An odd thing happened during Sunday night’s Superbowl game: Joe Romm at Climate Progress and I came to the same conclusion regarding an environmentally controversial Superbowl commercial. We both thought the advertisement portraying Audi’s ability to thrive in an environmental police state with its ‘clean diesel’ technology missed its mark here in the U.S., at least among left-of-center environmentalists.
Sure, Romm wanted the Saints and I the Colts in the big game … and Joe would probably like the environmentalist police portrayed in the commercial, while I’d hate it. But still, there were areas of agreement between us, including on the practice of so-called greenwashing.
As Romm puts it, casting a scurrilous aspersion on the appropriateness of Germanic humor:
I’m not sure the German car company understands that the idea of “Green Police” they are spoofing is, in fact, precisely what many conservatives in this country actually think is the primary reason people who care about the environment—the apparent target audience of this ad—are trying to get the nation to take action on global warming.
And by pointing out Audi’s incongruous focus on powerful cars, Romm sees a bit of greenwashing at work: “Audi isn’t perceived as a green car company, so they aren’t poking fun at themselves, a typically much safer strategy.”
Romm is right on this point. On their website, Audi’s vehicle descriptions focus on driving performance far more than environmental performance. Audi, we’re told, features “legendary,” “nimble,” and “supreme” performance (all euphemisms for high horsepower). The focus is clearly on “Legendary Audi Power,” rather than “Legendary Audi Environmentalism,” as the ad would suggest.
But I wouldn’t call that modest greenwashing, I’d call it blatant and shameless greenwashing–in a league with that of Al Gore, the head of the IPCC, most Hollywood green-advocates, the Obama Administration, and the Democrats in Congress, all of whom encourage others to live green lifestyles while consuming more energy per capita than some of the small countries they claim will be drowned by global-warming-induced sea level rise. And did I mention Nancy Pelosi’s entourage going to climate negotiations in Copenhagen? They put out enough carbon dioxide to fill 10,000 Olympic sized swimming pools! Now that’s a bodyprint, not a footprint, by green standards!
But Romm’s big concern probably isn’t about the state of Germanic humor, nor is it really about greenwashing (he’s all for that when various companies flog his favorite carbon-rationing schemes). It is that humor might inadvertently lead people to actually think about what a future of bag police, lightbulb police, foam-cup police, recycling police, plastic bottle police, and hot-tub-temperature police might be like, and view such a development with less than a humorous attitude.
Romm seems to be worried that Superbowl viewers might even connect the dots with the opinions of (shudder) right-leaning columnists such as Charles Krauthammer who had the ill grace to foreshadow a green police state, in 2008, when he opined:
Environmentalists are Gaia’s priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect…. And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment — carbon chastity — they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat.
Of course, we won’t have really have the eco-police portrayed in the Audi spot. No, that’s much too blatant for the deep-green environmentalist types. They’re more fond of just banning things outright, like incandescent lightbulbs, two-ply toilet tissue and flush-toilets, or slapping taxes (directly or indirectly) on things like carbon emissions, plastic and paper bags, houses with large lot-sizes, air travel, etc.
What I found most amusing was the eerie resonance between the Audi commercial, and some spoof-PSA spots such as this one, poking fun at water conservation, produced by a pro-tobacco Canadian public relations firm. Sadly, the PR firm has pulled their anti-environmentalist PSA spoofs from their websites. I suppose that opposing recycling is too much even for a pro-tobacco group.
All of which goes to show, when it comes to environmentalism, there’s only one answer to jokes such as “how many environmentalists does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
Answer? “That is NOT funny!”
P.S.: Apparently, Dave Roberts of Grist also disliked the Audi commercial, saying “Is it me or were the Super Bowl commercials this year unusually ugly, misogynistic, and, worst of all, unfunny? Of course, Roberts seems absolutely fascinated by the idea of declaring people who disagree with him “teabaggers,” which is either a heterophobic slander or a homophobic one, depending on your sexual orientation, I suppose. But of course, as we all know, the left-wing is exempt from accusations of phobism, if they do say so themselves.