BP: The media’s Katrina
The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal meth.
What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.
BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.
The government obviously needs to accept a substantial part of the blame for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but it was very odd that President Obama asked the media to throw all the blame his way. Yes, the administration failed (as did the Bush administration,) but so did BP.
Certain media players are also demonstrating a strange fixation on assisting BP through this particularly difficult time now that every “solution” proposed by the company has failed, including the latest Top Kill efforts. Candy Crowley’s State Of The Union featured an interview with Brian Dobson, the head of a public relations company called Dobson Communications, Inc., about the best strategy BP should adopt in order to mend its public image.
At a time when the coastal fishing industry and ecosystem face the possibility of total destruction, Obama and Candy are wading into the ocean with Tony Hayward and sawing off the heads of dolphins. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Candy, especially, seemed self-conscious about this segment, possibly because it looks really, super bad.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Susan Candiotti. Let me go briefly back to our panel. Not that we actually at this point really care about BP’s image, that’s kind of BP’s problem. Nonetheless, it has very deep pockets, and it can monetarily, so far, survive this.
No, CNN totally doesn’t care about BP’s image, which is why it just devoted an entire segment to advice for the corporation to repair its image — for FREE!
In addition to playing corporate aide, the media has been playing an odd game with assigning blame for BP’s fuck up. Some Very Serious And Intelligent individuals’ diagnoses appear to be that Obama is acting like effeminate secret Frenchman (inspiring Peggy Noonan to declare the end of the Obama presidency for the 6,349th time,) and he needs to — I dunno — call in the National Guard to shoot at oil patches, or something. But these “no nonsense” tough talkers only appear to flex their muscles and jerk off to fantasies of President John Wayne post-catastrophe.
When it comes time to have a grown-up conversation about regulation and accountability, Very Serious people say we shouldn’t investigate into possible crimes because “some of life has to be mysterious,” and it’s important to “just keep walking.”
While it’s fashionable, the media gnashes its teeth and foams at the mouth over big, bad BP, even as the company quietly attempts to pull the same deregulation con in Canada, which of course will only be a story when the high drama of oil-soaked birds and ruined fishermen officially kick in.
Surely, there is a happy medium between calling Obama gay for not ripping out Tony Hayward’s heart, and totally ignoring the quieter, less interesting aspects of defensive governance. The media is supposed to shine before and after the storm, and not just while the hurricane rages. Deregulation has been a problem for a long, long time, and the problem won’t vanish overnight even if the cap on BP’s liability is lifted, and the victims of this horror are properly compensated.
BP is now saying oil may rush into the Gulf until August, a dire estimate made worse if one considers the quickly approaching hurricane season. If interest in this story wanes, fatigue, and depression set in, and in a frenzy to move on, the media declares BP has “done enough” to make amends, this disaster really will become another Katrina.
As much as I hate to say this, Louisiana will feel the effects of this for generations, especially when considering the toll these toxins will take on the environment and the mating habits of birds and sea life. I want to give CNN some praise for being one of the first news outlets to cover the Corexit story, and for the network’s reports on the issue of sick workers (there are more reports of workers being hospitalized after falling ill on clean-up jobs). However, just as CNN had some excellent reporting on Katrina in the juicy ratings window immediately after the storm, we are now experiencing “peak interest” time in the BP story.
Two year ago, the media was euphemistically calling New Orleans’s recovery from Katrina “uneven.” A year ago, Brookings reported the city faced “major challenges.” The state was not yet recovered from the last time the government failed it, and now the nation’s president is shielding BP from its part of the blame, while the media sweeps up behind the company — even offering free PR advice in the meantime.
The few bright moments of the media’s performance should be highlighted and praised. But when the interest fades, the cameras may leave, and in that case, Louisiana will once again be abandoned by the nation.