The Mediation Times


The hypocrisy of the “hate BP tirade”

by Amanda on June 16, 2010

I am as devastated by and as concerned about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as even the “greenest of the green”. I am equally disturbed by the relentless hate machine that has gathered pace. It is as if the reality of the disaster has been subsumed in a global fixation of blame and nasty rhetoric. Does anyone else feel the same?

Cleaning off the oil is a long job.

On a recent trip to Greece I photographed a beautiful bird who had obviously been caught up in an oil spill somewhere, possibly not the same one, but who knows. I watched this lovely creature, spirited and persistent, try to clean itself and I felt helpless. The locals were feeding it, and it seemed to be “getting there” but how I wished I had the where with all to clean it properly and help it back to independence.

Against the background of a really beautiful port with clean water it was hard to imagine the devastation some 4000 miles away, but imagine it I did.

We can’t imagine all the consequences but one thing I do know is that the people who work for BP are human beings, with faults and shortcomings and there are many more people affected than just the few at the top; all BP employees are dealing with the consequences of this disaster and I am sure that there will be those suffering real abuse.

The proportion of the available resources now being diverted to defend the reputation of the company is, to my mind, a direct consequence of the attacks and backlash – the “hate BP tirade”. BP exists because we need oil. Whatever story we tell ourselves we are all responsible for the disaster. Nothing comes without risks.

We all carry the responsibility for the oil spill. Anyone who travels by bus, train or plane, uses cosmetics, enjoys their iPod, cleans their house or carries their groceries home in a plastic carrier bag is part of the story. We cannot distance ourselves from the consequences of consumer products nor should we lash out at companies that make a profit from servicing our needs and pile on the agony simply because it is a convenient focus for general discontent. Attacking people makes them less likely to be transparent.

There are difficult decisions to be made and I for one would rather BP spend the money on looking after the natural world than buying keywords so they can manage the media. They must manage the media else a very large employer and significant part of many pension portfolios will suffer. That means countless “(wo)men in the street”.

The conflict between safety and commercial success is an endless challenge for many industries. From my own experience, the oil industry has lead the field in safety leadership for many years. We owe a good deal of our knowledge about behaviour at work from the research that oil companies were prepared to invest in and each and every one of us has benefited from that learning and investment. If you have traveled on a train in the UK – that means you.

Joe Markowitz
Joe Markowitz

Of course it is our insatiable demand for oil that makes all of us responsible in some way for this disaster. On the other hand, it was BP's responsibility to conduct its operations safely, and BP seems to have failed at that, and in fact has admitted full responsibility for the explosion and the immense damage it is causing. People probably cross the line when they express hatred for a company, but people also have a strong need to blame someone, particularly someone who has actually accepted the blame, and people don't exactly rush to acknowledge their own responsibility. Of course we mediators want to get people past the blame stage and on to the stage of constructively solving problems, but to get past it, you probably need to let people express their outrage at BP's conduct.

And maybe you would not feel quite as concerned about all of the anger toward BP if you imagined what would happen if an American company had blown up an oil rig off the pristine coast of Scotland. No doubt the British would be expressing a bit of anger and even hatred at whomever was responsible for such an event.

You might also feel better if you listen to what Obama said about this tragedy. He does not slide into anger, but does demand that BP accept responsibility, and he also does get around to saying that we all bear some responsibility for our addiction to oil. People aren't quite ready to hear that last part yet.

Adam | SEE
Adam | SEE


So glad that you wrote this post. Yes, I feel the same. I have many friends and acquaintances in New Orleans. Trying to have a conversation about the shared interests of BP and the Gulf Coast residents has been impossible. My prediction is that the hate BP tirade will likely prove detrimental to their long term interests in many yet to be seen ways.

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