Courtesy of the Washington Post, we meet Bob Dudley, the man that reporter Steven Mufson dubbed “the human relief well.” His job, says their headline writer, is to “polish [BP’s] tarnished image.”
Good luck with that, Bob.
It’ll be rough, but don’t let anyone tell you that your job is impossible. To fans of the best science program on television, MythBusters, this job sounds very familiar.
In December 2008, MythBusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman took on the myth that says (as they most delicately phrased it) “you can’t polish a turd.” Using techniques borrowed from the ancient Japanese art of dorodungo, they demonstrated that it *is* possible to polish a turd — i.e., turn a piece of dung into a bright shiny object — but it takes a lot of time, a lot of hard repetitive work, and single-minded attention to the surprisingly delicate task at hand, plus a willingness to put up with lots and lots of very bad odors while you go about your work.
What you can’t do is say “there are no turds around here.”
To help BP and their new polisher-in-chief stay focused on their task of polishing that . . . image, here’s some advice. Every time Dudley gets on television, the producer in the control room should put up a split screen. In one screen is the wispy-haired, American-accented, calm demeanor of Dudley (as Mufson described him), soberly answering questions and assuring the world that BP is on top of things. In the other screen would be a rotating montage of images like these:
- the ineffective blowout preventer, spewing out barrel after barrel after barrel of oil
- overhead views of the spill site
- oily workers, trying to hold back the tide of death
- waves of oil
- dead dolphins washed up on the beach
- living oiled animals being collected for cleaning
- living but likely soon to be dead wildlife
- clouds of oily smoke rising from the burnoffs
- oil-clogged marshlands
- maps of the areas closed to fishing by NOAA
- beaches fouled with oil
- workers pulling tar balls off the beaches
- boats being cleaned before being allowed to dock at Gulf ports
- Gulf coast restaurant owners in tears as they close their doors for good because there is no seafood
- images from the funerals/burials of those who have died, including not only the 11 oil rig workers but also the fishing boat captain who committed suicide
If you’re going to polish a turd, you have to start by admitting that you’re polishing a turd. You can do your polishing wearing a beret or not wearing a beret, but concentrating on the crap in your hands is mandatory.
Maybe that split screen can help everyone stay focused.