internet to collect sensitive data about users in order to better market their products or services, or more malevolently (as Edward Snowden clearly pointed out), to sell that personal data to other companies or governments that are using it to spy on and profile citizens on a mass scale.
In the current age of Google, Facebook, fake news, native advertising, confusion-inducing propaganda, etc. we are having to become more and more careful about where we get our information from and who stands to profit from the spreading of that information via the views and clicks on that website.
Starting Eco-Friendly Today
We started this website to spread knowledge, start discussions, and promote high-quality eco-friendly products for people who are concerned about the gross destruction and pollution of our natural environment.
To get inspiration, we checked out many eco-friendly blogs and the one that seemed to always pop up in searches was TreeHugger.com.
With a multitude of articles and thousands upon thousands of social media followers who are very enthusiastic, this website seemed to be the benchmark for green and environmental articles on the internet. As we read their articles it was clear the quality of the writing was very good. The site is simple and quaint, looking like a free WordPress theme had been selected and a team of enthusiastic writers and researchers got to work to help make the world aware of pressing environmental issues and offering tips to help reduce waste.
When my wife and I are passionate about something, we tend to dive deep in order to learn about who’s responsible for these resources and what their backgrounds are! It’s always fun to find peers and influencers who are on the same page.
We scrolled down to the bottom of the homepage, passing about 30 posts published in the last 2 days or so, and in the copyright text, the site was attributed to an entity called Narrative Content Group. This immediately peaked our interest.
Who is Narrative Content Group and what do they have to do with TreeHugger.com? I promptly clicked on the link to their website.
What is Narrative Content Group?
It became very clear to me upon landing on the website that this was not a small team of environmental enthusiasts publishing posts to a WordPress blog. There was a large content-creating company that works with corporations behind this blog.
Their “About Us” page begins with testimonials from companies such as Mercedes Benz, Dunkin’ Donuts, and The Coca-Cola Company praising their work.
They, apparently, create, distribute, and publish content. Then, they “maximizes exposure” for that content. By now, I was very nervous about what we had stumbled upon.
Going further, we found out that they started in 2009 as a website called Mother Nature News. They became Narrative Content Group in 2015 upon expanding into fields of expertise other than the “environmental category”.
At the present time, their projects include Tales of the Cocktail (a Bacardi-sponsored cocktail recipe site), SafeBee (a “safety and healthy living” site), and From the Grapevine (where “Narrative explores the natural beauty, food, and people of Israel”). Uh oh…
Who’s behind Narrative Content Group?
Anyone who is concerned about the Earth knows that multi-national corporations are among the leading causes of environmental pollution, destruction, and resource exploitation. As I scrolled down through the “Leadership” page of Narrative Content Group’s website I was immediately struck by several things.
The founder is a director at Primerica (an insurance company that uses multi-level marketing). The president was previously a multimedia producer at USA TODAY and National Geographic and is currently a producer at CNN.
As we go down further we see a Director of Marketing for the Shop At Home Network, a producer for Time Warner’s “Television Project”, a manager at the international accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick, and a director of Media Relations who previously worked with AT&T, Holiday Inn, Hewlett-Packard, The Coca-Cola Company, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Equifax, Aflac, and IBM.
Wow, that was a mouthful… But, unfortunately, it gets worse.
A trip further down the page reveals that, with the exception of Chuck Leavell (the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and an environmental activist), every person on the Board of Directors works as a principal for private equity firms; one is the President and CEO of a company called United Distributors, Inc., one of the largest (mostly alcoholic) beverage distribution companies in the U.S.
The worst is when we get to the Advisors section.
Here, we have two gentlemen listed. The first served as Chairman and CEO at American Express and Presiding Director of the, you guessed it, Coca-Cola Company.
The second, a 35 year veteran of investment banking, serving as President of Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers (now famous for their corruption bankruptcy during the financial crisis of 2007-2008).
So, Why Don’t We Trust TreeHugger.com?
With the financial crisis of 2007-2008 fresh in our minds, we should all know that the ethics and practices of those involved in Wall Street and in the investment banking industry do not take the sustainability or health of the environment into consideration.
Coca-Cola has been controlling water supplies, Wal-Mart has been evading federal and international regulations, and the wealthy elite has been funding the invasions of other countries: exploiting, lying, and killing innocent people in the name of oil and profits.
Does any of this have any place in the world of sustainable living and Earth-friendly practices? We don’t think so.
The people who are funding and advising TreeHugger.com (as well as their other satellite sites) have been or currently are involved in mainstream media, destructive beverage companies, evil investment banking firms, and more.
As I mentioned before, the website has some good content (to be expected) but something doesn’t feel right about getting environmental news from an enormous company that also creates and promotes content for Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Mercedes-Benz.
We just can’t, with a good conscience, promote, share, or in any other way support a “blog” that is backed by people of this stature.
The Golden Age of Manipulation
In a world of native advertising (ads that feel like content made by users, in the case of social media), fake news articles, a Donald Trump U.S. presidency, and the blatant manipulation of mass populations using propaganda from every angle to incite confusion, it’s more important than ever to be careful about the content we ingest on a daily basis via social or mass media.
Special interests are a huge reason that the U.S.A. and other countries around the world are full of corruption and if we keep letting the “big players” guide the fight against global warming and for more sustainable production processes, it will undoubtedly end up in more corruption, suppression of critical facts, and further destruction of our environment for future generations.
This is a critical issue and we welcome your opinions or criticisms in the comment section below!