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Greenpeace viral video spoof: the new school of environmental protest

As reported by the L.A. Times, when a slickly produced video (above) that purportedly showed a Royal Dutch Shell event going horribly wrong ignited a media firestorm last week, it heralded the latest weapon environmentalists are using to protest their corporate targets: social media.

The video, which depicts a woman being doused in Diet Coke from a malfunctioning ice sculpture bearing the Shell corporate logo, was realistic enough that some media outlets, including Gizmodo, were compelled to report on it as though it actually happened.

The Funny or Die-style parody produced by Greenpeace in conjunction with anti-corporate activists the Yes Men was in response to a very serious preliminary injunction recently issued by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason after Shell filed a series of motions looking to keep Greenpeace away from two Arctic drilling sites. With the injunction, potential protestors who stray within a kilometer of either site or half a kilometer of any accompanying Shell vessel would face serious federal penalties, far beyond the usual trespassing charges.

"Certainly this injunction we are faced with demanded some new thinking, and I guess the tactics needed to counter an international oil campaign have to be creative," Greenpeace USA spokesman James Turner said to the L.A. Times about the campaign. "Social media offers us the opportunity to use humor and inventiveness to reach people in a way that hopefully entertains and engages them, while making a serious point at the same time."

“I usually try not to tweet things that aren’t real,” wrote Logan Price, the environmental activist/Occupy Wall Street protestor who shot the video in an Alaska Dispatch essay about the situation. “In fact, under normal circumstances, I try to be a good internet citizen and do everything I can to avoid passing on fake stories. Wednesday’s event, where I took the staged, now viral, #ShellFAIL video at the Seattle Space Needle, was obviously an exemption to that rule -- but one I considered carefully, and was glad to take.”

Logan goes on to explain the substantial impact of Arctic drilling, specifically examining what the devastating results when crude oil is released into the environment by way of spills.

“To believe that Shell (or the other oil companies that will follow them) is not going to spill in the Arctic some day, and that if they do they will somehow be able to contain and clean it,” he added, “means buying into a PR and lobbying campaign that they have spent billions on just to make you not think about it too much.”