Turning Fans Into Fools

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Journalism 101: Dog bites man isn’t news. But man bites dog is. 

Maybe that’s why yet another story about banking malfeasance—“Consumer Watchdog Fines Capital One for Deceptive Credit Card Practices”—didn’t surprise me this morning. 

Sadly, we’ve come to expect stories about corporate deceptions. (Dog bites man.) But we don’t expect social and environmental organizations to employ the same lies. (Man bites dog.)

Greenpeace, with the help of YesLabs and the Yes Men, may have crossed that line with a cunning campaign to protest Shell’s controversial proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic. 

The groups’ culture-jamming tactics—which include faux Shell anouncements, events, ads and social media responses—are both funny and familiar. What’s new is that the tactics are now duping supporters as well as the media. 

I fell for this prank video of a “private arctic launch party” last month and tweeted about it (above), fortunately with wisp of skepticism. This week, scores of Twitter users were hoodwinked again by a hoax @ShellIsPrepared account, prompting a flurry of snarky “Shell sucks” retweets and embarrassed retractions. 

Lesson for Greenpeace: Making fun of corporations (“laughtivism”) may be funny. But making fools of your own supporters is not. As one commenter on Greenpeace’s site complained:

There goes my trust in yet another organisation that claims to speak the direct, honest truth.” 

When man bites dog, count on the dog biting back.