Savage Nobles – Palm Oil Detectives

Savage Nobles – Palm Oil Detectives

Savage Nobles is a series of investigative posts covering grifters that savagely attack sustainability initiatives, including the Forest Stewardship Council and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and their proponents over their ”Noble” cause. The term ‘Savage Noble’ is a play on the mid-eighteenth century’s romantic yet racist construct of the “Noble Savage” (Ellingson 2001), which ‘has turned green and appeared on the frontline of a very modern propaganda offensive’ (Whelan 1999). Savage Nobles use similar rhetoric constructs to black-wash sustainability initiatives and so polarise the public perception towards their ”noble” cause.

Note: This post has been updated repeatedly since it was first published, the latest update being 27 September 2022. (The individual behind Palm Oil Detectives has made serious efforts to scrub, change and lock various accounts linked to her.) Sections added/edited include Palm Oil Detectives promoting the Iceland supermarket chain and her general promotion of consumerism, as well as their blatant lies regarding an RSPO certified or owned plantation, vague guiding principles, a donation to Orangutan Land Trust, protecting Javan rhinos, the effectiveness of boycotts, links to FSC/RSPO, police reports, promoting suicide and stalking/harassment.

For well over a year now, a Twitter account named ‘Palm Oil Detectives‘ has been smearing various sustainability proponents on social media. Its main target is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (@RSPOtweets), in an attempt to vilify its significant progress towards responsible management by the palm oil industry. The account prides itself on being anonymous (see this tweet/archive), and even its website contains no information on the identity of the person or persons administering it.

This desperate attempt at avoiding responsibility for claims made is an obvious warning sign that something is very, very wrong with the due diligence of any initiative and its associated accounts!

Any positive PR story about #palmoil I will be able to debunk and destroy with publicly available information about the person’s link to the industry.‘ (archive)

Palm Oil Detectives, 2021 (twitter.com/Palmoildetect)
independent wildlife activist‘ (archive)

As Palm Oil Detectives considers ‘publicly available information‘ fair game to ‘debunk and destroy‘, I’ll apply the same standard to expose their expertise, their links to industries and their lies.

TRUTH: ‘palm oil [actually] produces more oil per hectare than other oil crops making it better for the environment than coconut or rapeseed oil‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (twitter.com/contentcatnip)
Palm Oil Detectives portrays itself as an ‘environmental conservation organisation‘ (archive)

While Palm Oil Detectives portrays itself as an ‘environmental conservation organisation‘ (archive; see image above), no information on its legal standing is available online. In stark contrast, Annex 1 (at the bottom of this post) provides ample evidence that Palm Oil Detectives is an individual: Athena Dennis from Wellington (New Zealand). Athena claims to hold a Bachelors degree in Communications & Marketing and to have over 15 years of experience in ‘senior marketing consulting and strategic marketing‘ (archive) and ‘running content marketing campaigns for multiple clients‘ (archive).

the oil palm produces ‘more oil per hectare than other oil crops‘ (scrubbed; archive)
Athena offers ‘a free content audit‘ (archive), yet most of her own – in this example graphic – content is cheap and crude

Athena is – quite literally – a certified and experienced spin doctor who peddles her trade on social media. Note her numerous commercial domains listed in Annex 1 – athenadennis.com, athenacreativeweb.com, contentcatnip.com, fourseasonspoetry.wordpress.com and palmoildetectives.com – as well as her ‘Strategic Content Marketing Stack‘ (archive).

Thus, let’s ponder over what a spindoctor has to gain from any successful spin – either paid or unpaid. The more outrageous and successful the spin, the more the spindoctor’s portfolio increases in value, the more clients (s)he will attract and the more income is generated to maintain her 2M$ house.

she worked in a variety of different digital agencies in the UK and Europe and led teams that produced digital storytelling and advertising for international brands like eHarmony, AA insurance, Travelodge, Monarch Airlines, ASDA, Tesco and more‘ (scrubbed; archive, click on ‘read biography’)

Dennis, 2022 (Doctors for the Environment Australia)

Curious about how to optimise your website for increased sales? Read Ten Great Ways to Optimise your Landing Page for Conversion, by Athena Dennis on the Clarity Blog https://buff.ly/2PzTJdp‘ (mirror)

The Clarity Business, 2018

Athena’s ethics are very questionable. For instance, she doesn’t take the concept of Intellectual Property very seriously – despite being clearly aware of it (she even refers to IP-free images on her old website). She regularly (ab)uses digital imagery from other sites without attribution or the owners’ consent. This includes imagery from a.o. Nicolas Schwab (tweet/archive) but also many, many photographs and videos from Joel Sartore; see a.m.o. the tweet/archive right, in which the logo (Video Ark) and the name (Joel Sartore) have been removed.

the original Palm Oil Detectives: Luc & Patrick (archive)

Not even the brand name ‘Palm Oil Detectives’ appears to be Athena’s intellectual property! She snatched it from the highschoolers who set up palmoildetectives.wordpress.com (note the ‘z’ in Athena’s palmoildetectivez.wordpress.com).

But Athena’s ethics are not limited to plagiarism.

