This is Issue 73.3 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world.
Today’s news, fermented:
Wednesday, and I’m still stuck on things we can consider good news. (No, the pit of despair has not subsided.)
Business Insider published an article this weekend: The companies polluting the planet have spent millions to make you think carpooling and recycling will save us.
Yes, this is horrible, but no, it is not new news. However: the fact that a business-focused publication is making the editorial decision to call out the fact that corporations, the keystone species of global extractive capitalism, knowingly mislead the public about the harms their products cause, and then try to outrun accountability, is notable.
Could it be that even Business Guys are starting to have doubts? It’s not too likely, but in the same week that even the motionless UN starts to freak out about how little the world is doing about climate change, perhaps we’re starting to see some movement.
The gist of the BI article is as follows: companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo started Keep America Beautiful, the front group to make people recycle that ran the “crying Indian” ad (read the article for context if you’re not familiar with this horrific moment in marketing). Exxon was also at the table, as it so often is.
The BI article talks about how Big Plastic (which by the way, is Big Oil; see also cracker plants) used tactics that then Big Tobacco used, followed by Big Oil, again, telling us that carpooling and measuring our carbon footprint are more important than ceasing to literally cut open the earth, pull out liquefied dino bones, and set them on fire. Oh yeah.
Being the stickler that I am for pointing the correct finger, it’s worth revisiting research from 2016 that reveals that what we often call the “Big Tobacco Playbook,” which includes stuff like:
Misleading the public with advertising
Producing junk science to cover up the evidence
Currying favor with politicians to prevent regulation and avoid consequence
actually came from Big Oil—rather than the other way around. Surprise! It was Big Oil alllll along.
I have a colleague who often reminds me that national holidays are great timing hooks for media. We’ve been talking about the ‘convenient’ overlap of climate happenings this year with Halloween, because Big Oil is truly the scariest demon in the closet of (insert decision-making body’s name here).
But it’s still September, which illustrates the point well—when Big Oil is calling the shots, it’s always spooky szn.
If you’re still not convinced that the fossil fuel industry is behind most horrible stuff, check out the former Exxon exec managing crackdowns on pipeline resistance and how the industry’s lawyers are trying to dismantle adoption protections for Native children in the US in order to gain access to oil and gas reserves on reservations.
So what’s the punchline? Business Insider’s article quoted spokespeople from Chevron and BP, who pointed to their “net zero” plans (which mean nothing, btw). And despite aforementioned truths about industry propaganda and the lie we’ve been fed about the efficacy of recycling, Americans still sit on stockpiles of single-use plastic items, according to a study commissioned by a company that sells water in plastic bottles, in a moment of industry failing to outrun its own bullshit....
Even though all those nice people are holding onto their plastics, we could still build mountains out of those that end up getting thrown out—dwarfing Manhattan by a long shot.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
We've had back-to-back instances of celebrities gathering either for awards shows or a gala over the last week and aside from Nicki Minaj spreading vaccine misinformation online, nothing really dramatic or scandalous has happened. Other than some great sartorial moments on the red carpets, I haven't really been paying attention to the ceremonies, although something really funny happened during the Emmys this past weekend: actress Gillian Anderson, who won an award for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was asked by a reporter whether or not she's spoken to the premier, who died in 2013 at the age of 87.
Gillian won her second Emmy award when she took home the statue for Best Supporting Actress for her role on The Crown. In general, Netflix's series about the British royal family had a great night at the Emmys, with Gillian's co-stars Olivia Colman and Josh O'Connor taking home awards for their respective categories as well. I guess no one was really surprised that Gillian won so when she went to the press room after accepting her award, a journalist decided to ask her if she had talked to Margaret Thatcher about the role and what the dead woman thought about it.
The hilarious look of confusion on Gillian's face really makes this moment for me. As for her reply, Gillian was definitely more gracious than I expected, stammering "I haven't had a chance to..." instead of just flat out correcting the reporter. This moment is gaining a lot of press for obvious reasons but I also just wanted to point out the second half of that journalist's question regarding female leaders in America given "all of what Margaret did in the UK." That was perhaps just as equally absurd and cringy if not more so than asking Gillian Anderson if she had dusted off the old Ouija board to prep for the role. It seems like this reporter didn't? doesn't? know that much about Margaret Thatcher in general, which, boy, does she have a long road of discovery and reading ahead of her if she ever decides to pursue it.