business: countering greenwash,
"A world without
walls: freedom, development,
- reviews by Jeremy Agar
Eveline Lubbers, a Dutch researcher, has compiled a sort of tactical guide for opponents of global corporatism such as environmental activists. Her book also looks at the tactics devised by Big Business to counter the threat they see in being held to account. Lubbers is impatient with talk about "sustainable management, corporate responsibility, or the merits of business engaging with NGOs (non-government organisations). There are already plenty of good titles that address good intentions for real change within certain corporations. Rather, my aim is to expose those companies that present themselves as born-again ethical enterprises while at the same time resorting to a bag of dirty tricks. I want to make people aware of this double agenda, and conscious that there is a strategic component in virtually every PR (public relations) act, and in every contact between corporations and stakeholders".
This seamless linking of analysis and reportage is welcome. Assuming that readers will already have sources of information and first-hand experience, Lubbers does not attempt a systematic argument against global corporations. Thats another topic. Lubbers is interested in how corporate malfeasance gets hidden, and how public spirited individuals try to bring it to light. She does not try to convince us that there are bad guys out there. If we didnt already have our doubts, we wouldnt be reading her book. "Battling Big Business" is an answer to the question that gets raised at the end of every seminar and every conference, no matter what the topic, the one that starts: "Youve given us facts, but just what can we do about them?".
Plenty, according to Lubbers and her mates, who remind us of some of the notorious incidents of recent history like the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Alaska and Shells Nigerian messes, also involving oil. Faced with potentially bad publicity, business wants to reassure consumers, soothing them with words, deflecting attention from oil-caked birds and executed Africans *. They say they want "dialogue", by which they mean that they do not want criticism. * This refers to the 1995 hanging of nine Nigerian opponents of Shells operations there, the best known being the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa. This mass execution by the former military dictatorship caused a worldwide uproar. Ed.
For corporations who hire image-makers the assumption seems to be that if you sound boring and bureaucratic, you disarm direct and specific opposition, making it seem rude to point out facts. Issues which are usually simple are made to be seem insolubly complex. This has the effect of diverting attention from the original problem while prolonging matters. For Big Oil PR staffs playing for time is an obvious tactic.
When it comes to the uses of language as a tool, George Orwell wrote the books. And the essays - like "Politics and the English Language". He pointed out that vague, abstract and long words are deployed by the powerful to hide the truth. Their meanings are deliberately elusive. Nothing has changed since Orwell wrote except that the use of dishonest language has become ever more specialised and pervasive. Now we are so used to the carry-ons of management consultants and PR hacks that we scarcely notice.
For Big Business dishonest language has been a tool for co-opting those who might otherwise oppose them more directly. Business strategy assumes that if their opponents can be induced to talk the corporate talk, they wont walk the activist walk. The first task of corporate propaganda is to divide opposition between the more amenable and the more impatient. The former is deemed "responsible"; the latter are said to be violent and fanatical. Since September 11, 2001, maybe theyre "terrorists".
Several chapters detail corporate spying campaigns, some in concert with national governments. It is apparently common practice to infiltrate protest groups. Just what these agents have told the corporations is not clear. "Battling Big Business" does not attempt to evaluate the success of such efforts. It is hard to see that hanging around cluttered offices, helping with mailing and handing out flyers in malls, would be of much use in discrediting protest.
You get the impression that business does these things not because its confident theyll work but because its got the money and feels it has to do something. But spies from PR firms and environmental activists come from different worlds. In one corporate campaign under discussion in the book the suits invented their own protest group, which issued pamphlets full of grammatical errors, presumably because the suits thought the anarchists couldnt or wouldnt be able to spell, and that their wild sentences would appal the public. The group had no effect and soon disbanded.
A small weakness of the book is the lack of any discussion of the role of agents provocateurs. The case histories we get are all of the co-option variety, the Rightwing of the protest world. But inciting violent and unsanctioned public displays to embarrass the mainstream movement has always been a favourite tactic to create dissension. Is it because this, the Leftwing version of traditional spying, has been uncovered less often or is it because provocateurs are not employed by corporations, whose PR firms might not know where to find credible agents?
