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Light Sweet Crude... and Cookies

by BobHiggins Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 01:46:37 PM EST

Originally posted at my site Bob Higgins

I turned on the news this morning and instantly received my first commercial message of the day. You've probably seen it, it's a pitch from Time Warner which offers up well scrubbed "employees" who spend thirty seconds or so reading a script designed to convince us that they are "Moms," "Dads," and regular working schleps, just like us... pardon that - just like me.

The ad is an attempt to put a face on the faceless, to create the illusion that the giant soulless organization is really warm and fuzzy with a friendly beating heart and smells like fresh baked cookies.

Not to single out Time Warner here, they are no better or worse than the average avaricious media giant or the other corrupt and abusive corporations that rule our lives and will soon take complete control of our public affairs following the infamous "Citizens United" case.

There is a lot of this, I guess it's Astroturf marketing, the attempt to convince the Rubes that "Citizens for Fair Taxes," or "Patriots for Freedom," (two fictional groups that I just made up) were created by, and are composed of, Ma and Pa Kettle "American Gothic" types rather than plutocrats and public relations land sharks with agendas and vested interests completely inimical to the facade created by their homey and benign sounding names, like... "Citizens United."

BP, the oil spill company,is doing a lot of this, actually a mountain of it, spending 50 million bucks and perhaps much more in their attempt to put a local "Bubba" personality and a NOLA accent in front of the public as the face of their "massive cleanup" operation and the fulfillment of their responsibilities as "good corporate citizens." That "cookie" thing again.

BP's oil spill may end up costing them more in the repair of the public perception of their "brand" than they spend on the cleanup operation. There are reports from the Gulf that they are already scaling back, cutting the cleanup workforce by 10,000 people recently, and have been working hard at renaming the spill to either the "Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill," or the "Deepwater Horizon Incident."

Gotta protect that old corporate legacy but I like the original name, "The BP Oil Spill," and I'll continue using it thank you.

This stuff works though, this Astroturfing, this Orwellian practice of recasting snake oil as ambrosia. The "fair tax" is an example, I have heard a dozen of my saloon acquaintances express their preference for this nearly mythical program to replace the progressive income tax with something more to the liking of the fattest of the fat. The only appeal it has for them, that I can see, because I've never encountered anyone who can describe this "fair tax," is the word fair. "Now that sounds good, fair... right?

Examples abound, the cleverly and cynically named "Patriot Act" which set a match to due process and the Bill of Rights is one, "Fair and Balanced at Fox "News" is another. In fact there is so much of this doublespeak in our culture right now that after a few hours of TV exposure to it my head begins to swell in confusion. But that's a personal problem.

Not an example of "Astroturfing" but possibly an example of our modern gullibility and mindless acceptance of the crap we are bombarded with smacked me in the face in conversation with a friend the other day. We were talking about the "BP Oil Spill" and I mentioned the story I was working on at the time about the magically disappearing BP oil in the Gulf.

He told me that he wasn't surprised by how fast the oil had left the scene because "after all" it was "light sweet crude."

I was speechless for a moment, his comment had slapped me to a full stop in time.

"Light sweet crude," I thought... I'll bet it goes good with "fresh baked cookies," ... and "Kool Aid."

Bob Higgins

Related stories and sources:

BP tries to rename oil spill

BP Fire 10,000 Cleanup Workers


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