Saturday 12 June 2010

Fleet Street Feebly Waves Flag For BP (British Patriotism)

It's seems that BP really is too important to the British economy to fail, as I suggested last Wednesday - David Cameron has a phone call today with President Barack Obama and is expected to raise concerns about American condemnation of the company.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson, has accused the US of indulging in "anti-British rhetoric", whilst (lord help us) Piers Morgan has apparently said that Obama seems to be on "an absolute witch hunt" against BP's CEO Tony Hayward. As you can see from the front-pages above, the right-wing press joined in yesterday with its favoured brand of nationalist rhetoric. And never let it be said that at least one national newspaper journalist would miss out on using this evening's clash in South Africa between England and the USA as a convenient metaphor. Congratulations to the Independent for rising to the challenge.

The problem for Fleet Street's finest is that the Americans are right to criticise BP. As the excellent coverage in Mother Jones magazine over in the States has demonstrated, BP has received $93 million for its clean-up operation from the federal government but in spite of upbeat messages last month that it has "turned a corner", the area affected by the oil spill has continued to grow. Coordination of workers and equipment has often been disorganised, oil spill workers have not always been paid and there are only 60 cleaning up around the 1700 acres of Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, where BP's response to media scrutiny has been to gag those working for it and exclude journalists. Meanwhile, every positive prediction made by Hayward about the company's ability to cap the underwater well have proven false, as have its initial estimates that the leak is the equivalent of just over 5,000 barrels per day.

Then there is the evidence of how unprepared BP was for a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Its Regional Oil Spill Response Plan, written in 2009, is riddled with inaccuracies and according to the environmental group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, "contains no information about how to cope with a deep water blowout".

For the sections of the press that are energetically defending a great British company (now only 40% UK-owned) from the restless colonials, the environmental consequences of BP's actions before and since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig are bad, certainly, but not as bad as the impact on BP's share price and on British pension funds. I know we have come to expect a staggering lack of proportion from our newspapers, but this really is off the scale.

It is undoubtedly the case that the cosy relationship between the US government and the oil companies, especially during the Bush-Cheney years, has contributed directly to the disaster. Obama has done little to curb the power of Big Oil and planned to extend drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

But perhaps we should be grateful to the press and to idiots like the Mayor of London. The more righteous patriotic indignation is spouted in Britain, the greater the likely that the American public will grow even angrier about the power of the oil companies - and not just those whose loved-ones died on the Deepwater Horizon or whose livelihoods have been destroyed by BP's incompetence, misinformation and lack of preparation.


libhom said...

This support of British Petroleum is heinous anti American bigotry and is absolutely unacceptable. Unless Cameron and his fascist government apologize for defending that evil corporation and start working Washington on a plan to destroy British Petroleum, seize its assets, use those assets to clean up the Gulf, and use the remaining assets to compensate victims and retirees, it will be time for Americans to boycott your entire country.

We saved your country from the Nazis, and you are rewarding us with this kind of fascism and anti Americanism?

Anonymous said...

I must admit that I feel slightly sorry for BP.

Yes, I am angry about the oil leak, but when you see anger from Americans like 'lets seize their assets' and 'boycott your entire country'. This is the same country that killed lots of Iraqis for oil. Hypocritics. I am sure there are Iraqis that want american assets seized and to pay to fix their country....

Bhopal Disaster said...

As usual Americans have double standards. I was listening to BBC Radio 4 and heard that the victims of the Bhopal disaster from 1984 are still waiting for compensation. Follow the link to the article in the Guardian.

Also, on the radio I heard that the sole survivor only was offered 3pence for the death of 11 members of her family. (I can't be certain if it related to Bhopal or another third work country). But 3pence = 11 members of your family. Is that how companies value human life!

I have no problem with BP getting a kick in the teeth, but I would like to justice for other environmental disasters....

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of stuff Americans are putting on their blog:

BP = "British" Petroleum

Boycott all things British. I won't stop until they clean up the mess!

I got angry when I read rhis.

What did the ordinary British person have to do with BP's oil rig?

You would think that after American's taking Britain to Iraq into a useless war, they would be apologitic to the British nation.

Most American's are just ignorant rude people. They will not stand up to the corruption in their own country, they created all the crisis in the banking sector (sub-prime loans) which plunged the world into a global recession. Perhaps it should the rest of the world saying 'seize american assets' to pay back for all the dodgy bonds they sold people. Bradford and Bingley went bust when t £5bn of loans were bought from an american company.

The difference between british and american people, is that we are ready to condem BP for bad behaviour, but Americans are too patriotic to see between rights and wrong. They will not speak about the injustices caused by american companies.

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