I love generating real monetary value for clients‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (linkedin.com/in/athena-dennis)

Using an alternate Twitter account (@contentcatnip), Athena has already admitted that ‘palm oil [actually] produces more oil per hectare than other oil crops making it better for the environment than coconut or rapeseed oil‘ (archive). She has also noted that deforestation in the tropics is due to various commodities, including ‘#soy #meat #cocoa #coffee’ (archive). Yet, somehow only palm oil deserves a #boycottpalmoil call-to-action, while the other commodities are being ignored by Athena.

Joel Sartore’s name and brand were removed from various videos used (original)
Athena’s claims often are ‘a little misleading

No matter your content needs: branded, advertorial or off-site SEO and linked bait, pamphlets or white papers – I’m your woman.‘ (scrubbed; archive)

Dennis, 2014/2015 (athenadennis.com)

Clearly, Athena has a fair understanding of the issues concerning deforestation, the palm oil industry and the role of the RSPO in transforming this industry.

In light of even Greenpeace calling her claims ‘a little misleading‘, Athena Dennis’s professional details raise numerous alarms. More so in light of her stubborn efforts to scrub posts from Twitter and other social media to hide her track record with for-profit entities and her conflicting interests. It raises the question of whether one of these entities is funding her propaganda, and which one is.

Only Athena can tell, but I won’t hold my breath for her ethics to kick in!

LIE: ‘The biggest thread to #biodiversity‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (www.twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Athena relies heavily on web intent URLs (a.k.a. click-to-tweet links and tweet buttons) to have her followers retweet her conspiracy theories for her. These URLs so reflect her knowledge of palm oil and the RSPO: crude, erroneous & prejudiced.

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?=&text=Until big brands cease %23deforestation completely I am going %23palmoilfree. I boycott supermarket brands %26amp%3B %40RSPOtweets members destroying rainforests for %23palmoil %23meat %23soy sending animals %23extinct! I’ve joined the %23Boycott4Wildlife& url=https%3A%2F%2Fpalmoildetectives.com%2F2021%2F02 %2F11%2Fpalm-oil-free-brands%2F&via=palmoildetect (emphasis added; archive)

Athena clearly is aware of the need for URL code (see her link above), as she uses it for hashtags and commas (emphasized through bold). However, she fails hard at URL coding for (e.g.) spaces (emphasized through underline) and erroneously uses HTML code for the ampersand (emphasized through strike-through).

Athena is infamous for her crude typos and erroneous tags (archive)

Last but not least, Athena regularly tags the wrong accounts on social media, thus harassing accounts with no ties to palm oil (such as the struck-out accounts in her click-to-tweet link above).

The plethora of crude typos, incompetent coding – which remain in use for well over a year (see e.g. the tweet right) – and prejudiced views reflect Athena’s crudeness, incompetence & prejudice. The same crudeness, incompetence & prejudice Athena applies to complex issues, like oil palm cultivation.

a plethora of examples expose Athena’s crude typos (like the ‘#Boycott#Wildlife‘ above) and erroneous coding

Crude typos (a.o.) include:

Incompetent coding (a.o.) include:

Prejudice towards Twitter accounts (a.o.) include:

  • @Avon: an IT specialist from New Zealand,
  • @Ferrero: an individual from Macau, and
  • @Mars: a musician from the USA.
Athena’s crude errors – like the erroneous ‘<br>‘ in this tweet (archive) – have remained on her site since August 2021

When Athena has no evidence to show for her claims, she resorts to insults and ad hominem.

when Athena has no evidence to show, she resorts to shallow insults instead (archive) …
… and endorses her followers mimicking this dysfunctional behavior (archive)

Seven content creation tips for startups and freelancers‘ (scrubbed; archive)

Dennis, 2019 (athenacreativeweb.com)

Athena’s personal website was locked-down after February 2021, and recently was completely scrubbed. However, the Wayback Machine has archived numerous pages/posts of both the website as well as associated tweets:

#Palmoil must be #deforestation free otherwise it must be boycotted‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Athena argues that her assertions on palm oil ‘are based on @Greenpeace @EIA_News @ran @crresearch findings‘ (archive). Yet, she sneaks in her real agenda, her #boycottpalmoil argument: if any deforestation for oil palm occurs, all palm oil must be boycotted. Dozens of Athena’s tweets use this hashtag and tag or cite these organisations.

Yet, tweets supporting a boycott of palm oil have been posted by neither Chain Reaction Research, Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace nor Rainforest Action Network up to 2022. In fact, Greenpeace tweeted in 2018 that palm oil ‘can be produced without destroying rainforests‘ and it ‘*is* possible to produce palm oil sustainably, and we’re not actually encouraging a boycott‘. Recently, Greenpeace stressed yet again it has ‘has never called for palm oil boycott‘ (see tweet right).

Ergo, the selective use of reports/statements by Chain Reaction Research, Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network to argue a point they don’t support is called a fallacy of stolen concept: Athena abuses their reports, etc to falsely suggest they support her boycott palm oil argument.

