Would would have thought that oil barons — of all people! — would be involved in dirty back-room dealings to gorge their gobs with even more swill from the trough? From the Guardian:
“The London offices of BP and Shell have been raided by European regulators investigating allegations they have ‘colluded’ to rig oil prices for more than a decade. The European commission said its officers carried out ‘unannounced inspections’ at several oil companies in London, the Netherlands and Norway to investigate claims they may have ‘colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency [PRA] to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products … It warned: ‘Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers.'”
Of course, these manipulations of “self-policing” mechanisms for setting prices are endemic across the economic heights commanded by our most illustrious financial and industrial elites, as Matt Taibbi noted last month. And I’m sure the dastardly deeds of the oil companies in fixing prices will be dealt with just as harshly and thoroughly as the recent Libor scandal was: with a few chump-change fines that put not the slightest crimp in the criminals’ operations nor impeded their ready access to the inner circles (and outer fundraisers) of government power.
So while continuing a fierce vigilance against the relentless encroachments of an unhinged, unrestrained and openly murderous government, let us also recognize that the “free market” — often posited as some kind of purer alternative to the state, a mystic realm where the free play of individual desires and activities combine ineffably to produce the best of all possible worlds — is, and always has been, a rigged game where vicious predators seek tyrannical control, by hook, crook and vast corruption, shackling the “free play of individual desires and activities” in every way possible to squeeze out more unjust advantage for themselves.
Of course, the “state” and the “free market” are simply two halves of the same rough beast. The modern “free market’ is the result of massive, continual and pervasive state intervention on its behalf — that is, on behalf of the vicious predators exercising tyrannical control of economic activity — while the state is in practice little more than a vehicle for elite aggrandizement. (Yes, even in America, even from the very beginning. For more, see this piercing piece by Arthur Silber, in which he points us to the remarkable book by Terry Boulton, Taming Democracy: “The People,” the Founders, and the Troubled Ending of the American Revolution, which I highly recommend .) If they don’t get you with one head, they’ll get you with the other.
Or as the old song says: “nobody save you now.”
In Shell’s case, a vast amount of information, which fully met Wikipedia guidelines, but was deemed damaging to Shell’s reputation, has been either covertly removed, or removed in dubious circumstances by editors hiding their identity behind an alias, as they are allowed to do. Royal Dutch Shell articles on Wikipedia are, in my experience, regularly patrolled and edited by individuals sympathetic to Shell. Most of the articles have been deleted in their entirety.
According to a recent cnet.com news report, BP’s press office has been accused of a behind the scenes operation allegedly rewriting an estimated 44 percent of the oil giant’s Wikipedia page: BP accused of rewriting environmental record on Wikipedia
BP is not directly editing its page, but instead has apparently inserted a BP representative into the editing community who provides Wikipedia editors with text.
The text is then copied “as is” onto the page by Wikipedia editors. Readers might assume its unbiased information when its, in fact, vetted by higher-ups at BP before hitting the page.
BP is a mere novice and a paragon of virtue compared with Royal Dutch Shell when it comes to the manipulation of Wikipedia articles, when negative information is deleted without the public being aware of such censorship by the company that is the subject of the article.
In Shell’s case, a vast amount of information which fully met Wikipedia guidelines, but was deemed damaging to Shell’s reputation, has been either covertly removed, or removed in dubious circumstances by editors hiding their identity behind an alias, as they are allowed to do.
Such practices should not be permitted in relation to articles about companies.
Articles about Royal Dutch Shell published on Wikipedia are, in my experience, regularly patrolled and edited by individuals sympathetic to Shell. Most of the articles have been deleted in their entirety.
I first warned about such activity on 12 October 2010. I published an article (extracts included herein) containing the warning: “…it is only a matter of time before the culture of subterfuge and deception at Wikipedia results in a scandal.”
This is the complete paragraph:
Commonsense suggests that anyone who wishes to edit a Wikipedia article in which monetary considerations are involved should be compelled to disclose their identity and background so that the information can be exposed to public scrutiny. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before the culture of subterfuge and deception at Wikipedia results in a scandal.
