5. The Mobil Oil/Rhodesian Connection

Very simply, the story is: "Single-handedly, America's fifth largest corporation is keeping alive a regime that has been not only embargoed but condemned by virtually every nation on earth." The corporation is Mobil Oil; the nation is Rhodesia. The story was released, with supporting documentation, at a press conference held by the People's Bicentennial Commission (PBC) in Washington, D.C., June 21, 1976. Attending the press conference were more that 40 reporters from America's major papers, all three networks, the wire services, along with radio and freelance people. On the same day, the PBC turned the documentation over to the Treasury Department, the House and Senate Committees on Africa, and Senator Frank Church's subcommittee on multinationals. The only extensive coverage occurred six weeks later when the N.Y. Times broke the story, announcing that the Treasury had begun its investigation of the PBC charges. But unless you saw that story or a short story subsequently carried by AP, you would-be unaware of the Mobil Oil/ Rhodesian connection. None of the networks, not Time and Newsweek, gave coverage to the story. The story charged that Mobil, by developing a string of dummy companies, post office addresses, and phony order sheets and invoices was able to set up a circuitous "paper chase" thereby disguising the fact that Mobil was selling Rhodesia as much as $ 20 million a year in oil products, including specialized aviation fuel for Rhodesia's air force. When asked about the lack of coverage on the story, a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times said: "Look, Mobil may have been subjected to higher standards than 99 percent of the news stories we run, but hell, nobody wants to take on Mobil Oil without fucking good grounds. I'd be a fool not to say that Mobil is a big national advertiser." The apparent media self-censorship which occurred with this story qualifies it to be considered for one of the "ten best censored" stories of 1976.

SOURCE: "Let's Make A Deal" by Richard Parker, editor, Mother Jones, September/October 1976.

Jeremy Rifkin
Peoples Business Commission Washington, D.C.