The New York Times, Astroturf, and the Gulf of Mexico

07/03/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New York Times published a major story today which bizarrely claims that the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not such a big deal after all. The Times quotes Quenton R. Dokken, the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation which the Times identifies in as "a conservation group":

"The sky is not falling. We've certainly stepped in a hole and we're going to have to work ourselves out of it, but it isn't the end of the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf is tremendously resilient."

What sort of leader of a "conservation group" concerned about the state of the Gulf of Mexico would say such a thing?

Turns out, both BP and Transocean are on the Foundation's board of directors, along with oil companies Shell, Marathon, ConocoPhillips, and corporate suppliers of deep water drilling technology.

And it doesn't stop there. The Times reporters themselves then claim that the "is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history." One reason they suggest that this catastrophe is not as bad as the 1989 oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound is because the Gulf of Mexico:

is not a pristine environment and has survived both chronic and acute pollution problems before. Thousands of gallons of oil flow into the gulf from natural undersea well seeps every day, engineers say, and the scores of refineries and chemical plants that line the shore from Mexico to Mississippi pour untold volumes of pollutants into the water.

The idea that this the scale of this catastrophe is somehow reduced because the Gulf of Mexico is not a pristine environment like the coast of Alaska is the shallowest sort of view of the disaster unfolding off the Louisiana coast.

But then again, hey, as the oil comes to shore perhaps we could cover it up with Astroturf. Might even get the Times to do a "news analysis" piece on how the Astroturf doesn't look so bad after all.