Financial Post Headline: Environmentalists admit you shouldn’t believe what they say — but they want your money anyway

"It’s all the most terrible news on Greenpeace Canada’s homepage. “The Arctic is in danger. The ice is retreating at an increasing speed, clearing the path for greedy oil companies that see this catastrophe as a business opportunity.” Good heavens. Also, “recent reports warn that sea life faces the next mass extinction.” Oh no!

What a relief to hear that Greenpeace now says that we shouldn’t seriously believe its claims. We’re not actually meant to take what it says literally. Perhaps it should also mention that to the millions of donors whose fear over such exaggerated environmental claims funds its $350-million budget. And to the government ministries, which Greenpeace lobbies to rein in those greedy oil producers and forestry companies to restrict pipelines and tanker shipments, and to shutter nuclear power plants.

But Greenpeace isn’t advertising the admission that it doesn’t trade in facts. Instead, it revealed it in recent court filings defending itself against a U.S. lawsuit by Canada’s Resolute Forest Products. After enduring a years-long campaign where Greenpeace publicly trashed Resolute’s reputation and intimidated its customers into cancelling their paper-supply contracts, the Montreal-based forestry company began fighting back with lawyers, alleging Greenpeace is a “global fraud” that “duped” its donors with “materially false and misleading claims.” In the U.S., Resolute sued using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was both a strikingly menacing tactic and an absolutely inspired idea. Since a racketeering suit can bring triple damages, and since Resolute claims Greenpeace’s harassment campaign has cost it upwards of $100 million, the gravity of the threat has motivated Greenpeace to come up with the best defence it can muster.

Turns out that includes telling the court that its claims about Resolute being “forest destroyers,” responsible for a “caribou death spiral and extinction” and myriad other vilifications, were all just marketing hype. “The challenged statements are no more than opinion based on disclosed facts,” Greenpeace International’s lawyers explained in their latest motion to dismiss the RICO suit. Greenpeace, like anyone protected by constitutional free speech, will “often use forceful language to make their point. They do not hew to strict literalisms or scientific precision, but regularly use words ‘in a loose, figurative sense’ to express ‘strong disagreement,’ and attack their intellectual opponents through ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ or ‘vigorous epithet(s).’”

Calling Resolute “forest destroyers,” the lawyers continue, doesn’t have to mean that the company is actually “destroying Canada’s boreal forest” as Greenpeace’s campaign literature claimed. Rather, the motion explains, it “can be describing figurative, rather than literal destruction.” What court could possibly disprove that Resolute is destroying “figurative” forests, since by definition, those forests don’t actually exist?

It seems only fair that Greenpeace should seek shelter behind America’s strong First Amendment protections, since that’s what they’re there for. And Greenpeace continues to maintain that its defence doesn’t mean its claims are lies. But Resolute’s allegation — which hasn’t been proven in court — is that the group is practicing a form of fraud, by lying about companies to squeeze more money from donors, to its own enrichment. It’s worth noting that Greenpeace has long had trouble proving that its work is all that altruistic: Several countries (although not the U.S.) have revoked its charitable status, including Canada, where government officials determined its activities serve “no public benefit” but its anti-development activism might well compound poverty.

It has unquestionably cost Canadian jobs through its relentless public punishment of Resolute, which is why the conflict has created an unlikely alliance in Quebec of union leaders, First Nations chiefs and government officials, all lined up against Greenpeace’s crusade. Free speech is a vital protection that even propagandists must enjoy, but mau-mauing a company’s customers for fundraising purposes, as Greenpeace did to Resolute...might be where a court sees a bigger role for civil damages than for the First Amendment.

Organizations don’t naturally benefit from speech rights, after all. Resolute certainly doesn’t. Whether communicating to investors, the community or to customers, a ring-fence of regulations, civil claims and industry standards make sure companies carefully watch what they say. Spreading fictions about their products’ benefits, its risks, or their sales figures or financial situation if they’re publicly traded, can get a corporation fined, sued and sanctioned, while its officials face career-ending censure if not retributive fines and jail time.