Greenpeace has never called for [a] palm oil boycott

[It] *is* possible to produce palm oil sustainably, and we’re not actually encouraging a boycott

Greenpeace, 2018

LIE: ‘A series of vague guiding principles govern members in the RSPO‘ (emphasis added; archive)

Dennis 2021 (palmoildetectives.org)

One of the many shallow spins Athena uses is her contorted argument that RSPO’s principles “for growers to be RSPO certified” (emphasis added; see top right image) ‘govern members in the RSPO‘ (emphasis added; archive) and are vague. She even added the subliminal ‘vagueness-in-language‘ to the file name. As always, her fallacious argument is very easy to debunk:

  1. Athena’s image is severely outdated, taken from a decade old standard. This standard was revised in 2018 (see middle right image) and will be revised again during 2022-2023.
  2. Growers are but one sub-set of all RSPO members, just as (e.g.) individuals and environmental/social NGOs are. The RSPO clearly details its process for membership application, the Shared Responsibility of all members and their Annual Communication of Progress. Clearly, there’s little left to vagueness in RSPO’s requirements for members.
  3. RSPO’s Principles and Criteria are the overarching guidance for ‘detailed requirements for the production of sustainable palm oil*. For instance, the requirements to support smallholder inclusion (Principle 5) is broken down into various – sometimes very detailed – requirements (like Indicator 5.1.4; see image bottom right).
* Separate documents cover the requirements for a.o. independent smallholders and supply chains.

Evidence is available that all parties, including women and independent representative organisations assisting smallholders where requested, are involved in decision-making processes and understand the contracts. These include those involving finance, loans/credits, and repayments through [Fresh Fruit Bunch] price reductions for replanting and/or other support mechanisms where applicable

Indicator 5.1.4, 2018 (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)

In a nutshell, Athena failed – yet again – to perform even the most basic due diligence on her ”evidence” and clearly misleads her followers by cherry-picking factoids that fit her false narratives.

Block Penny McGregor another “sustainable” palm oil lobbyist‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

When Athena demands her disciples to jump, all they ask is: “how high?” Her favorite dog whistles are ‘block’ and ‘lobbyist’, to which her followers eagerly bark out in support.

ad hominem: ‘another “sustainable” palm oil lobbyist‘ (archive)
ad hominem: ‘she just needed a cause‘ (archive)
ad hominem: ‘loser Bule Mewak‘ (archive)
ad hominem: ‘because she is unpleasant & so wrong‘ (archive)

LIE: ‘social media campaigns against palm oil are highly successful‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.org)

One of Athena’s foulest spins is her assertion that “social media campaigns against palm oil are highly successful“, a bullet-point in Teng et al 2020 that she adulterates. What Athena deliberately(?) ignores is that this paper aimed to ‘categorize relevant themes of public opinions toward palm oil and its environmental impacts by using online data from social media accounts‘ (emphasis added), that it covers ‘how the public debates over palm oil‘ and that its measure for success is ‘negative public opinions on palm oil‘ (emphasis added). The study does not determine the effects of boycotts on oil palm cultivation, palm oil demand, deforestation and/or rare, threatened and endangered habitats/species!

In contrast, science sketches a more sobering perspective of the impacts by boycotts:

‘You were either for or against a boycott of tropical timber: you either believed in the possibility of sustainable commercial forestry or you did not’

Pearce, 1991

‘The extreme organizations support consumer boycotts and/or government trade restrictions to minimize the trade in tropical wood products. The moderate position recommends the use of a number of education-oriented tools to address the problem, including certification programs.’

Ozanne & Smith, 1993

‘the deforestation effects of timber import boycotts of industrial countries, leading to a decrease in timber exported from Indonesia, are rather uncertain’

Kägi, 2000

‘measures directed at proximate causes – such as boycotts in developed markets against agricultural products that have caused deforestation – are likely to simply displace one cause of deforestation for another’

Douglas & Simula, 2010

‘the high costs of informing a boycott means that it is difficult to scale them up to effectively target more than a few target corporations or for them to affect national policy or legislation’

Walker et al, 2013

‘Well-intentioned beef boycotts potentially weaken the incentive to invest in pasture restoration and may lead to a counterfactual of extensive land use, and increased greenhouse gas emissions’

De Oliveira Silva et al, 2021

Boycotts for forests and wildlife mainly polarise the public discourse and there’s little or no evidence that they reduce deforestation or the loss of habitat and species. Clearly, Athena’s claim that social media campaigns are ‘highly successful‘ is more than ‘a little misleading‘.

Put me on the payroll and then spend the ensuing years hassle free.‘ (scrubbed; archive)

Dennis, 2013 (athenadennis.com)

Athena displays similar intellectual dishonesty when she misrepresents a scientific paper on consumers’ choices for boycotts or buycotts (Hoffman et al, 2018). This paper concludes that ‘hedonism’ increases the effects of environmental concerns and universalism but decreases the effects of social concern on buycotting, while ‘simplicity’ merely decreases the effects of social concern on boycotting . (The paper does not use the term ‘minimalism’!)

Only a twisted and deceptive mind would transpose these findings as meaning that ‘individuals who boycott value minimalism, individuals who ‘buycott’ value hedonism‘ (archive). This claim is – yet again – more than ‘a little misleading‘.

