Extreme green: Enviros resort to tricks to penetrate America’s media
The black oil dripped from the containers, falling onto Old Glory’s 50 stars and 13 stripes.
“No tar sands, no pipeline. We will blockade,” chanted the two oil-wielding protesters, both clad in black.
On April 3, Carlo Voli, 47, andLisa Marcus, 57, stormed the Canadian consulate in Seattleto protest the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700 mile conduit that will transport oil fromAlberta, Canada, to refineries in south Texas. Standing in the consulate’s lobby, they vowed to do all in their power to stop the project.
Police eventually removed Voli and Marcus, who acted on behalf of Tar Sands Blockade, a left-wing environmental organization.
As America rolls toward a resurgence fired by fossil fuels – natural gas, oil and coal – anti-growth protesters like Voli and Marcus step up their game, pushing harder and harder for attention from the media.
While using direct action to protest certain projects is nothing new for the green movement, a certain faction of the campaign seems willing to engage in stunts to penetrate America’s consciousness.
On April Fools’ Day, another Keystone XL foe, Bold Nebraska, decided to play a trick on the public, the media and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. The group, which has built a solid support base as the Keystone fight rolls into its fourth year, issued a press release announcing that Heineman was asking President Barack Obama to veto the pipeline.
The announcement, sent to reporters and editors at Nebraska TV stations, the Huffington Post, Associated Press and the Washington Post, was completely phony.
The group, seeking attention for the cause, copy-and-pasted text from a 2011 Heineman press release, which did ask the president for the veto. At the time, the governor had heartburn about the pipeline because it crossed the state’s ecologically sensitive Sand Hills.
The line’s route has since been changed and it now avoids the Sand Hills. Heineman signed off on the pipeline’s new path earlier this year.
Bold director, Democratic operative Jane Kleeb, tweeted an explanation: “yes it’s April fools @BoldNebraska sent out Heinemans own words on his opposition to pipeline crossing aquifer. He’s never answered flipflop.”
The joke fell flat, though, and many media personalities criticized the stunt.
“It was supposed to be an April Fools’ joke but instead Bold Nebraska undermined its own credibility,” said Dave Roberts of KOLN-TV, according to Nebraska Watchdog.
Jen Rae Hein, the governor’s spokeswoman, told Watchdog.org that Bold’s trick only undermined the group’s legitimacy. “This is a great example of what not to do if you want your organization to be taken seriously,” she said.
Hein, who mentors students on communications strategies, is keenly aware of the concept of earned media and knows breaking through the noise of the 24/7 new cycle is incredibly difficult. Still, she says, that’s no justification to resort to phony press releases.
“In my professional opinion, it was simply unprofessional and not well thought-out,” she observed.
Many of the green movement’s actions these days are well-coordinated attacks on projects, construction equipment and press conferences. Activists still lock themselves to bulldozers, sit atop tree for days and weeks on end and hold global warming rallies in front of the White House.
But the shenanigans proliferate.
Take the Coal Export Action group headquartered in Livingston, Mont. Formed last year to fight a key coal reserve on the Montana-Wyoming border, CEA organized a protest at the Montana Statehouse last August to raise the issue with Treasure State officials. The protest, which drew fewer than 100 people to the Capitol, garnered little media attention and a heap of scorn from the state’s Democratic governor, a pro-coal politico.
To remain remotely relevant, CEA shifted its strategy to include stunts more fitting of a high school prank than a global movement.
On March 30, sticker-carrying CEA members hit grocery stores in several states to carry out the next attack. Their objective: Attach anti-coal stickers to bags of M&Ms.
Forrest Mars Jr. of Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms, owns a hefty stake in a planned railroad that will haul coal from Montana to west coast ports.
CEA members affixed stickers saying “Warning: This candy finances dirty coal energy” to packages of the chocolate treats.
Cognizant that the action might conflict with the law, the group urged its members to proceed with caution.
“If your stickers are discovered by store personnel, they are likely to be removed, so your action is more effective if you avoid discovery,” the group’s website counseled.”If a staff person comes toward you, consider sending someone over to innocently ask to be shown a product on the other side of the store.”
CEA, which has no public contact information on its website, did not respond to an email about the sticker attack.
Dustin Hurst is a reporter for Watchdog.org, a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Contact him atDustin@Watchdog.org or @DustinHurst via Twitter.