Friday, June 11, 2010

Propaganda Items Seem to Say: "Look, It's Not As Bad As You Think. . ."

Or 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'

The immediate reaction I had to the two following items appearing right next to each in this morning's paper (Register-Guard) was  a tangled response of disbelief, paranoia and a strong sense the subtle side of the propaganda machine is hard at work. (Not to suggest that the machine hasn’t been hard at work all along, but that it’s taken a new direction.) The third item I saw on my news feed on-line confirmed my perception.

In the paper, two articles, smack next to each other on the page, -- page A3, not the front page --  give us the message that things aren't that bad because, under all the despair, is more despair. The only way to escape the despair is to give up. First article: Some skeptical of rescue effort for oiled birds cites  Institute of Environmental and Human Health's Ron Kendall (Texas Tech) who says that taking care of oiled birds and other animals is pointless:
some species might tolerate it better than others, but when you compare the benefits to the costs . . .I am skeptical."
A U.S. Minerals Management Service report from 2002 agrees with Kendall:
A growing number of studies indicate that current rehabilitation techniques are note effective in returning healthy birds to the wild. . .Birds don't show signs of breeding when returned "
But others disagree, regardless if returned animals breed or live for long after being rescued.  Dan Anderson of University of California at Davis says we are "morally obliged to save birds that seem to be saveable," pointing out that methods for saving birds and wildlife have changed since the report.

The most dangerous bit of propaganda in this piece is the following comment from Jim Estes at University of California Santa Cruz, who helped with rehabilitation on birds Exxon 1989:
"It will just help a relative small number of individuals from suffering and dying..." and these kinds of "rescue missions... can convey a false impression that damage from oil spills can be fixed."
Well, some animals saved, or at least having their suffering alleviated, are better than none. But more important is the disingenuous implication that people are so naive that de-oiling wildlife will magically make the oil disappear and bring things back to normal.

The other article pushes the 'drill baby drill' mentality: Louisiana presses to resume drilling. Politicians are "pleading with Washington" to bring back off shore drilling immediately. The ban on drilling has:
"sent their most lucrative industry into a death spiral" ... "drilling is safe overall" ... [the temporary ban on drilling is a]"knee-jerk reaction, akin to grounding every airplane in America because of a single crash."  Attorney General Buddy Caldwell: "For God's sake, don't finish us off with a moratorium"
Senator Mary Landrieu Louisiana, speaking of BP and her state's economic crisis:
"This is one company (BP) This is one well. It's a terrible situation, and n o one is making from of it, but what I'm saying, as strongly as I can, to this president, is the economic analysis is devastating to many companies, thousands of companions."
The devastating effect on the environment, its long term effect on the planet, which in turn will affect other countries... including the health of humans  for years to come, seems lost on these people.

On-line I find the following AP item: Plenty of Gulf volunteers, not enough work to do,
BP has said it will use only trained workers and professionals to clean up the oil and wash oiled wildlife, adding to the deepening frustration over the government and BP's response. The workers also need special safety equipment, said BP spokesman Mark Proegler.

Proegler suggested volunteers could visit the company's websites and sign on with subcontractors working along the Gulf Coast. But Bethany Kraft of the Alabama Coastal Foundation said in an e-mail that many people aren't looking for full-time work. And there's no guarantee they'd be hired because some states require that those hired be unemployed or otherwise affected by the spill, she said.

While foremen must take a full 40-hour hazardous materials course, most workers only need an abbreviated four-hour course, Kraft said. However, the need for such training — which so far hasn't been opened to the public by BP — may be overstated. (italics and bold mine)
"All the Hazmat training does is basically tell people commonsense things, like don't eat it," said Edward B. Overton of the Louisiana State School of Coast and Environment. "The whole issue of training and bio-suits has lawyer written all over it. I'm sure it's more a question of liability than anything else."
(On that last line, ya think?) The article does list some resources for people wanting to volunteer.

The point is, all three articles contain a similar message: don't help too much. Helping wildlife; a naive effort that won't do anything useful in the long run. Stopping drilling? Another naive move that only hurts the people by cutting them off from earning a living. Want to volunteer? You need special training for some, others, well, there really isn't the need. As with all disinformation, there is truth mixed in with the propaganda. All three articles acknowledge the horrors of BP's oil spill, they just mix it up with disingenuous elements of naive do-gooders, misguided efforts to protect the environment, and outraged concern for constituents.

Register Guard on-line: More Propaganda
While searching for links on the Register Guard's site to the specific articles mentioned above, I found the following: Just like pelicans, people can't avoid oil either, by Seth Borenstein, an  APLouisiana's brown pelicans have more of a chance of avoiding Big Oil than you do." The implication is that our efforts to lessen our use of oil based products and energy is pretty much worthless. Oil, in some form or another, are everywhere, including our bodies. And while it's cause for alarm, it also isn't:
These are substances that don't appear in nature and "they accumulate in the human body, they persist in the environment," Berkeley's Wilson said. The problem is science isn't quite sure how bad or how safe they are, he said.
But plastics also do good things for the environment, the chemistry council says. Because plastics are lighter than metals, they helped create cars that save fuel. A 2005 European study shows that conversion to plastic materials in Europe saved 26 percent in fuel.
"Compared to the alternatives, it reduces greenhouse gases (which cause global warming) and saves energy; that is rather ironic," Swift said.

LSU's Overton is old enough to remember the days before petrochemicals. There were no plastic milk and soda containers. They were glass. Desks were heavy wood. There were no computers, cell phones and not much air conditioning.
"It's a much more comfortable life now, much more convenient," Overton said.
Swift said trying to live without petrochemicals now doesn't make sense, but he added: "it would make a good reality TV show."

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