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Information Capture and Control by Corporations Threatens Science… and Education

July 31, 2021

A Common Dreams article describing the agreement between Shell Oil and the London Science Museum illustrates how corporate control of information is now influencing the dissemination of scientific information. Shell Oil, one of the carbon spewing corporations whose scientists knew that their products were contributing to global warming, underwrote an exhibit on climate change at the London Science Museum with the proviso that the museum not level any criticism to them for their role in polluting the plant:  Here’s an overview of what transpired:

According to the Channel 4 News, which first reported on the document, the agreement requires the museum to not “make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.”

What’s more, Science Museum director Ian Blatchford, in emails, called on Shell to “champion” the exhibition to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI)—a fossil fuel industry body—to elicit additional funding, Channel 4 reported.

Research and campaign group Culture Unstained obtained through Freedom of Information requests documents related to the sponsorship agreement. In an analysis, the group said the gag clause was “hugely problematic.”

“It essentially creates a ‘chilling effect,’ where museum staff must refrain from speaking openly about the reality of Shell’s activities because it could be seen as damaging the company’s goodwill or reputation. This is a particular problem due to the contested nature of Shell’s business operations and the fact it is sponsoring an exhibition about climate change solutions,” the group wrote.

While the US is wringing its hands over a mythical infusion of Critical Race Theory in social studies texts a science museum in England was providing a way for a polluter to write the narrative on climate science. I daresay that the same legislatures who want to sanitize the history of our country by limiting the exposure of its students to the real story of race will soon be passing legislation to prevent science teachers from telling the REAL story about climate change. As we have learned relatively recently, the oil industry, like the tobacco industry before it, KNEW that their products had a devastating impact on the earth but presented a narrative in their corporate advertising and corporate sponsorships that was contrary to that reality. When billionaires and corporations control the narrative, citizens and consumers suffer. Getting private money out of politics AND the operation of museums will go a long way to getting truth into the marketplace.

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