“If you are advertising any product, never see the factory in which it was made… Don’t watch the people at work… because, you see, when you know the truth about anything, the real inner truth – it is very hard to write the surface fluff that sells it.”
Helen Woodward, influential copywriter in the 1920’s
Maybe it was apt that on my journey to North London I passed a billboard that read ‘The Sunday Times Rich List’ out on the 29th April. A city that brazenly resonates as financial centre, pleasure hub and cultural wonder still fearlessly offers a striking contrast in the wealth and status of its inhabitants. We’re still being fluffed*.
*Fun facts: Fluffing is a practice in public relations of spinning a topic to present it in a positive light. Also, a fluffer is a makeup department role in pornography. Yikes. Although maybe not as big a contrast as it first seems…
No amount of hand wringing or public outrage will change this though. It’s never a good idea to start an article on a downer (I will never let a good idea stop or slow me down however…) but we live in a mad, dangerous world. Where anything – ideas, products, people and apparently the title of Sustainability Partner at the Olympics – can be bought or sold, packaged, re-packaged and re-sold.
Heavy. Ugh. I went all Naomi Klein on you for a second. I don’t even know how true the above is, but in the search for something we inevitably bump into (half-formed, nihilistic) opinions along the way. Well, that’s my excuse anyway. Also, it so happens, in my search for an ethic I bumped into a tribal leader from Papua, a mother from Utah, a mining union worker from the States, a Bhopali survivor, a tar sands campaign organiser from Canada and many others. I definitely came away feeling bruised. But it was a good bruising! The sort I imagine you get when initiated into a club or secret society… But what do I know; I’m still a little bit dazed & confused from the experience. Maybe that’s why I got lost trying to get out from the Amnesty International UK headquarters in Shoreditch.
This article is about the Olympics. Ha! Bet you didn’t think that after reading the first half. This is why we play two halves and have a half-time team talk. Game isn’t over until the final whistle. So huddle up, huddle up, huddle up. With 100 days until the Games start we need to crown a winner of the newly launched Greenwash Gold 2012 campaign.
Or loser. For Greenwash campaign purposes they kind of are the same. British Petroleum, Dow Chemical and Rio Tinto are at the start line… The gun has been fired (no, not at them, non-violent protest and all that)… and they are all limping and crawling towards the finish line. Only with our support and encouragement can they find the energy to carry on to be crowned as most unethical sponsor of London 2012. Woo, yeah! Has anyone got an official London 2012 Olympics towel? I think I might need to wipe the amount of sarcasm and loathing dripping from my brow.
It seems Helen Woodward’s words ring (or zing!) today as true as ever. The double lives of corporations are sustained upon a separation of affected communities and consumptive communities. We’re not meant to hear the stories or voices from Canada, Utah, Bhopal, Mongolia and the many others lost among the riptide of green-washing and positive fluff/press releases. But their voices are out there. Here are some handy links for those of you inclined to get a little bruised…
- Rod McGregor