Crisis management – a green perspective.
Greenskull’s official title was Chief Co-ordinator of Information Management, which is a nice way of saying he was in charge of all PR for the “cause” or to put it more simply, a spin doctor, and he was good at it. Things had been going rather badly in the wake of the Copenhagen disaster, hence various organisations all clubbing together to pay for his not inexpensive services. He thought of his influence as a steadying hand on the tiller of a boat crewed by enthusiastic but clueless amateurs which was going through what was frequently self-induced squalls.
He’d had to kick ass and take a few names at the start but things while not improving dramatically, had calmed down measurably after they started listening to him. Arranging suitable outcomes for every investigation into the email leak had made his reputation with them but keeping that scrawny ass Gleick out of court on an identity theft rap, never mind a possible disaster like a federal wire fraud charge, had really established his chops.
He was in the loop on everything because he was the bloody loop.
He shaped it, fixed it when it was broke, directed it, aimed it and coordinated the various mad scientists, air head treehuggers, assorted middle-aged hippies, halfwit kids and journo crusaders that comprised the most malleable elements of the cause. The politicians and moneymen he didn’t manage, he just tacitly agreed a few accommodations with them and they were a done deal from then on because they knew the game.
If only his clients were that reasonable. When it came to them, it was like shepherding African wildebeest-sized herds of cats, each and every single one of whom was suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s with an added touch of total dementia, just to make things a bit more interesting for him.
Monica, his long-suffering but inexplicably faithful PA who’d followed him from assignment to assignment, had already put together the summary of that morning’s media coverage of all things green. She could read his moods better than all three of his former wives put together. She knew him very well. When things were calm, he could be utterly charming, but give him a real-time crisis and he was in his own terrible element.
That was when Mr very capable but horrible Greenskull came out, and he didn’t take any prisoners. Supposedly powerful people like Ministers of State became minions scurrying around him, like school children running in sheer terror before a cane-swingeing schoolmaster and his towering inferno rages. You had to contend with the air turning blue around him as the stress level ratcheted up to DEFCON One with whatever crisis he was handling.
Whether that blue shift was from the imaginative and escalating level of his swearing or the packs of cigarettes he chain-smoked his way through was debatable. Thankfully, he’d finally quit smoking a few months back. One out of two was a step forward, she thought, though the first couple of weeks of cold turkey had been pure bloody murder for everyone around him. Word got around very quickly, only the truly desperate came anywhere near Castle Greenskull in that fortnight.
He skim read the summary. The only initiative that seemed to be getting a bit of traction was a paper by some Polack he’d never heard of. It wasn’t exactly a worldwide splash but the BBC, Guardian, HufPo and a few others of the luvvie media were bragging it up big time. Strange he thought, even a few of the Aussie arse-wipe rags were cheering it along for some reason.
Bottom line, the paper was telling the world that if you didn’t agree with all things green, you were a conspiracy nut. Good stuff, he thought, that’s what we need – a few punchy eye-catching headlines. All that end of the world is nigh bollocks has been done to death – nobody’s listening to it nowadays.
Over the next few days, the summary showed some blowback from internet hillbillies but nothing was getting out into the mainstream media. That’ll be the day. It was all indignation and slide rule bollocks done by nerds with bottle bottom glasses like Buddy Holly that nobody in their right mind would ever read anyway. He made a mental note to keep an eye on the Polack – he looked promising.
A few months later, another summary and another published paper from the Polack and some other guy called Cook. Fuck me, this kid is showing some real promise, though Greenskull. Putting the boot into anyone who whinged about his first effort, fucking brilliant stuff decided Greenskull, as he headed out to a meeting to give a new tranche of privately educated nobs a bloody good booting. Like all hardy survivors of a punt and pray education, he really did enjoy terrorising the indifferent products of a more expensive one. It wasn’t a revenge thing, he just liked doing it – to crush your enemies and see them driven before you.
Over the next few days, the pressure on Polack paper number two started to build in each morning summary. He couldn’t quite work out what the problem with it was, but there was no doubt something was wrong with it. He could sense a PR problem growing. Greenskull called Gerald, whom he thought of as his tame and leashed science gimp, into his office.
‘What’s the problem with this Polack’s paper?’
‘Where do I start …’
‘Never mind all the science bollocks, just give me the bottom line’ said Greenskull with an impatient glare.
‘We may have to retract the paper’.
‘What’s that mean?’ Greenskull asked Gerald, who felt the first tremors from the volcano that he knew always lurked beneath the thin tectonic crust of Greenskull.
‘It means we have to take it back, admit there are problems with it’.
‘We’re not doing that’ snarled Greenskull almost reflexively, ‘we never retract’. He hated that word already.
‘We don’t do the retracting, the publisher does’.