LIE: ‘A lawsuit by activists against a zoo in #Indonesia … was successful.‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (palmoildetectives.com & twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Yet another massive lie Palm Oil Detectives (read Athena) continues to pimp is that a lawsuit against an Indonesian zoo was successful. Not even the source Athena copy-pasted claims this, but it hypothesizes that the lawsuit could demonstrate the value of a new legal approach.

Padangsidimpuan District Court rejects Walhi’s lawsuit against PT Nuansa Alam Nusantara

Anonymous, 2021 (Antara SUMUT)

Anyone who bothers to search online for the zoo’s name (Nuansa Alam Nusantara) quickly discovers that the lawsuit was filed in April 2021 (archive) and rejected in November 2021 (source). No information is available regarding an appeal as of September 2022.

Yet, Athena and her minions continue to post this obvious lie on social media – in particular Twitter.

LIE: ‘A lawsuit by activists against a zoo in #Indonesia … was successful.‘ (archive)

Research: Forests are more important to the climate than we think . The heart of the tropics is at the heart of the planet. Forests are critical for our survival. #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife (mirror)

Dennis, 2022 (Palm Oil Detectives)

Athena is regularly caught copy-pasting materials that don’t belong to her, as exposed by her Twitter “Bane”: @apes4forests. The account notes that the original text concerns a recent news release with clear copyright claims with it as well as on the associated website (see tweet right).

You may not download, reprint, reproduce, republish, transmit, or otherwise distribute Website Content or User Submissions in any way except for your own personal, non-commercial use, without the prior express written permission from EurekAlert! and AAAS.

American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2022

Note that Athena not only plagiarised her post, but also adulterated the main points of its news release and the full paper: neither of which mentions palm oil! Athena sneaks that into the adulterated version on her website to falsely suggest support for her call to boycott palm oil.

Plagiarism is #careerGrifter @creativeathena’s middle name!‘ (archive)

Anonymous, 2022 (twitter.com/apes4forests)
[Athena] was ”creative” again, with copyrighted materials this time
Athena has scrubbed both athenacreativeweb.com (mirror) and the associated WordPress account (mirror) after being exposed as the individual behind Palm Oil Detectives

according to this report by the World Health Organisation‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (Palm Oil Detectives)

Athena blatantly lies about the above source: it is neither a report nor by the WHO! Her source is a peer-reviewed paper in ‘fully open-access journal of public health with a special focus on low and middle-income countries‘ (emphasis added): the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

The @RSPOtweets failed to resolve 100+ complaints on #deforestation #humanrights abuses‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (Palm Oil Detectives)

Athena wholly adulterates the main points of her source above! The original source notes that ‘21% of 141 cases‘ – or 30 complaints – ‘are still under investigation‘! It also notes how the process is imperfect and many complaints fail to provide supporting evidence.

Another example of Athena’s plagiarism is the copyrighted(!) post by Science News above that she pasted into her own blog (mirror), while neither acknowledging nor linking the original material.

Athena systematically banks on ambiguity for her black-washing. An excellent example of this is her false narrative about the link between the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Sisirau (an oil palm plantation in North Sumatra, Indonesia). Athena claims Sisirau is ‘an RSPO certified palm oil plantation‘ (see a.o. the tweets below), yet she cherry-pickes evidence from the RSPO’s Complaints Tracker and skews that to imply a direct relation between Sisirau and the RSPO. However, there is no evidence of this estate being owned, managed or certified by the RSPO!

In stark contrast, the evidence in the RSPO’s Complaints Tracker shows a very different relation: Sisirau was (and still is?) a subsidiary of the Ibris Palm Group, at that time an RSPO member. No public announcement, public summary or certificate is available online to indicate that the plantation was ever audited against an RSPO’s standard, let alone that it ever obtained a certificate!

Athena also mirrors a public summary concerning the complaint against Sisirau plantation. Ergo, she is well aware of the red highlighted findings from this summary (below), but chooses to ignore them to pursue her false narrative on the destruction of intact rain-forest:

  • The P.T. Sisirau area was fully planted before between 1992 and 1996.
  • The area is clearly being replanted and terraced and it is not a new development.
  • Clearing and replanting began in 2010 and has continued through to 2013.
  • It has been assumed that forest has been cleared and the orangutans will be starved, this might turn out to be a reactionary accusation not based on holistic information.
  • There was no HCV to start with as the area was completely cleared and planted by 1999.
  • Secondary forests areas have developed due to abandonment of fields as harvesting in non-terraced steep areas were not undertaken by the previous management.
Review and Verification of PT Sisirau, Summary, see also RSPO complaint tracker
  • Due to recent stresses in the adjacent areas, the orangutans might be recent migrants seeking refuge.
  • The orangutans could also be longer term users as the secondary forest areas which could have offered not only relative security but food too.
  • Conservation value attributes have only developed over the past few years, but this could have been ascertained if the land manager had undertaken a HCV assessment in 2010 or earlier. But the records show that the holding was sold to P.T. Ibris Palm in 2010 and the company is only now getting familiar with RSPO requirements. The fact remains that in their interpretation of the RSPO P&C, a HCV assessment was not required because of the planted status of the estate.
  • Most of the secondary forest areas has been cleared and replanted. Only a small proportion is left and currently being given conservation status by the company.
#orangutan rescue on @Rspotweets
#palmoil plantation
‘ (archive)
photographic proof that this occurred on an RSPO #palmoil plantation‘ (archive)

Note how Athena banks on ambiguous claims like ‘an RSPO #palmoil plantation‘ and the doubles down on her claims, from ‘RSPO member‘ to ‘RSPO certified‘ – very different claims with vastly different requirements – after being called out over her lies:

Michelle and Bart claim Craig is lying, the plantation wasn’t certified by the RSPO.‘ (emphasis added; archive)

Dennis, 27 November 2021 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Did I already mention that Athena’s claims are more than ‘a little misleading‘? Can we by now agree that her claims are founded on zero intellectual honesty?

