Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gulf Spill Spin and the Weather Channel Live from Tucson

At a roadside hotel in Tucson, air conditioners send heat signature hums into the atmosphere. A room key card with a pizza joint’s phone number opens a door into white-walled highway anonymity. A suitcase soon explodes on the room, toothpaste, dirty clothes, a notebook, a Nalgene, and a dozen scattered nothings make it my own.
A parking ticket glares at me from the nightstand, LA’s farewell gift.

I’m on my way to the Gulf to write about the oil spill situation, but right now, after 12 hours of driving, what I need is sleep.

The remote control doesn’t work. Let me restate, the channel changing buttons don’t work. Mute and Power do their jobs with strange efficiency. Even the whole change-the-batteries-around/jiggle remote trick doesn’t work, bringing the Weather Channel and its commentary endlessly into the room.

Obama visited the Gulf Region today, alerting the public that many beaches are untouched. Martha’s Vineyard was the first family’s original vacation destination, but advisors urged him to walk the walk and visit the beaches that Americans are being urged to frequent. He and Michelle dined on Gulf shrimp, affirming the happy ending for which we’ve all been waiting.

Last week, the president applauded a breakthrough on the Gulf Spill.

Google those words: Obama applauds breakthrough on gulf spill.

Dozens of headlines across the country echo the same press release. A BP think-tank conjures up today’s buzz word spin. The press twitters it out into the universe. Our president attends a prep rally in the Gulf.

We are told that three quarters of the oil, 152 million gallons, now has been collected from the Gulf. It was captured, burned, and chemically dispersed. Nature also helped out--bacteria consumed the oil. The rest simply evaporated or dissolved.

Everyone wants a happy ending; perhaps Hollywood and American story-telling has socially engineered us to expect it. The media images of an oil-rich cloud, dark and ominous, has been replaced by assurances that everything is OK. Trouble is, it’s hard to know what to believe when the news has been so funneled since the crisis began. BP has restricted access to oiled beaches, destroyed evidence, created an “unofficial” no-fly zone over affected areas, and doctored photos of clean-up efforts. If anything was learned from the Exxon Valdez Spill, it was how to manipulate media, not clean up oil.

Meanwhile, buried in the middle of the AP article applauding breakthrough, scientists warn that there is still oil in the water column, and the remaining 53 million gallons of oil is still five times the size of the 11 million-gallon Exxon Valdez spill.

In the war for control of the story, BP seems to be winning. In two days, after 1400 more miles of driving, I will see the spill and its effects firsthand, no spin but my own.

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Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.
- Oscar Wilde


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