Slamming the Slam
In December 2013 we smuggled a fake scientist into a greenwashing PR event show by Shell. But instead of the promised air cleaning magic device, the evening ended in an oil catastrophe.
We started Slam Shell as a joke. Some friends were telling us about the opportunity to apply for this ridiculously transparent greenwashing event of the world’s leading oil company that everyone hates. It sounded like fun to use their stage to make fun of them and so we met for a quick brainstorm on how to apply. Only after several weeks it became clear to us that this would turn out way bigger than we anticipated.
As it turned out the application process was easier than expected. Two of our nerdy biology and physics friends told us all about polymeric substrate-bound ethanolamine and how we could trick the staff of the Shell event with a fake carbon capture storage module for cars. It worked out perfectly and they were very happy to invite us when we claimed to be students wanting to develop a car that is cleaning the air instead of polluting it. So desperate to re-legitimatize themselves, they would believe the most absurd ideas.
The next two weeks before the show were extremely busy. We had to build a machine that would look like an air-cleaning module and design the impersonated video-production team. Every time the people from the greenwashing-event management called, we had to talk really seriously and suppress our laughs. But then, in our research on who we were talking to, we noticed it was not just a crappy multinational company. As it turned out, Shell is not just any company doing some dirty business. They are the worst.
Shell, having a revenue of US$ 451.235 billion in 2013, is severely intervening in the Niger-Delta’s infrastructure and never took any responsibility for the damage done. Whole areas are suffering under oil spills destroying the environment and people’s livinghoods. The company was infiltrating the Nigerian government just as soon as the democracy was building up and even supporting paramilitary groups to brute force populations that where in their way of oil drills. It would now take about 50 years to clean up the mess they have created in the name of profit. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions and cleaning up, they choose to organise competitions and design renewable energy campaigns to convince people they care. Meanwhile they move ahead with plans to start drilling the Arctic.
And that’s not all. Guess who was operating this greenwashing mission for them? Burson-Marsteller, a public relations agency who specialise covering up the dirty secrets of those responsible for major human rights violations. They are the agency who took care of the Argentinian military junta’s PR, after they killed 70 000 dissidents in the 70s, They also polished the image of Romania under the dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu to get some more tourists into the country. After Indonesia fought a bloody invasion of East Timor, they again arrived on the scene to clean up. After 2000 people died in Bhopal, India, thanks to Union Carbide´s contamination of the water, Burson-Marsteller got paid instead of the people, who still suffer today, getting compensated. They’ve worked for Facebook, Blackwater, Nestle…the list goes on like that.
So here we were, on stage with two psychotic companies, preparing a major surprise.