Jim found and shared this:
>Ignorance imperils future of agriculture
>Farmers are in fight or flee mode; they are confused, scared and angry,
>observed Ed Shonsey, the president and CEO of Novartis Seeds, Thursday
>in an Iowa speech. "And you know what bothers them the most?" he asked.
>"It's not the government. Or the weather. Or even the seed companies.
>What has farmers upset -- so upset their eternal optimism is in serious
>danger of becoming permanent pessimism -- is ignorance. Ignorance.
>Ignorance on the part of a group of people, who, in the name of
>protecting the environment, have imperiled the near-term future of
>biotechnology." He makes an impassioned case for the science behind,
>and the potentially great benefits of biotechnology. Read the full text of
>his speech here:
The Biotech CEO Who Speaks for Farmers. Wow, scary; sounds like a
Halloween movie release.
In my view, CEO Ed's speech is a highly predictable response, not
only content-wise (this kind of speech goes back to at least the 19th
century technical press around innovations like electricity), but
rhetorically. I see him using two common rhetorical methods whereby
the powerful try to discredit those who disagree with them. In brief
they try to recast the communication into something they control,
when they feel threatened on that front. Here's how it works:
Novartis and other biotech companies are trying to argue that biotech
is good good good good simply all-American scientific good goodie
Some are getting sucked into the Cold War of Words and responding by
saying, no no no, it's bad baddy baddness.
From where I'm sitting, though, it appears many people are taking a
more complex approach: "Wait, it's not as simple as good versus
bad...there are many shades of grey and colors as well between those
two poles...many things we don't know...we don't even know what
questions to ask, never mind what the answers are." And interestingly
enough, to me, many of the most vocal opponents of GMOs are *right
there.* Yeah, they think it's bad, but they're raising incredibly
complex and perceptive challenges to corporate PR about
GE--challenges on the fronts of biology, ecology, economics,
morality, ethics, democratic government, and more.
So one would expect that the corporations would try to re-impose
their binary, black-white, good-evil, for-agin thought structures on
the discourse. Get things simple and controllable again. PR and
advertising are about encapsulating idiotically simple messages in
sugared niblets that wedge themselves in your brain like prions. Once
people start thinking, they start paying less attention to PR and
advertising. I.e., the communications lifeblood of the corporate
structure. Or they view those messages from a stance that doesn't
enhance the corporations' marketing efforts. (Have you all seen the
fabulous Canadian magazine, /AdBusters/?)
What is one of the most tried-and-true rhetorical ways to reinforce a
binary discourse, when things threaten to get complicated by
multi-hued, multi-textured reality?
For instance, CEO Ed says *farmers*--who in my experience are asking
some of the most complex, deep, and probing questions about this
technology--are having "fight or flee" (binary) responses. Optimism
vs. pessimism. Ignorance vs. knowledge.
Not CEO Ed's corporation. Oh no...not them. Farmers.
Not only that, *the farmers* are confused, scared, and angry
(obviously emotional, and we all know what THAT means). Whereas CEO
Ed is "impassioned" in favor of science. He has no confusion, fear,
or anger about the fact that his expensive pin-striped butt is on the
line to sell investors and the public on a technology that's getting
more suspect by the hour, that his company exists to sell. Oh, no;
he's rational, and when he gets emotional, it's in favor of
Farmers get used a lot this way, in this society. Silver screens onto
which people and organizations project their own fears, goals,
desires, hopes, hatreds, biases, etc.
What's sad is that guys like CEO Ed and his Marketing Mavens
generally have no incentive to stretch themselves to think and
communicate in any other way. This is part of their privilege. The
world must come around to their way of thinking--impoverishing
higher-order thinking and analysis because THEY SAY SO.
This is a variation on the Engineer Mentality issue that got brought
up here recently, complete with a joke involving a sexually deviant
naked woman. I bit my tongue on that, in part because I believe
"Engineer Mentality" is code for "UberMale thinking," and this joke
seemed to demonstrate that without requiring comment.
By the way....it was Darth Cheezer--a corporate engineer and a
boy--who observed this connection between gender and technocratic
thinking/communication. Quite some years ago now. In observing his
and my communications these past 10 years, and more recently, and in
watching him as he has worked to grow into a more complex, skilled
communicator...I've concluded he's absolutely right. And who better
than a boy to observe how boys are taught to communicate????
But I've been told repeatedly that looking at gender and
communication has nothing to do with sustainable ag. Just ask Wendell
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
If there was a law they was workin' with, maybe we could take it, but
it ain't the law. They're workin' away our spirits, tryin' to make us
cringe and crawl, takin' away our decency. --Tom Joad
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: