Greenpeace: Making the World Safe for Stupid

I have decided that I am categorically not a fan of Greenpeace.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with lawful and peaceful protest, and I am perfectly okay with environmental activism. I have also frequently stated that I have a distinct problem with stupidity and hypocrisy, and this is what leads me to proclaim Greenpeace to be the idiots they are. I spoke of the group’s moronic tactics when they scaled buildings on Parliament Hill, and now they’ve gone and briefly shut down BP stations in London in another act of guerilla idiocy. The question has to be asked, again, what Greenpeace really thought they were accomplishing?

The group claims that today’s actions resulte in the shutdown of 46 stations across London, though BP is confirming only 40. The stations were all judiciously chosen by Greenpeace because they are places that sell BP fuel. The group left a note at each station before pulling a safety switch to disable their ability to serve fuel, and covered the BP signs with banners reading “Closed: moving beyond petroleum.” You can read the whole story here.

My first problem with all this is that Greenpeace is, as they had done with their stunt on Parliament Hill, just trying to get attention with little regard for the impact of the actual actions themselves. The stations targeted were chosen solely because they sell BP fuel, despite the fact that there were many impacted stations under private, rather than BP corporate, ownership. The actual pain caused to BP from the closures, in a financial sense, has to be incredibly minimal. The financial impact on the private owners of those stations is probably much more substantial. I’m not sure what Greenpeace’s stance is on depriving some poor schmuck in overalls at the local gas station of a paycheck, but I’m sure it involves loud fanatical rants against “blood money” and the “wages of sin,” or somesuch foolishness.

Some of these stations, according to the article, serve fuel to ambulances! Despite Greenpeace’s assurances that they communicated with health services to direct the ambulances to non-BP stations, I have my doubts. And if the time lost in finding gas elsewhere cost some middle-aged dude or dudette their life because the ambulance was late arriving at the scene of their heart attack, it puts a different taint on the whole “wages of sin” angle.

I have said before and I will say again, BP has acted irresponsibly and criminally, in my opinion, in creating the environment within which the oil spill was almost guaranteed to occur. Likely the only successful measure to ensure corporate responsibility, in my mind, is financial loss, because money is the only thing that a company cares about at the end of the day anyways. BP should suffer financial misfortune for their risk taking, cutting corners and irresponsibility. If that misfortune led to the crippling of the company, all the better, though I would be more than just surprised. In order to take a real bite out of the BP pie, you have to look at their organization and their diversity of products a lot closer and do more than just not buy gas from BP stations.

Greenpeace is a pointless organization because their efforts are more media directed than rational. They’re like the big kid in the room that portrays themselves as bullies, but always back down in a fight. Neither this most recent action, nor the actions taken on Parliament Hill, do anything but garner media attention. And, frankly, they could gain more media attention within the bounds of the law by hiring incredibly attractive women to wear little or no clothing in public places while carrying signs with their slogans. Hell, it would get more attention from me.

And, that’s the thing. There are so many better ways to get media attention that these stunts are almost dangerously fake. Greenpeace is blatantly vying for the spotlight, but trying to do so in such a way that they can pretend that the efforts are still environmentally motivated. It’s transparent, but that doesn’t seem to deter them from pretending that the actions are actually motivated by a serious objective, other than just media whoring. That’s part of the hypocrisy I am having trouble with. Act in protest seriously, whore for media attention separately, but don’t try and make one look like the other.

Look at those tobacco protesters that did all the commercials, They had some truly great, attention getting and original gimmicks to gain media attention and spread their message. The stunts were well thought out, didn’t break laws (that I can remember), and made for catchy television commercials. Why can’t Greenpeace follow that kind of model instead of again and again committing to these ridiculous, dangerous and pointless stunts?

BP has already announced tens of billions of dollars in quarterly losses due to costs related to the oil spill, and my greatest hope is that their misfortune continues. They’ve made the purely superficial move to replace their CEO, Tony Hayward, quite simply because he wasn’t media friendly anymore, didn’t appear sympathetic enough, and because it sends the message that they are serious about change. Whether they are serious about change or not will take many more months or years of observation to really determine. In the meantime, some poor schmuck who privately owns a BP station losing a part of his day’s wages for the sin of selling BP fuel won’t do anything to hurt the bottom line of BP as a corporation. But, it will get you a headline.

And that is the cause the Greenpeace is really committed to.


CNN: “Greepeace Shuts Down BP Stations in London”

Related Posts:

  • Crude Behaviour: The BP Spill and What We Can Do About It
  • Activism the Right and Wrong Way: Reckless Demonstration by Greenpeace on Parliament Hill
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