Friday marks the 15th anniversary of a very unhappy occasion. On Dec. 3, 1984, a Union Carbide industrial plant in Bhopal, India, released a deadly cloud of the gas methyl isocyanate into the air, killing at least 6,500 people (and some say more) and injuring tens of thousands. Ever since, Union Carbide and Bhopal have been inextricably linked.
But those who may not know a great deal about what happened in India won’t find any enlightenment at Union Carbide’s corporate website, www.unioncarbide.com, which makes no mention of the gas leak whatsoever.
What Union Carbide does do is operate an entirely separate site, www.bhopal.com, that contains “facts” about the incident. Those facts, including the company’s long-held claim that the leak was the direct result of worker sabotage, are of course disputed by many environmentalists and others.
Nowhere does the Bhopal site clearly disclose that it is run by Union Carbide. Savvy readers would naturally pick up on the Union Carbide sponsorship based on the site’s content (and the prominent link back to the corporate site) but, at the risk of sounding elitist, there are plenty of web surfers out there who might take the Bhopal.com site as Gospel without ever realizing they were reading a corporate version of events.
In fact, if you search for the word “Bhopal” on the popular search engine Google, Bhopal.com is the second site that pops up, headlined simply “Bhopal Information.” Sounds authoritative.
So what gives? Is there a strategy here to a) blot out the incident from the corporate site or b) cloak the Bhopal site to obscure Union Carbide’s sponsorship, as some enviros contend?
No on both accounts, according to Union Carbide spokesperson Tom Sprick, who says:
I don’t really have a good answer for you as to why we don’t link our corporate site to the Bhopal site. This is more in the way of explanation rather than excuse, but Carbide has always had a rather elementary corporate web site and we don’t link to any other sites. So I guess the thinking was that they were just trying to keep the site [www.unioncarbide.com] simple, if you will. But you make a good point, and I would probably agree with you, that it could be linked and should be linked. … If you want to refer people to [www.bhopal.com] we would be appreciative of that because it does contain quite a bit of factual information as well as our interpretation of events surrounding the Bhopal tragedy.
Anyone out there wondering whether any knucklehead could possibly not already know about the Bhopal tragedy should heed this little anecdote that came our way from a highly placed executive at a major news network.
At a recent staff meeting to discuss how to cover the 15th anniversary, a young producer, presumably steeped in the news in a way ordinary Americans are not, confused Bhopal, the gas disaster, with RuPaul, the entertainment disaster (apologies to all you RuPaul fans).
A Man, A Plan, A Canal, A Liar?
Vice Pres. Al Gore seems to have an affinity for associating himself with all things love-related. (Though not free love, of course.)
First it was the romance novel and movie Love Story, for which Gore (with an assist from Tipper) claimed to be the inspiration. Now it’s Love Canal, for which Gore on Tuesday claimed to be the first observer and most important actor.
While campaigning in New Hampshire, the veep talked about his efforts to clean up toxic waste in general, and said that once upon a time he “found a little place in upstate New York called Love Canal. … I had the first hearing on the issue. … I was the one that started it all.” (We assume he didn’t mean he started the actual polluting.)
Gore, of course, did not exactly discover Love Canal or that chemicals had been spilled there in 1978, as several journalists dutifully reported in Wednesday’s newspapers.
Pres. Jimmy Carter had declared the site a disaster area months before Gore came along, allowing then-New York Gov. Hugh L. Carey to petition for federal clean-up funds.
No one contends Gore didn’t play a role (as with that little thing about Internet invention), but he didn’t exactly start it all either.
So what else should Gore quickly grab credit for before someone else comes along and snatches it away? Send us your suggestions for the “Al Gore Mad Inventor’s Club.”
And the Winner Is …
Last week we asked you to translate a press release from the Western Fuels Association that, shall we say, was a touch difficult to decipher. The gist of it was that Carol Browner and her EPA cronies should keep their dirty paws out of the carbon-dioxide regulation business.
Our winner is a highly placed enviro who chose to remain anonymous. Once again, this is all in the interests of fun and the views expressed in the following submission do not reflect those of this columnist, this magazine, or anybody else you can think of:
A number of left-wing enviro-Commies, not to be confused with the weed-smoking solar-hucksters, yesterday petitioned the Black Helicopter waif Carol Browner to regulate invisible gases released from our most valuable asset — the American automobile. “These people are watermelons,” says Western Fuels Association general manager and chief executive officer Fred Palmer. “Green on the outside, but red on the inside. We cannot allow the Feds to do to us what they did to our friends in Waco,” he continued. “My first sexual experience was in a car,” he said “and you can’t take that away from me.
“Carbon dioxide itself must be defended as the building block of nature that it is. The more I yammer, the more CO2 in the air and the more CO2 in the air the more palm trees we’ll have in Alaska. Therefore, no rational regulatory body can conclude that more CO2 in the air presents a threat to human health and welfare.”
Get Grist in your inbox