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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just said it. Didn't mean it.

The Opinion piece/editorial in today's Southland Times neatly skewers the critics of scientist Mike Joy and at the same time reveals the methodology behind Prime Minister John Key's misleading/fatuous claims about various things. It's a very good column, in my opinion, and nicely complements my own letter to the editor on the topic of Key's misleading claims. Thanks Mr Editor!
My letter first, then the far-better-written editorial:

It's sad to hear Prime Minister John Key comparing New Zealand's “Clean, Green” brand with McDonald's advertising, saying that both need to be taken with a grain of salt and weren't really to be believed.
Surely the prime minister has a responsibility to ensure that our environment is clean, rather than saying we should instead think of it as something Ronald McDonald might have dreamed-up.
It does make it easier to understand why his claim that we'd have a brighter future turned out to be nonsense – when he promised it, he wasn't actually expecting us to believe it!

Scientist Mike Joy has committed the sin of impure thoughts.

At time when the admiring eyes of the world are to be trained on our fair Shire and our marketers have agreed that we should be touting our "100% Pure" brand, Dr Joy had muddied the waters by getting all nitpicky about "facts" and "truth" when what really matters is perception.

For this he has suffered the irritations - and they are probably on a par with each other - of being called a traitor and having advertising hyperbole patronisingly explained to him.

In marketing, it's often OK to be fearlessly extravagant; like saying your gumdrops are the best in the universe. Nobody expects you to have ventured to the impenetrable reaches of space to test your claim. It's understood that this isn't literally true. Just like we needn't really be concerned on behalf of some of the yappier advertisers who keep assuring us their low low prices are the result of mental illness.

Prime Minister John Key has issued a particularly populist comparison. It's like the "I'm loving it" McDonald's slogan, see? People understand that not everyone necessarily does love it. Mr Key needs to be careful how blithely he defends assertions that don't stand up to scrutiny. He's only going to be reminded of those remarks the next time he needs to say, "but this time we really mean it".

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit is a story woven with special effects to invoke what has been called "the suspension of disbelief". Ditto the marketing campaign, apparently. Just another special effect, really, and one that we are being reminded with a quiet hiss could do without spoilsports shattering the illusion.

Mr Key even reached for the fatuous argument that a cavemen's campfire would fail to live up to the 100 per cent pure standard that Dr Joy wanted. The scientist never said he wanted us shivering in Stone Age cold. He simply pointed to a compelling catalogue of data that backed up his contention that the reality was far from the picture-postcard portrayals of the marketers. His fellow scientists back him on that one. And seriously, on a per capita basis we have one of the world's highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and our water quality is declining.

Shush, though. The rest of the world might hear you.

Well, look - our environment is not a Weta Studios special effect. Compared with the rest of the world we do have a wondrous landscape, but for all its spectacular beauty it is not pristine. We understand that it comes down to balance, not perfection, but by those standards the scientific message and our own experiences tell us we seriously need to put the brakes on the rate of degradation.

How about we market ourselves a tad more truthfully? We have much in which we can legitimately exult without gratuitously extending into falsehood. And if anyone asks we can say in the same breath that we have a great deal of work ahead of us to protect our environment and that we're fighting the good fight in our own Hobbity way. After all, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings dispensed with one of the more downbeat aspects of the final book of the trilogy. When the Hobbits returned to the Shire, it was a miserable place, ravaged by misgovernment. Samwise and company had a lot of fixing to do and they needed to draw on their heroism once again to set about it.

The 100%Pure campaign does over-reach to an extent that suggests either dishonesty or self-denial. We shouldn't inflate our image with flat-out falsities. We shouldn't be deceiving others, or even worse, ourselves.


Paranormal said...

The issue at hand though is not the scientific campaign Joy-less is supposedly leading, rather the political campaign. Why else would Unsworth's email to Joy-less end up on Wed Wussels WebPage?

robertguyton said...

With your comment so laced with name-calling, Paranormal, I decided not to consider it.

Paranormal said...

That's a shame as I felt it was an alliteration laden accuracy.

JayWontdart said...

Robert, I'll never forgive Lord Jackson for KILLING the most important chapter, the ending!

Scouring of the Shire forever!

Cant believe even the villains finale is changed! The theatrical movies suggest Saruman is just.....held prisoner.......the extended cut shows him being killed....but differently! Why?!

One of my favourite chapters, I often paraphrase it. The bits with Saruman seeming to scold the midgets are fantastic! "You thought you could just wander about Middle Earth, blowing up other peoples homes, and there would be no consequence? HA! Impudent little bastards! Look over what once remained of your former homes and friends!"

Even the death involving a grey dust floating away....brilliant!

Damn you Lord Jackson, and your crappy version of King Kong too!

He better not blink up "Riddles in the Dark" (which will be in the first movie, where we meet Gollum and his paddling long feet and his boat! Cant wait, seriously!) and then the Mirkwood spiders......!

"Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can't see me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Won't you stop,
Stop your spinning and look for me?

Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
Old Tomnoddy can't spy me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Down you drop!
You'll never catch me up your tree!

Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
are weaving webs to wind me,
I am far more sweet than other ,
but still they cannot find me!

Here am I, naughty little fly;
you are fat and lazy.
You cannot trap me, though you try,
in your cobwebs crazy.""

robertguyton said...

I'll not go to the Hobbit, Jordan.
Shelob scared the bejeezus out of me when I read the book at age 14 and I've no plan to see Jackson's version. There's no way he can approach my mind's-eye version.

JayWontdart said...

have you never seen Lord of the Rings?

She was pretty well filmed in my humble opinion, near perfect really.

The spiders of mirkwood will be interesting....they sort of talk. I bet they will be kinda "lower class English" in accent, and probably irritating.

I'm going to HATE the dwarves, all their scenes from trailers etc so far are about stumbling about drunk and fart jokes, seriously.........I expect thats to set them up as "humble lower class folk", and then the bigger issues of the war etc is the counterpoint.

the first trailer is good!

robertguyton said...

I have seen the LOTR films, Jordan, more than once too, but I'm forever wrestling with knowing that Jackson's spectacular images are supplanting my own precious 'formed when I was 14' inner pictures. I've decided to try to keep my Hobbit originals. I've already caught a glimpse of the dwarves and agree with you there. It's not possible to improve on my Dark Riders sniffing for hobbits-as-they-hide-beside-the-path or Tom's house and daughter etc...