‘The Mentalist’ Relies on Misleading Anti-Fracking Propaganda

CBS crime drama revolves around corrupt natural gas company, uses gimmick of flammable water.

Natural gas companies are guilty, whether or not they actually committed a crime, at least, when it comes Hollywood plotlines.

The March 16 episode of CBS’ “The Mentalist,” with the provocative title “Grey Water” focused on the murder of an anti-fracking activist and featured a natural gas drilling company as prime suspect through the episode. While the company was eventually cleared of the murder, “The Mentalist” still relied on hackneyed clichés about the natural gas industry, portraying it as corrupt and responsible for flammable water.

The episode promoted anti-fracking hysteria as the murder victim’s wife, Molly, alleged that local tap water was “filled with methane” that “killed off a bunch of our cattle too.” Following this assertion, Molly, a local in the fracking-area town, lit her tap water on fire to demonstrate the contamination.

“The Mentalist” story didn’t just allege that gas company practices were causing environmental damage, but engaged in other unethical behavior as well. Another character, Price, claimed that the company was corrupting local government, stating that “everyone in this town is on their pay book” and that some fracking “big wig” was “behind the payoffs and threats” against environmentalists and law enforcement.

In the real world, much of this environmental propaganda has been refuted. As often as the media and left-wing environmental opponents of fracking like to hype flammable tap water, people have been able to light their water on fire since the 18th century, long before hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling were used to capture natural gas. In addition, many reports of contaminated water and other environmental hysteria over fracking have proved inaccurate or overblown.

— Sean Long is Staff Writer at the Media Research Center. Follow Sean Long on Twitter.