Lately, my Twitter stream has been going through an iterative discovery cycle over “Shell’s Arctic Ready campaign”. I’ve seen lots of retweets from the social gallery, where (in theory) the public has been making sport with the chance to caption various Arctic images1. I have a real dislike of “crowdsourced ads”, partly because I have professional graphic-designer friends who would like to make a living. So I tended to avoid the whole thing.
Well, I was right to, but for the wrong reasons. It turns out to have been a hoax by Greenpeace. So was the viral video and the gormless Twitter stream, neither of which particularly registered on my radar.
I have two problems with this.
The first one is that I don’t think portraying Shell as inept is a very wise choice. If they wanted to influence public opinion, I suspect they’d pay decent money and get someone who knows what they’re doing to manage a new ad campaign and run a Twitter account. If they’re not doing that, it’s because the general public is not currently the target audience for their PR budget.2 But when we are, trust me: it will be a competent effort. If we’re only braced for buffoons and clowns, they’ll succeed at whatever spin they’re trying to convey.
The second, larger problem, is that Greenpeace lied to us. This wasn’t a nod-and-a-wink parody; this was a dedicated effort to deceive. They played the public for patsies and herded them like sheep. That kind of contempt for the people whose support (financial and otherwise) they need is inexcusable. For me, it puts them in a box with people like Bush and Blair, who were also flexible with the truth for the greater good3.
Basically, Greenpeace polluted the information stream. Now, I know that our common discourse is already thoroughly befouled. But that does not mean it’s OK to add yet another dose of rainbow-shining toxic sludge to the mix, not even in the cause of righteousness. Indeed, especially not in the cause of righteousness.
We need more truth, not less. Don’t lie to me for my own good and expect my support, Greenpeace. Just don’t.