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Greenpeace’s “Meaning of Is” Moment

March 13, 2017
Author: John Greene

As we noted last month in our coverage of the Resolute Forest Products legal battle against Greenpeace, “The sense of relativism that is driving the ideological schism in the Western world has reached such a level that one must question whether objectivity actually exists anymore.” One month later and, when forced to account for its past behavior, Greenpeace has further proven the point that everything—including the definition of words—is now relative. In a display on par with Bill Clinton’s now infamous “meaning of is” moment, Greenpeace is once again upping the relativism ante.

After repeated public and libelous attacks against Resolute—Canada’s largest forest products company—and intimidation tactics used against its customers, Resolute stared down the environmental bully and sued them in both Canadian and US district courts. The suit in the US is being filed in a District Court in Georgia under racketeering statutes and alleges that Greenpeace’s repeated attacks (that doubled as fundraising initiatives) amounted to criminal activity.

Greenpeace knowingly made false accusations against Resolute (and sought to profit from the accusations) including publicly referring to the company as a “forest destroyer.” When called on the mat, Greenpeace said that it was merely stating an opinion about Resolute’s logging practices, not a fact, and it never intended for people to take its criticism as literal truth. Greenpeace adds that its attacks on Resolute “are without question non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion and at most non-actionable rhetorical hyperbole.”

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Greenpeace wrote that “The publications’ use of the word ‘Forest Destroyer,’ for example, is obvious rhetoric. RFP [Resolute] did not literally destroy an entire forest. It is of course arguable that RFP 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.”

Richard Garneau, Resolute’s President and Chief Executive Officer, penned and excellent op-ed update and response that was recently published in National Review. In his piece, Garneau notes that, “A funny thing happened when Greenpeace and allies were forced to account for their claims in court. 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. Their accusations against Resolute were instead ‘hyperbole,’ ‘heated rhetoric,’ and ‘non-verifiable statements of subjective opinion’ that should not be taken ‘literally’ or expose them to any legal liability. These are sober admissions after years of irresponsible attacks.”

Garneau continued, “Greenpeace is marauding not just our company but a way of life, one built on nurturing healthyOttawa National Forest, Sylvania Wilderness, Michigan.jpg forests that are the lifeblood of the people who live there. That’s why union leaders, small-business people, First Nations chiefs, and mayors and other government officials, of all political stripes, have written Greenpeace, imploring it to halt its campaign of misinformation. In nearly every instance, Greenpeace lacked the simple decency to respond, apparently indifferent to the human consequences of its actions.”

Greenpeace Canada released a statement in response to Garneau’s op-ed noting that, “Greenpeace Canada stands by our criticism of Resolute Forest Products’ practices that have been undermining the ecological integrity of the boreal forest in key regions where Resolute operates. Richard Garneau has taken legal arguments out of context to imply that Greenpeace is backing down on these claims.”

As we noted in our initial coverage, using emotional messaging as a free speech tactic is one thing; it’s quite another to lie about a company or industry just because you don’t like what it does or how it operates. The First Amendment in the US protects free speech, not slander. Despite its attempt to change the definition of words (and intent) in this case, it’s clear to anyone that speaks English that Greenpeace has been engaging in slander against Resolute.

Garneau concludes by saying that “We’re going to stand tall, both in public discourse and in the courts. For my part, my guiding hope is to return to the forest with the ability to face my neighbors, my family, and my community and tell them that I stood up and told the truth.”

Is there really any other way to effectively deal with a bully?

Detailed information about the suit is available at

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