Charles and David Koch are the billionaire brothers behind Koch Industries. You may remember them from Jane Meyer's searing takedown in The New Yorker, or from a New York Times op-ed that exposed their financial ties to the Tea Party, or from our own coverage of how they "Koch block" (Andrew's words!) climate science.
Well, last week they were again up to some nefariousness, inviting a cadre of rich business leaders, oil tycoons, conservative politicians, and popular reactionary blowhards (Beck! Demint! Limbaugh!) to a secret strategic retreat in Rancho Mirage, California.
Justifiably, plenty of liberal, progressive, labor, and environmental watchdogs and advocacy groups were up in arms and many came together in a big protest nearby on Sunday. Predictably, Greenpeace stole the spotlight, flying an "airship" (a freaking dirigible!) over the proceedings.
Nice visibility, good photos, simple message: "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money." There's only one big problem that I see: that damn enormous Greenpeace logo.
Now let me be clear, I like Greenpeace. Policy wise, I think its one of the few big brand environmental organizations that is where it needs to be. I think it does some bang-up research and calls out lots of dirty secrets that the public should know. Greenpeace's stunts are gutsy and I appreciate how so many of them kick up conversations and shine a spotlight on murky dealings that deserve exposure.
Take the blimp over the Koch brothers' party of rich, white polluters. Demelle quotes Kert Davies, Research Director for Greenpeace USA:
David and Charles Koch used their dirty money to block progress on clean energy and climate change policies, and now they’re scheming to roll back the Clean Air Act and other critical health and environmental protections with their partners in Congress. Their agenda of increased polluter profits at the expense of people, our health, and environment must be exposed and stopped.
Yes! True! That's all spot on! And the "Dirty Money" message is as smart and clear as could be.
Unfortunately, when most Americans see that Greenpeace logo underneath the phrase, they stop taking it seriously. The fact of the matter is, even people sympathetic to the environmental cause have a hard time relating to Greenpeace. Over the decades, the brand has simply become too associated with extreme, radical environmentalism, with the preservation of "Mother Earth" over any human interest. It's not entirely accurate or fair, but that's the reality.
It's easy to imagine all the wealthy, fossil fuel magnates at the Koch retreat laughing at the "crazy environmentalists" in the airship above. (David Koch, after all, keeps a copy of the Greenpeace "Wanted: Climate Criminals" flyer, which features the brothers, in his office.) That's fine. Oil-rich white guys should be expected to mock DFH.
But it's a bigger problem if that clean, simple message—Koch Brothers: Dirty Money—is entirely dismissed by the vast majority of the news and blog viewing audience because of the brand stamp below.
What should Greenpeace do? Take its logo off of absolutely everything it ever does for a start. Quite honestly, Greenpeace's page devoted to Koch Industries is a heroic assembly of research, data mining, and muckraking. It should be required reading for anyone who drives a car or pays a utility bill. But as long as the Greenpeace logo is at the top, most Americans won't ever take that good work seriously.