I’ve recently discovered that WordPress has plastered on some of the posts here (and elsewhere) advertisements for “Eco-Pressed,” evidently a feel-good site on WordPress which aggregates web postings vaguely about the “environment” or “sustainability.” It is sponsored by General Electric, who is obviously trying to refurbish a considerably tarnished image and at the same time make a buck by moving sentiment in favor of solar panels or some such line in which GE has recently involved itself. The other day the site trumpeted an article entitled “GE and others invest $22 Milllion in Green Builder Project Frog.” It makes your heart warm.
Now it doesn’t surprise me that WordPress is slapping advertisements on old posts. I’m certainly not Pollyanna enough to think that WordPress wouldn’t unexpectedly institute some program or change its relation with bloggers in ways designed solely to increase its own revenue. And I expect more such arbitrary actions of self-interest in the future. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if WordPress goes out of the business of letting people say their piece for free and, for profit alone, goes over to the business of letting people say their piece for a price, a pay-for-piece model, if you will. Or, if the propaganda of GE is “proudly powered by WordPress” as Eco-Press says at the bottom, perhaps WordPress will entirely go over to the highest bidder. Who knows, maybe the Koch brothers. It’s not like any other part of our society is holding out.
But here’s the thing: It would be responsible on WordPress’s part, and tend to reinforce the imagine it tries to portray, if WordPress labelled the ads it affixes to other’s people’s posts as, well, ads put there by WordPress. I noticed that WordPress slapped an “Eco-Pressed” ad on my poor Ground Beetles post. I wonder why WordPress believed that readers of that post might be interested in a Colombian math professor who has decided to jog barefoot to “raise awareness” of some environmental problem or another. Then, I went back to make sure I was accurately relating the content of the piece, but the eco-pressing vandalism was gone. It’s evidently a moving target for WordPress and GE.
Now as I said I have no proprietary interest in the cyberspace WordPress makes available. I have no reasonable expectation that WordPress is not going to act in some irresponsible, arbitrary, underhanded or devious way. But I would expect that WordPress had enough integrity not to give the impression that any blogger who had not consented was supporting the corporate site sponsored by one of the great corporate criminals of our time.
And there is no other word to describe how GE treats its legal responsibities. In almost every endeavor it undertakes. As a military contractor, GE has had its run ins with the federal government over those things that are often called “fraud.” Criminal cases have been brought that cost GE millions. But of course in the business of war profiteering, fraud is just one of the tools. Any military contractor who doesn’t defraud the government isn’t considered serious enough to get repeat business. But GE has a history of crimes in other areas. Perhaps the most gruesome, and one of the most immoral acts in American corporate history (ranking GE with the likes of IG Farben) involved its history of radiation testing, which it undertook individually, on prison inmates, and by more wide-spread means involving entire (and unsuspecting) communities. These crimes will probably never receive serious attention on Eco-Pressed or on any post of the bloggers they promote. Nor will any of its other immoral conduct. Its own nuclear plants have had a history of safety violations serious enough to draw substantial fines. You might have thought that an organization that had used human guinea pigs to learn of the effects of radiation sickness might be a little more careful when it actually produces radiation. But that would just show you lack Ecomagination.™ If you want to see how responsible corporate executives, like the folks who Bring Good Things to Life, you should see the Academy Award winning documentary Deadly Deception. Radiation poisoning is not the only category of Good Things Brought to Life by GE. According to the Center for Public Integrity, GE is the 4th largest owner of superfund sites—in other words, only three other organizations have contaminated more of the United States. GE, however, was never satisfied with poisoning only the land. The Political Economy Research Institute listed GE as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year (2,000 tons) of toxic chemicals released into the air. The land, the air, what could be next? Oh, of course. Who could forget the dumping of 1.3 million pounds of PCB into the Hudson River and GE’s dogged campaign to prove that PCBs were really good for you? Now that was “imagination at work.” I could go on and on, but you can see it all (or at least a good part of it) for youself at cleanupGE.org. The point is that there probably could not be a worse company (Koch Industries aside) to take on the job of “pressing” environmental posts. Unless, of course, the exercise is not a serious attempt to address the existential threats we face and instead is simply another corporate-right wing exercise in painting happy faces over greed, white collar crime and theft. Do you think?
So, yes, posting ads for a “Green Living” site aggregated by a corporate criminal and one of the most immoral of the degraders of our planet should at least come with disclaimers. But since WordPress won’t put the disclaimers up themselves, let me do it. When I put my “ecomagination”™ to work, I concluded that our lifestyle would be more “sustainable” if we all stopped buying products manufactured or sold by GE. So if you want to do something constructive, don’t run over two continents in your bare feet. Boycott GE.
I wonder if this post will be picked up by Eco Pressed?