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?

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10 years ago

The feel-good folk soundtrack for this vile spot comes courtesy of Joe Purdy, for anyone who’d like let him know how you feel.

10 years ago

Surprised there aren’t more comments on this …

Check out today’s lead story in the UK Guardian about brown pelicans. Near the bottom, ‘Dawn’ gets a prop. Story feed of course from the NYT. Prescient post, Mr Dawson. Mindblowing.

Michael Dawson
10 years ago

Wow, nerc, that’s almost as stunning as the P & G ads.

I suppose it substantiates the Herman and Chomsky model. The logic of the institutions (profit-making) yields results that state totalitarians could only dream of.

What is the life expectancy of a bird that arrives so covered in oil it can’t stand up? It can’t be more than a few days. Nevertheless, this kind of reporting continues apace.

10 years ago

Great Article. It’s sick how some corporates leverage tragedies of such a massive scale just to sell a few more units.

Keep it going!

10 years ago

The video was posted on Youtube in July 2009 – that means it wasn’t created in direct reaction to the BP oilspill. However, if P&B airs it today, this really is shameless (aside of the fact that the video is absolutely bad taste).

10 years ago

One more question: Did you really see this video on TV? Or only on Youtube? It could be fake.


[…] Washing oiled wildlife is a fraudulent gesture designed to further enrich corporate stockholders while burying the relevant facts. […]

10 years ago

From same source quoted above (http://www.ibrrc.org/faq.html) Q: Where do you release them? A: All rehabilitated animals are released in clean and oil free areas chosen by federal and state trustee agency personnel and IBRRC. If the area that they were captured in is still oiled then the animals are sometimes transported to more remote locations for release. Q: Why do you do it? A: IBRRC’s philosophy is that we all use oil or oil related products in some form or another and as a species coexisting on this earth with other life forms we are responsible for the messes that… Read more »

Michael Dawson
10 years ago

That last bit is pretty close to a confession, isn’t it?

Translation: Procter and Gamble sends us half a million dollars a year. We take it. Science, ethics, and the real interests of animals be damned.

It would be interesting to know exactly how deep the connections between these two organizations run. I would not at all be surprised to learn that P & G literally founded the IBRRC. That, of course, is probably a corporate secret, though.

10 years ago

It looks like there’s nothing that can be done for them, then (I’ve heard only very few survive ingesting oil), and it is perhaps better to just let them die or euthanize at best — meaning that the effort needs to be focused more on containing the oil and stopping the spill than on rescue of the animals.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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