Dawn of Death: The Apex of Shamelessness

Partly for intellectual/political reasons and partly because I grew up on the habit, I still watch some television. Last night, I nearly choked on my frozen yogurt when I saw this especially stunning mind-rape come on:

Now, I’m no greenhorn when it comes to the mega-chutzpah that goes into the planning and production of corporate marketing campaigns, which, with the possible exception of organized monotheism, are far and away the most carefully considered and lavishly funded form of dishonesty in human history.

But this just takes the fucking cake, here, folks.

What is the point of de-oiling animals after they have been exposed to petroleum leaks? The Procter and Gamble (Dawn is a P & G brand) ad above would have you believe that it is a simple rescue mission that yields lovely, happy-bunny outcomes. Wash the oil off the feathers or fur, and the critter goes home just fine and dandy. Maybe even cleaner and better!

Let’s leave aside the obvious question of going home to what — the same ecosystem in which they just got oiled, the one to which they were born and are adapted?

At the level of the animal itself, petroleum-soaked feathers or fur, serious as it is, is only the secondary problem. The primary problem is oral ingestion or dermal absorption of oil. Swallowing or soaking in petroleum is a catastrophe to the organism:

Because birds preen themselves meticulously to maintain their insulating air layer, external oiling almost always leads to some oil ingestion. Once oil is ingested, it can cause direct damage to the gastrointestinal tract, evidenced by ulcers, diarrhea, and a decreased ability to absorb nutrients. If the volatile components of the oil are inhaled, it can lead to pneumonia, neurological damage, or absorption of chemicals that can lead to cancer. Metabolism of the oil components by the kidney and liver can lead to extensive damage to those organs as well. Lastly, oil (and the stress of being oiled) can cause birds to have significant anemia and the lack of blood cells that combat infection.

The impact on bird eggs and bird and animal babies is worse.

p and g hq
P & G HQ

So, what is the above advertisement for Dawn dish soap? It is a knowing lie, designed to get people to pay a premium for Procter and Gamble’s heavily advertised brand of liquid soap. As all marketing planners know, “a sure-fire way to get consumers to pay more for our products even in these difficult times is to make some ‘green’ claims.”

In reality, then, the above ad is nothing more and nothing less than this: the use of the gargantuan, heart-rending, only-just-begun biological destruction from the Deepwater Horizon blowout as a photo-op for raking in more profits for P & G shareholders, all while sowing Satanic disinformation about the very reality troubling the very victims of the scam.

And, of course, it gets worse. Serious studies of bird survival after petroleum exposure show that “rescuing” birds ranges from being somewhat helpful to being utterly futile and inhumane.

And guess which organization is working to sell the rosiest possible view? That’s right: The International Bird Rescue Research Center, the very group to which P & G sends money as part of this marketing scheme.

The very group whose executive director writes letters of praise to P & G.

The very group that says this on its FAQ page:

Q: What do you use to wash birds?

A: We use “Dawn” dish washing liquid. IBRRC has conducted research on most of the commonly available cleaning agents and “Dawn” meets all the criteria we have established for appropriate cleaning agents. Those criteria are the ability to remove most oils, effectiveness at low concentrations, non-irritating to the skin and eyes, rapid removal from feathers (rinsing), and is easily accessible. Procter and Gamble now donates all “Dawn” detergent to IBRRC and other rehabilitation organizations.

The very group that answers another key FAQ thus:

Q: What is your survival rate?

A: The survival rate will differ with each oil spill because of all the factors that effect it. Some of those factors are the toxicity of the oil, how rapidly the birds are collected and stabilized, what condition the bird was in before it was oiled, and the species involved. We have had release rates as high as 100% and as low as 25% in the early years. We now average about 50% to 80%. Again, it depends on many variables and cannot be predicted.

Did you catch that liar’s shift? What is your survival rate? We won’t say, but here are some statistics about our RELEASE rate.

