Protesting the Protestors: Is SeaWorld Using Corporate Activists?
In addition to the documentary “Blackfish” educating the public about SeaWorld, the theme park has had several other controversies. For example, there’s the official open letter from SeaWorld, which was largely refuted. There was also the poll controversy where a swarm of pro-SeaWorld votes that were cast in the Orlando Business Journal’s unscientific poll came from the SeaWorld.com IP address.
As reported in CNN, a SeaWorld spokesman explained:
Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company and we encourage them to make their opinions known. If a poll is posted regarding SeaWorld, our team members have as much a right as anyone else to vote and express their opinion. We’re unsure why that’s being questioned here.
The SeaWorld spokesman is right. There are still many who have strongly positive and negative feelings about the park. Free speech says that everyone has a right to express their point of view.
Yet, bullying and intimidation, like in a new video, are never the way, no matter what side you are on.
The “Blackfish effect” has rippled to the offline world, too. Many have taken to the streets to raise captivity awareness.
Now SeaWorld could be antagonizing anti-captivity activists by bringing in their own “corporate activists” — though there’s no official confirmation that these activists are on the corporation’s payroll.
As Seattle Pi highlights, “corporate activists supporting SeaWorld showed up and held their own little rally across the street from where families were peacefully demonstrating against SeaWorld’s policy of keeping large animals in small tanks.”
Protest the Protestors
The “Blackfish effect” has created another new wave of seemingly grassroots activists: protestors of the protestors who stand by SeaWorld. As highlighted in one Facebook event, their objective is to protest the [anti-SeaWorld] protestors while spreading a “message of love, compassion, and inspiration.”
The Culture of Corporate Espionage
The use of corporate activists is an offshoot of corporate espionage. While SeaWorld’s corporate activism is alleged, corporate espionage isn’t impossible to rule out.
As reported in Popular Resistance, a Center for Corporate Policy (CCP) report found that “possibly as much as one in four activists being private spies.” Environmental activism is a major target.
Greenpeace is a major spying target. Apart from having their trash bins searched and having the phone numbers of Greenpeace activists collected, Greenpeace has also been infiltrated on the field. As reported in Popular Resistance, “an agent who ‘posed as a left-wing sympathiser and film maker’” had a “mission” to ‘”betray plans of Greenpeace’s activities against oil giants,’ including gathering ‘information about the movements of the motor vessel Greenpeace in the north Atlantic.’”
As reported in Common Dreams, the main takeaway from the CCP report is that, “This [corporate espionage] is entirely veiled in secrecy and is a threat to an active citizenry, democracy, and the right to privacy.”
While there are many reasons for corporate espionage, the overriding commonality is a perceived “threat to the corporate bottom-line.”
The Case of Marineland
There’s a perception that animal theme parks can’t operate the same way as oil giants; their services are different and they cater to families and children. Yet, as one sea park controversy shows, sea parks can be ugly and threatening to activists.
As seen on CNN iReport, John Holer, the owner of Marineland, was “caught on video uttering a death threat” to Mike Garret, an animal activist. Despite being caught on tape, the police never filed any charges against Holer. As reported in Toronto Star Newspapers, this is the same John Holer who is allegedly behind the shooting and deaths of two neighborhood dogs that wandered into Marineland.
Yet, Marineland did sue Garret, in a 1.5 million dollar lawsuit, “claiming defamation, public nuisance and interference in their business.” Marineland protests have continued for “over three decades.”
Obviously, corporations are concerned about the threat to their bottom-line. Yet, in the greater picture, we all have more to lose when active citizenry, democracy and the right to privacy are threatened. Getting in someone’s face and death threats have no place in activism. That’s the real bottom-line.
Photo Credit: tocha shona via YouTube