Sooner of later, no matter how much you try to pretty it up, the neighbors are going to smell that tremendous mountain of decaying garbage you've been hiding in the backyard for more than three decades. Nowadays everyone seems to be smelling Chevron’s trash, as more criticism surfaces about their attempts to mislead the public with fake "reports". This time it’s the Columbia Journalism Review calling out former CNN correspondent Gene Randall for shilling for Chevron (as did the National Journal Online).
The New York Times published an article in May exposing Chevron's attempt to pass off its corporate propaganda as legitimate news and using YouTube to spread it - an attempt which is failing miserably, as the video has been viewed fewer than 6,000 times in several weeks (follow this link to watch it if you like, but be warned, Chevron won’t let you comment on it there). Perhaps Chevron should have considered hiring one of Jon Stewart’s “correspondents” instead; the news would be just as fake, but they would have gotten more hits.
One expects more savvy from the company that produced the overly-slick Will You Join Us? commercials. However those ads seem to have more people joining the communities fighting Chevron’s toxic operations than joining in Chevron's greenwashing efforts. In fact, Chevron's PR efforts seem to backfire every time. Another apparent Chevron tactic: Shower sponsorship money on PBS' Newshour and see what coverage surfaces with Chevron’s spin in it (or settle for no coverage on the issue at all).
In 2008, Chevron took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle attacking Goldman Environmental Prize winners Pablo Fajardo and Luis Yanza. The result: Every news station in the Bay Area and many national outlets ran stories about the Ecuador disaster and Chevron was doing damage control once again. The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, Bloomberg, and many other mainstream news outlets have since reported on the case, but never in the way Chevron wants you to hear it (as if they bore no responsibility in the disaster).
We know a sure-fire way for Chevron to finally get some good press: Do the right thing and clean up their toxic mess and restore a clean and healthy environment to the 30,000 Ecuadorians suffering from their irresponsible actions.
Paul Paz y Miño is the Managing Director at Amazon Watch and supervisor of the Clean Up Ecuador Campaign. Paul has an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University, is currently an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and for over 14 years has been a Colombia Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA. Paul was the Guatemala/Chiapas Program Director at the Seva Foundation for seven years and has lived in Chiapas, Mexico, and Quito, Ecuador, promoting human rights and community development and working directly with indigenous communities.