Meanwhile, activist NGOs like Greenpeace have enjoyed the freedom to spread exaggerations, deceptions and outright lies in ways that the resource companies they target could never get away with, all to raise money from credulous donors who are victimized, too, fooled by “rhetorical hyperbole” into worrying that things they genuinely care about, like, say, the boreal forest, are really being destroyed. Stressing out compassionate people with overwrought scare tactics is a squalid and ghoulish trade, but, hey, it keeps those cheques coming in.

And surveys show Canadians still trust NGOs far more than they trust businesses: As many politicians will attest, it’s easier to deceive people into trusting you than to actually earn it. But Greenpeace’s admissions make it clear that environmentalists will spout baloney — in the “loose, figurative sense” — to make money in ways that no major company would dare. Businesses face real risks for being deceptive. But the incentive to gain for fear-mongering environmentalists is to distort reality so extremely that forests are made “figurative” and the truth becomes unrecognizable."

Kevin Libin, Financial Post (3/8/17)

Australian Financial Review Headline: Greenpeace pleads the first in US racketeering case

"The unprecedented US racketeering action bought against Greenpeace Inc by an aggressively aggrieved Canadian timber company passed another milestone recently with the environmental defender arguing that it should not matter whether the claims presented in its anti-logging campaign were facts.

The strike-out motion filed by Greenpeace at the end of January seeks US First Amendment free speech protection and is constructed around the thesis that this failure of consensus is almost inevitable given Resolute chops trees down in old forests and Greenpeace believes that it should not.

So when Greenpeace advertises Resolute as the "Forest Destroyer", well, that is just the sort of "heated rhetoric" that is the "coin of the realm" in this sort of conflict. That Resolute has planted more than one billion trees to mitigate its enduring cull of mature trees is a truth inconvenient to what is really just a marketing pitch for the hearts and minds of Canadians.

"First, Greenpeace's publications are well known for advancing the organisation's advocacy mission and opinions, not hard news," the Greenpeace lawyers stated. "Second, the challenged publications were part of a heated public debate, here over RFP's [Resolute's] logging practices, where criticism and heated rhetoric are the coin of the realm."

Citing case law, the Greenpeace pitch includes the claim that "speakers who engage in protected expression on matters of public controversy – like Greenpeace here – often use forceful language to make their point".

"They do not hew to strict literalisms or scientific precision, but regularly use words 'in a loose, figurative sense' to express 'strong disagreement'.

The dismissal application goes on to note that the claim that Resolute had "destroyed forests" should be received as "describing figurative, rather than literal, destruction."

Matthew Stevens, Australian Financial Review (3/7/17) 

CBC News Headline: Greenpeace court filing an admission of 'lying,' forest company charges

“This is the most significant development in the four-plus years of this saga,” Resolute vice-president Seth Kursman told The Canadian Press. “Greenpeace has admitted that they were lying about our forestry practices. Their campaign has been peddling falsehoods.”

In its fight to stop the company’s lawsuit in Georgia, Greenpeace argues in a recent court filing that its criticism of Resolute’s logging practices in Canada’s boreal forests should be viewed through the prism of free speech rather than taken literally.

 “Speakers who engage in protected expression on matters of public controversy _ like Greenpeace here _ often use forceful language to make their point,” Greenpeace states.

 “They do not hew to strict literalisms or scientific precision, but regularly use words ‘in a loose, figurative sense’ to express ‘strong disagreement’ … and attack their intellectual opponents through ‘rhetorical hyperbole’.”

The company, which is also suing Greenpeace for $7 million for defamation in Ontario, filed its Georgia lawsuit under racketeering laws enacted to deal with organized crime that allow for triple damages. Among other things, Resolute alleges Greenpeace is a “global fraud” whose campaigns are based on “sensational misinformation” aimed at getting people to donate money for its own benefit.

