Last year Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman PR, the world’s largest independent PR firm, came out with a post on his blog, , that is so hypocritical that one really has to wonder whether he is clueless about what his large company is up to or whether he is, well, just a hypocrite.
The post in question from May 25 is titled “The Power of One (and of Stories).” In it Mr. Edelman tells of a screening he had attended the night before of a National Geographic documentary called “God Grew Tired of Us (The Lost Boys of Sudan).” It is a moving and inspirational story of refugee children from southern Sudan who fled the genocidal brutality of Khartoum, suffered years of horror and deprivation living in refugee camps, and, in the case of John Bul Dau (author of the book on which the movie is based), ended up reunited with his family and getting an education in Seattle.
From the film, the discussion that followed the screening, and a meeting with Mr. Bul Dau, Mr. Edelman eloquently outlines the lessons that we can learn from the author and all these courageous children: that “leaders can emerge from unexpected places and unforeseen circumstances,” that “his optimism was tempered by realism but nourished by a deep faith from his religious background but also by confidence in himself,” that “there is no substitute for hard work,” and that “the power of family is a central element of his success.”
While I laud Mr. Edelman’s bringing this moving story to our attention and agree with the sentiments he expresses in his post, I am stunned by his seeming ignorance of the refugee crisis his company is helping to perpetuate on the other side of
For those of you uninitiated about this issue, in the mid-1970s, in the wake of an International Court of Justice ruling that confirmed the
Morocco’s refusal to abide by clear international law and to allow the Western Saharans the right to self-determination enjoyed by every other colony in Africa, has resulted in a refugee crisis now well into its fourth decade. Many in the camps have known no other home. The refugees live in tents and mud-brick houses. Educational and professional opportunities are extremely limited or non-existent. UNHCR which monitors the camps regularly cites dire health conditions with high levels of anemia and acute malnutrition among the most severe problems. If Mr. Edelman is looking for “lost” refugee children to champion, he need look no farther than the boys and girls of Tindouf.
Mr. Edelman’s company, however, chooses to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Sahrawi children and to take money, lots of money, from the Government of Morocco which helps perpetuate their misery. In particular, I point to Edelman PR’s partnership with the
While Edelman PR’s relationship with the Government of Morocco deals with a number of issues, their partnership with MACP appears to be all about the
The outrageousness of the site is aptly symbolized by its inclusion of a map of
Edelman PR’s active collaboration with MACP in the dissemination of Moroccan propaganda is clearly illustrated by the disclaimer that appears at the end of MACP press releases. They read: “This material is distributed by DJE, Inc. and the
Edelman PR’s highest profile work on behalf of MACP was the Free Them Now campaign for the release of the last remaining Moroccan prisoners of war being held by the Polisario Front -- a campaign by the way that got Edelman a Golden World Award for Advocacy & Lobbying from the International Public Relations Association (IPRA).
It is not so much the actual cause of the prisoners of war that I find a problem; several pro-Polisario analysts had concluded that holding the remaining POW’s had become counterproductive for the Western Saharan cause and that they should be released on humanitarian grounds. Actually, the Polisario itself had been committed for over a decade to releasing the prisoners and had already released most of them. Nevertheless, it was
What I find reprehensible about the Edelman campaign is its utter mendacity. Free Them Now was part of a much broader effort by Edelman to demonize the Polisario by blitzing the American media with Moroccan lies. Edelman’s own description of the campaign on the website of the International Public Relations Association is an amazing read on the art of spin.
I have written extensively about several of the “execution points” (as Edelman calls them) of the campaign: Senator McCain’s grandstanding, the Washington Times’ propensity to believe and print any rubbish Morocco and Edelman give it, Congressman Diaz-Balart’s totally disgraceful press conference in Miami. In a nutshell, Edelman PR partnered with MACP to spread misinformation about the
Oh yes, this is about Mr. Bul Dau and poor refugees. Edelman PR is actively colluding with Morocco to deny the Western Saharans their day at the ballot box and to ensure that the boys and girls of Tindouf suffer in their dismal refugee camps for the foreseeable future. Mr. Edelman’s attempt to have us believe that he cares at all about poor refugee children is a bit rich I would say.
Let me return for a moment to my initial paragraph where I ponder whether Mr. Edelman was hypocritical, ignorant of what his company is up to, or a hypocrite. I admit to being a regular reader of Mr. Edelman’s 6.A.M. blog. As a long-time critic of Edelman PR’s involvement with
On Mr. Edelman’s blog I asked him a question that he refrained to acknowledge or answer; so in conclusion I will ask it here. Mr. Edelman, if the Government of Sudan walked into your office tomorrow and offered you lots of money to clean up their image in the