So the British, including leading politicians, are steamed at American anger at BP, seeing in it anti-British prejudice. Huh? I don’t see this. They’re cheesed off that Obama has referred to “British Petroleum,” pointing out that the company changed its name to “BP” years ago (therefore, Obama can only be using the name “British Petroleum” in his public remarks to stoke anti-British prejudice). Nonsense. I had no idea until very recently that “British Petroleum” was no longer in use, and I think very few Americans outside the oil industry did either.More importantly, this emerging British narrative depends on the belief that if not for anti-British prejudice, Americans would be tolerant and patient with BP’s behavior. I’m sorry, but that’s demented. Since this crisis began, we have learned that BP never had a plan to deal with this sort of thing, despite telling the government that it did. We have learned that BP has a terrible safety record, and ignored clear warnings leading up to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, warnings that something was going very wrong on the rig. We have learned that BP lies. We have seen BP try to keep journalists from telling the full story of what the company’s negligence has done to the Gulf and the people who depend on it. And we have seen entire regions, communities, local economies and ecosystems put in serious peril of extinction. Do the British seriously believe that if BP were Exxon, or any other American company, that the American people would be less angry at them over what their corporate recklessness (aided and abetted by American regulatory laxity) has done? Absurd. Gobsmackingly so.What this is all about is the British economy. BP is a strong British company whose shares are widely held by UK citizens. The British economy is very weak now, and can barely afford for BP to capsize. You know whose fault the perilous state of BP is? BP’s. It’s not the fault of the American people. While one can certainly take pity on pensioners and other small British investors who are taking a hit as BP’s stock price collapses, I prefer to reserve my sympathy for the Gulf Coast fishermen and merchants whose communities and livelihoods are being destroyed because of BP’s negligence. Where are the British coastal towns whose harbors, bays, beaches and marshes are choked with oil? Are British seabirds dying by the score, soaked in BP oil? Where are the British fisherman who will not be able to harvest seafood from British waters for years because of contamination? Those are the parties who deserve the greater part of one’s sympathy. BP stockholders are indeed victims here, but of BP’s management, not angry Americans.Look, British friends, this is nothing personal. Nobody blames Britain for BP’s behavior. But if you seriously think Americans ought to stifle their outrage at BP out of some sense of special regard for British sensibilities, here’s a message for you:
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About Rod Dreher
Rod Dreher is director of publications at the John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropy that focuses on science, religion, economics and morality. A journalist with over 20 years of experience, Dreher has written for The Dallas Morning News, the New York Post, and other newspapers and journals. He is author of the book "Crunchy Cons." Archives of his previous Beliefnet blog, "Crunchy Con," can be found here. He and his family live in Philadelphia.