The suits it seems are always one step behind. Lubbers provides several chapters about the uses of the Internet in confusing corporate power. Through cyberspace, activists are a moving target, their ambush attacks international and unpredictable. Its a guerilla tactic which is increasingly adept as a means of frustrating the bigger, fixed guns of the corporations. Mike Moore * several times expresses his unwilling admiration for his enemies skill in appropriating a technology which he wants to claim for his army. * In "A World Without Walls", reviewed below. Ed.
Another virtue of Lubbers approach is that it reminds us that theory and practice must inform each other. The battle over language is a battle about whether the grand abstractions favoured by Big Business reflect grand truths or whether they are crap. The experiences of activists who have been the targets of corporate dirty tricks campaigns give direct insight into what tactics work and what do not work. From their stories we can see past the PR experts and behind the spin doctors. We can see what actually has happened. To take the pervasive example from this account: once we know that oil companies want to pollute, because otherwise they would not go to the lengths they do to in order to keep polluting, we wont be so ready to accept their polysyllabic evasion.
If oil companies can no longer claim to have a monopoly on "responsibility" or to have a genuine taste for "dialogue" with their critics, we can pose more basic questions. Do they pollute because its easier to make money that way? Or is it because they just dont care what we think? There are other possibilities of course. None of the contributors to "Battling Big Business" ask. In this context, this is a considerable virtue. The obvious - and unavoidable - differences of opinion over the best tactics to employ against global business are the hope of corporate PR workers. When they try to discredit environmentalists and fair trade demonstrators, divide and rule is Big Oils most frequent and successful strategy. Lubbers implicit advice to their popular opponents is to not allow differing interpretations about corporate policy to matter. The more unity, the better. Its obvious advice, but it is often ignored.
One of the contributors remarks that, of all protest themes, environmentalism is the most prone to internal contention over tactics and strategy, a result of its drawing support from an otherwise diverse public. If this is so, it is not the whole reason for its troubles. Part of the problem is that so many of the big fights have been about environmental issues, drawing Big Business closest attention.
George Monbiot, a British writer, in a fine short essay, argues for a real unity to defend the environment, which needs "effective regulation of both citizens and corporations". Without stringent controls on human behaviour, the worlds air, land and water will keep getting worse. This now is known. As Monbiot points out, "environmentalism as an argument has been comprehensively won. As a practice it is all but extinct".
New Zealanders will take notice of this. Of all the richer countries none depends so much on its natural environment. We all say we love and need our mountains and rivers and beaches, we continue to earn most of our money from our farms and forests or from the sea, we earn foreign exchange from tourists hoping to see these things, we market our products as "clean and green". And our national symbol is on the verge of extinction. Many of our native birds depend for their survival on a few workers from an under-funded Department of Conservation, the efforts of volunteers, and the necessarily random contributions of corporations building a nice image for themselves. If the Kiwi and the Kakapo are to survive as species, it could be because a few corporations need them alive to market their services. A few thousand dollars here to breed chicks or a million there to create an island sanctuary is the best publicity. But should the nation have to depend on it?
"Because regulation works", Monbiot goes on, "companies will do whatever they can to prevent it. They will threaten governments with disinvestment, and the loss of thousands of jobs. They will use media campaigns to recruit public opinion to their cause. But one of the simplest and most successful strategies is to buy their critics", (p53) a practice the PR companies call "image transfer". Monbiot lists several well-known environmentalists who have served corporate interests, sometimes with the noblest of rationalisations and seldom with the best of results. Hes right. The evidence suggests that co-option in the name of compromise and "dialogue" is a loser.
The contributors make the essential point. In a rational world we could be both green and enjoy a decent standard of living. We dont have to choose between them. Yet its still possible to convince people that its "irrational" and "antisocial" to want clean air. Its still credible to argue that a world that is really cleaner and greener is not "realistic".
Of all the weasel words, perhaps the most pervasive is "stakeholder". We, the end users, are supposed to see ourselves as having a stake in society, along with the transnational corporations who make things we want and our direct representatives, the governments of the world. Weve got to work together. Sounds good. Governments most like stakeholders. For their bureaucrats stakeholding is expressive of the current mania for "process" and talk that blurs issues, so that governments can "manage" them. Big Business says, "Yeah, right". Whatever. Business knows that if after all the processing, it can do what it wants, itll have to put up with the verbiage. The falseness of the stakeholding concept is its implication that transnationals, governments and powerless individuals are said to have equal efficacy.