Kursman called Greenpeace’s tactics part of a “cycle of abuse” that relies on a lack of scientific grounding while making claims as a way to solicit donations.

 “Greenpeace has drifted away from legitimate environmental work to schemes for generating donations,” Kursman said in an email. “Real people lost their jobs, communities have suffered, real families have experienced hardship … a stark reminder of the damage that this ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ has caused.”

Colin Perkel, CBC News (3/6/17) 

Daily Caller Headline: Greenpeace Admits An Anti-Logging Campaign Is Based On ‘Subjective Opinion’

"Greenpeace admitted in legal filings its campaign to vilify a Canada-based logging company was based on “hyperbole” and “non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion” that weren’t meant to be taken literally.

That’s what Greenpeace admitted to avoid being held liable for damages in their legal battle against the logging company Resolute and its subsidiaries. The green group began targeting Resolute’s operations in 2012.

Resolute CEO Richard Garneau wrote at National Review Online that Greenpeace “harassed companies we do business with, threatening them with the same sort of smear campaign that they launched against us and even instigating cyber-attacks on their websites.”

Greenpeace called Resolute “forest destroyers” who were causing a “caribou death spiral and extinction” in their campaign to get the company to bend to environmentalist demands. Greenpeace even has a webpage listing their case against Resolute, and what it wants the company to do, which includes suspending logging operations.

 “And they bragged about the damage — $100 million, in Canadian dollars — that they claimed to have inflicted on our business,” Garneau wrote. So they sued to stop Greenpeace’s campaign.

Resolute sued Greenpeace in Canadian court in 2013 for defamation and economic interference and again in U.S. court in 2016 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

In total, Resolute is seeking more than $228 million in damages against Greenpeace.

Greenpeace fought back, but their defense consisted of arguing they couldn’t be held accountable for their claims against Resolute. Why? Because they were based on “heated rhetoric” that shouldn’t be taken “literally.” 

Yet, Greenpeace was raising money off such campaigns, according to Garneau. He wrote that “the eco-provocateurs at Greenpeace have been raising money off the calculated mistruths that we are somehow responsible for the destruction of vast areas of forest.” There’s no evidence of forest loss where Resolute operates.

Greenpeace uses “ALARMIST ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOIDS” — that’s what they internally call it — in campaigns like this to raise money, according to Resolute’s legal filing.

Greenpeace is saying these factoids are “rhetorical hyperbole” — not based on scientific evidence, but opinion.

Resolute’s lawsuit against Greenpeace is somewhat ironic given the international eco-group’s support for RICO-style investigations into oil companies that allegedly lied about global warming."

Michael Bastasch, The Daily Caller (3/3/17) 

Energy In Depth Headline: Greenpeace Claims Immunity from Lawsuits Because Its Claims Are ‘Hyperbole’

"There’s been an interesting twist of events involving Greenpeace, one of the major groups pushing the failing #ExxonKnew campaign: They’ve been sued by Resolute, a Canadian forest-products company, for defamation and false claims about the company’s operations.

But when Greenpeace had to answer for its actions in court, the group wasn’t so sure it could defend its claims. In fact, they admitted those claims had no merit.

No “forest loss” was caused by Resolute, the groups concede — now that they are being held accountable.

As the Financial Post also reported,

But now Greenpeace says it never intended people to take its words about Resolute’s logging practices as literal truth.
“The publications’ use of the word “Forest Destroyer,” for example, is obvious rhetoric,” Greenpeace writes in its motion to dismiss the Resolute lawsuit. “Resolute did not literally destroy an entire forest. It is of course arguable that Resolute destroyed portions of the Canadian Boreal Forest without abiding by policies and practices established by the Canadian government and the Forest Stewardship Council, but that is the point: The “Forest Destroyer” statement cannot be proven true or false, it is merely an opinion.”

In other words, Greenpeace is admitting that it relies on “non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion,” and because its claims are not meant to be factual, the group believes it cannot be held legally responsible for what it says.

