Orchestrating the Media in a Symphony of Controversy and Social Revolution to Save the Seals

Commentary by Shannon Mann

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
- Oscar Wilde

I guess I really did not know what to expect when I signed on as communications officer onboard the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat for a voyage to focus attention on the slaughter of the harp seals.

It worried me that Captain Paul Watson stood on the dock in Bermuda and waved us off. He was sending us north into treacherous waters and for the first time ever he was not onboard to command the voyage.

Instead he directed the voyage through Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands. Watson's strategy was to send a European flagged vessel with a Dutch captain and a predominantly European crew into areas inside the Canadian economic exclusion zone and outside the twelve mile territorial limit. In order for it to work, he could not be onboard.

It was a brilliant move and not fully appreciated by the crew until the last days of the campaign when the strategy came together in a crescendo of success that sent echoes around the globe with a powerful message to stop the brutal slaughter of the baby seals by Canadian sealers.

The last three weeks have been a feast of marvelous media hype and slapstick success for Captain Paul Watson and our crew. He has plucked the chords of the media with such skillful dexterity that the entire adventure has been orchestrated by Watson the conductor with Loyola Hearn playing the strings on cue, Danny Williams on brass and a host of media mouthpieces making up the chorus line with an ensemblage of media and public opinions, televised visuals, political insults, shocking commentary, backed up by SWAT team renditions of "Bad boy, bad boy, where ya gonna run to", punctuated by funeral dirges, critiques of Beatlemania experts harping on about the stance of the Walrus to Farley Mowat, the author and man on base, firing off a burst of venom in over the top goofy Nufie style.

I have to say I felt like I had front row seats to a major concert and for sheer entertainment value there was not much else that came close to it in the ratings. The symphony began slowly with the entry into the off-shore pack ice of the black ship Farley Mowat. Then unexpectedly the Canadian Coast Guard delivered a crashing introduction by slamming a flimsy sealing boat into chunks of ice with reverberations heard across the land. It was music with an evil lethal twist as four sleeping sealers were flung into the frozen brine never to wake again.

The Coast Guard reeled and recoiled into defensive smatterings of excuses, abuses and distractions, looking around desperately for a scapegoat to take the flack. The Coast Guard then performed a bump'em and thump'em rendition of the St. Lawrence two-step tango after rudely and crudely cutting into a slow waltz between the Farley Mowat and a bloody little seal snuffing number called the Cathy Erlene. Overly bold, the red bellied bully boys grazed and fazed the Farley and her crew and stood back in mock indignant shock to proclaim date rape after leaving red smudges on the Farley's black skin.

And before the bodies could be placed in the ground, Captain Watson seized the day in true "carpe diem" style to proclaim that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups was a far greater tragedy than four of their killers. The media reacted as predicted with righteous heated indignation. Elizabeth May delivered an onstage performance of political two-stepping to demonstrate that the Green Party was both pro-seal and pro-sealer and resigned from the Sea Shepherd Advisory Board on National television with a kiss on the hand from Maestro Watson who thanked her for her performance and then directed the ship and crew into the French isles of St. Pierre et Miquelon for a little European flavoring and a performance from the fishermen axmen who plucked, then cut the strings of the Mowat sending the ship off in a flurry of controversy back into the ice pack.

Finally Watson pointed his baton at Loyola Hearn and called him out to perform and on cue Hearn's mouth opened and caught his foot with a sputtering, hysterical burst of comedic ineptitude that was a marvel to behold.  He accused the vegetarian Watson of dining on steak and lobster in a posh hotel room in New York City while sending us minions into danger in the North. He called all of who are volunteers "money sucking manipulators" and of course the usual Canadian media suspects fell into step to parrot the government line especially Controlled By Canada the CBC.

But it was all predictable and the media scandal garbage just fertilized the ground for some rare sprouts of investigative verbiage where the economics of the seal slaughter was exposed in the National Post and the issue reached the pages of the New York Times and The Economist before spilling out into the lap of the rest of the world with positive repercussions for the forces opposed to the slaughter of seals.

Loyola Hearn was left sputtering in the mud and the blood which prompted the government to unleash their mad dog Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams with his predicable drumbeat of schoolyard name calling and juvenile pontificating. In desperation Williams called for the banning of the barbaric hak-a-pik instrument from the orchestra. But nobody noticed any change in the tune coming from the European brass section and the symphony continued.

The String section under Hearn called in the heavy rappers and bangers armed to the teeth and clad all in black to board the floating Farley band with all the bravado of pimpled faced boys with guns looking to bitch slap some defenseless female to demonstrate their Latino wannabe machismo that they so clearly lacked.

Captain Alex and 1st Officer Peter the Hammer were hauled away in chains to be interrogated for the crime of approaching the scene of a murder without permission of the murderers. Captain Paul bailed them out of the loony tune crowbar hotel with a sackful of unbearably heavy doubloons and after the counting was done, the two men were free to be deported back to Europe to spread the message of Canadian seal serial killers, bashing and slashing in a melody of gore and blood.

On the eve of a vote on a bill before the European Parliament to ban seal products, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society knew that a special performance was in order and all the players delivered in spades. The Sea Shepherd crew have left the field. Attention, Captain Watson has left the building leaving the Canadian Dudley Do Right Feds scratching their heads and wondering what to do with the great black ship left in their hands. They can't seize it without due process, they can't let it go unless they return it in the condition they received it which means they are stuck with it as Captain Watson prepares a law suit for damages. Why pay to retire a ship when the Canadian government can pay Sea Shepherd to retire it for us.

And the music just gets better and better with sealing ships crushed in the ice, sealing boats on the rocks, sealing boats on fire, another one bites the dust and another one down, it's getting almost orgasmic. The prices for seals pelts falling, fuel prices rising, less seals dying as the orchestra reaches the climax of its creative performance and the chickens come home to roost to await the European Parliamentary decision to hammer the last nail into the coffin of the most barbaric, obscene and disgusting industry on the planet.

It was a great performance Captain so take a bow. Halleluiah, Mr. Hearn for playing your part. As the music fades over the ice floes, the gentle barking of young seal pups restores the natural order to the nursery as the survivors of the vicious rape of the babies of the sea take to the water to make their way northward.