For readers following the Gateway Pacific Terminal scandal, the libel threat by the coal export consortium spokesperson Craig Cole against Whatcom Watch monthly and its investigative reporter Sandra Robson might seem puzzling. I mean, why would a public relations consultant for some of America’s largest corporations threaten a miniscule publication with lawsuit, knowing full well that his misconduct could make the corruption issues raised by this small publication mainstream news?
Over the last few years, Cole’s apparent strategy has been to buy local media silence about this corruption through advertising, which has seemingly worked. Whatcom Watch didn’t take the pay-off, so he threatened them, which might have worked had IC Magazine and NWCitizen not exposed his threat. Is Whatcom Watch the only local print media uncompromised by Gateway Pacific Terminal advertising money?
In my view, Whatcom Watch is analogous to the Shinbone Star, the courageous local paper that took on the hired guns threatening decent townsfolk in the inspirational movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Now, it remains to be seen if any mainstream media will dare mention the story.
Mr. Cole prides himself on his distant past as a liberal civic leader, but since selling his soul to Wall Street, it must be increasingly difficult for him to rationalize his misconduct. Indeed, Cole’s role as consortium-appointed Team Whatcom leader to help elect the Tea Party slate in the fall 2013 election must have put him into personal integrity free fall.
Cole has the world’s largest public relations firm behind him, and the woman running the consortium front group’s PR handled public relations for Microsoft when the U.S. Department of Justice sued them for anti-trust violations. Yet, Mr. Cole seems bent on self-destruction in the community where he resides.
There was a 1967 song, For What Its Worth by Buffalo Springfield, that goes, “Paranoia strikes deep Into your life it will creep It starts when you’re always afraid Step out of line, the man come and take you away.”
Mr. Cole is exhibiting symptoms of the Hubris Syndrome; like Richard Nixon, he may actually believe there is a media conspiracy out to get him. He might even keep an enemies list. If that is so, it is hard to say how reckless he might become.