Shell Oil, LEGO, Greenpeace and the Environmental Movement's War on Capitalism

Shell Oil, LEGO, Greenpeace and the Environmental Movement's War on Capitalism

I wonder whether Shell has yet sacked whichever pillock it was who advised them a few years back to sponsor the Guardian’s ferociously anti-fossil-fuel, anti-capitalist, anti-Shell Environment pages?

Knowing the craven, slippery, self-hating ways of Big Oil as I do, I’m guessing probably not. In fact it’s quite possible, he (or she?) used his degree in Yoghurt Weaving and Species Loss from the University of East Anglia (or similar) to help Shell prepare this Energy Strategy document I’ve just found on its website. There’s not so much about oil drilling in it, but an awful lot about sustainability, and biofuels, and CO2 emissions reductions and the utterly useless green technology of carbon capture and storage. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think you were reading the latest brochure from Greenpeace.

But if Shell seriously imagines this kind of greenwashing drivel is going to buy off the eco Nazis it’s got another think coming. As indeed it has just been painfully reminded by Greenpeace’s latest propaganda victory.

Greenpeace has bullied the Danish toy manufacturer LEGO into cancelling a $110 million marketing contract with Shell whereby, since 2011, Shell-branded LEGO toys have been sold at the company’s petrol stations.

There are lots of losers in this: LEGO’s family shareholders; the petrol stations which sold the toys; the kids who might, for a change, have been opened up to the possibility that the oil industry isn’t just synonymous with pure evil; Shell’s marketing department; freedom of choice; the capitalist system….

And only one winner: anti-capitalism.

Greenpeace has a lot of form here. It has been harassing Shell since at least 1995, when Greenpeace cooked up the Brent Spar controversy with its usual mix of bluster, moral posturing and mendacity. It has also greenmailed LEGO in the past, threatening it and bullying it into changing its wood pulp suppliers to ones approved by Greenpeace.

It would be hard to deny that Greenpeace is exceptionally good at what it does. This latest propaganda coup was the result of a brilliant video it made spoofing the Everything Is Awesome theme from the LEGO movie. Under the heading Everything is NOT Awesome, it showed an Arctic world made of LEGO being destroyed by Shell’s Arctic drilling (and a pinstriped capitalist with a cigar in his mouth) and, inevitably, lots of polar bears and huskies dying. The video went viral, garnering more than 5.8 million page views. At the same time, Greenpeace sent their bully crew down to the Legoland theme park near Windsor to bother the punters there with still more tendentious eco-propaganda. As a result of all this, over 750,000 people were persuaded to sign a petition urging LEGO to end its relationship with Shell. Which – after some initial, principled resistance from its likeable and talented CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp – it has now been forced to do.

Why is Greenpeace able to get away with this behaviour – more redolent of the Mafia mob than of a caring, nurturing environmental charity?

Because, at least in part, its business targets are complicit in their own destruction.

This is more or less what UK Chancellor George Osborne was getting at in a speech last week to the Institute of Directors.

He said to the assembled business leaders:

He’s right. Capitalism – the free market variety, though, not, unfortunately, its bastard cousins crony capitalism and corporatism – is in serious trouble right now. It’s unappreciated, overregulated and, instead of sticking up for it as they should, far too many of its proponents are either cowering in their dugouts or actively treating with the enemy instead of confronting him.

Perhaps the biggest threat of all to free market capitalism at the moment is the green movement. That’s because the “green” bit is merely a figleaf for its main preoccupation: undermining the capitalist system (because growth is bad and uses up scarce resources, mkay?).

For too long, big businesses like Shell have sought to escape the attentions of leftist attack dogs like Greenpeace (much as shopkeepers in Little Italy used to pay protection money to the Mob) by paying lip service to all the green orthodoxies and sponsoring worthy green causes. But it just doesn’t work because however much greenwashing it attempts, Shell will always be an oil company. And Greenpeace will always hate it – and try to destroy it – because Greenpeace hates oil companies.

Which is why I believe it’s long since time that companies like Shell learned the lesson of Alfred and the Danes.

If you keep paying Danegeld to the enemy, he won’t go away: he’ll just keep coming back for more Danegeld.

So the first step towards escaping this cycle of humiliation is to recognise who your enemy is and, instead of appeasing him, to face up to him and crush him.

Trust me, Shell. It’s the only language these bastards understand.


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