Leaked Audio Files Reveal Oil Lobby's Effort to Fake Grassroots Support in Bad TV Ads (Video)

Greenpeace USA/via

Ever wonder what the behind-the-scenes action is like on the set of those cheesy 'grassroots' political ads? You know, the ones where 'average Americans'--soccer moms, plaid-shirted guys loading stuff into trucks, etc--tell you why they support this or that initiative or are angry at a sitting politician for x or y? Of course, you say, but I usually just try to tune them out. We all do.

So perhaps it won't exactly blow your mind to discover--they're just actors! Reading from a script! Who'da thunk it? And I trusted you, guy-loading-stuff-into-truck!

Greenpeace USA has obtained some audio files that document conversations between an American Petroleum Institute rep (the oil industry's chief lobbying group) and a CNN ad buyer. And API's deed here is a little more despicable than the usual phony talking head stuff. From Greenpeace's report:

Audio recorded during an American Petroleum Institute (API) commercial shoot reveals how the oil industry plans to stage citizen support for its agenda to influence the 2012 elections. The ads, which API officials said will launch in January and air during CNN's election coverage, aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry's agenda. However, audio recordings taken by activists inside the TV commercial shoot reveal that the ads are highly scripted, as one production assistant said: "the director feeds them the lines" after they "put them in costumes."

Audio recordings also expose API fretting about what "opponents of the oil and natural gas industry" could use against them with these ads, as well as one Greenpeace activist who refused to read from the script and expressed his own opinions to API. Additional audio recordings taken during the same API ad shoot by the Checks and Balances Project reveal how any deviation from its script was refused, despite the invitation for participants to "express their views in a Commercial Spot on American Made Energy!

In other words, there was a half-hearted call for folks who wanted to speak their mind about energy issues, but it turns out the whole thing was scripted. The audio was obtained when a Greenpeace activist showed up at the event to participate. Watch:

API, of course, is hoping to dress the whole thing up as evidence of bona fide popular support for the oil industry.

"The oil industry's agenda is extremely unpopular - keeping huge taxpayer subsidies while raking in tens of billions in profits, blocking clean energy and climate change policies, and keeping America addicted to fossil fuels by expanding tar sands pipelines, fracking, and offshore oil drilling," Greenpeace Research Director Kert Davies said in a statement. "That's why the American Petroleum Institute has to fake citizen support for Big Oil's agenda with these scripted ads and astroturf front groups."

They can--and wil--try. But given that these things always generally turn out in the same, overly unctuous vein, I'm not sure we have to be too worried about the general public thinking that there's a grassroots uprising to support the oil industry anytime soon. It's just sad. And pathetic. Guess the multibillion-dollar industry couldn't find any 'average Americans' with anything nice to say about oil on their own ...

Tags: Activism | Oil | United States

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