Shorter US public response to Deepwater Horizon

“Dear Big Oil. Yes, we know this sort of thing is inherent to oil extraction, and we do still want cheap oil extracted – but please can you do it in places where instead of oiling up a few American pelicans and ruining American banjo-playing yokels’ weekends by making them kill land animals instead of sea animals for fun, it instead kills large numbers of foreigners? Nigerian, Iraqi, Timorese, Uzbek, Scottish, whatever, as long as we don’t have to think about the consequences of our actions. Thanks, The US Public”

Semi-relatedly, I hadn’t realised that Tony Hayward was a drilling engineer by background, rather than a generalist suit. That’ll be why BP has been focusing on containing the spill, rather than running a super-slick PR campaign, then.

11 thoughts on “Shorter US public response to Deepwater Horizon

  1. In this instance it should have been the Chairman mounting the PR response. What's the point of having expensive Chairmen (not sure if that is the plural?) if they aren't politically well placed and good at lobbying Governments and other international bodies?

  2. Your point about the hypocrisy of American public opinion would be stronger if you provided greater substantiation for the claim that American public opinion has swung decisively against offshore drilling. Polls show that support for offshore drilling is still fairly high:

    The point about discriminatory attitudes would also come off better if you avoided the term "yokels," or at least got the stereotypes right. Banjos are generally associated with Appalachia and not the Gulf Coast.

  3. I'm impressed that you cited a poll headlined "support for offshore drilling falls" as "support for offshore drilling still fairly high". #dishonesttrolls

    And yes, I know that it's stereotypically the people of Northern Irish descent in northerly mountainy venues in or around West Virginia who play banjos, but Deliverance is set in GA, which is definitely Old South. I know it's made by a Brit, but that's my cultural reference and I'm sticking with it.

  4. Yeah, support for offshore drilling fell. To 58% for – 20% against. I've been out of school for a bit, but I think that's close to a three-to-one margin in favor of something that's just gotten two solid months of bad press. Or, to put it another way: only a fifth of Americans oppose offshore drilling. Dig into the crosstabs and you'll find that these people are in basically two groups: 1) residents of the Gulf Coast who've been radicalized lately on environmental issues and 2) cosmopolitan liberals.

    Deliverance takes place in the mountains of northern Georgia, which are part of the Appalachians. Georgia, incidentally, does not abut the Gulf of Mexico.

    It used to be that "trolling" referred to expressing a truly shocking opinion that wasn't sincerely held, in the hopes of attracting responses. The contemporary sense of "disagreeing with someone and not being meek and apologetic about it" always sounds melodramatic to me.

  5. You're not an idiot. I admire that in an opponent.

    Re your link:

    Interestingly, the number of voters who believe there is a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection is actually down slightly. Forty-four percent (44%) believe there is such a conflict, but 34% disagree. Another 22% are not sure.

    …says it all. The fact that the worst oil-drilling disaster to have ever hit the US still hasn't made anyone realise the intrinsic conflict between oil extraction and environmental preservation (rather than the blog extremes of OMGS! BARACK IS AN AFRICAN MUSLIM TRAITOR or OMGS! BARACK IS A BRITISH CORPORATE TRAITOR), proves my point completely.

  6. What the hell is the point of this nonsense? You seem quite fond of building overly elaborate straw-man arguments as a way to garner digital attention.

    I mean, what the fuck is the point of your rambling? Is it supposed to be funny? Are we all supposed to have a chuckle about your stereotypical beliefs regarding the American public? ..or is this the funny part – when one of us yokels gets all worked up?

    I'm only commenting because I thought you were a pretty upstanding guy back when nearly all of our conversations were blurry… But you come across as a real asshole when you post childish bullshit like that.

  7. No, the idea is to promote viewpoints that aren't getting much general attention through the use of extreme, jarring imagery. Yes, to some extent grabbing attention is the point. No, winding up the yokels isn't the point.

    So when re-written in longer, non-sarky, non-jarring plan text, this post's starting point is that when the history of environmental disasters associated with oil extraction is written, the DH spill will be a small footnote. Not because it's completely trivial, but because there've been so many that are far worse.

    Actually, the 'small footnote' thing isn't necessarily true.

    If the outcome is the most positive one possible, the DH spill *could* instead be a chapter in that history – one beginning "Even though this was a long way from the worst environmental disaster associated with oil extraction, its location and its visibility to mainstream Americans gave it a public prominence that decisively swung the national mood against unsustainable oil-based lifestyles."

    But at the moment, the reaction – according to both polls and commentary, and from both Democrats and Republicans – has been more one of:
    1) Punish BP (everybody)
    2) Obama is evil for not sending the Navy to plug the leak using magic secret technologies (loonier fringes on both sides, especially Republicans)
    3) Obama is evil for not reversing the last government's systematic gutting of federal regulation (Democrats)

    1 and 3 are sensible (although the magnitude of 1 is up for grabs and it seems slightly harsh to blame Obama primarily for 3 when it's the last government's fault really). 2 is frankly bizarre.

    But the elephant in the room – the fact that this kind of disaster is inherently to a high-oil-consuming lifestyle – is barely mentioned in the public debate. While enhanced regulation in the US certainly wouldn't be a bad thing, the main impact of a domestic offshore deep drilling ban would be to shift the location of the next disaster to another country.

    Moving away from oil dependency is the only way to stop this sort of thing (and, more to the point, far worse sorts of things) continuing to happen to people everywhere. That's something which needs pointing out, and if using colourful metaphors helps gain people's attention then that's a good thing.

  8. This is a good piece on the same kind of topic (from a liberal Louisianan). As is this one (liberal USA-an, can't remember geography), on the political & institutional factors that mean that even if Obama wanted to shift the US away from suicidal oil dependence, he probably couldn't.

  9. See? You can <blockquote cite="#commentbody-134885">
    John B :
    No, the idea is to promote viewpoints that aren’t getting much general attention through the use of extreme, jarring imagery. Yes, to some extent grabbing attention is the point. No, winding up the yokels isn’t the point.

    Ugh… You still sounded like an ass. Using non-quotes is a good way to imply a lot while actually saying very little. Personally, I find it quite tiresome.

  10. "Obama is evil for not sending the Navy to plug the leak using magic secret technologies (loonier fringes on both sides, especially Republicans)"

    Amusingly there have been calls from some reasonably sane people for the military to nuke the leak and thereby plug it with vitrified ocean floor. The US government has flatly ruled out using a nuke, refusing to even consider it. Not sure if it would actually work but an amusing coincidence none the less.

  11. Levi: was there something missing from the first part of your quote? Fair enough, we disagree on rhetorical style; I'll try and keep the deliberate-extreme-rhetoric down on Facebook, I suggest you probably don't want to read here.

    Falco: ixnay on the anesay.

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