Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You're a jerk for saying I'm a jerk, jerk.

Using such brilliant scientific analysis tools like Facebook, I seem to be noticing an interesting trend in discussions about the BP oil spill.

See, there are jobs at stake here. People's way of life is being destroyed, jobs are at risk of disappearing never to return. Families are stricken with worry about what their future holds now that the BP's deep-water rig has spewed a whole mess of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. We are looking at a catastrophic loss of unemployment during a recession where jobs are already hard to find. And yet, these heartless, callous jerks don't seem to care about America's families. Instead, they only care about their own bottom line.

That's right, people that are pissed off at BP. You are complete assholes for attacking this poor, defenseless company.

Wait, you thought I was talking about effect this spill will have on the gulf coast fishermen? On Louisiana and Florida's tourism industry? Fucking birds? Don't be stupid; Birds don't work. And as for the rest, that's old news, and probably over-sensationalized by the media. I bet they just interview the same fisherman and give him different types of beards to wear. No, what I'm talking about are the vile, heartless environmental pansies cheering on the potential loss of employment of British Petroleum employees and distributors. Their refusal to accept the obligation to support BP at all costs will cause young children to live homeless and starving in the streets. And they don't care, because they hate young children. And puppies.

Yeah, I was a little taken back by this too. I mean, I get it. It's not a toothless argument. And it is cause for concern that some of these smaller, localized distributors are set on course for a pretty bleak road ahead.* What is interesting to me is that an argument against BP has apparently turned into some sort of perverse joy in watching a small business owner in Wisconsin lose everything, as if that were the whole point. That BP has done massive damage to this country, both environmentally and economically, is apparently an insignificant point, a mask to hide one's true goal of destroying the working man.

But this only works if you are of the opinion that jobs always outweigh concerns over a company's harmful behavior. If you are of the opinion that the public should never hold business to any sort of ethical standard, that's one thing. But that idea seems a bit ludicrous to me. I doubt you'd hear anyone defending GE on these grounds if they were found to use child labor ("Sure, it makes me uncomfortable that little Suzie may be blind now due to exploding glass ripping out her eyes, but if we don't buy their light bulbs anymore GE employees might become unemployed!"). If a company enjoyed discriminating against women or blacks, or frying up kittens for lunch breaks, or allowing business travelers to pick a free sexual slave to accompany them on business trips, would we still argue that it is unethical and callous to boycott them because doing so would put so many people out of work? Probably not. Yet with BP, this is not only an argument in support, it's meant to be an argument that shuts down all valid criticism of their practices, no matter how smarmy they may be.

But those that are upset with BP should continue to do so. It's not unreasonable to think it would be just if BP did not come out of this disaster alive (indeed, smaller companies have folded for less blatant offenses). It's a matter of values, and this is yet another example of environmentalism being cast off as trivial and unimportant, a newly minted liberal-academic non-issue in order to give meaning to an otherwise empty and lazy life. So sure, it may be that you don't see this spill as a large deal. But others apparently do, and they act accordingly with their own values. And that is the actual difference between your opinions, not that one wants to hurt families and the other does not. So to attempt to guilt those that disagree with that opinion as if they are callous or uncaring then yourself because they are holding BP to an ethical standard that matters to them can only be described as hypocritical.

It is clever though. People were pretty sad hearing all those stories about gulf fishermen who've had their way of life utterly destroyed, so it makes sense for BP supporters to play on that sentiment and try to flip it like the people upset about that destruction are the real jerks in this scenario, because what about the BP employees, huh?

It's like the adult version of "No Backsies".

* Of course, that sometimes the invisible hand of the free market tends to bitchslap folks sometimes is no reason to support failing companies. Anyone familiar with the oil industry knows that accidents like spills happen, as they have happened in the past, so will they happen in the future. The only mystery here really was when it would happen. So I can't really buy into the idea that they were unaware victims that were just gobsmacked that an oil spill happened (again), or that the public's perception of it would be negative and harm their own business (as it has to other companies in the past). They couldn't possibly be unaware that these sorts of risks existed. If they are not willing to deal with that risk, I'd question why they were in that sort of industry in the first place.

Our dependence on oil has been under fire for a while now. Alternative forms of energy poll favorably with the public, it is really only the lasting influence of the powerful oil lobby that keeps this dinosaur alive. And eventually, it will die. And will the jobs that come with it. But is that a reason to slow progress? It's like arguing that we never should have made innovations with the automobile because it was unfair to buggy makers. If BP falls, others will be there to take it's place, and the jobs will come back. Likewise, if big oil falls, others will be there to take it's place with new technologies, and the jobs will come back.

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