Attacking the Messenger: Smearing "Gasland" Producer Josh Fox

Josh FoxGasland, a documentary film that exposes the dangers accompanying methane gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region, has been mercilessly attacked by Big Oil since the film was released during the summer of 2010. The attacks have only escalated both in intensity and volume as the film has grown in popularity and acclaim, reaching their peak when it was announced that the film was a candidate for Best Documentary at the 2011 Academy Awards.

While most of the spin has centered around factual misinformation about fracking, utilizing the prototypical Big Oil, Big Lies playbook tactic, Big Oil has now raised the stakes. In lieu of lying about how "environmentally friendly" the fracking process is, they have shifted to the propagandist's last resort: shooting the messenger.

Ted Borawski, a geologist who is the Chief of the Minerals Section in the Bureau of Forestry, in the Pennsylvania State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), likened Fox's movie to the work of the late Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. He stated, "Joseph Goebbels would have been proud. He would have given him the Nazi Award. That, in my opinion, was a beautiful piece of propaganda."

There are a few problems with this proposition.

First, Fox's work, unlike that of Goebbels, is meant to save lives, not lead to a massive genocide campaign. If one were being honest, he or she would argue that Borawski, the man who is being paid to protect citizens and not the pocketbooks of Big Oil, is putting citizens in peril -- all credible scientific evidence shows that.

Second, the comments are borderline anti-Semitic, as Josh Fox is Jewish and his father, Michael Fox's family, is rife with victims of the Holocaust. Michael Fox said, "So many of my relatives perished in the Holocaust, I spent many years overcoming the devastation. I needed to revive my hope that there were good people, and that kindness and justice could prevail in the world. To have my son called a Nazi after what happened to our family, when what he did was to raise the alarm about the poisoning of our water, is heartrending. It highlights how quickly and callously some forget man's inhumanity towards man, resorting to cruel name calling and hatred when they have no other resources to justify their untenable and greedy positions."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), not particularly known for its principled stands, particularly as it pertains to the Israel-Palestine conflict, got it right this time. They weighed in, stating, "It is our understanding that Mr. Fox's film raises health, environmental and human rights concerns with a gas drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing," Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania-Delaware Regional Director of the ADL wrote to Borawski. "While debate on this topic can be vigorous and robust we would hope that the dialogue, especially from state officials, would be respectful and civilized."

Fox has called on Borawski to be fired, while Republican Governor Tom Corbett, a major patron of Big Oil during the 2010 campaign, as well as Borawski, have pleaded the Fifth on this one and remained silent in the face of controversy.

And so it goes -- the environmental degradation proceeds just as quickly as the Big Oil propaganda machine. On this issue, Big Oil is quickly approaching crisis management mode status -- it's a matter of when at this point, and not if.