If this video of a PR disaster at a private party hosted by Shell Oil atop of Seattle's Space Needle last night seems too good to be true, that's because it is. The video is a hoax, but a very good one!
The story went that this video was shot by an Occupy Wall street protester named Logan Price who infiltrated a private party called "New Frontiers" thrown by Shell to celebrate the impending expansion of offshore drilling operations into the Arctic. Shell set up a replica of the Kulluk oil rig that will be doing the drilling and invited the widow of the man who designed the rig to symbolically "tap the arctic" and fill her glass with liquor poured from the top of the model rig. But, whoops, the pump malfunctioned and spewed all over her. Now that's symbolism!
"if Shell can't even handle a three-foot replica of a rig that pumps booze, how is the company going to fare in the Arctic deep?" laughed Tree hugger. The story was also picked up by the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Gothamist and our geeky cousin Gizmodo.
Unfortunately, the whole thing is an elaborate fake. The event was ostensibly organized by the communications firm Wainwright & Shore, according to the "New Frontiers" page on Eventbrite. There's a fancy invitation, which looks legit. But a note at the bottom thanks the Joint Pacific Energy Leadership Council, which, according to Google, does not exist outside of this event.
The main proof that this is a hoax comes from the website of Wainwright & Shore, "a full service, integrated marketing public relations and interactive firm" supposedly based in Houston, Texas. Wainwright & Shore boasts "The company donates more than 300 hours of pro bono services to non-profit clients each year."
But according to the whois records, the domain was registered just last month. And the clincher: The domain name server is Mayfirst.org, a lefty-radical hosting company which was also used by notorious pranksters the Yes Men to host a fake Bank of America website back in April.
Update: Shell spokeswoman Kayla Macke emails:
Recently groups that oppose Shell's plans in offshore Alaska have posted a fraudulent video that appears to show Shell employees at an event at the Seattle Space Needle. Shell did not host, nor participate in an event at the Space Needle and the video does not involve Shell or any of its employees. We continue to focus on a safe exploration season in 2012.
Update II: Although the game is up, whoever was behind the hoax is trying to keep it going a bit longer. When we called the number listed on the Wainwright & Shore website a man with a British accent claiming to be with Wainwright & Shore answered and said he had "no idea" about the hoax, but promised someone would call back. Meanwhile, Logan Price, the guy who "infiltrated" the party, is keeping mum on Twitter. He just got on a plane:
Layover in Cincinnati 7:25 pm. See you all then. #ShellFAIL
— logan price (@kstrel) June 7, 2012
Update III: AdAge reports that someone is now sending out fake press releases on Shell's behalf claiming Shell is going to sue the activists responsible for this fake video. Shell denies sending them. Fakes upon fakes!