The trouble with some people, said the late Ronald Reagan, is not that they’re ignorant. It’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.
In 1990, Michael Moore released his documentary Roger and Me, in which he futilely pursued Roger Smith, the chairman of General Motors. Moore wanted to ask Smith why he closed the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, ushering in devastation and decline.
“It is a kind of David and Goliath revenge story, in which a modest, plain-speaking nobody triumphs morally over an evil corporate giant,” said The New York Times. Roger and Me was what journalists call “a story too good to check.” After all, it was the ‘80s, and GM was the greedy corporation everyone loved to hate.
But those days are long gone. After decades of attacks in the media, GM is on life support—in part because this supposedly evil entity is so generous to its retired employees. The corporate whipping boy du jour is BP.
BP is seeking approval to expand its refinery in Oregon, Ohio, just west of Toledo, which it jointly owns with Husky Energy. The Toledo Blade, the only major newspaper in town, has offered up one-sided coverage of the project.
“BP’s recent history of major health, safety, and environmental violations warrants review…BP incurred a record $4.5 billion federal fine stemming from criminal violations from the Gulf spill,” the Blade editorialized in December.
The editorial staff used the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to imply that BP is a bad corporate citizen, one that will take risks with workers’ health and safety at the Oregon refinery—and wreck the environment as well. The citizen activist group Occupy Toledo made vague accusations that the refinery is “dirty” and dangerous.
“BP has shown utter disregard for safety with its poor record of safety equipment that resulted in loss of life in Texas City, Texas, and the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf, resulting in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history,” activist Keith Sadler told Toledo News Now. “They have continued the same pattern here.”
Have they? To find out, I met with the Toledo Boilermakers at their union headquarters—and they offered a very different picture of BP-Husky than Occupy Toledo.
“The anti-BP groups sound like Chicken Little,” said boilermaker Paul McGrew. He said opposition to the refinery expansion is rooted in anti-corporate bias. “It’s a transgression that they’re making money.” On the other hand, “[BP] also offers a very good living wage.”
Isn’t that what Occupy Toledo, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, says it wants for workers?