January 4th, 2010

Entergy Breaks Out The Human Shields: Welcome To The World of IAmVY.Com

by Philip Baruth

Back in March of 2002, Enron was a smoking ruin, the likes of which America had never seen before, and pricey auditing firm Arthur Andersen had been pegged as a de facto co-conspirator. Video would surface during the Andersen trial showing executives openly discussing document shredding, which would lead to a wave of bitter jokes and punishing corporate penalties. But in March, the company decided that so much damning physical evidence could only be countered with bold, intangible spin. And so they greenlighted the “I Am Arthur Andersen” campaign.

If it’s slipped your mind, this nifty little PR push consisted of hundreds of Andersen employees, outfitted in identical black and orange t-shirts lettered with the words, “I Am Arthur Andersen.” Certain of these protestors were charged with retailing their personal stories to the media: they stood to lose their homes in Connecticut if the firm went under, their children would be forced out of private school, etc.

It went nowhere of course: the attempt to rebrand the corporation as nothing more than a group of plucky, middle-class regular workers faltered as evidence of executive plundering mounted. And the “regular workers” didn’t help their own case much, what with their thousand-dollar wingtips and identical corporate messaging.

Still, it was a defensive move closely watched in corporate circles. And the “I Am [Insert Unpopular LLC]” maneuver continues to find a purchase even today, whenever an exceptionally wealthy corporate bad-actor needs a quick human face. Which brings us to Entergy, and their latest bid for the heartstrings: I Am Vermont Yankee.

Like Andersen’s campaign, Entergy’s comes at the eleventh hour; only when powerful corporations and Middle Eastern strongmen feel the end approaching do they reach for their human shields.

In this case, the company’s new website (iamvy.com) showcases the stories of seven or eight workers at Yankee, all reliably attractive physical types, with good teeth, straight hair, and nothing but fantastic things to say about the employer who photographed them for the site.

One even attended Vernon Elementary School, a nice touch, given that opposition to the plant often centers around questions of excessive radiation at the fence-line, and the children being schooled just beyond it.

It’s an exceptionally slick production, as corporate messaging goes. Clean as a whistle, like the jacket and shirt of the chemist who now serves as frontman for the site. In fact, if you scroll through the comments function, where viewers are encouraged to “Show Your Support,” you find that “clean” is the word that recurs most frequently.

The word is repeated so often, in fact, that it begins to smack of compulsion, repetition-compulsion at the deepest corporate level.

Even if we take Entergy at its word, even if we view their power as green and their contribution to our energy portfolio as indispensable, we will be left with casks of spent fuel that will take tens of thousands of years to decompose. We will be left with a physical plant that must be disposed of in its entirety, as too dangerous to convert for any other use.

What could be dirtier, deadlier?

And if VY is actually the lowly chemist, and the craggy yet attractive environmental specialist in the Carhartt jacket, then it certainly can’t be Wayne Leonard, with a five-year compensation package in excess of $40 million, or any of the other very highly paid out-of-state executives Entergy employs.

We’re in the end-game on this relicensing question, my friends, with huge dollars at stake. Reality subject to revision at any moment.

Late Update, Tuesday, 2:23 pm:

And right on schedule, Fake Rob mocks the entire IAmVy.Com concept with a pitch-perfect send-up: Ilovevermontyankee.blogspot.com. If there is any target richer than a humorless, monolithic out-of-state corporation trying desperately to appeal to the average guy, VDB has yet to discover it.

Enjoy. Well challenged, Fake Rob.

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  1. on January 22nd, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    […] Now this is beautiful. You might remember a week or two back VDB mocked Entergy’s slick new website, IAmVY.com, as a blatant attempt to hide behind a few of their more telegenic workers. But in the interim, of course, Entergy has had to admit to more than a few lapses in both safety and honesty, with Entergy VP Jay Thayer himself admitting that the company had misled state investigators on tritium piping. […]