Fracking: I do not think it means what you think it means

by Sonny Bunch on September 27, 2012

Part of the problem with reporting in the entertainment industry—heck, part of the problem with the entertainment industry writ large—is that most people involved in the process think they know a lot more than they actually know. This is why movie stars feel extremely comfortable lecturing us about politics and why film writers eagerly parrot their talking points: the baseline level of ignorance is quite high.

I lead with this preamble so you don’t think I’m picking on this author particularly. She’s not especially ignorant. She’s just a representative example of her milieu. But she has written one of the most stunningly inaccurate/misleading parentheticals I’ve ever seen. The offending passage from Entertainment Weekly‘s website is below and bolded:

The trailer for the Matt Damon and John Krasinski penned Promised Land has hit the Internet.

Damon and Krasinksi also star in the film, about a natural gas company salesman (Damon) trying to convince farmers in a small town to sell their land for fracking (a complicated term that basically means drilling for oil) rights. Krasinski plays a farmer weary of Damon’s pitch. The movie also features Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook.

Now. Look. Let’s just break down this clause. First, “fracking” is not actually a “complicated term.” It’s actually a relatively simple term that is short for “hydraulic fracturing.” Maybe she meant to say “a complicated process” here? Because the process is actually kind of complicated, which leads me to my next point: Fracking doesn’t really mean “basically drilling,” at least as far as the public conception of “drilling” is concerned. Fracking isn’t like There Will Be Blood. There are no geysers of oil shooting through the earth. Third, and most importantly, natural gas is not oil. These are two entirely different things. Natural gas is far cleaner and far more abundant (at least in America). You can frack for oil, but if Matt Damon is a natural gas company salesman, why would he be fracking for oil?  Casually conflating the two is either lazy or pernicious—not all fossil fuels are created equally, you know.

Anyway. There’s a reason movies like Damon’s get praised/produced by people in the movie industry. It’s because nobody has any idea what they’re talking about. So you wind up with a smart, left-wing guy like Damon (and, by all accounts, he is quite smart) able to kind of bluff his way through the process while also presenting a compelling, massively inaccurate story and, voila! Anti-fracking movie! The rubes in the press will praise it and ignorant audience members will be led to believe it’s true because the press isn’t equipped with the mental tools to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Meanwhile, agitprop demonizing a legitimate source of domestic fuel damages our shot at energy independence (just read the comments at that post) while our betters blather on about the fantasy of green energy. It’s all quite annoying.

Update: I mean to link to this higher up, but Phelim McAleer pointed out all the things that are wrong with Damon’s anti-fracking film at the NY Post.

Further update: Turns out the film is funded in part by an oil-rich Arab nation. Gee, I wonder why they’d be interested in keeping America dependent on foreign oil. Any idea, Mr. Damon?

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