The anti-pipeline advocate’s guide to dealing with the media
By Tony Wilson
Thank you for being “citizen advocates” and lending your voice to help stop the construction of more pipelines to ship Alberta oil to the B.C. coast. We need all of you to be available for radio and TV interviews to challenge the erroneous belief that oil pipelines will protect our standard of living, give badly needed jobs to northerners, help pay for our social services and allow us to keep driving to work. Here are some helpful hints to help you “stay on message.”
Most of you are not engineers or scientists. So what? Even though you may not have known there’s been a pipeline under your feet since the 1950’s shipping Alberta oil to Burnaby, remember to stay on message: all pipelines are bad. All oil is bad. All fossil fuels are bad. If the interviewer asks how Canadians will fuel their cars to get to work, or harvest crops, or manufacture products without oil, blame the government, then mention windmills, and hope the interview ends.
You might be asked this question: “Given the horrible safety record of shipping oil by rail, aren’t pipelines much safer?” Say no, and immediately bring up the BP and the Exxon Valdez spills, which have nothing whatsoever to do with pipelines, but may use up your valuable interview time. If your time isn’t up yet, bring up windmills and powering cars with garbage using “Mr. Fusion.”
Some interviewers may use “Gotcha Journalism,” asking “do you drive your kids to hockey practice,” “how do you get to work today” or “you look so tanned… where did you just fly in from… Hawaii?” These are tricks so you admit that you still regularly use fossil fuels to drive your car and that you are personally adding to greenhouse gasses. So channel your inner Basil Faulty: “Don’t mention the war.” Tell them you bicycled to the interview, and you bicycle your kids to hockey practice at 4.30 a.m. in the snow. Tell them you’d gladly take the kids to hockey at 4:30 a.m. using transit, but shift blame to the local and provincial governments for not running electric busses that early or having Skytrain stations that go nonstop from your front door directly to the rink.
You might also be put on the spot by interviewers who have read Ezra Levant’s book “Ethical Oil,” where Levant says that oil from democratic, “Rule of Law” abiding Canada, is more ethical than oil from despotic theocracies that torture and murder their citizens, oppress women, discriminate against minorities, have non-existent environmental standards, support terrorism, and don’t follow the Rule of Law. This is an excellent argument, so throw some non-sequiturs around as countermeasures and quickly change the topic. Remember when Al Gore spoke in in Toronto and was asked the same question?
He said there is no ethical oil, just dirty and dirtier oil, which is a bogus answer given that he flies everywhere adding to greenhouse gasses, but it’s the only answer we have right now. So stick to that sound bite, or say Canadian oil is worse, and hope the interview ends. Someone is bound to say that pipeline expansion and the sale of tar sands oil to China will lead to more jobs and tax revenue in Canada that will help support healthcare and education and will give job opportunities to citizens of northern B.C. Tell them, with righteous indignation, that “China can buy its oil from someone else,” “we don’t need dirty oil money” and that “citizens of Kitimat and Prince Rupert are solidly behind us.” “Solid” is a useful, squishy word that can mean anything. Use it a lot.
We all know oil is dirty, so you might be asked about the benefits of Hydro. Under no circumstances should you support the Site C Dam in your interview, so move the topic away from how many TVs, laptops, iPhones, microwaves, Xbox’s, toasters and other electronic devices you have in your home. Discuss the damage to fish and wildlife habitat. Bring up windmills again, speak glowingly about “Mr. Fusion,” and hope the interview ends.
The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony Wilson and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.