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In addition to losing their reputation and mindbogglingly large sums of money, BP also seem to have lost any ability to appreciate irony.
Faced with Greenpeace's nonviolent direct action at London petrol stations today (25 July), a BP spokesperson said, “At most of the stations they tried to shut down the power on the forecourts, which is vandalism”.
Greenpeace now have the questionable distinction of having been accused of “vandalism” by the company most associated with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even before this, BP could justifiably be accused of vandalising the environment. They have put billions of dollars into trying to dig out the last few remaining fossil fuels, attacking the tar sands of Canada and even the depths of the Arctic.
Being accused of vandalism by BP is rather like being accused of violence by arms dealers. Bizarrely, such accusations are common. On several occasions I have heard representatives of arms companies insist that demonstrators and campaigners are threatening, because they might turn violent.
I am sure I am as guilty as most people of pointing out the speck in my neighbour's eye without noticing the plank in my own eye. Multinational companies would do well to pay attention to the planks, as they seem to think that words such as violence and vandalism can never be applied to them, but only to groups of campaigners. The implication is that powerful people should not be held to the same ethical standards as the rest of us. And yet it is the powerful, by definition, who have the most freedom to choose how to act.