A short story … about #palmoil plantations‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (palmoildetectives.com)

Adding unrelated images for shock value is another blackwashing technique that Athena has mastered to a T. In her ‘short story … about #palmoil plantations‘ tweet right, the top-right image of a dead fish was taken (likely in Slovenia) by Ajala and the bottom-right image of domestic(?) waste was taken in India by Yogendra Singh. Neither image nor their owners show any relation to oil palm cultivation or palm oil processing, let alone the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil!

Even worse, Athena cannot even be bothered to accredit the owners of the images and plagiarism may well be her middle name. But there is much, much more evidence of Athena’s intellectual dishonesty!

Athena blackwashes through shocking yet unrelated images

Their main threat is #palmoil #deforestation in #Java #Indonesia‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (palmoildetectives.com)

A more recent black-washing attempt is Athena’s post about the ‘rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino‘ (archive), published at 16:00 hours (GMT) on 28 May 2022. Athena claims that this post ‘is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license‘ (archive) and she categorized it under ‘The Problems with Palm Oil‘. However, there are several major issues with Athena’s post:

  • The original post notes that ‘the rhino population in Indonesia has tripled since the 1960s‘ and starkly contrasts with Athena’s claim of ‘rapidly disappearing Javan Rhino‘ (archive). In fact, Athena removed two paragraphs that cover the population increase of the Javan rhino from her “republished” (read adulterated) version!
  • The original post also doesn’t contain any statements about palm oil, let alone that boycotting it can help the Java Rhino.
  • Google Search indicates that the oil palm is currently no threat to the Javan rhino, while the langkap palm (Arenga obtusifolia) is a serious threat (Haryadi et al 2012).
  • Google Earth shows the encroachment of langkap palm along the southeastern border of Ujung Kulon National Park (see image below).
Athena abuses the plight of the Javan Rhino for her propaganda (archive)

langkap palm encroachment near Cegog Village (6°51’12.67″S, 105°34’2.14″E), Ujung Kulon National Park, Indonesia

(Source: Google Earth Pro)

there is hope for a middle way to take to ensure the palm oil industry can continue to supply the community’s needs for healthy and environmentally friendly products where the keyword is “sustainable”

Sunarto, 2022 (The Malay Archipelago)

Athena thus blatantly lies to her followers by omitting crucial information that doesn’t suit her narrative while adding outright nonsense about how ‘boycotting palm oil is how you can help [the Javan rhino]‘ (archive). Not even that, Athena spins false narrative, suggesting that a respected Indonesian scientist supports her shallow demand to #boycottpalmoil despite him clearly supporting sustainable palm oil. Are we well beyond ‘a little misleading‘ yet?

known by critics of the industry and whistle-blowers of ‘sustainable’ palm oil corruption as the Palm Oil Lies Trust‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

Orangutan Land Trust (OLT) is a registered charity from the United Kingdom that works towards the long-term survival of the orangutan in the wild, by enabling sustainable solutions that ensure safe areas of forest for the continued survival of the orangutan. (For more information about OLT, click here.)

OLT has rapidly become the bane of Athena’s zealous movement for a boycott of palm oil. It takes an active role on social media in sharing the expert consensus and scientific evidence about the environmental and social impacts of oil palm cultivation. In particular, it stresses that most of the experts in (orangutan) conservation are adamant that a boycott of palm oil will increase – not decrease – tropical deforestation!

More coming soon!

Greedy people like you can only imagine people are motivated by money‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

… coming from someone living in a 2-million-dollar house, accusing OLT of being greedy is but shallow projection!

Athena’s sock account @michelle_RSPO (suspended; archive)
Athena’s sock account @RSPO_lobbyist (suspended; archive)

… singling out palm oil in covering an obscure study of interest … shows either a gross misunderstanding of the subject, or a deliberate activist agenda. Or both.

Monteith, 2022 (Think Scotland)
She was a decision-maker involved in this case with the orangutan mother/baby at PT Sisirau…this was a complete failure‘ (archive)

BSI, a company that conducts audits for the RSPO is listed as a corporate partner of Orangutan Land Trust at the same time as Kulim was their corporate partner. BSI approved the certification of Kulim Malaysia Berhad as ‘sustainable’. Bart Van Assen, Technical Advisor for Orangutan Land Trust was conducting audits of palm oil companies at the same time.‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

Athena spins a twisted conspiracy between British Standard Institution, Kulim Berhad, Orangutan Land Trust and myself. It pivots around the flimsy evidence that BSI and Kulim were corporate partners of OLT around 2015, while I have volunteered(!) as a technical advisor with OLT since 2012. As usual, yet another crude typo reflects Athena’s crude conspiracy theory: orangutan-land-trust-corporate-sponsors-partrners-oct-2015.png (archive).

