Would You Like Some Propaganda with Your Popcorn?
By Kate Fried
Summers can be oppressively hot in Washington, D.C., and for relief from the heat and humidity, I enjoy nothing more than retreating to a dark, cool movie theater to take in some of the season’s best cinema and forget my troubles, at least for a few hours.
In doing so, I do not expect, nor do I particularly relish, the prospect of being subjected to blatant, misguided, corporate propaganda. Unfortunately, it seems that the oil and gas industry has other plans for me and my fellow theatergoers this summer. According to Fuel Fix, the American Clean Skies Foundation is shelling out big bucks to create and place an ad campaign touting natural gas as a replacement for conventional fuel. You may recall that American Clean Skies is funded by none other than Chesapeake Energy, which is battling a credibility problem these days due to its CEO and former board chair’s history of sketchy financial holdings.
Of course, this information alone isn’t enough to make you spill your popcorn. After all, the oil and gas industry has been buying up the airwaves for ages, trying to sell us on all sorts of distortions, chief among them, the fact that shale gas development will deliver us from our economic woes. We’ve already refuted that crazy claim here.
What makes these ads especially egregious is this:
1. They’re hitting consumers at moment when they’re basically a captive audience. You can’t switch the channel or walk out of the room, because if you do, you’re out 12 bucks and the chance to see the Dark Knight rise once again.
2. These ads splice together footage from iconic speeches delivered by former presidents to suggest that ignoring the so-called promise of shale gas is akin to ignoring the promises of space exploration, the socio-political advances of dismantling segregation and problems associated with rise of the military industrial complex. This is blatantly wrong and extremely manipulative.
3. They capitalize on nostalgia and the viewer’s connection to beloved past presidents from both sides of the aisle to sell their very one-sided argument, all the while inflating the worth of their own product.
Propaganda is nothing new. Politicians and corporations have been employing it for generations to sway public opinion through emotion. But let’s not forget that propaganda is also a form of political warfare, and in this case, the war isn’t being waged on distant soil. It’s a war on our collective health, our air and our water.
Americans aren’t dumb, but we’re often treated as such. So this summer, when you retreat to the movies to beat the heat and take in some celluloid fun, I hope you will think twice if some of these ads pop onto the screen. Remember how inaccurate they are, and that the oil and gas industry is grasping at straws to keep those ever mighty profits flowing their way.