Normally, I don’t like to offer my approval of some of the more extreme tactics taken by Greenpeace when it comes to environmental activism. I generally think that they reinforce the stereotype of environmentalists as chain-myself-to-a-tree extremists, which isn’t always the most productive way to go about things. However, this week, I’m going to have to hand it to them. The notorious group executed an online campaign that rapidly went viral, proving their ability to execute a well-coordinated hoax with sufficient finesse to convince large groups that the campaign was serious, and just enough humor to get the attention of the rest of us.
In a parody of Shell’s ubiquitous “Let’s Go” campaign, the group launched the Arctic Ready website which hosted a fake photo-captioning contest supposedly by internet users. The photos that they ultimately came up with were sarcastic and took a backhanded stab at Shell’s imminent plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean, with headlines such as “you can’t run your SUV on cute.” Making it even better for those watching online, attempts by Shell to control the ads were badly bungled. Expanding into social media, Greenpeace used a false Twitter account alongside their website to fuel the flames.
While it’s not clear that the events will actually lead to any changes in the drilling plans, it certainly drew attention to the issue – and gave internet users with a dark sense of humor something to chuckle at. Reminiscent of the false BP Twitter account from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it’s sometimes nice to see the little guy poking fun at the big corporation – and get away with it.
It’s also interesting to see the use of satire – something that is a bit more the domain of political humor and late-night Comedians like Stephen Colbert – enter into the environmental argument. There are a lot of ludicrous statements made about the environment these days, often by those with strong financial interests in blocking regulations. Maybe parody is one of the best ways to highlight to the public just how ridiculous some of these arguments can be.