Thursday, June 10, 2010

RSN: BP gears up, Amy Goodman: Who frames the narrative?

BP gears up to win over Washington and the rest of us

As sloppy as BP has been with little things like safety and disaster prep out in the real world, the company is one plugged-in player in the land of power and perception.

by Randy Rieland

Reader Supported News: 8 Jun 2010

A little less than a month ago, back before he was madly tripping over his tongue, BP CEO Tony Hayward was sounding almost inspirational as he channeled Winston Churchill: "We are determined to fight this spill on all fronts, in the deep water of the Gulf, in the shallow waters, and, should it be necessary, on the shore."

But, alas, then was then and now is now.  These days Hayward and BP are preparing for new battles: They are determined to fight in Congress, in the courts, and on Google.

As sloppy as BP has been with little things like safety and disaster prep out in the real world, the company is one plugged-in player in the land of power and perception.

Money can buy you love: Sure, just about every politician is playing whack-a-mole with BP in public now, but in the halls and restaurants of Capitol Hill, the oil giant has an A-Team in overdrive, reminding members of Congress and their staffs that BP still provides two things their constituents want and need: oil and jobs. It helps, as Laura Strickler notes at CBS News, that BP's top hired guns in D.C. are no less than Tony Podesta, a cleanup hitter in Lobbyland, and Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan's former chief of staff. Plus, at least 29 of the 43 lobbyists now supporting BP came from the federal government or congressional staffs -- including three who used to work for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).  And a BP advisory council includes the likes of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman, and former New Jersey governor and EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman, as ABC News reports

Check out this map from Muckety of BP's lobbying machine.

Let us help you help us:  To cover its bases, BP and its employees have already kicked in more than $112,000 to candidates running this year, with 70 percent going to incumbents, Dave Gilson reports at Mother Jones

First, we hire all the lawyers: Given the amount of time it will be spending in court in the years ahead, BP is not about to give short shrift to the third branch of government. As James Ridgeway points out at Mother Jones:

In addition to having their way with the executive and legislative branches of government, the oil companies have largely triumphed over the judicial system as well. Government policy plays into oil company interests not only by letting them do as they please, but also by limiting their liability when things inevitably go wrong ... [BP] has promised to pay for the cleanup. But you can just see the lawyers haggling in court over what constitutes a cleanup cost.

According to an AP investigation, more than half of the federal judges where most of the Gulf spill suits are pending have financial connections to the oil and gas industry. BP is pushing to have the pre-trial matters in all its federal lawsuits handled by a Houston judge who has taken travel money from and given speeches to oil-related groups, Mary Flood reports in the Houston Chronicle. BP also recently hired Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

That's not oil, it's patina: Maybe the only thing more toxic than BP's oil is its image, so the company is spending big to get us to hate it a little less.  It hired Hillary Rosen, a former music industry lobbyist and Huffington Post editor, to head up its crisis-management team in Washington.  It brought aboard Anne Womack Kolton, a onetime Dick Cheney spokesperson, to handle media relations.  And it sought out Purple Strategies, a bipartisan (get it, purple?) corporate PR firm run by a former Bush strategist, Alex Castellanos, and onetime Howard Dean marketing guru Steve McMahon. 

The camera doesn't lie: But even all those folks haven't been able to make Tony Hayward more loveable. About 75 percent of viewers surveyed about the recent TV spot in which the BP CEO told America that he was "deeply sorry" felt there wasn't enough lipstick in the world to dress up that pig, Suzanne Vranica reports in The Wall Street Journal

A search for meaning: Finally, to ensure that no stone is left unturned in telling the BP Story, the company has purchased "oil spill" and other such phrases on Google so its own links show up at the top of search results.

Some legacy, eh?

Randy Rieland is a writer who lives in Washington, D.C., but tries to spend as many weekends as possible at his cottage in the Shenandoah


AMY GOODMAN: Who frames the narrative? After the Israeli military raided the
Gaza aid flotilla and killed nine of the activists onboard, they detained
almost everyone else-700 activists and journalists-hauled them to the
Israeli port of Ashdod, and kept them largely out of communication with
family, press and lawyers for days. The Israeli government confiscated every
recording and communication device it could find, devices containing almost
all the recorded evidence of the raid. The Israelis selected, edited,
released footage they wanted the world to see.

Well, we're joined now by two veteran journalists who were covering the Gaza
Freedom Flotilla for Australia's Sydney Morning Herald. We're joined by
chief correspondent Paul McGeough and the photographer Kate Geraghty. They
both join us via Democracy Now! video stream from Istanbul, where they were
deported to.

Paul, let's start with you. Which boat were you on? Tell us what happened
early Monday morning.

PAUL McGEOUGH: We were on the Challenger 1. It was a twenty-five-meter ocean
cruiser. There were seventeen people onboard, two professional journalists
there in a capacity to observe what was happening-myself and Kate-a crew of
two, and the rest were activists who were a part of the flotilla crowd, the
hundreds who were onboard all of the ships.