In other words, the IBRRC is a Procter and Gamble front, a mere pimp for P & G’s “cherished strategy of introducing increasingly sophisticated — and increasingly costly — household staples.”

By the way, a regular 24.0z bottle of Dawn liquid dishwashing detergent presently sells for $5.49, or 22.9 cents per ounce on drugstore.com. I guarantee you that the dollar stores my grandmother frequents sell an indistinguishable product for one dollar.

I can only quote, once again, from the late Robert L. Heilbroner:

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions?

Farce Day

What if the Montgomery Improvement Association had responded to the segregation of the city’s buses by calling for an annual Transportation Day, instead of a steady campaign of direct action and movement organizing?  What if SNCC had held a rally once a year, rather than launching expanding waves of lunch-counter sit-ins?  What if, instead of marching, fighting, and continually and radically educating itself and the wider society, the Civil Rights Movement had launched Black Seal, a new “foundation” to certify select corporate products as minimally racist?  The United States would still have Jim Crow apartheid laws.

Nonetheless, today we are supposed to “celebrate” Earth Day, and forget the fact that it is social movements, and only social movements, that have ever mattered in the effort to use politics to make large breakthroughs toward a better world.

denis hayesDenis Hayes, the Earth Day founder who recommends car tires via “foundations” dedicated to the proposition that “the power of the marketplace” has any chance of being anything but a net ecological disaster, today tells The New York Times he thinks it is “tragic” rather than logical that corporations have turned Earth Day into what that august paper terms “a premier marketing platform for selling a variety of goods and services.”  What did you expect, Denis, when you suggested that an annual “day” was somehow a serious attack on our overclass’s institutional dedication to planetary ecocide?  Gestures are not social movements, no matter how hard one tries to gesture.

pepsi dream machineMeanwhile, at today’s Earth Day rally in New York City, those keeping track will get another chance to see that corporate capitalists are routinely pulling of feats of propaganda that would make Big Brother poop their pants in fits of jealousy.  PepsiCo, the conglomerate whose core business is peddling various forms of unhealthy sugar water cased in plastic, is going to unveil its Dream Machine recycling kiosks.  For each bottle shoved into one of these stations, PepsiCo promises to make “a per-bottle donation to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans, a business training program for disabled veterans.” The amount of that donation to such an amazing cause?  Unspecified, of course.  But, rest assured, it will be “an amount.”  1/1000th of one cent?  That’s an amount, isn’t it?  And what vet, fresh back from killing poor people for no reason, doesn’t want to go get harangued about “entrepreneurship” by PepsiCo?  That’s just as good as the old G.I. Bill of the 1940s, right?

But all this isn’t the half of it.  PepsiCo, the massive plastic and sugar-water pusher, is, all the while and right into the future, a long-standing major opponent of bottle bills, widely and uncontroversially known as far and away the most effective and efficient incentive to beverage container recycling.  On behalf of its shareholders and corporate retailer customers, PepsiCo finds bottle bills to be “unwieldy for store customers and suppliers, and inconvenient for consumers.” In other words, bad for profits.  Ergo, Pepsi and it corporate capitalist allies work the nation and world to make sure that bottle bills don’t spread from the handful of places where they already exist.

Welcome to Earth Day!

Greenwash: Hot Advice from a Pro

As somebody once observed, the heart of man is a wonderful thing, especially when it is carried in his wallet.

Same goes for the heart of a woman, of course.

To, wit, the latest issue of Advertising Age conveys the fabulous wisdom and morality of attorney Randi W. Singer, “litigation partner in the New York office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges,” whose “practice focuses on copyright and Lanham Act false advertising and trademark litigation, as well as media, music licensing, First Amendment and other intellectual property issues” on behalf of “the world’s most sophisticated clients.”

In a column titled “Going Green the Smart (and Legal) Way,” Ms. Singer writes:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a remote part of the ever-dwindling rain forest, you know that a sure-fire way to get consumers to pay more for your products even in these difficult times is to make some “green” claims. And if you can time your ads to coincide with events such as Earth Day or convince the federal government to expedite the review for your green technology patent all the better. Bonus points for naming an actual shopping day “Green Monday” or changing the color of your logo to green.

