The Need For Revisionist Destructionist Propaganda
The need for a revisionist destructionist propaganda - a critique of New Zealand Native Timber Milling activism.
Once the communist regimes of Russia and China gained power, they realised to maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat against the reactionary forces of capital, they would have to institute mechanisms for the suppression of dissent and democracy. This involved the brutal and deliberate perversion of justice for the dissenters, and more widespread use of propaganda for the innocent and easily persuaded. Propaganda was not viewed with disdain, but as an effective tool to prevent the masses from straying away from thinking the thoughts that were good for them.
That such an attitude and technique should have been picked up in the native forestry industry in New Zealand is initially surprising and a little bizarre, but closer inspection reveals deep parallels. Both the communist regimes and modern native forestry must hold the fort against substantial majority opinion - in the case of the former, people's love of freedom, in the latter their love of nature especially mountains, rivers, beaches and...forests.
For propaganda to work there must be a central core of ideas and deeply held beliefs called ideology. A successful ideology has a coherent answer for everything, and such tolerates no effective dissent. Any citizen who questions any part of the ideology is automatically an enemy. For leaders like Stalin and Mao Zedong who were what would now be described as control freaks, effective use of propaganda would mean that their ideas were extolled as correct and universal and any heretical opinions must be silenced - by ideological means or otherwise.
Propaganda meant that every application must have it's own tailored vocabulary. For organs like Pravda and People's Daily, key words like 'labour', 'sacrifice', 'heroic' , 'blood' and 'red' had enough emotional resonance to camouflage the more dubious content in the rest of text. Having the drawback of a substantially better educated population with much higher material expectations is both a curse and comfort for those who want to maintain the milling of native timber. If only the extraction of timber could be explained in such as way that no real harm seems to occur, then the public could perhaps be mollified. If the additional hint of a threat to lifestyle could be added, then a credible case for continued logging could be made. A Very Good Word must be found.
The first Big Lie that fits the bill was the concept of 'sustainability'. There used to be a much more accurate and descriptive term called 'thinning' but this seems to have vanished like former party comrades in a retouch of a 1930's Politburo photograph, probably because it was too close to the truth. Sustainability sounds like nothing is really happening, that as a tree leaves, another magically takes it place. Also by another piece of magic, pest control is more effective as a result of this logging process, doing a much better job than the government's own conservation department. One wonders how the decent folk from Department of Conservation feel about the comments on their professionalism and results they are getting from native milling academics within their orbit.
This is a very hard sell but is made easier by New Zealander's love of furniture made from timber which is, unfortunately for the local trees, superior to the imported products that grow so fast. Here a threat is used that if we do not use local native hardwoods, then they will have to be imported and someone else's forests will be cut down. This is indeed clever, but probably unintentionally ignores the massive slur that it makes upon the very courageous activists in countries like Indonesia , Malaysia and Brazil trying to halt an unimaginable level of destruction. So the second Big Lie is that stopping the milling of native timber impoverishes NZ by reducing the supply of timber for furniture makers and associated trades. NZ native timber is good for furniture it is true, but once upon a time all houses here were made with native timber and now practically none are. The resourceful NZ timber merchant and craftsperson adjusted to the reduction and will do so for furniture. Native furniture will go the way of the mink coat - nice to have but at too great a cost and a sign of political incorrectness of the highest magnitude, It won't happen overnight but it will happen.
The best way to discredit an enemy is to steal his clothes. The native logging ideologues like to call themselves Conservationists but this is a contradiction within the paradigm of their own ideology. They are better described as Destructionists. Preservation and conservation are almost identical concepts. These terms mean to keep in store for the future. No logger is interested in the ecology of their environment any more than a farmer is interested in a retirement home for his stock.
By definition, a logger must look at a tree in terms of dollars and cents. When a logger talks about sustainability, what they mean is the ability of forests to produce what the industry wants - a steady stream of revenue for as long as possible. Industries seldom think in terms of hundreds of years, especially in New Zealand where the massive level of private and corporate debt means financial planning seldom gets past paying next month's bills. Native trees typically have a life of centuries. Most of the pine investment schemes advertised on television promise a maturity within 1-2 human generations. The creation of wealth from native timber must cause the destruction of many trees. This is not conservation. For destructionists to claim that milling native timber is conservation is like saying Uncle Joe Stalin was a much misunderstood kindly old man.
