America has been demanding the head of BP – and now they have got it.
Following political indignation in the White House, the British BP CEO Tony Haywood has been replaced by an American, the first non-British CEO the company has had.
This has come after an intensive media campaign focused on Haywood as the evil face of the catastrophe. The American Press has particularly focused on Haywood as the man responsible.
The removal of Haywood is an effective PR strategy by BP, and one that was needed following Haywood’s disastrous public image.
He has made some ridiculous statements and gaffes that could be interpreted as insensitive. Spending millions on advertising and complaining about how he has personally suffered becuase of the spill has made him “the most hated and most clueless man in America”.
I’m sure that he has been under a lot of pleasure and made some stupid mistakes. But his speciality is clearly in geology, not public relations.
But this American tendency to focus blame on one person rather than address the larger issues is dangerous.
Scapegoating Hayward has meant that the media has been able to keep the story going and also provide BP with an easy way out.
Of course – the real responsibility lies with everyone’s unstoppable need for oil, the business sectors unquenchable thirst for fast profits and all of the worlds governments slow approach to environmental issues.
But the apparatus put in place by the government, media and business sector insists that we finish this story with a simple conclusion – the bad guy has had his comeuppance.
The media is still clinging on to his large payoff, and I’m sure he will be used as the focus of the oil spill for a while longer.
But an environmental disaster story like this needs to extend far beyond a simple ending. It needs to interrogate all the reasons why this happens, and not focus on a single villain.