How Big Oil Conquered The World (2015) - Documentary
Oil. From farm to pharmaceutical, diesel truck to dinner plate, pipeline to plastic product, it is impossible to think of an area of our modern-day lives that is not affected by the petrochemical industry. The story of oil is the story of the modern world.
Parts of that story are well-known: Rockefeller and Standard Oil; the internal combustion engine and the transformation of global transport; the House of Saud and the oil wars in the Middle East.
Other parts are more obscure: the quest for oil and the outbreak of World War I; the petrochemical interests behind modern medicine; the Big Oil money behind the “Green Revolution” and the “Gene Revolution.”
But that story, properly told, begins somewhere unexpected. Not in Pennsylvania with the first commercial drilling operation and the first oil boom, but in the rural backwoods of early 19th century New York State. And it doesn't start with crude oil or its derivatives, but a different product altogether: snake oil.
“Dr. Bill Livingston, Celebrated Cancer Specialist” was the very image of the traveling snake oil salesman. He was neither a doctor nor a cancer specialist; his real name was not even Livingston. More to the point, the “Rock Oil” tonic he pawned was a useless mixture of laxative and petroleum and had no effect whatsoever on the cancer of the poor townsfolk he conned into buying it.
He lived the life of a vagabond, always on the run from the last group of people he had fooled, engaged in ever-more-outrageous deceptions to make sure that the past wouldn't catch up with him. He abandoned his first wife and their six children to start a bigamous marriage in Canada at the same time as he fathered two more children by a third woman. He adopted the name “Livingston” after he was indicted for raping a girl in Cayuga in 1849.
When he wasn't running away from them or disappearing for years at a time, he would teach his children the tricks of his treacherous trade. He once bragged of his parenting technique: “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ’em sharp.”
A towering man of over six feet and with natural good looks that he used to his advantage, he went by “Big Bill.” Others, less generously, called him “Devil Bill.” But his real name was William Avery Rockefeller, and it was his son, John D. Rockefeller, who would go on to found the Standard Oil monopoly and become the world's first billionaire.
The world we live in today is the world created in "Devil" Bill's image. It's a world founded on treachery, deceit, and the naïveté of a public that has never wised up to the parlor tricks that the Rockefellers and their ilk have been using to shape the world for the past century and a half.