(I know, weird graphic here considering the subject matter, but there’s a payoff, believe me.)
I just watched the first part of a rather dubious TV series running now on Fox Business Channel (Saturday at 2:30 Pacific) called, “Palm Oil: Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse.” It was a serious greenwashing of Malaysia’s palm oil business, at least what I saw in last week’s episode one. Only Malaysian stakeholders were interviewed, like the local Forestry official, a palm oil lobbyist, a business owner, etc. In the first episode I watched, I did not see one NGO official interviewed to give the opposing side of the story on all the deforestation, death, displacement or exacerbation of global warming brought on by worldwide palm oil demand. This has to be funded by the Malaysian palm oil industry (or U.S. PR flacks).
Find show times for tomorrow’s episode (and future ones) here: http://www.locatetv.com/tv/palm-oil-natures-blessing-or-natures-curse/8110164
One palm oil proponent (the Forestry official) even cast suspicions on the apparently repeated use of the number “300″ in regard to: 1) the number of football field-sized swaths of rainforest that are allegedly cleared each day for palm oil plantations in Malaysia; and 2) the number of orangutans killed in Malaysia in the past year (or something). His reasoning? This use of “300” coincided far too much with the “300″ Spartans that held off the invading Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as featured in the CGI boxoffice blockbuster “300.”. So that means any time the number “300” is used in relation to the environment it is not to be trusted? Users of this number are just making shit up, so clouded and influenced by classical Greek history they are (as told recently by Hollywood)? I mean seriously? That’s all you got?
UPDATE – 6/24/2013: Well, now I know why this ridiculous “series” is too much “nature’s blessing” and not enough “nature’s curse.”. After missing part 2, I watched part 3 on my DVR this weekend which caught the disclaimer that ran both before and after the “episode.” It says (paraphrased):
This is a paid advertisement and its views do not necessarily represent the opinions of Fox Business Channel.
So it’s a freaking three-part (and counting, apparently) INFOMERCIAL, which means it makes no pretense to be objective or balanced. He was hired to produce a commercial — and to ask for anything higher-minded or more intelligent or nuanced isn’t required– that’s not what commercials do. They’re job is to push (unnecessary) product for the corporation or entity hiring them to do so. Though it says nowhere in the credits who paid for this greenwash, like the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, big, wealthy palm oil companies and/or its American lobbyists Holland & Knight and Van Ness Feldman (see earlier post), it was produced by this guy: Stewart Cheifet and his Stewart Cheifet Productions.
I wrote an email and sent it to the contact link on the site above:
Please tell me who hired you and your production company to produce that multi-part infomercial (to call it anything less would be a lie), “Palm Oil: Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse”? Was it the Malaysian Palm Oil Council? Was it the Malaysian government? Was it their American lobbyists, the K-Street Washington law firms Holland & Knight, or Van Ness Feldman? It’s obvious it was one of these palm oil-interested entities because its one-sided nature was blatantly obvious.
I am a consumer who has become a palm oil activist over the years. As such, I am fairly educated on the palm oil issues, at least more than your average consumer. I stumbled on your infomercial a couple of weeks ago (running during the “plum” dead hours of 2:30 PM on a Saturday on Fox Business Channel, thank god so nobody watched it). From your advertisement’s title, I was hoping for a well-balanced documentary that presented both sides of the story objectively. But, unfortunately, all we saw was the “Nature’s Blessing” side and none of the “Curse.” I immediately notified my network of palm oil activists and animal conservation NGOs to set their DVRs for some not-so-accurate infomercial misinformation. (Clearly, my DVR didn’t pick up the disclaimer on Part 1 running both at the front and back of your commercial that plainly said this was a paid ad. My bad.)
What was most startling to me — unless I missed it — was the lack of input from palm oil activists, environmentalists, animal conservation charities and any other NGO who are on-the-ground in Southeast Asia and could provide a potent counterpoint to the one-sided views of all the palm oil businesses and government officials who waxed enthusiastic about the benefits of palm oil. Every stakeholder featured were making money off of palm oil — whether businessmen, trade officials, or (corrupt) government officials — except for the orangutans killed as pests on palm oil plantations, or the pygmy elephants poisoned because they eat the “crop”, or the human inhabitants displaced by them.
The one snippet I saw with one palm oil proponent in Part 1 aptly displayed the naked intent to greenwash palm oil in any way you could while casting doubt on the palm oil activists…with the most dubious of rationales. Here’s a great example:
One palm oil proponent even cast suspicions on the apparently repeated use of the number “300″ in regard to: 1) the number of football field-sized swaths of rainforest that are allegedly cleared each day for palm oil plantations in Malaysia; and 2) the number of orangutans killed in Malaysia in the past year (or something). His reasoning? This use of “300” coincided far too much with the “300″ Spartans that held off the invading Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as featured in the CGI boxoffice blockbuster “300.”. So that means any time the number “300” is used in relation to the environment it is not to be trusted?
So, I’m just wondering how proud you are to play a part in the greenwashing of palm oil, which is once again in the world news due to the Indonesian palm oil/forest clearing fires currently plaguing Malaysia and Singapore? I’ll say it again: worldwide palm oil demand leads to:
1. The destruction of high conservation value rainforest in Southeast Asia (and now in Africa and South America);
2. The death of critically endangered species, like the orangutan, rhino, pygmy elephant, tiger, etc.;
3. The displacement of human inhabitants who depend on the rainforest for their sustenance;
4. The SEVERE exacerbation of global warming (as evidenced this week as the smoke crosses the Strait of Malacca).Would love to hear more from you.
So far no response. I followed up again.
- American Law Firms Lobby Selling Out of Soul for Palm Oil https://gettingonmysoapbox.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/american-law-firms-lobbyingselling-out-on-behalf-of-palm-oil-companies/
- Palm Oil Kills Three More Elephants in Sumatra (gettingonmysoapbox.wordpress.com)
- Avoid Products That Contain Unsustainable Palm Oil (gettingonmysoapbox.wordpress.com)
- Palm oil- A consumer awareness manual. Hardy Thomas (advocacyactivismagency.wordpress.com)
- WARNING! Your snacks may contain Orangutan Extinction! (girrlearth.com)