The Telephone Wall

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I was watching Gasland, the Josh Fox documentary with my class a few days ago. There were two scenes in the film that struck me. Fox tries to call a gas company for comment and gets the run around, a vigorous spirited run around. It gave off a scent of “We don’t have to tell you little people anything, ever.”

But don’t we get that treatment all the time? We call our bank, we call our computer company, we call the cable company, and we call and we call, and we find ourselves enmeshed in a web of partial answers, refusals, and promises to call back later. I hate promises to call back later, they always come when I’m in the middle of something (like teaching class) or they don’t come at all.

It is certain that some organizations, some companies, have these telephone walls, merely to channel messages or discourage the unnecessary message. However, with the giant corporations in this case the gas companies, these phone walls have a more sinister purpose, that is, to deny the public the interviews, the information that would place the companies in a bad light. After all, there is a strong implication that having lobbied successfully to evade federal regulations, even the most mundane studies, that you are doing something wrong.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a great corporation accessible without going through a gaggle of public relations minions and the occasional attorney. But we are not yet a complete oligarchy of corporations, corporate clients and a compliant government manipulating a passive, electronically entranced populous, American citizens still have responsibility to other citizens. I happen to believe that when you are a corporate citizen and are building a nation wide infrastructure of gas wells, you have a responsibility to give an occasional interview.

James Pilant

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