‘Why would they want to retract it?’
‘For starters it seems to have broken some ethical code of practice at his university ….’.
‘Gimme the real problem, or do I have to use the riding crop on your well-fagged public school arse’, said Greenskull, giving him the cold eye.
‘Apparently you can identify some of the people mentioned as nutters. The magazine could be sued by several people. They have to pull it. No choice’.
‘Can’t we put any pressure on them? You know, we’ll never give you another paper, you’ll never work in this town again, all that usual sort of bollocks’, asked Greenskull.
‘It’s not a big magazine, sociology really, it’ll always find someone desperate enough to get published. They’ll publish anything, to be frank’.
‘Tell them they can take it down’, directed Greenskull, ‘but with some flowery bullshit about reviewing it in the light of reader’s concerns. Not retracting – I don’t want to see the R-word, or I’ll crucify them. When all the fuss has died down, they can quietly flush it down the shitter next year’.
Gerald turned to go but Greenskull halted him before he could make his escape. ‘Was all this caused by this Cook guy?’, asked Greenskull, casting around menacingly for someone to blame.
‘I don’t think so’, replied Gerald, ‘although he has certain problems all of his own …’.
Greenskull’s “danger-Will-Robinson-danger” antennae went ping. ‘What problems?’
‘He has this thing with being seen in uniforms’.
‘Gowon, tell me. What sort of uniforms; policewoman, vicar, tart, nurse, what?’
‘SS uniforms’, replied Gerald, bracing himself for hurricane Greenskull’s landfall all over his ass.
‘Shit. Fuck. Bollocks. Shit, shit, shit. For fuck’s sake, you really are shitting me. You gotta be. You’re not, are you?’ Greenskull stabbed his forefinger at him repeatedly as if to gouge out one of his eyes. ‘You’re fucking joking, you’ve really got to be having a laugh’.
Gerald slowly shook his head.
Greenskull regained control and thought about heading off another like crisis in the near future but what seemed key was definitely separating the Polack from the SS guy.
‘Right. We gotta keep them apart. Leave the SS guy where he is but move the Polack to the other fucking side of the planet, well away from SS. Pull a few strings with your nancy boy contacts in the bend-over lower sixth over here. It doesn’t have to be fucking Oxbridge, pick some red-brick shit hole buried well out in the sticks and promise them some money if they’ll give him a home’.
Gerald, who had an old score to settle with a certain provincial college, started work on the transfer. Australia’s gain was about to become an even more wonderful gain for someone else.
Another day, another fraught situation. ‘Boss, that cover story you gave Pachauri about being hacked is starting to unravel’.
‘What’s the dirty old bastard done now?’ enquired Greenskull.
‘He wasn’t quite truthful with us. It’s not just a text or two, it’s hundreds and there’s even voicemails and handwritten notes’.
‘That lying sack of sub-continental curried shit – he told me it was all digital. All we need now is his home fucking movies plastered all over the net’.
Gerald stayed very quiet and Greenskull looked at him ominously. ‘Tell me there aren’t any movies, Gerry boy’.
‘God, no’, Gerald hurriedly replied, ‘not that we know of …’.
Just when Greenskull thought things couldn’t get more deranged, up pops a mad scientist. Another bloody crisis thought Greenskull. Some professor convinced that Big Oil was out and about murdering climate scientists, and giving that story to the Times of all people.
‘Well, what’s he got to say for himself?’ Greenskull asked Gerald.
‘He says it was all off the record and he was misquoted anyway’ replied Gerald.
‘You’re my science nerd, you’re supposed to be riding shotgun on all these mad professors’ he reminded Gerald, and added ‘Just tell him to stay away from journalists or I’ll murder him myself’.
Within a day, the mad professor had given the Telegraph the same story and of course they loved it. Greenskull was not best pleased.
‘Get him under control, Gerald, even if that means ripping out his bloody tongue. No more interviews’. Gerald hurried off to beat up the mad professor.
Within a few more days, the mad professor threatened the Times with legal action and the Press Complaints procedure, but they stood by the story, especially as they had the original interview on tape. Instead of lying low, he’d managed to create a second story out of the original.
‘Jesus Christ, there’s no stopping this fucker’ thought Greenskull, as he and Gerald gnawed on the mad professor problem. ‘The best way out of this one is to have him killed. It’d really cement the conspiracy bollocks’.
‘I don’t suppose we have an assassin or two on retainer, do we Gerry boy?’
Gerald shook his head slowly.
‘Maybe we should …’ said Greenskull, thinking aloud.
Long after Polack paper number two was pulled from publication, it was quietly retracted as planned, which Greenskull noticed with satisfaction. Good, he thought, the magazine publishers are on message and the whole thing sinks quietly under the waters to oblivion.