Of course, Athena has no solid evidence for her crude conspiracy because there is none. I did neither notice nor particularly care that BSI and Kulim have been OLT corporate partners until Athena pointed it out. Hence, I have never advised OLT on issues regarding BSI or Kulim or communicated with either on behalf of OLT. Furthermore, I have never joined audits by BSI or joined audits of Kulim Berhad by other conformity assessment bodies.

Thus, Athena’s evidence for a conspiracy is a non sequitur: various parties support(ed) orangutan conservation through OLT, therefor they were conspiring to obtain RSPO certification. A conspiracy theory as crude as Athena’s many typos.

Athena’s superpower: turning anything into a conspiracy theory.

Read more here: Savage Nobles – Palm Oil Detectives

slacktivism: The self-deluded idea that by liking, sharing, or retweeting something you are helping out.

Urban Dictionary

The idea of ‘linkbait’ may sound sinister, but it’s not. Its [sic] simply content that’s placed on a reputable website. This links back to your site and boosts web rankings.‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2013 (athenadennis.com)

One of Athena’s pages on palmoildetectives.com uses a password to avoid transparency. A leaked password shows the page to mainly contain a collection of Athena’s clicktotweet links for her zealous followers to increase her website and Twitter stats. Various followers do so zealously, see a.o. the slacktivists @_pehicc and @boycottpalmoil.

plant a story, opinion or idea in a small or obscure news site, or on social media, encourage followers to share it too, then hope a bigger outlet with a bigger audience picks it up, and another, all the way up to major publishers or TV networks

Fisher, 2020 (BBC)

But, Athena’s use of clicktotweet does embody what she really is about: stirring her followers into zealous outrage through cheap rhetoric and free plugins. (More coming soon.)

Over the years I’ve written for big names like British Gas, Monarch Airlines and Tesco.‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2014/2015 (athenadennis.com)

all of us “unwashed masses” will be left here on the destroyed planet (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)
Athena’s conspiracy theory: all of us “unwashed masses” will be left here on the destroyed planet (archive)

text

Athena’s conspiracy theory: ‘it is funded by the industry‘ (archive)
Athena’s conspiracy theory: the AI outsmarts them quickly and in a terrifying way (archive)
Athena’s conspiracy theory: ‘you always jump in to defend palm oil‘ (archive)
Athena’s conspiracy theory: putting words into the mouth of people‘ (archive)

if you are in the UK – shop at Iceland‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

All the evidence above boils down to a single question: how does a self-proclaimed ‘independent wildlife activist‘ justify greenwashing a.o. ‘crisps, snacks, convenience foods‘ and a supermarket chain? And steadily Athena’s links to various supermarket chains – including ASDA, Matchbox and Tesco (Total Marketing Australia; archive 2016, archive 2020) – are being uncovered! With Athena also shilling for Iceland, one really can question whether she is volunteering or paid to do so?

Here are some palm oil free convenience food and snack brands‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

What’s clear is that Athena was paid well for her most condemning contribution to consumerism: the ‘eHarmony Christmas infographic gift guide‘ (archive). Pushing the holiday season’s sales of luxury items – including a gaming chair, gold and diamonds earrings, leather gloves, a plasma TV and a robot dog – contrasts starkly with the faux “status” as an ‘independent wildlife activist‘!

[Athena] wears many hats‘ (archive)

Total Marketing Australia, circa 2016

The stark contradictions in her track record – more so given the vain attempts to hide her dark side – fuel the suspicion that Athena has no (f)actual solutions for the global concerns over climate change, deforestation and species decline. She merely abuses these issues to lure concerned netizens into a web of lies, pursue Athena’s empty “solutions” and hence continue (and even increase) climate change, deforestation and species decline through their consumerism.

I love persuasive, effective writing and helping businesses to get their message out there!‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Athena’s spins covered above are sometimes clever – she is a trained spin doctor after all – but quite often crude and libellous. Remarkably, most of them are proven very easy to debunk. Her claims about me are similarly crude and libellous, and provide a damning peek into Athena’s very sick mind.

He proudly displays his spear gun in the background of his videos on Youtube‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

The most dysfunctional of Athena’s attacks aimed at me must be her ‘he has a spear gun, therefor he’s evil’ ad hominem (see tweet right). Even more dysfunctional is that anyone can identify the items on display as not being a spear gun but two bows, nine arrows and one walking stick (see the YouTube video below). These are but a few of the original tools gifted by local communities during various field trips throughout Indonesia.

My “speargun” – two bows, nine arrows and one walking stick – can be seen in the right of my screen.
He proudly displays his spear gun in the background of his videos on Youtube (archive)
with Athena failing so hard to grasp self-mockery … (archive)
she won’t get the point of my Equator-crossing certificate either (archive)

Bart Van Assen, former lead auditor for @RSPOtweets and @FSC_IC who has given big deforesters a ‘pass’ in audits‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

This claim is yet another cheap copy-paste job by Athena, based on a conspiracy theory posted half a decade ago by Prem Pillay on the Haze Elimination Action Team (H.E.A.T.) Facebook group (see image right). It’s utter nonsense, for the following reasons:

  1. I have neither worked for the FSC/RSPO nor have I worked as an FSC/RSPO lead auditor; my contracts with conformity assessment bodies concerned technical expertise supporting their lead auditor(s); and
  2. FSC/RSPO set standards for the sustainable management of forests and timber/oil palm plantations; neither organisation audits against these standards, as that would be a conflict of interest.

