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Behind the #ShellFail video hoax

Submitted by Tyee Staff, 11 Jun 2012


This video of a Shell public relations disaster where an older woman is covered in oil from a scale model of a deep-water drilling platform shot to the top of the Youtube charts last week.

The video was a prank, the work of the activist pranksters the Yes Men working with Greenpeace. They staged it to draw attention Shell's immiment plans to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic.

The video, filmed inside Seattle's Space Needle, captures what appears to be a Shell launch party. The model platform is supposed to pump drinks into guest glasses but malfunctions and sprays the guest of honour. The guest of honour is supposed to be the widow of the rig's designer but is actually 84-year-old Occupy activist Dorli Rainey, known for having been pepper-sprayed in the face by Seattle police during Occupy protests last fall, according to the Yes Men.

When it was published to Youtube, the video of the "malfunction," supposedly shot by Occupy "infiltrator" Logan Price, quickly reached the top spot on Reddit and the #2 spot on Youtube, according to the Yes Men release, in less than 24 hours.

In what has become standard Yes Men fashion, the group "sent out a press release on Shell's behalf, threatening anyone who reposted the video and attacking also the activists' brand-new " target="_blank"> website, which includes a social media ad generator and a dangerously addictive children's video game called Angry Bergs."

The website, also part of the prank, declares victory in the battle against the Arctic, implying that global warming is a benefit. The object of the video game is try to protect the platform from "angry" icebergs, though it is impossible to do so for more than a few seconds. When you fail, the game shows you how much money you made up to that point.

Said the Yes Lab news release:

"This experience shows that a few energized people can compete with the billions that Shell spends on advertising and lobbying," said James Turner from Greenpeace, who posed as an advertising executive at the event. "As people find out how this oil company is exploiting global warming to cause yet more global warming, thus endangering everyone, they won't allow it, no matter how many billions Shell has in its war chest."

And this:

"We know that climate change is putting the entire planet at risk," said Rainey. "It's our duty to stop companies like Shell from using fossil fuels as a lethal weapon—even if it means being sprayed again and again in the face."

See the behind-the-scenes video of the prank to the right.

The oil platform, The Kulluk, was built in 1983 by Mitsui, the same company that, two decades later, built the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon. Earlier this year, Mitsui paid out $90 million to the U.S. for its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Earlier this year, Shell obtained a legal injunction stopping any Greenpeace activist from coming within one kilometre of any Shell vessel, making traditional protest difficult.

The Yes Men should be familiar to many Canadians after staging a similar prank highlghting the government of Canada's backpedalling on climate targets during the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009.

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