The death of even one tree is no trivial ecological or social event. A tree is host to millions of organisms of varying size and social complexity; a complete ecosystem all of its own. When a destructionist uses the word sustainability, the image of a massive forest giant falling to the ground killing scores of birds is not one that springs to mind - more like a bunch of careful guys going around picking a few small trees here and there. This is not the reality of commercial forestry and no logging company would last long with this sort of approach to operations. The credibility of the destructionists that the trees are being logged in a 'sustained' manner just isn't there - how can the public believe the opinions of a bunch of guys hired by a what is really a government department that employs companies to lie to the public. The truth is that they don't so here the destructionists must reach for the heavy artillery.
Like a ideology committee deep inside the Kremlin, a classification of enemies of sustainability proceeds apace. Top of the list of traitors are the 'Preservationists', an evil malign presence who have never been out of the Auckland and are dupes of the sinister conspiracy called the Native Forest Action - a shadowy coalition of demented old dears ( obviously senile ) and mad “eco-nuts” who seem to love trees more than people. These are portrayed as the true enemies of conservation and the fact they wander around the forests with no commercial imperative demonstrates a desire to overthrow the natural order whereby New Zealand citizens could extract what they like from the environment. They are trying to take NZ back to the bad old days when their were no humans and birds ruled from the tops of the trees.
So here a word has changed it's meaning. Preservation used to mean that things did not change and were kept for future generations. Destructionist ideology deems preservation to mean a mind state where any desire to set any area aside from human influence or exploitation is indicative of some sort of fallacious thinking, mental inadequacy, dubious hidden political agendas or complete hypocrisy by living the modern lifestyle yet still wanting to preserve native forests. Mindful of the influence that fashion and image have upon 21st century, it is necessary for the destructionist to paint a picture of modern environmentalists as out-of-touch, living in the past, out of tune with the times, ignorant and uneducated - not possessing the truth as held and told by the destructionists. Preservationists are the new Trotsky - enemies of the people and nature and perverters of the doctrines of the wise. The modern propaganda requires that Preservationists must also have have a bad image - "beards and sandals brigade".."haters of the West Coasters" .."latte drinking Aucklanders".."destroyers of local industries"... "fundamentalist' .
Image is important to all forms of propaganda and no more so than in modern NZ political life. That a government department could employ a PR company to
write bogus letters to the newspaper supporting native logging, create bogus pressure groups, engage in all matter of duplicitous and covert operations and not be breaking any law, criminal or commercial is indicative of the influence and power that the destructionists have been able to acquire and entrench.
There is a problem for destructionists with the democratic system. While it is true that the vast majority of New Zealand citizens oppose native timber milling, it was not a problem while the National Party was in power. National represents the the interests of those who gain prosperity from the land and so would permit as much logging of native timber as could be allowed without serious political disruption to the NZ social fabric.
However the election of the Labour/Alliance has meant that the destructionist lobby has had to break out of a tight little circle of PR companies and academia that had the National PM's ear and try to take on the environmental movement, the Labour/Alliance, the media, the lot. Like the early days of the communist party in the USSR and China, the initial attempts at public manipulation are crude and probably ineffectual, but nothing is so dangerous as a wounded vested interest and we can expect the pro-native timber lobby to engage in a furious barrage of propaganda to protect their revenue stream. At the moment,things are relatively quiet but the next stage will be the battle to protect native timber on private and Maori land and one can only wonder what extremes of deception, misinformation and discord that this issue will raise.
Finally, the true test of propaganda is how it presents figures and here is a quote demonstrating the black art in it's magnificence
" The need for a new environmentalism Friday, 14 July 2000, 3:19 pm Press Release: Chris Perley
I heard recently that Timberlands received less than 50 hits (38, I heard 3rd hand) on its website showing their planning documents over the submission process in 1998. The media should reflect on this. Many on this e-mail list have read these plans - either in hard copy or on the web, while the 10 000 odd people who signed Forest & Bird's little postcard "sign-a-submission-against-Evil-Timberlands" can hardly claim to have done so. " This is a classic and takes the biscuit for contempt of the public. Here a public preference of a 10000 to 38 i.e. 263 to one against Destructionism is presented as deception/uninformed opinion on the part of the environmental movement and so automatically invalid.
I welcome any comment on my observations.
Adrian Picot A friend of the New Zealand Native forests..