Bitchslapping Photographers

« July 2010 »

Memo to BP and, apparently, the Obama administration: YOU ARE DUMB.

If you were to come up to me and ask me, "Are you happy with Barack Obama as president?", I'd be forced to answer you with a long silence and a lot of hedging. It'd be better if you asked me "Are you glad Barack Obama's president?" That's an unqualified yes. I know what the alternative was. I'm glad that didn't come to pass. But am I happy? Fuck no.

And if you want prima facie evidence as to WHY I'm not happy, you need look no further than BP's treatment of journalists trying to document the damage from the oil spill. We collectively jumped all over Joe Barton's ass, and rightly so, for his insipid leap to BP's defense during congressional hearings. But it's clear at this point that the Obama administration is more than willing to defend BP as well. Just in a quieter, behind the scenes sense.

Since the well blew up large across both the Gulf of Mexico and the national consciousness, there have been the stories. Reporters and photographers being kept from the worst of the spill damage by a combination of local law enforcement officials and BP security. The vast majority of the awful pictures that made it out there did so through a combination of sneakily dodging authorities and the fact that the spill is so big, you can't cover it all.

And this week, despite a Coast Guard order a month ago stating that journalists would have full access to the spill, we got word of the following policy from... the fucking Coast Guard:

"The Coast Guard order states that 'vessels must not come within 20 meters [65 feet] of booming operations, boom, or oil spill response operations under penalty of law.'" - Raw Story.

Now, "vessels" may well mean boats, under the Coast Guard's purview. And maybe for a boat, 20 meters is a reasonable safe distance. But there are a lot of journalists, from Anderson Cooper on down, that are claiming the "oil spill response operations" is being used as a sweeping definition to cover anything BP doesn't want people to see.

The question remains: WHY? If this were McCain doing this, or Dubya, it'd make perfect sense. With Obama in charge, I've narrowed it down to two possibilities.

The first is that Nader voters were right. That at the end of the day, there is no significant difference between the two parties. Oh, there are superficial differences, especially on social issues, but when the rubber hits the road and the tarball hits the sand, all that matters is money. The money to get into power, the money to stay in power. And given a choice between doing what's right, and doing what the money wants, the money will win every time.

The second is only incrementally less damning. The Obama administration knows that the oil spill will reflect badly on it. Even though the deregulation happened under Republican leadership (with a bit of Clinton). Even though the worst of the regulatory failures that led to the spill were the direct result of Bush-Cheney. The Republicans will blame Obama, and the press will "teach the controversy", and Obama will look bad.

And so, the administration's interest in keeping pictures of rotting dolphins and crispy turtles off the evening news perfectly aligns with BP's interest to do the same. And they know they can get away with it, because now that the media's been conditioned to accept military embedding and the "political correctness" of the word "torture", the odds are they'll roll over lest they risk their precious access, with only a bit of public griping.

And really, does it even matter what the reason is? They're doing it, and any possible reason they have for doing it falls under the broad subheading of "putting their own interests ahead of the truth". And while I can always be glad it isn't worse, it's something that'll never make me happy.