Truthland, Refreshments, & Did I Mention Police?

The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA-NY) has recently been taking Truthland out for screening in some of the far reaches of upstate and western New York.  EID Marcellus was there for a showing of the movie at Buffalo State College.  It  was a private event and there was no connection with the school except for the location, a point made clear from the very beginning by moderator Cherie Messore.   The event turned out members of the press who, I must add, did an excellent job covering it.

There was, unfortunately, also a crowd of natural gas opponents, bent on disruption, who were equipped with signs and postcards handed out at the entrance of the building by anti-energy activists.  Just prior to the screening there was, for example, an altercation in the parking lot outside the building that required a police presence.  Sadly, none of the articles regarding the events of the night, as good as most were, covered the reason why security was called in the first place.  Or,  maybe it just wasn’t covered because the whole episode served as an indictment of the tactics of these activists, which, on this evening, consisted solely of self-righteous acts of disruption – attempts to shut off debate rather than have an intelligent discussion.  They put on something of a show but it surely didn’t help their cause with thinking individuals anxious to sort out the truth.

The “Man in the Tweed Jacket”

Jim Holstun

The Man With the Tweed Jacket

Unfortunately, I was not in the parking lot during the altercation.  I was, nonetheless, approached by police who asked me to assist them in locating a man wearing a tan tweed jacket.  Visions of Agatha Christie, Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes mystery novels danced in my head with that one!

It turns a fellow by the name of Jim Holstun (pictured to the right) was the man they were looking for regarding the parking lot incident.  Now, if you didn’t have the picture, you could be pardoned for expecting a parking lot altercation demanding a police presence probably involved a freshman student.  Nope.  Jim Holstun is a professor at the University of Buffalo where he is a professor in the undergraduate English department.  I’m sure that’s not much of a shock to many of our readers, but it’s disturbing all the same.

Holstun lists his main interests on the University website: “neocolonialism and world literature, global communism and radicalism, feminism and marxism.”  He also maintains this interesting webpage where he opines as follows (emphasis added):

My work is marxist, and I think marxist theory and political practice are more relevant now than ever, given the global dominance of the capitalist mode of production and American imperialism. During the last decade or so, I’ve moved from a new historicist approach based in post-structuralist theory to a marxist history-from-below approach based in the British marxist historians, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ernst Bloch, among others. This approach argues that theoretical consciousness is by no means the monopoly of professors, but is to be found at work in human activity as such, even (or especially) among exploited workers.

I certainly agree Jim Holstun is “theoretically conscious.”  We share that opinion at least.  His actions in the parking lot also tell us a lot about who he is and, sadly, it’s consistent with what he advertises.  The following video where he squanders his opportunity to get answers by harrassing, interrupting and pouting over the remarks of an incredibly patient Dennis Holbrook from Norse Energy, indicate Holsun isn’t happy unless he’s disrupting because that happens to also be his world view.

Patiently Waiting for Real Questions

Buffalo Panelists

Buffalo Panelists

It was clear some members of the audience were not happy with how Truthland takes a complex technology and issue and presents it in a way everyone can understand.  If anyone is unhappy with the way Truthland explains the complex issue of hydraulic fracturing, then they ought to come to the screenings and ask our panelists questions.  That’s the point and there’s no better opportunity.

The Buffalo screening panel was made up of Scott Cline, Dennis Holbrook and John Holko.  Together these panelists have over 100 years experience in the industry and were more than happy to answer all questions regarding hydraulic fracturing.  Instead, much of their time was wasted with questions such “How do you sleep at night?”  This is intellectual debate?  Where is the intelligent discourse one would hope to find on a college campus?  Well, it apparently went out the window in a gust of self-righteous fervor by some individuals who think the only voice that should be heard in any debate is their own.

Truthland took a complex and controversial issue and made it easier to digest.  Nevertheless, it sucked all the emotional hot air out of the Josh Fox filled Gasland balloon.  It appears, in fact, some the activists who attended the Buffalo screening were simply upset the facts and the science don’t support the false arguments they’ve been making.  They closed both their eyes and ears to what was being said because they “couldn’t handle the truth.”

One individual, for example, came to the front of the room and asked why the movie didn’t touch on the subject of methane migration, oblivious to the appearance of Dimock resident Loren Salsman at 23:33 clearly talking about methane migration issues and how the problem was fixed.  There were other discussions of the issue in the movie but those were apparently missed by this viewer, who must have been preparing his remarks, such as they were, instead of concentrating on the message of Truthland.  Perhaps Truthland needs to be “dumbed down” for parts of academia.

In My Backyard

Another pressing issue for the Buffalo anti-energy activists was whether or not the panelists present actually lived in shale gas development areas.  You can find Dennis Holbrook’s answer to this question below.  If any evidence were needed that emotions and politics drive so much of the natural gas opposition, this is it.  One wonders what they thought after hearing Holbrook’s response.

How To Spin The Media

Many of you who follow our blog know I’ve been with the EID Marcellus team for just over two months now.  During the Buffalo screening I was asked “Does Energy in Depth give industry presentations on how to spin the media?”  I was confused on what the man was talking about as I had never been to such a “presentation,” so I made a note and later asked my colleagues about it.  They directed me to an online powerpoint given by Chris Tucker.

Going slide by slide I don’t understand where Energy in Depth shows how to “spin the media” at any point.  Slide 13 and those following do illustrate how the Park Foundation goes about spinning the media by donating from their deep, deep pockets and paying for studies to fit their agenda, but that is nothing more than exposing their work to the light of day.  Who is threatened by that?  Well, we know, don’t we and we also can’t help but notice how the opposition goes apoplectic every time we challenge their sugar daddy.

Slide 17 shows how, through donations, the Park Foundation is able to produce “studies” questioning the development of natural gas (e.g., this headline from the Philadelphia Inquirer – “Duke study finds methane in well water near fracking sites”).  This is just one example of what a donation from the Park Foundation produces.

Anyone with a high school reading level can see, on Slide 19, how the industry has worked with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to come up with solutions to improve the process of hydraulic fracturing.  If anti-gas activists think the process of hydraulic fracturing is so bad, wouldn’t it be beneficial for them to do the same, pool their efforts and come up with solutions and ways to make the process better?  Instead, they seem to think their time is better used at a microphone asking guilt-assuming questions along the lines of “how do you sleep at night?”.  Surely, they could do better, but that would require serious engagement and intellectual honesty, which were in short supply at Buffalo.

We always encourage people to come out to our screenings to gain new knowledge about hydraulic fracturing.  We want tough questions and that’s why we bring in experts who can answer them.  All we ask is some elementary respect of the kind most of us learned in kindergarten.  No screening should require the police, after all.  For more information on future screenings visit  And, be on the lookout for that “man in the tweed jacket.”  He’s looking for a fight.

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