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BP’s happy new Gulf tourism ad claims fishing and beaches are great!

Jul 9, 2012

Ah, there’s nothing quite like a corporation attempting to polish a turd. Or shall we say, attempt to visit some propaganda on the minds of the masses.

In BP’s latest public relations ad, the oil giant claims in a rather surreal succession of images and testimonials that the fishing and beaches are just great. To that end, BP recruited some woman named Dawn Moliterno, Executive Director of the South Walton Tourism Development Council, to say this year has been “the Gulf’s best tourism season in years.” Well, as a tourism director, how could Dawn not make such a sales pitch, especially if BP was lining her pockets with some cash? Call Dawn BP’s new PR director.

Then a gardner named Bill Barrick, who works for Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore, Alabama, makes an appearance saying “In Alabama we had more beautiful blooms.” One must suppose, based on BP’s ad, that the oil spilled in the Gulf’s water was affecting flower blooms instead of Theodore’s oyster beds.

Then another tourism pitch man, Rip Daniels, Harrison County Tourism Commission Chairman in Gulfport, Mississippi, says, “In Mississippi, we had more good times.” Then Tom Hymel of Delcambre Direct Seafood appears with some more good news: “In Louisiana, we had more fun on the water. Last season we broke all kinds of records on the Gulf!”

“These ads are not just a lot of fun, but, as evidenced by the record number of visitors in some areas, extremely effective at letting people know the Gulf Coast is still a premiere tourist destination,” said Mike Utsler, head of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization. “We are pleased to be able to expand the reach of these ads to the entire country and by doing so hopefully encourage even more people to vacation along the Gulf.”

Perhaps BP could talk about how they used two million gallons of a chemical dispersant called Corexit to disperse the leaking oil well. They could also have noted that Corexit’s effects on the Gulf’s food chain still haven’t been determined. But this is the beauty of polishing a turd—the fact that there is a turd is ignored by the simple art of diversion.

“My stomach churns when I hear people say, ‘We dodged a bullet,’ because I’ve heard it so many times, but we shouldn’t be so quick to wave this off,” said James Cowan, a professor at Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment, in an ABC News Radio interview.  “This notion of ‘Come back to the Gulf, eat seafood, it’s fine’ is a problem.”

After a thorough search (even on BP’s website), I was unable to find the clip on the Internet; but, I was watching Fox News (for my morning dose of propaganda) when the ad aired. Fox, being rather friendly to unethical corporations and politicians, will probably keep airing the ad.

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