Athena’s very malice towards palm oil results in the utterly dysfunctional conspiracy theory that a single “auditor” (read technical expert) could certify a 20,000-150,000 ha plantation or natural forest. Tweeting such nonsense firmly positions Athena on the wrong side of Hanlon’s Razor, as we’re well into the realm of malice.

Thus, Athena’s claim is banking on the public argument from ignorance that FSC and RSPO audit their own standards.

Despite having been corrected on this fallacious argument repeatedly, Athena continues to ignore the vastly different responsibilities of the FSC/RSPO, conformity assessment bodies and accreditation bodies. She also shows no interest at all in any proper due diligence on her sources, and will simply run with any false narrative that suits her propaganda, while requests for actual evidence (see tweets below) are systematically ignored.

Bart [van] Assen … has given Musim Mas a pass during his RSPO assessment of them‘ (archive)
an auditor for @FSC_IC and @RSPOtweets‘ (archive)

[Bart] has also had several police cases opened against him‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

I will not waste time on this empty claim, as Athena so far has failed to provide any evidence for her “police cases”. Hitchens’s Razor can be applied here, and her claims regarding these “police cases” can be dismissed as old maid tales.

very little reasoning or actual proof‘ (archive)
Why share any police reports here though?‘ (archive)

banned from Twitter for abuse and telling people to kill themselves‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2022 (twitter.com/palmoildetect)

Athena provides a screenshot as evidence for her claim (see tweet right), and I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide whether my replies to an extremely toxic white misogynist (@vanillaismd) indeed are hateful conduct based on race, ethnicity, etcetera. However, in no way, shape or form is it evidence of me ‘telling people to kill themselves!

As Athena will undoubtedly present yet another out-of-context screenshot for her false narrative, on the right is the email from Twitter (available upon request) concerning my suspension for ‘self-harm, suicide, or depression’. I’m sure that Twitter incorrectly interpreted my ‘don’t eat the purple crayons’ and/or ‘stick to your greens’. Yet again, I’ll leave it up to the reader to decide whether the tweet is indeed ‘telling people to kill themselves.

Do add your thoughts on this in the comment section below!

Stalking and harassment‘ (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

Athena’s allegations of stalking and harassment are quite ironic, as they lack self-awareness. She presents posts from my Facebook and Twitter feeds – some a decade old and many irrelevant to her claim – as her best “evidence”. In particular, the screenshots of training provided in the past raise a crucial question: who is stalking whom?

Eleanor Abernathy, better known as the Crazy Cat Lady, is a mentally ill hoarder woman who always surrounds herself with a large number of cats. She usually screams gibberish and/or throws her cats at passersby.‘ (emphasis added)

Simpsons Wiki

Yet another example of how Athena blackwashes her opponents can be observed in the file names of her “evidence”. For instance, one of her screenshots is named ‘bart-van-assen-michelle-desilets-harassment-eleanor-and-fluffy.png‘. It shows how she spins a generic ‘crazy cat lady‘ pun into “stalking and harassment” of two Twitter Accounts – ‘Eleanor Abernathy‘ (the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons) and ‘fluffy‘ – despite neither being tagged or mentioned in the tweet/thread. Blackwashing indeed!

banned … for abuse and telling people to kill themselves‘ (archive)
why my Twitter account ‘has been locked’
one of the crazy cat ladies

Of course, I’ve invited Athena to discuss the evidence for her claims (see image right). As of July 2022, she has yet to respond to this invitation. I won’t be holding my breath that she’ll ever will. Black-washing indeed!

Athena has yet to reply, quite atypical according to Facebook

References

De Oliveira Silva, S, RG Barioni and D Moran 2021 Fire, Deforestation, and Livestock: when the smoke clears; Land Use Policy, DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2020.104949

Douglas & Simula 2010 The Future of the World’s Forests – ideas vs ideologies

Ellingson, TJ 2001 The Myth of the Noble Savage, University of California Press, ISBN: 0-520-22610-0

Hariyadi, AR, A Priambudi, R Setiawan, H Purnama, A Yayus, Ujung and H Alikodra 2012 Optimizing the habitat of the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park by reducing the invasive palm Arenga obtusifolia, Pachyderm 52(52):49-54,

Hoffmann, S, I Balderjahn, B Seegebarth, R Mai and M Peyer 2018 Under Which Conditions Are Consumers Ready to Boycott or Buycott? The Roles of Hedonism and Simplicity, Ecological Economics, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.01.004

Kägi 2000 Economics of Climate Change – the contribution of forestry projects

Teng, S, KW Khong and N Che Ha 2020 Palm oil and its environmental impacts: A big data analytics study, Journal of Cleaner Production, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.122901

Ozanne & Smith 1993 Strategies and perspectives of influential environmental organizations toward tropical deforestation

