Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is the American Petroleum Institute too lazy or too cheap to find real Americans to photograph for its lying propaganda?


Concerned about these Americans who are going to be the victims of cruel (and imaginary) "new energy taxes"? Don't worry -- they're all stock photos from Getty Images. [Click on it to enlarge ad.]

by Ken

I expect you do the same thing. Often when I'm confronted with issues I don't understand all that well, I look at who's lined up on either side -- or on the various sides if there are more than two. These days I've learned to pay special attention to who's spending how much in support of their position. In other words, to follow the money.

So, for example, when I try to weigh the pros and cons of the health care "reform" package, the amount of money that Big Insurance and Big Pharma have poured into killing it makes me wonder if it can really be that bad. Of course we need the help of tireless inquirers to unmask all the "independent citizens' groups" that spring up to promote their "grass roots" position when they are in fact wholly funded creations of the industries they just happen, by sheerest coincidence, to be championing. (Knowing how widely and ruthlessly the insurance companies have been spending, including buying a large chunk of Congress, I'm a tad less sympathetic than I might otherwise be when the insurance companies complain, as they have begun to, that they're being beat up on unfairly.)

In the environmental arena, veteran observers automatically follow the money, knowing that the entrenched corporate interests who do the most serious ravaging also spread the most money around to protect their position, even at the expense of the planet and its inhabitants. Remember when that crook and general sleazebag former Alasaka Sen. Ted Stevens used to invite his energy-mogul pals for those meet-and-greets when he was chairing the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and he wouldn't even allow them to be sworn in on account of he was the chairman, and it was entirely up to him? Was it really too much to ask that the lies they were about to tell at least be told under oath? (Silly question. Obviously to our Ted it was way too much to ask.)

In that spirit, a colleague on the energy-and-environment beat calls attention to a neat piece of work by Brad Johnson in ThinkProgress's Wonk Room. He was ticked off by this ad the American Petroleum Institute (API) placed in Politico and Roll Call, denouncing "unprecedented" "new taxes" on the energy industry supposedly being considered by Congress, which is an absolute, 100-percent, through-and-through lie. The reference, Brad points out, is to "the Obama administration's effort to remove $36 billion in loopholes and subsidies for the oil industry." All the tearjerking bullshit about how these "new taxes" will destroy the economy and make life even more hellish for average Joes is just that: bullshit, lies, posturing propaganda.

Now you'd think Brad might want to give the API's members credit for rare honesty in declaring upfront that if Congress goes along with this mad scheme to deprive them of those loopholes and subsidies, it's a done deal that they're going to make their customers pay for the drain on their galactic-level profits. Well, actually that isn't exactly the way the ad sees it playing out. What the ad says is that these imaginary taxes "will serve to reduce investment in new energy supplies," which in turn means "less energy, thousands of American jobs being lost and further erosion of our energy security." So it isn't so much that Americans are going to "pay for new energy taxes" as that the oil and gas megacorporations are going to stop investing in new reserves that will yield them even more megaprofits. Huh? Does anyone believe that?

Possibly the utter deceitfulness and preposterousness of the ad raised Brad's hackles, sending him looking for the origin of the photos of "Americans" in the ad who are about to be "burden[ed] with new energy costs." (Oh, so they admit the plan is to raise prices to make up for the lost loopholes and subsidies?) And he eventually found all four . . . at Getty Images.

Now Wonk Room commenter Jon objects that "this is a non-story," because "everyone uses stock images for messaging -– including clean energy NGOs." Sorry, I don't buy an equivalence between API, front group for the richest companies on earth, and clean-energy NGOs. API claims to be telling us "who'll pay for [nonexistent] new energy taxes," and can't be bothered to back up the lies with actual photos of actual Americans? Or is the idea that Politico and Roll Call readers are too dumb or unsophisticated to be entitled to quality lies from propagandists?

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At 6:55 PM, Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

I hope Brad reported them to Getty. At least then he'd find out whether they paid Getty to use the images or is the API ripping them off.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger DaddySnake said...

It really is nothing new that these advertisements use images from Getty. And it's not just the right, but the left. It's just too hard to find real people willing to put their reputations on the line for an ad.

So while the rest of your points totally resonate with me, I think this use of stock photography is just about the least of the misleading behavior by these crooks.

At 4:51 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Yes, as I'm sure you noted, I already considered this point, Daddy S, but I'm still turning over in my head why this use of stock footage really riles me. Let me try again.

API is whipping up terror here. It is purporting to alert America -- well, so far not so much America as our timeless Village -- to the horrors of the "unprecedented" if also imaginary "new taxes." And it purports to be able to tell us who the victims of this latest socialist outrage will be. And the victims are . . . Getty Images.

Yes, of course, the substantive issues are the assorted lies API is telling in the ad. But I still feel there's something additionally sinister in the lies of the images. A stock image of, say, baby seals, is one thing. But these, according to API, are the doomed victims of the crazed left-wing Congress."

And I'm not arguing it as a left-right thing. As I mentioned, to me there is a vast difference between scrappy environmental organizations and the trade association of the richest companies in the world.

Again, though, you're certainly right that the substantive issues mangled by API matter more.


At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're getting all wound up over the picture? It's a fact that no one even reads all these laws. Not congress nor the president. All bogus laws written by self interested lobbyists. Would you feel better if there were images of little old people that really want more free health-care????


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