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About the Author

Robert Stefanicki
Journalist (Warsaw, Poland)

Old salt international affairs writer. At present freelance (looking for a job!), most of his professional life worked for the largest daily in Poland. Focused on Asia and Middle East, where witnessed some dirty wars, now more and more interested in development and other global issues. In collusion with Institute of Global Responsibility, our new and fast growing NGO. Self made photographer (see my website), scuba diver, sailor, cyclist and movie addict.


Can you tell a joke from reality?

Published 07th June 2010 - 9 comments - 2571 views -

You probably have heard about fake BP Twitter account, that has much more followers than the real one. Newsweek proposed a quiz, I’d like you to join. Take a look at the list below and see if you can pick out which attempts at damage control are from BP—and which are fake. The answers are at the end of this post.

1. “We regretfully admit that something has happened off the Gulf Coast. More to come.”

2. “What the hell did we do to deserve this?”

3. “Are people mad at us for drilling in the ocean? Maybe God shouldn’t have put oil there in the first place.”

4. “We will fix it. I guarantee it. The only question is we do not know when.”

5. “The environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.”

6. “Here’s the thing: we made $45 million A DAY in profits in 2009. This really isn’t a big deal.”

7. “Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy.”

8. “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

9. “We’re all disappointed that the “top kill” operation didn’t work. We failed to wrestle this beast to the ground.”

10. “All ideas for alternative solutions welcome on (281) 366-5511.”

11. “The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.”

12. “At night the gulf really doesn’t look that bad.”

13. “You don’t go drilling 5,000 feet underwater with the tools you want, you do it with the tools you have.”

14. “We will only win this if we can win the hearts and minds of the local community. It’s a big challenge.”

15. “People are upset, so we are working nonstop to make as many ‘BP cares’ shirts as we can.”

16. “Food poisoning is a really big issue when you got a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodation. It’s something we have to be very, very mindful of.”

17. “So, I actually haven’t been watching the [live feed] video.”

18. “I actually don’t know, this moment, what we’re actually doing.”

19. “We are dedicated to helping the wildlife in the gulf. Any birds that need cleaning must report to 287 Quartemain St., Baton Rouge, LA 70801.”

20. “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp.”


How was it? I had some problems with telling real from fake... Now read this news:

Poverty-Stricken Africans Receive Desperately Needed Bibles

MARADI, NIGER—More than 60,000 urgently needed Bibles arrived to allay suffering throughout the famine-stricken nation of Niger Friday, in one of the largest humanitarian-relief operations ever attempted (...) An exuberant Clarkson said the Bible drop was the culmination of one of the largest and most aggressive grassroots fundraising drives ever undertaken by the organization, which was able to fund the mission largely through local charitable events, such as bake-offs, barbecues, and pie-eating contests.

Eight Million Americans Rescued From Poverty With Redefinition Of Term

WASHINGTON, DC–Approximately eight million Americans living below the poverty line were rescued from economic hardship Monday, when the U.S. Census Bureau redefined the term. "We are winning the war on poverty," said bureau head James Irving, who lowered the poverty line for a four-person family to $14,945. "Today, millions of people whose inflation-adjusted total household income is less than $16,780 are living better lives."

U.S. Asks Africa Not To Cash Aid Checks Until After Tax Day

WASHINGTON, DC—Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. urged leaders of all African nations receiving U.S. aid to "hold off" on cashing their humanitarian aid checks until after April 17, when the U.S. government is expecting "a whole bunch of money to come in" from 2006 tax returns.


All above news is fake, of course. It comes from an excellent satire magazine The Onion. Their articles comment on current events, both real and imagined, and parodies traditional newspaper features.

Millions Of Shrimp Airlifted From Oil Spill Disaster Zone (The Onion)

But we live in such an absurd world, it’s easy to be taken on. According to Wikipedia,  the Russian news site repackaged clips from The Onion video piece "New Anti-Smoking Ad Warns Teens 'It's Gay to Smoke'" as legitimate news. In 1998, Fred Phelps posted the The Onion article "'98 Homosexual-Recruitment Drive Nearing Goal" on his "God Hates Fags" website as "proof" that gay people were indeed actively trying to "recruit" others. An article on Harry Potter inciting children to practice witchcraft  was believed by many to be real and was the subject of a widely forwarded email which repeated the quotes attributed to children in the article.

Well, in the light of Newsweek quiz, The Onion’s latest news on BP seems hardly fake at all:

BP Pledges To Continue Being Huge Profitable Corporation: LONDON—Embattled BP officials assured the public Thursday that despite the setbacks of the past month, the company was still "fiercely committed" to remaining an enormously powerful moneymaking industrial conglomerate. "We promise the good people of Louisiana or Texas or wherever that this horrific oil spill will not, even for a moment, stop us from pursuing unspeakably massive profits," BP spokesman Reginald Clacton-Thorpe told reporters.

In the end, there are links to some articles on development I liked. Some remind me of the topics from Think3 platform wink Although fake, they are food for thought too. I believe it has nothing to do with mocking poverty or environmental disaster – sometimes absurd may be a nice cold shower on some overheated brains.

Rwanda Gets Plant

Humanitarian Aid Check Blown Before It Arrives

Senate Committee Links Child Poverty To Lack Of Child Jobs

Repopulation Of Africa Begins


Real: 2,4,5,8,9,10,11,14,16,17,18,20

Fake: 1,3,6,7,12,13,15,19

Category: Media | Tags: twitter, bp, oil spill, the onion,


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 07th June 2010:

    Robert, the funny thing is that all of them, 1-20, could easily be genuine BP quotes, given that the real ones were really, let’s say, inappropriate. When the CEO guy, what’s his name, said he wanted his life back, it sounded like a bad joke, but I guess he was being honest, which is even worse…

    Thanks for the link of The Onion! I agree that sometimes one needs a cold satiric shower, which could also help see absurd things more clearly.

  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 07th June 2010:

    Lots to think about in this post smile Today there are “positive” news that BP may succeed to contain half of the 19 000 barrels of oil leaking every day… that means that twice as much as the initial BP estimate (5000 barrels) will still leak, and it is considred a success…

  • Robert Stefanicki on 08th June 2010:

    @Daniel: Let me quote Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”.

    @Giedre: “I want my life back” is a popular country song, it goes like this: “I want my life back, I want that house that I called home…” Now someone could make a video dedicated to BP, with pelicans from Mexico Bay singing this line, dont’t you think?

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 08th June 2010:

    Definitely! Have you seen a comment on bioDIEversity post that suggested an ad of orangutans taking over cities to build their forests in them? I think little videos like these would be highly popular on YouTube, and would spread the message, fast and easy.

    But hey, this is really a good idea! Get an animator, post it on YouTube, send over to everyone we know via facebook and twitter… What do you think?

  • Ian Sullivan on 08th June 2010:

    Always got to love a bit of the absurd - and the BP response to the tiny biggest ecological disaster in US history definitely falls into that category.

    As for ending poverty by re-categorising it - Joseph Heller will be chuckling in his grave

  • Robert Stefanicki on 08th June 2010:

    @Giedre: Let it be join-venture: my idea, your realization. All the likely wealth from copy rights we donate to BP CEOs to compensate them loss of shares value.

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 08th June 2010:

    This act of kindness would be really funny, however, I would put it on a Creative Commons licence. Copyright gets annoying sometimes. wink

  • Clare Herbert on 12th June 2010:

    Hilarious. A great way to make a point. Thanks for the idea!

  • Sylwia Presley on 25th July 2010:

    Good one!:)

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