Pearce, F 1991 Green Warriors, The Bodley Head Publishers, London, U.K. pp. 132-194

Walker et al 2013 Demand-side interventions to reduce deforestation and forest degradation

Whelan, R 1999 Wild in Woods, the myth of the Noble Eco-Savage, IEA Studies on the Environment 14, Coronet Books

Annex 1 Follow the Evidence

I love helping businesses to grow through clever use of content of all kinds (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (www.linkedin.com/in/athena-dennis/)

Despite serious attempts to stay anonymous, the individual behind Palm Oil Detectives left an abundance of online clues that took less than an hour to uncover. Since some of the following evidence has already been scrubbed from the internet, and websites have been deactivated or set to members-only accounts, links to archives in The Wayback Machine are included throughout this post.

In a nutshell, the following points cover the online evidence that unmask the owner and admin of several online accounts and websites and verify the identity of this individual without any remaining doubt:

  1. Per a twitter.com/contentcatnip/status/1355805294660444162 (scrubbed; archive), links twitter.com/contentcatnip (archive) to twitter.com/palmoildetect (see image right);
  2. twitter.com/contentcatnip (see point 1) leads to contentcatnip.com, the landing page for contentcatnip920332409.wordpress.com (WordPress account, archive);
  3. twitter.com/palmoildetect (see point 1) leads to palmoildetectives.com, the landing page for palmoildetectivez.wordpress.com (WordPress account, archive);
  4. replies to older posts on contentcatnip920332409.wordpress.com – see a.m.o. this reply (scrubbed; archive) – identify its admin as ‘ATHENA’ (see image right) and lead to athenadennisfreelancewriter.wordpress.com (scrubbed; archive);
  5. Middleground – Issue 3 (archive) and a Facebook post (archive) identifies ‘Athena Dennis content catnip’ as a contributor, with a mugshot (see image right) accompanying the post;
  6. a Google Search (archive) identifies one admin of contentcatnip.wordpress.com (see point 4) as www.athenadennis.com (scrubbed; archive), likely the landing page for athenadennisfreelancewriter.wordpress.com (see point 4);
  7. a reply on Vegemite on Oatcakes (see image right; archive) link to www.athenadennis.com (see point 6) and twitter.com/athenadennis (suspended; archive);
  8. the mugshot (point 5) and twitter.com/athenadennis (see point 7) lead to www.facebook.com/athenadennis (changed to /athena.dennis & locked/scrubbed; archive) and linkedin.com/in/athenadennis (changed to /athena-dennis);
  9. linkedin.com/in/athenadennis (see point 8) leads to athenacreativeweb.com (scrubbed; archive), the landing page for athenadennisblog.wordpress.com (locked, see image right; archive) and the Skype account athenajdennis (archive);
  10. the pull-up footer on athenadennisblog.wordpress.com (see point 9) links to linkedin.com/in/athenadennis (see point 8), the Skype account athenajdennis (see point 9) and twitter.com/creativeathena (protected; archive), as well as an expensive house in a posh neighborhood of Wellington (New Zealand);
  11. facebook.com/athenadennis (point 8), linkedin.com/in/athenadennis (see point 8) and twitter.com/athenadennis (see point 6) lead to athenadennis.weebly.com (archive) and fourseasonspoetry.wordpress.com (archive), which links to Skype account athenajdennis (see point 9, see image right) and identifies bizzUK (archive) and macgraphic.co.uk (archive) as ‘Partners and Collaborators’; and
  12. wapcar.my (see image right; archive) links twitter.com/athenadennis (see point 7) to blog contentcatnip.com (see point 2, t.co/UpOjoWv6xm; archive).
Athena falsely claims that twitter.com/athenadennis (@athenadennis) is ‘not even [her] account, it never was’ (archive) …
@palmoildetect = @contentcatnip (archive)
worth putting in here for a laugh (archive)
expertise and clients are hidden (scrubbed; archive)
Introducing: Athena Dennis (archive)
Logo and branding design for Australian freelance journalist and copy-writer, Athena Dennis (archive)
Note 1: there are numerous ‘via @athenadennis‘ tweets – the latest one from 17 January 2022 – that link to posts by Athena Dennis and mimic the ‘via @palmoildetect‘ links found all over the Palm Oil Detectives blog.
Note 2: the Wayback Machine was a valuable tool in viewing various deleted sites and pages published by Athena Dennis over the years, in particular her blogs athenacreativeweb.com and athenadennis.com.
… yet wapcar.my (archive) links twitter.com/athenadennis (see point 7) to blog contentcatnip.com (see point 2, t.co/UpOjoWv6xm; archive)

Greenwashing Tactic #10: Gaslighting, Harassment, Stalking and Attempting to Discredit Critics (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (palmoildetectives.com)

attempting to discredit “critic” @kirthurgan, suspended for actual harassment (archive)

I have over a decade of experience in senior marketing consulting and strategic marketing for organisations of all sizes (archive)

Dennis, 2021 (linkedin.com/in/athena-dennis)

DEA: First appeared in March 2022 (archive), insane biography in May 2022 (click on ‘read biography’; archive) and scrubbed in August 2022 (archive)