My prediction soon came to pass.
The following is an extract from a December 2011 article headlined: “PR Firm Rewrites Clients’ Wikipedia Entries“
So much for reliable Wikipedia content. A high-powered British PR firm routinely rewrites Wikipedia content relating to its clients, reports the Independent. Bell Pottinger made hundreds of changes in Wiki entries over the last year, either adding positive comments or deleting negative ones about clients. At least ten contributing writer accounts linked to the firm have been suspended by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who blasted the firm’s “ethical blindness,” reports the Financial Times. Undercover reporters for the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism posing as clients were told by representatives of the PR firms that “sorting” Wikipedia entries is part of the service the company offers, notes the newspaper.
Removal of negative information means that the public, including current and potential shareholders, are presented with incomplete, censored information, providing a distorted picture of a featured company.
This is a quote from what he said:
As the founder of MyWikiBiz, I am someone who has, and continues to, manipulate information in Wikipedia on behalf of paying clients. Call it dirty work, but for the most part, I think the way the Wikimedia Foundation is scamming the public about how it is (not) governing the worlds knowledge is a far worse state of affairs.
I have also noted a more recent related article published in September 2012 under the headline: Corruption in Wikiland? Paid PR scandal erupts at Wikipedia
It is obvious from moves made by Shell that the oil giant attaches great value to its online reputation, which is badly tarnished due to a succession of scandals.
Shell appointed a specialist agency to carry out a makeover of Shell’s online reputation.
Shell was obsessed by my editing of Wikipedia articles relating to the company and wanted to edit the articles itself, but was concerned about being caught.
Shell employees were caught doing so from Shell premises.
Shell secretly censored postings made on its own Internet forum – “Tell Shell” – set up on the basis of inviting “open and transparent dialogue”.
Shell has attempted to seize our domain name and close this website down.
My comments are based on my own experience over several years of originating and editing Wikipedia articles.
Wikipedia articles are supposedly written by open and transparent consensus. In reality, Wikipedia is built on a platform of secrecy and concealment, which leaves articles wide open to censorship and manipulation by anonymous parties, with commercially driven motives.
Unpaid volunteers who act as Wikipedia administrators and editors are supposedly the bedrock on which Wikipedia has been built. It is a mostly-secretive community in which the vast majority of volunteers edit using aliases and are free to edit any articles, without anyone having a clue about who they are and what their background is. Thus it is impossible to determine if they have a potential conflict of interest.
This cloaked army has power and influence, but no realistic accountability. If banned from editing they can return under a new alias using a new IP address, with no bad odor attached. In other words, a completely fresh start. I was banned for making strong representations about the dark side of Wikipedia on this website and internally on Wikipedia.
The strange Wikipedian culture has some similarity to the Ku Klux Klan (fortunately without the racist element) but is actually more secretive. The privacy of those choosing to keep secret all information about who they are is maintained within the Wikipedia community, which is even developing its own unique language, partly in response to skulduggery by some editors.
In April 2008, I published a discussion from our Live Chat facility revealing that WikiScanner had detected that Wikipedia articles relating to Royal Dutch Shell had been anonymously edited from Shell premises. According to a posted comment “Information critical of Shell was systematically removed”.
As to Shell’s obsession with my past editing of Wikipedia, here is the proof in authentic Shell internal documents. Some information has been redacted for legal reasons.
LINKS TO SHELL INTERNAL EMAILS & DOCS IN WHICH ROYAL DUTCH SHELL WIKIPEDIA ARTICLES ARE MENTIONED IN RELATION TO JOHN DONOVAN
1 March 2007
2 March 2007 16:13 & 18.56 Plus 3 March 18:01
2 March 2007 16:51
19 March 2007 18.43 20 March 2007 8:10
23 March 2007
6 June 2007 12:51
SUNDAY 29 July 2007 11:31 & 30 July 2007 8:19 AM
30 July 2007 22:38 & 7 August 2007 14.24
31 August 2007 16:17
12 October 2007 15:21 & 15:58
16 October 2007
26 December 2007
19 February 2008 4 Pages
4 April 2008
9 March 2009
8 April 2009
8 July 2009
18 December 2009 11.34:
18 December 2009 12.07
Shell Focal Point document Donovan Campaign Against Shel
By John Donovan
Bradley Manning & The Deepwater Horizon
Three years ago this month, on the 20th of April, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew itself to kingdom come.
