The oil rig hoax

When protest groups engage in political theater, it’s hard to tell when it’s over and when reality returns.

Today, a video appeared online purporting to show a Shell Oil demonstration of an oil rig, when it went haywire and started spewing “oil” on an unwitting participant.

The acting was so poor and the premise so preposterous, that everyone should have known it was a fake. But, of course, it’s the Internet so it spread quickly.

But it got more interesting. In the last few minutes, the website Boing Boing reported that journalists were being warned not to embed the video, and quoting the “press release.”


Shell is monitoring the spread of potentially defamatory material on the internet and reporters are advised to avoid publishing such material.

These activists’ tactics stand in marked contrast to Shell’s transparency regarding the safety of Shell’s Arctic efforts. Earlier this week, Shell hosted Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell and Senator Lisa Murkowski on a safety tour of the Kulluk rig, during which the Senator and Governor were soundly impressed by the Kulluk’s cutting-edge safety mechanisms.

Boing Boing says it confirmed the authenticity of the release, by calling the phone number that was listed on it. The phone number on the press release isn’t the phone number for Shell’s U.S. media operations. It’s the phone number of a public relations agency. And the contact e-mail on the press release is fake, too.

I’ve left a message for the real Shell media relations department but have not yet heard back.

There’s a real possibility that the Shell “reaction” is also part of the original hoax. So, be wary of what you hear about this until we get it sorted out.

Update 3:45 p.m. It was indeed a fake response to the fake event. Boing Boing reports…


Wainwright and Shore, the “PR Agency” that sent out this email, has only had a domain for a month. They’ve got virtually no Google footprint (just an Eventbrite listing for the hoax Shell event). The people who answer the phones are super-evasive.

The hoax depended almost exclusively on poor reporter instincts to succeed. As for the group or groups who put the hoax together, political theater is a dangerous game. It can get you some quick and cheap publicity, or it can turn off your megaphone forever, even if you have an issue that’s worth intelligent debate.

  • Robert Moffitt

    As they say, oil well that ends well…

    As a PR professional that promotes (among other things) cleaner alternatives to petroleum, I’m embarrassed by these kind of stunts.

    Not helping the cause, guys. You have to earn and keep the trust of the media if you want them to deliver you message to a mass audience.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Robert – Agreed.

    Then again, there’s always the “no such thing as bad publicity” question.

  • Curtis

    Hello Robert!

    And how well is your method working for making the transition to green energy happen? In the USA it’s not. That is why every other method must also be applied.

  • Rick

    “That is why every other method must also be applied.” Including lying, Curtis?