When ExxonMobil Gags American Dissent

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (©Mannie Garcia/ Greenpeace)

Sunday’s Forward on Climate rally may be the largest climate justice rally in U.S. history. And why not? Isn’t it in everyone’s self interest to reverse global warming and get our planet back to a healthy temperature equivalent of our 98.6F?

Apparently not.

Last week The Other 98%, Oil Change International, and Environmental Action (all pro-human life groups for restoring climate health) put their heads together and crowdfunded a satirical Public Service Announcement to air on FOX during President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Didn’t see it? Missed the 30 seconds of climate sanity on prime time television? So did everyone. A few hours before airtime,  Exxon threatened Comcast with a “cease and desist” order.

According to reports, the ad was scheduled to air Tuesday in Houston, Texas, and Denver, Colo. But a senior vice president of Universal McCann, global media lackeys for Exxon Mobil, sent an email to Comcast, which provides programming in those areas.

“Please let this serve as an official cease & desist notification that claims made by Oil Change International that their claims in any spot that ‘ExxonMobil Hates Your Children‘ is false and unsubstantiated,” the email stated. ” ExxonMobil fully expects the spot in question to be pulled down immediately,” the email continued. “Any delay in executing this cease & desist will be viewed as willful defamation and slander of the Exxon Mobil Corporation and will result in aggressive action.” At last count the ad has been viewed over 195,000 times on YouTube. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

Why do the most powerful people in the world always have the most sensitive egos? Why? Because of organizing rule #273: “If you think something is too small to matter, you’ve obviously never been in a tent with a mosquito.” And because of the Margaret Mead codicil: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

At tomorrow’s rally on the National Mall, there also will be “Light Brigade” counter-protestors, who are members of an anti-Christian, Libertarian, for-profit company called the Center for Industrial Progress (CIP) and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). (Their founder was proudly trained at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California.)

As a for-profit company, CIP and CFACT don’t have to reveal their financials, but they are part of the ground troops hired by the oil and gas industry – and funded by the Koch brothers – to disrupt conversation on climate change.

As long as there is no coherent public conversation on climate change then there can be no public consensus. As long as there is no public consensus, there can be public pressure to remove oil industry subsidies.

As long as American tax payers subsidize oil companies, we won’t seriously invest in renewable energy and a low-carbon energy future. And that, my friends, is in Exxon et al’s best interest.

So tomorrow, we are having a country-wide town hall meeting on the National Mall at noon. We’ll talk about reversing global warming, how to get the boot of the oil and gas industry off our necks and off our land, the need for jobs, living wages, strong labor union, protecting tribal lands, the Keystone XL, John Kerry, and renewable energy.

We’ll have the conversation that Exxon  tried to silence; the conversation that President Obama wants to have but can’t (because of the boot). We’ll have that conversation because we’re Americans, dammit, that’s what we do.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning?, is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor.

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