Notably, Greenpeace has been actively pushing for legal action against ExxonMobil, alleging the company “knew” about climate change in the 1970s and 1980s before the world’s top scientists had come to any solid conclusions. When the Rockefeller-funded InsideClimate News and Columbia School of Journalism produced their #ExxonKnew hit pieces, Greenpeace immediately called for the Department of Justice to investigate ExxonMobil.”

Katie Brown, Energy In Depth (3/3/17)

Financial Post Headline: Greenpeace admits its attacks on forest products giant were ‘non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion’

"Greenpeace, after repeated attacks against Canada’s biggest forest products company for “destroying,” Canada’s boreal forests, now says that it was merely stating an opinion about the logging activity, not a fact.

After years of weathering attacks on its forestry practices, Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc. last year sued Greenpeace in United States District Court in Georgia under racketeering statutes, alleging that Greenpeace’s repeated attacks on Resolute, to raise money for Greenpeace, amount to criminal activity.

But now Greenpeace says it never intended people to take its words about Resolute’s logging practices as literal truth. 

“The publications’ use of the word “Forest Destroyer,” for example, is obvious rhetoric,” Greenpeace writes in its motion to dismiss the Resolute lawsuit. “Resolute did not literally destroy an entire forest. It is of course arguable that Resolute destroyed portions of the Canadian Boreal Forest without abiding by policies and practices established by the Canadian government and the Forest Stewardship Council, but that is the point: The “Forest Destroyer” statement cannot be proven true or false, it is merely an opinion.”

Greenpeace adds that its attacks on Resolute “are without question non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion and at most non-actionable rhetorical hyperbole.”

None of the allegations by Resolute or Greenpeace has been tested in this case, which remains before the courts.

Richard Garneau, the chief executive of Resolute, who himself hails from the company’s centre of logging operations in the Saguenay region north of Quebec City, seized on Greenpeace’s admissions in an op-ed published Thursday in the conservative U.S. magazine National Review.

 “A funny thing happened when Greenpeace and allies were forced to account for their claims in court,” Garneau wrote. “They started changing their tune. Their condemnations of our forestry practices ‘do not hew to strict literalism or scientific precision,’ as they concede in their latest legal filings. These are sober admissions after years of irresponsible attacks.”  

Garneau, in Toronto Thursday, said Greenpeace’s attacks have hurt many across northern Quebec and Ontario.

 “It is sad that we have to do all this to straighten out the record on misinformation,” he said. 'It is sad that all Greenpeace’s allegations are against people who cannot defend themselves against organizations who blackmail customers to raise money.'"

Peter Kuitenbrouwer, Financial Post (3/2/17) 

National Review Headline: In a ‘Post-Truth’ Era, Greenpeace Lies to Raise Money

"Union workers and government officials in the forest region have risen up against Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and other organizations that are making wild claims. For several years, activists have relentlessly attacked paper company Resolute Forest Products and its customers, claiming that it is destroying the forest. The people directly affected by these false accusations are speaking up in droves. 

“We will not sit idly by while self-interested pressure groups try to malign the diligent and careful work that our members do for a living,” union leaders recently told the NRDC. 

Roger Sigouin, the mayor of Hearst, Ontario, told Greenpeace that if its misinformation campaign is successful, “the aftermath will be whole communities dying and I can tell you right now, that’s irresponsible and we will not stand for that.” 

Refreshing, eh? It’s not just a corporation-vs.-environmentalists battle; union workers, the company that provides their livelihood, and local governments are all on the same side. 
… 
Did you know that the Canadian government won’t recognize Greenpeace as a tax-exempt charitable organization It has said Greenpeace’s activities “have no public benefit.” That’s an understatement. Instead, the group causes harm. Greenpeace and others like it should be held accountable for the ways they lie to supporters and hurt communities."

Amy Payne, National Review Online (1/24/17)