Soon thereafter, a message came in to our office’s chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, from a person I dare not name, who was floating somewhere in the Caspian Sea along the coast of Baku, Central Asia.
The source was in mortal fear he’d be identified – and with good reason. Once we agreed on a safe method of communication, he revealed this: 17 months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon blew out and exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig suffered an identical blow-out in the Caspian Sea.
Crucially, both the Gulf and Caspian Sea blow-outs had the same identical cause: the failure of the cement “plug”.
To prevent blow-outs, drilled wells must be capped with cement. BP insisted on lacing its cement with nitrogen gas – the same stuff used in laughing gas – because it speeds up drying.
Time is money, and mixing some nitrogen gas into the cement saves a lot of money.
However, because BP’s penny-pinching method is so damn dangerous, they are nearly alone in using it in deep, high-pressure offshore wells.
The reason: nitrogen gas can create gaps in the cement, allow methane gas to go up the borehole, fill the drilling platform with explosive gas – and boom, you’re dead.
So, when its Caspian Sea rig blew out in 2008, rather than change its ways, BP simply covered it up.
Our investigators discovered that the company hid the information from its own shareholders, from British regulators and from the US Securities Exchange Commission. The Vice-President of BP USA, David Rainey, withheld the information from the US Senate in a testimony he gave six months before the Gulf deaths. (Rainey was later charged with obstruction of justice on a spill-related matter.)
Britain’s Channel 4 agreed to send me to the benighted nation of Azerbaijan, whose waters the earlier BP blow-out occurred in, to locate witnesses who would be willing to talk to me without getting “disappeared”. (They didn’t talk, but they still disappeared.)
And I was arrested. Some rat had tipped off the Security Ministry (the official name of the Department of Torture here in this Islamic Republic of BP). I knew I’d get out quick, because throwing a reporter of Her Majesty’s Empire into a dungeon would embarrass both BP and the Azeri oil-o-crats.
The gendarmes demanded our film, but I wasn’t overly concerned: Before I left London, Badpenny handed me one of those Austin Powers camera-in-pens, on which I’d loaded all I needed. But I did fear for my witnesses left behind in Azerbaijan – and for my source in a tiger cage in the USA: Pvt Bradley Manning.
Manning could have saved their lives
Only after I dove into deep water in Baku did I discover, trolling through the so-called “WikiLeaks” documents, secret State Department cables released by Manning. The information was stunning: the US State Department knew about the BP blow-out in the Caspian and joined in the cover-up.
Apparently BP refused to tell its own partners, Chevron and Exxon, why the lucrative Caspian oil flow had stopped. Chevron bitched to the office of the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. (George Bush’s cabinet member should not be confused with the 129,000-tonne oil tanker “Condoleezza Rice”, which Chevron named after their former board member.)
The US Ambassador in Baku got Chevron the answer: a blow-out of the nitrogen-laced cement cap on a giant Caspian Sea platform. The information was marked “SECRET”. Apparently loose lips about sinking ships would help neither Chevron nor the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, the beneficiary of millions of dollars in payments of oil company baksheesh.
So what about Bradley Manning?
Manning has been charged with “aiding the enemy” – a crime punishable by death.
But Manning’s sole and only purpose was to get out the truth. It wasn’t Manning who wrote the cover-up memos, he merely wanted to get them to the victims: us.
And since when did the public become “the enemy”?
Had Manning’s memos come out just a few months earlier, the truth about BP’s deadly drilling methods would have been revealed, and there’s little doubt BP would have had to change its ways. Those eleven men could well have been alive today.
Did Manning know about this particular hush-hush cable about BP’s blow-out when he decided he had to become Paul Revere and warn the planet?