Before midnight, there was an exchange with the Israeli navy, a very terse,
very specific warning. You could tell that a script, a pre-prepared script,
was being read, ordering all the boats. Captain by captain received this
message to change course, to alter course away from Gaza. Having said that,
we were a good sixty or seventy miles from Gaza in international waters. The
captains were warned that lethal force would be used if they persisted. The
radio communications then shut down.

And shortly after 4:00 a.m., we saw the Zodiacs moving in. Before that, we
could see, at some distance, Israeli warships, just pinpoints of light, but
then we became aware of the [inaudible] was moving around each of the boats.
At one stage we had five of them trailing us. As the moon came up, you could
see them more clearly. And later in the morning, as the sun came up, they
were very easy to see.

Shortly after 4:00, about 4:10, 4:15, they attempted to board the Mavi
Marmara, but were repelled, effectively, by the passengers. They were
throwing things, rubbish, down on them. There were throwing bits and pieces
of the boat. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. We were about fifty
meters off-sorry, 150 meters off to the port side of the ship when the
Israelis started lobbing sound grenades, tear-gas canisters onto the rear
deck of the boat, where there was a big crowd. You could see them in their
lifejackets. You could see the flashes of the incendiary devices. You could
hear the noise of them exploding, and a panicked, angry reaction to that.

AMY GOODMAN: And on your boat, describe when the commandos came up on your
boat and what happened then. We only have a few minutes, and I also want to
bring Kate into this.

PAUL McGEOUGH: Alright, well, we-the skipper of the boat that we were on
decided that he'd make a break for it, so he went to full speed, which was
about eighteen knots. We had four or five Zodiacs on our tail. They finally
managed to come alongside, because the skipper decided he had been on a boat
that had been rammed in the past, and he didn't want to be rammed again.
They came over [inaudible] a flash of light, and Kate took a jolt as she was
tasered and thrown across the deck. We barely had time to recover ourselves
before men were piling in camouflage, in masked faces, piling over the side
of the flybridge where we were.

They lunged for the cameras. They lunged for the satellite telephone, which
was in my hand. I was talking to the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia,
filing a report. They spoke with Australian accents, which was quite
remarkable. And-

AMY GOODMAN: Wait a second.

PAUL McGEOUGH: -when we claimed to be professional journalists, I said,
"Sydney Morning Herald," without missing a beat, one of them turned and
said, "We know you're with the Herald." Not "we know the Herald," "we know
you're with it." And another one used the classic Australian vernacular of
"no worries."

But everyone got pushed down onto the lower decks. One of the women who was
on the upper deck at that stage had a gun pointed-a pistol pointed right at
her head, unless she got off a manhatch that she was sitting on. The
activists onboard engaged in passive resistance, nonviolent techniques of
making it as difficult as possible for the soldiers to round up everyone on
the boat. Two of the women ended up being dragged to the forward deck with
bags over their heads.

AMY GOODMAN: Kate, you were tasered by the Israeli commandos?

KATE GERAGHTY: Yes. I was photographing, standing right next to Paul. And I
was looking over the side of the boat, as the commando came-an Israeli
commando came up towards us. So I was photographing and basically got hit on
the arm just above my elbow, which knocked me about a meter, about a meter
and a half. And then, I was immediately sick. And then the commando came
toward me and-

AMY GOODMAN: Sick, you mean-you mean you were throwing up?

KATE GERAGHTY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then a commando wrestled my camera off
me. And they had guns, so, you know, we just said basically, as Paul
mentioned, that we're Australian journalists, we're with the Sydney Morning
Herald. And that didn't make any difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Kate, you and Paul have covered many war zones around the
world. You're experienced journalists. How did this compare?

KATE GERAGHTY: Well, this, for me, personally, it was-you had nowhere to go.
I mean, you couldn't run anywhere. You couldn't hide. We were doing our job.
And it wasn't respected. So, yeah, I did not appreciate it.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul, we only have a minute, but talking about framing the
story, you were detained, like the others, for more than three days. They
confiscated all of your equipment? What did you have? How were you able to
get word out? Or weren't you able to?

PAUL McGEOUGH: Well, before they came on the ship, we were able to do our
jobs as our contracts require of us. We were filing regular reports. We had
satellites. We had handheld sat phones. We had computers that linked into
those satellite phones. We had Kate's very expensive cameras. Anywhere
between $60,000 and $80,000 worth of equipment was confiscated from us, and
we have not seen it. We were not given receipts for it.

But the thing that-talking to people who were on all of the boats, while we
were in detention, the systematic attempt and very deliberate first priority
for the Israeli soldiers as they came on the ships was to shut down the
story, to confiscate all cameras, to shut down satellites, to smash the CCTV
cameras that were on the Mavi Marmara, to make sure that nothing was going
out. They were hellbent on controlling the story. If you go back to the
Dubai disaster, where the story played so badly for the Israelis in January
with the murder of the Hamas operative, they are so concerned and so aware
of the importance of controlling the narrative at any volatile point in the
crisis that their first priority was, as I said, to shut down any other

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us, Paul
McGeough and Kate Geraghty. They're speaking to us from Istanbul, where they
were deported to. And I want to say, you can go to our website at to see Kate's pictures, the ones she secreted away that
weren't confiscated, among the hundreds, by the Israeli military.

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