An Honest Identity For A Highly Suspect Firm

“Old black water, keep on rollin
Mississippi moon, wont you keep on shinin on me” – The Doobie Brothers

Rob Walker cracks me up with this take on Blackwater USA, the private security firm fighting for oil in Iraq.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re starting a business that happens to be more or less an extragovernmental army. Your employees will be weaponized, trained to kill, and available for hire. Your accountability will be murky at best. In fact the whole organization would be kind of secretive and vague. It sounds a little scary. A little sinister. A little dystopian sci-fi.
What would you call your organization? Wouldn’t you want to go for something reassuring? Sort of the way that lobbying organizations adopt innocuous, feel-good names? Maybe you’d go with something like Blue Sky, or Sunshine, or Tranquility. Something that would suggest to anyone who heard about your organization in passing: “That sounds pleasant. Nothing to worry about there!”

Blackwater USA was formed by former Navy Seals, so the name is most likely inspired by that experience.
According to Slate, Blackwater has been involved in 195 shooting incidents in Iraq since 2005, including the September 16, 2007 shootings that killed and injured dozens of Iraqi civilians.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today, I'm the founder and creative director at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon. We bring integrated marketing solutions to our clients in healthcare, human services, real estate, fashion, outdoor recreation, and food and beverage.


  1. David: Do you ever watch “Jericho” – it’s that show about the US after a nuclear attack?
    There’s a subplot in there about a sleazy private security company that got its start with evil deeds in Iraq that’s now terrorizing the US.
    The name of the company on the show is Ravenwood, not a big jump from Blackwater. (Ravens being black and all.)
    Think About It.

  2. Never seen it. But I did live in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago (actually in Lincoln Square, but Lincoln Square is kind of a neighborhood inside a neighborhood). Lovely place, by and large.