Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.
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It’s Thursday, aka the last issue of the week! Thanks for sticking with me for another one; you guys are dope. I’m keeping today’s news item short, and following it with an announcement, which I think (I hope) you’ll like. But I’m sure you’ll tell me if you don’t.
Exxon’s climate fraud defense: Twitter ads
Unless you’ve been living under a climate rock, you probably know that ExxonMobil is currently on trial for climate fraud in New York.
You probably know that the state attorney general has accused Exxon of lying to its shareholders about climate change; that the accusations stem from Pulitzer Prize-finalist reporting from InsideClimate News; and that Massachusetts recently filed a similar lawsuit against Exxon.
But did you know that Exxon has been buying Twitter ads to defend itself from those claims, and that those ads allege a vast conspiracy to specifically destroy ExxonMobil, orchestrated by rich, powerful environmentalists and the Rockefellers?
The oil company says a “political campaign” of “special interests” are trying to take Exxon down, and that those interests launched a “pay-for-play” scheme to get InsideClimate’s reporters to pursue a specific story that would do it.
In the PR document, Exxon says this campaign was “extremely well-funded.” Its funders include the “Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund, Rockefeller Philanthropy, Open Society Foundations, Energy Foundation, V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and Mertz Gilmore Foundation.”
The accusations are thin at best. Yes, those organizations helped fund InsideClimate’s reporting—but they’re philanthropic organizations, and InsideClimate is a non-profit journalistic outfit funded by grants. To accuse the reporters of secretly working on behalf of those funders would constitute extreme journalistic ethics malpractice. InsideClimate’s Pulitzer finalist status would have to be revoked.
It’s also just fascinating to see Exxon paint itself as the victim of some massively funded smear campaign by environmentalists. Exxon earned $20.8 billion in 2018, and is the 16th most profitable company is the world. But it is helpless in the face of the all-mighty greens.
In any case, the last Twitter ad Exxon ran was directly in response to the ongoing fraud trial in New York. It started running last week the day the trial started, and is supposed to run until December 1st.
I haven’t yet been able to figure out how much Exxon has spent on climate fraud-related ads over the last year. Nor have I been able to figure out how many people they reached.
That’s because, in order to see that information, Twitter has to label the ad a “political issue” ad. Some of Exxon’s climate fraud-related ads are labeled “political issue” ads, and others aren’t. I’m not sure why—I reached out to Twitter and am waiting to hear back.
But I figured I’d tell you about this now, because Twitter announced yesterday that it’s not going to run political ads anymore. This includes ads for specific candidates, and “political issue” ads like Exxon’s.
Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, said this is because political messages “should be earned, not bought.”
Twitter’s new ad policy is being framed by most mainstream news outlets as a shot at Facebook, which is increasingly coming under fire for its policy of allowing political candidates to lie in Facebook advertisements. (That policy was uncovered by Judd Legum’s Popular Information newsletter).
But here at HEATED, I just see it as bad news for Exxon. Because now, it can’t even pay to get people on Twitter to listen to them.
Day 8 of the Exxon climate fraud trial begins today at 9:30 AM EST.
And now, a HEATED announcement!
As many of you know—because I can’t seem to shut up about it—I come from a traditional journalism background. I was wooed into the profession by the old-school stuff: the press card hats, the curmudgeonly attitudes, the newsprint ink that smudges off onto your hands.
I was also wooed by editorial cartoons. And I don’t mean the Funnies section—I mean the cartoons drawn by editorial cartoonists, intended to provoke thought about whatever big issue was in the news that day.
Editorial cartoons still exist at some publications, but they are less prolific than they once were. And I think that’s a shame, because editorial cartoons serve an important purpose: to provide readers with a little levity and creativity alongside their daily dose of nightmare news.
There is no nightmare news quite like climate news. And because you signed up to receive climate news every day from me, I think you deserve a little levity and creativity alongside it.
So today, I’m launching a little test partnership with the popular Instagram climate meme account @climemechange, who will be HEATED’s resident editorial memeist. That’s right: Memeist. Because this isn’t a newspaper, it’s an email. And we do things differently ‘round these parts.
For the next couple weeks, HEATED will periodically feature memes by @climemechange, made directly in response to the prior day’s issue. So, for example, yesterday’s issue was about Robert Murray, and the reasons his coal company, Murray Energy, filed for bankruptcy.
@climemechange’s first meme as HEATED’s editorial memeist
And this is a test run, so please, tell me what you think! I take questions, comments, and meme ideas. Also, if you made your own meme and I like it, I’ll probably at least share it on the Instagram. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and Happy Halloween.
OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!
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See you next week!