NC| Grappling the Golemites

NC| Grappling the Golemites

Readers beware! Search for #palmoil or #RSPO on Facebook or Twitter and you immediately get sucked down a rabbit hole of “palm oil is bad”. The occasional experts chiming in with hard facts – like Erik Meijaard and Michelle Desillets are swiftly declared #shills or palm oil #stooges by the opponents of sustainable palm oil. A great example of this is MI van Soest straw-manning Erik’s potential conflict of interest (#CoI) as something sinister on Twitter (below, link). Another example can be found on Youtube (below, link), where a fallacious argument is made that oil palm plantations require annual burning. Such deceptive messaging is now well established with proponents of palm oil. But when faced with evidence that debunks their assertions, the main response is: #NuhUh because #muhHOLYcause (in this case, palm oil is “bad”).

Where does this antipathy for science and established initiatives come from? Is it an orchestrated groundswell, funded by Western industrialists as some claim? Or could the cause be far simpler, and far more worrisome? My hypothesis is that the activist super brands, like Greenpeace and WWF, nurtured a golem for decades. The emergence of social media broke the spell controlling it, and the golem split into thousands of #golemites: mindless creatures repeating original factoids like broken records. MI van Soest’s personal incredulity (I don’t understand how CoI procedures work so they must be “bad”, above) and false cause (there is regular haze thus oil palm estate must burn undergrowth, below) are but two examples of the plethora of logical fallacies applied.

Of course, the sheer volume of golemites means taking down one results in dozens stepping up to repeat the rhetoric: #BoycottPalm, #CoI, #dirtypalmoil, #SayNoToPalm, and #shill. This mindless drum-drum-drumming can become quite abrasive… but catching them off-guard is often highly entertaining for those with thick skins. A quick take-down of a golemite on Twitter brightens even the dullest real-life task. Their – often failed – attempts to move the goalposts with some shallow how-aboutism inevitably leads to far more hilarious claims. The silliest one so far argues that oil palm estates rake their dead biomass and then burn it somewhere, as if they were hobby gardeners disposing of some dead leaves.

Readers beware! Beware of the face-palm rashes and sore spots from falling off chairs howling with with laughter.

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