Utilizing scholarship on legitimation, tactical innovation, and blunders, this paper examines the dynamics by which Greenpeace tried to gain legitimacy and delegitimize Shell in the conflict over Arctic drilling. Content analysis of news media mentions found that the vast majority of Greenpeace frames centered on the ethical concerns surrounding Arctic drilling, mainly potential consequences such as oil spills and climate change. In contrast, Shell’s efforts to delegitimize Greenpeace were limited and more evenly distributed between scientific claims about the safety of drilling in the Arctic, economic opportunities such as jobs created, and ethical claims about Greenpeace threatening the safety of Shell crews. The tactically innovative use of celebrity endorsements by Greenpeace was particularly influential for mobilizing and gaining news attention when combined with occupations. Viral videos gained little news media attention, yet helped mobilize Greenpeace support when they featured a celebrity. In response, Shell tactics overwhelmingly involved litigation against Greenpeace which had some success in neutralizing the occupation tactic. Blunders by Shell amplified resonance of Greenpeace delegitimation frames, ultimately contributing to Shell ceasing their Arctic drilling operations in 2013.

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doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2018.1555750, hdl.handle.net/1765/112905
Social Movement Studies
Department of Media and Communication

James Everett Hein, & Chaudhri, V. (2018). De-legitimizing the enemy: Framing, tactical innovation, and blunders in the battle for the Arctic. Social Movement Studies, 18(1), 1–22. doi:10.1080/14742837.2018.1555750