MAINSTREAM MEDIA By CW Wolff and Robin Read


By CW Wolff and Robin Read

 “The socialists were there…”

 Meanwhile, The Manchester Union-Leader, the state’s largest, most powerful and most conservative newspaper, launched a relentless “Red Tide” campaign, trying to paint the Clamshell Alliance as a communist and terrorist organization. Rather than fuming about the paper’s hysteria and half-truths, we found creative ways to respond.

For example, Union-Leader coverage of one Clamshell rally included front page cutlines under three photos:  “The sodomites were there … The socialists were there… And so was Dick Gregory.” (Gregory was a popular and liberal comedian). A Manchester, NH, singer-songwriter and Clam member took that phrase and made it into a satirical song we enjoyed singing for years.

Not long before the 1977 occupation, the Union-Leader, citing unnamed state police sources, reported that Clamshell members were prepared “to die on the site.” We requested a meeting with the governor to ask if the state knew who these wanna-be martyrs were. Of course the governor had no answer, but he did agreed to cease any more inflammatory rhetoric until after the occupation. News reports of that meeting probably did more than any Clam denial could have to defuse state-initiated fears of the occupation.

The Public Service Co., like most utilities at the time, was unused to dealing with controversy outside of grumblings about rate hikes. It chose an alarmist approach. “If you want to continue to bathe, cook, keep warm and turn on lights… you need Seabrook!” read one of its ads. It set up a pro-nuclear “grassroots” organization and offered people a day off and a free lunch to attend pro-nuclear rallies. Its approach was outlined in an article written by one of its officers:   “Counter the activists not with facts, but with closed factory gates, empty schools, cold and dark homes and sad children.” (Public Relations Society of America journal, Oct., 1977)

Unfortunately, despite a growing number of anti-nuclear, pro-Clam letters to the editor in newspapers (as well as a growing number of letters on the opposite side), editorial pages failed to offer much opposition to the Seabrook project or nuclear power in general. We lacked sophistication in seeking such support, not that we would have gotten it. But at least we could have requested some sit-down meetings with editorial writers.

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