That’s unlikely, in the thousands of cables he had. But he’d seen enough evidence of murder and mendacity in other cables, so, as Manning, under oath, told a court, he tried to give it all to the New York Times to have knowledgeable reporters review the cables confidentially for life-saving information.
The New York Times immediately seized on this extraordinary opportunity… to ignore Manning. The Times only ran it when the Guardian was going to scoop – and embarrass – the New York hacks.
Though there are limits. While reporter David Leigh put the story of BP’s prior blow-out on page one of the Guardian, neither the New York Times or any other major US news outlet ran the story of the blow-out and oil industry cover-up. No surprise there, though – the most “prestigious” US news programme, PBS Newshour, was sponsored by… Chevron Corporation.
Hanging their source while taking his applause
As a working journalist, and one whose head is likely to be in the foggy gun-sights of some jet jockey or a dictator’s goon squad, I have more than a little distaste for toffs like New York Times’ former executive editor, columnist Bill Keller, who used Manning documents to cash in on a book deal and land star turns on television while simultaneously smearing his source Manning as, “troubled”, “emotionally fractured”, “vague”, “inchoate” and – cover the children’s ears – “gay”.
Furthermore, while preening about their revelations from the Manning documents, the Times had no problem with imprisoning their source. I do acknowledge that the Times and Keller did editorialise that a sentence of life imprisonment without parole would be “overkill”. How white of them.
When it was mentioned that Manning is no different from Daniel Ellsberg, the CIA operative who released the Pentagon Papers, Keller reassured that the Times also told Ellsberg he was “on his own” and did not object to their source being charged as a spy.
And the Times’ much-lauded exposure of the My Lai massacre? My late good friend, the great investigative reporter Ron Ridenhour, who gave the story to Seymour Hersh, told me that he and Hersh had to effectively blackmail the Times into printing it.
Manning: aid to the enemy?
Times man Keller writes that Manning, by going to “anti-American” WikiLeaks, threatened the release of, “information that might get troops in the field or innocent informants killed”.
This is the same Bill Keller who admits that he knew his paper’s reports in 2003 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction were completely false, but that he – as editor – covered up his paper’s knowledge their WDM stories were simply bogus. Those stories validated the Bush propaganda and helped tip the political balance to invade Iraq. Four-thousand US soldiers died. I guess the idea is that releasing information that kills troops is criminal, but that dis-information that kills troops is quite acceptable.
Maybe I’m just cranky because I wouldn’t have seen my own sources vanish and my film grabbed if the Times had only run the Manning facts about BP and Caspian when they had the chance.
Look, I’m only picking on the New York Times and PBS Newshour because they are the best in America, God help us.
What other lives could have been saved by the Manning revelations? Lots. Watch this space: I promise more aid to the enemies of the state – which is YOU.
Greg Palast investigated the BP Deepwater Horizon deaths for Channel 4 Television UK. Those dispatches are contained in his highly acclaimed book Vultures’ Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.
His other books are the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse
In recent years, BP has spent a lot of money trying to convince the world it had moved ‘Beyond Petroleum’. But having junked its solar energy programme, and been responsible for one of the largest oil spills in history, the only thing left that’s green about this huge multinational corporation is its famous logo. With its entrance into the tar sands, it’s safe to say that Beyond Petroleum has gone Back to Petroleum…
BP has recently dived into its first big Tar Sands extraction venture. The Sunrise Project, a partnership with Husky Energy, will pump out a planet-destroying 3 billion barrels of oil, whilst polluting the local environment and creating serious health and safety concerns for local First Nations communities.
Despite opposition from environmental groups, First Nations communities, climate activists, pension groups and concerned UK citizens they have decided to go ahead with the Sunrise Project. However, no oil will be extracted until at least 2013, so there is still time to stop the project from going ahead.
The Sunrise Project is set to produce 200,000 barrels per day by 2014. Sunrise will use so-called SAG-D (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage), where water is superheated into steam with vast amounts of natural gas, then injected deep into the earth to melt” the oil from the sand and clay.