Of course, Ms. Singer knows “going green” doesn’t mean going green, even in narrow terms:

But before jumping on the green bandwagon, it’s important to do your homework. Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission issued complaints against Kmart, Tender Corp. and Dyna-E International for making false and unsubstantiated claims of “biodegradability.” On the heels of those complaints, the FTC went after a number of companies that claimed their products were green because they were made of bamboo when, in fact, they were made of rayon — a man-made fiber that is technically created from the cellulose found in plants and trees, but only after it is chemically dissolved through a process that releases various pollutants. (After settling with the manufacturers, the FTC followed up with warning letters to 78 retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Target). S.C. Johnson & Son faces a class action suit alleging that placing a proprietary “Greenlist” seal on its Windex window cleaning products misled consumers into believing that the products were independently certified by a third party (the Greenlist was actually an S.C. Johnson-conceived program). And following review by the National Advertising Division, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, Clorox Co. decided to voluntarily discontinue claims that its Green Works Natural Cleaning Wipes were biodegradable, and MasterNet was advised to stop making claims that its plastic netting packaging products “saved countless trees from destruction.”

So, “What’s a would-be green marketer to do?”

Keep making those “green” (in quotation marks) claims, but be careful, and know your corporate lawyer’s number!

Astrologer Jeffrey Sachs’ Latest

Jeffrey Sachs is at it again. Having gained fame as a theorist of why mass starvation is better than price inflation in the Second and Third Worlds, Sachs is now telling First Worlders that 21st century capitalism is going to be just peachy keen:

Taking shape, therefore, is nothing less than a new 21st-century model of capitalism itself, one which is committed to the dual objectives of economic development and sustainability, and is organised to steer core technologies to achieve these twin goals.

Consider the challenge of a bankrupt automobile sector, with General Motors and Chrysler on the verge of insolvency, and Ford not far behind. Rather than viewing the crisis merely as a traditional left-right debate over bail-outs versus market-driven bankruptcy, Obama recognised that the near-bankruptcy of the sector calls for a hands-on approach to transform the core of automotive technology itself. In the Obama strategy, GM will not be closed to punish it for past corporate or societal mistakes. It’s worth far too much as a world leader in the electric vehicles of the 21st century.

The work of moving from a few demonstration vehicles to a new mass industry will take a least a decade. The government will have to support research and development, the high costs of early models, public awareness and acceptance, and the supporting infrastructure. In the case of plug-in hybrids, this means a high-performance power grid fed by sustainable power generation, such as solar or wind power, or coal plants that capture and store the carbon dioxide. For fuel cells, it means a new infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations along the interstate highways and in the major cities.

All this, Sachs assures, is being brought to fruition by “a team of scientific and technological advisers of stunning quality, including two Nobel laureates (Steven Chu and Harold Varmus), and longstanding leaders in climate, energy, ecology and cutting-edge technologies.”

And, the good news doesn’t stop there, kids!  “[W]ith America’s technological prowess, and Obama’s pivotal commitment, it [the United States] is likely to jump to the lead.”

So,in Sachs’ professional analysis, we stand not here:

…but here:

This stunningly ignorant and dangerous piffle redoubles my appreciation of Dmitry Orlov’s observation that economists are “astrologers to the wealthy.”

Green Coal: Marketing Trick

To paraphrase Billy Bragg, the laws of physics are very, very strict, and they’re just bending them for their own benefit.

The staggering amounts of energy we waste on corporate capitalist boondoggles are, if the truth be told, not sustainable for much longer.

Neither are they, or will they ever be, clean. All combustion has by-products, and hydrocarbon combustion is inherently especially nasty to living beings.

If you or others you know are open to seduction by the expanding overclass talk of “green energy,” I beg you to educate yourself.

You might start with this powerful piece by Peter Montague.