Over the following days, Greenskull couldn’t believe the green fuckwit’s reaction to the retraction. They were publicising it and going to war with the publishers, accusing them of all sorts of crap.
He got onto Gerald immediately, instructing him to tell them to STFU but it was too late. Before Gerald could run the errand, the magazine under attack from all sides had to drop all the flannel and just say the paper was just a pile of shit anyway. Even when the message got to the green loonies, the whole bloody thing kept spiralling upwards into the mediasphere, like one giant airborne clusterfuck.
Greenskull reviewed the situation. Some hermaphrodite arsehole with the name of Dana said the publishers were lying and very generously threatened on the authors’ behalf that they themselves might sue. As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of the people complaining about being diagnosed as mad cow diseased worked for the Met Office and was one of our own coneheads on the receiving end of some blue on blue.
‘Where the fuck did this loose cannon Dana come from?’, asked Greenskull.
‘Guardian’, replied Gerald.
‘Can we move him to fucking Butte Montana or somewhere?’, enquired Greenskull.
‘I don’t think so’, replied Gerald, ‘Unfortunately, he’s already American. I think he lives in California. There’s nowhere safe there we can move him to’.
‘Christ’, thought Greenskull, ‘California and the fucking Guardian – that’s a marriage made in hell’.
‘Can’t we just get Big Oil to murder him or something?’ suggested Greenskull thinking off the cuff while he searched for a more realistic solution, but seeing Gerald’s momentarily panicked face, held up a hand. ‘Just fucking kidding Gerry boy, we’d never be that bloody lucky, not with this shower of complete fucking arse cracks’.
Gerald, in all good conscience, felt obliged to volunteer a bit more information about Dana. ‘He occasionally works with that Cook guy’.
Greenskull froze and his eyes drilled lazer-like through Gerald’s eyes and clean through his brain to the inside rear of his skull, burned on through it and out of the back of it, to become two smouldering black holes in the flock wallpaper behind him.
‘Is that the SS guy?’ he asked slowly and ominously.
Outside the window, birds froze in mid-flight.
Gerald thought a nod was safest, so he nodded.
Greenskull remained icily calm and slid open a drawer of his desk to look inside thoughtfully. After a while, he slid it shut.
‘I don’t suppose you’ve ever assassinated anyone, have you Gerry?’ Gerald shook his head.
‘You wouldn’t just happen to know someone who has?’ Gerald knew someone who’d mentioned having once shot a squirrel, but that wouldn’t count.
‘Do you think we could borrow one from Big Oil?’
Greenskull didn’t even get to his morning coffee before the next day’s crisis landed on his desk in the media summary. Gerald was summoned in. ‘Right, who the fuck is Lupo Motel and what’s all this fuss about him?’
Gerald considered for a moment. ‘His name is actually Lubos Motl, but he’s got nothing to do with it. It’s just that one of our lot started using his identity on the internet …’.
That was as far as he got before Greenskull went nuclear.
‘Fucking Gleick. I want his tiny little bollocks. Do you hear me Gerald? Get them for me. Both of them. I’m gonna leave them in the sun on my kitchen window sill, dry them down to the size of desiccated fucking little peas and get them put into cheap tin roundy cheapy cheapy things, which I’ll give to Monica as long fucking dangling earring thingies that I’ll insist she wear and every time she turns her head, I’ll hear them rattle around inside. Little tinny rattles. Rattle, rattle. Fucking rattle’.
‘Boss, Boss, it wasn’t him this time, it was the other one’.
‘Which other one?’
‘The SS guy’.
Greenskull sat back down in his chair and slowly pulled open the top drawer of his desk, the contents of which Gerald couldn’t see, and paused before reaching in to nail him with a beady eye. ‘Leave me now Gerry Boy, leave me alone with my despair’. Gerald fled the room and blundered past Monica’s desk, in the sure and certain belief that he was but a few steps ahead of hearing a pistol shot.
She heard the smoke detector going off in his office and a squawk as it was knocked off the ceiling and stamped to death with a lot of effing and blinding. After a few minutes of silence, she felt it was both safe and she was distant enough to remind him over the intercom that he was due at a policy meeting and that there was actually a strict no smoking policy in the building.
‘If you put a call through or disturb me for the next five minutes, I’ll rip your lower fucking mandible off and use it as a fucking ashtray.’ The intercom snapped off.
She let the secretary taking the minutes for the policy meeting know that Mr Greenskull’s schedule was running slightly late today but that he’d be there. She also got in touch with Premises to get a replacement smoke detector but one without a battery in it – she’d take care of that personally. Mr Greenskull was very particular about what type of battery was kindest on the environment, which candidly was actually none when it came to smoke detectors in his office when he was having a smoke.
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