On the heels of ExxonMobil's really tough couple of weeks sopping up that grievous oil tar sands spill in suburban Arkansas, America's largest, most profitable corporation is now trying to stop a different leak: a novel attack-ad campaign from an environmental group.

Titled "Exxon Hates Your Children," the ad and website have actually been around for a few months, but they gained renewed attention when the campaign's sponsors, a group called Oil Change International*, sought to buy advertising time from several Arkansas stations to air the commercial.

No Arkansas TV stations appear to have accepted the ad, but that didn't stop Exxon from having a massive retaliatory freakout. The company reportedly leaned on station managers to reject the ad, distributing an epic five-page, point-by-point rebuttal of the commercial's "nonsensical...defamatory" script. The full document is below, but Exxon's broad strokes are worth highlighting:

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  • "Here at Exxon we hate your children." —Factually incorrect and cannot be substantiated...
  • "We all know the climate crisis will rip their world apart, we don't care because it's making us rich." —Factually incorrect and cannot be substantiated...
  • "Making a fortune, destroying your kids' future. At Exxon that's what we call good business" —Factually incorrect and cannot be substantiated.

Perhaps ExxonMobil should have stopped and considered whether there might be a certain degree of reputational risk to taking the claims of an ad called "Exxon Hates Your Children" so seriously, especially when the ad is having so much trouble making the jump from YouTube to TV. But that evidently would have slowed down the oil company's spokesman in telling one local reporter: "The advertisement is offensive, nonsensical and fails to meet any basic standard of accuracy, so we requested that the TV stations reconsider airing it."

This is the public-relations equivalent of a guerrilla war: The whole point of an insurgent group's first small volley is to evoke a massive overreaction from the superpower, exposing the superpower as a dick and gaining the moral high ground. Maybe if Exxon had any previous experience in insurgent wars, they'd understand that cycle. Then again, maybe not.

*Update: Oil Change collaborated with two other groups, The Other 98% and Environmental Action, on the Exxon campaign.