The justice system, too, works equally for all. Yet only business likes court cases, where billion dollar enterprises hope to intimidate and outspend the public interest. "Battling Big Business" records the McLibel case, Britains longest ever trial, brought by McDonalds against two Greenpeace London activists, Dave Morris and Helen Steel, in order to deter potential critics. It turned out that there were as many corporate spies as activists involved as McDonalds sought incriminating evidence. On one occasion four people met at a Greenpeace London office. Two were spies from separate agencies, unknown to each other as they had been engaged separately lest one set of spies be contaminated by contact with Greenpeace London (which is not to be confused with the global Greenpeace organisation. We have available for hire the excellent 1997 video "McLibel: Two Worlds Collide", about the trial. It costs $10, including postage, for one week. Send payment to CAFCA, Box 2258, Christchurch. Ed.). The Americans have SLAPP, a "strategic lawsuit against public participation". That is an in-house use of language.
For the big companies image is all. They think that getting us to see their images and think in their terms, even if we do so grudgingly, will win the day for them. Despite the sneers of a professedly green public opinion, they might be right because the environment is still being degraded. We read, for instance, that in the last two years, the oil company BP has spent $US600 million rebranding itself as bp. BP is itself a rebranding of British Petroleum (p32). Absurd? Wasteful? Theyre trying to say that an intended suggestion that the company is to be "beyond petroleum" will make us suppose that they dont pump nasty petrol? They think that this way theyll evade the consequences of public scrutiny? Yes to all questions.
Big energy companies have a history that stretches back a century or more of retarding progress so it is not surprising to read of a German campaign against windmills. Existing utility companies feared a loss of profits. They also resented government involvement in the form of a law, which forces them to subsidise competitors using wind, a regulation designed to encourage the use of renewable energy. Nuclear and fossil producers created a dummy "public" protest group to complain about windmills as eyesores.
The big NGOs themselves polish their images and can be seduced by an activity in which Big Business can hire more consultants than the environmental NGOs can afford. The NGOs can be manipulated by polluters to target business rivals. "Only by targeting a known corporate name can they sure to enhance their own profile, distinguish from other NGOs and compete with them for media attention" (Intelligence Newsletter, quoted p132). The fruit of co-option can be that you mirror your enemy in a sort of environmental Stockholm Syndrome (a condition named after a 1970s botched bank robbery in Sweden, where the hostages came to sympathise with and support their captors. Ed.).
In this mainly European book two chapters are by New Zealanders. Nicky Hager outlines the West Coast version of the company-created German anti-windmill protesters that he analysed in his 1999 book "Secrets and Lies". Jessica Wilson looks at corporate sponsorship of education, specifically by Shell. In New Zealand the erosion of public services by private interests in the guise of "partnerships" has gone about as far as it can go without losing credibility. Were totally co-opted. Wilsons essay reminds us that the only way to maintain high quality and accessible public schools (staffed by teachers and not by stakeholders) is through adequate and certain public funding, just as the only way to preserve our clean green country is to make rules that keep it that way. Theres nothing more to be said.
"A WORLD WITHOUT WALLS:
FREEDOM, DEVELOPMENT, FREE TRADE AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE",
Mike Moore, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Mike Moore, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, begins "World Without Walls", an account of his three-year term as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), by introducing himself to his international readers. On the first page we are told that the young Moore, his leg in a brace from polio, grew up a poor boy in the back blocks. The authorities deemed young Mike to be from "difficult circumstances" and he had to leave school at 14 for the freezing works in Northland.
From these details we get the picture. Young Mike was brought up in the school of hard knocks. Hes a no-nonsense type of guy, practical and tough. For New Zealand readers the story does not need to be told. They will recognise Moores childhood as a Kiwi standard. Just as American beat poets were necessarily wharfies, male New Zealand public figures were former freezing workers. Moore is appealing to the local version of international mythologies. Hes the poor boy who made good. Hes been there, done that.
Its the required background for the autobiographies of the rich and powerful, all of whom, by their own account, were born, like Honest Abe Lincoln *, in a log cabin. Its also a required part of the CV for an aspiring politician. Even in New Zealand, where self-dramatisation is frowned on, its a familiar genre. About the time when young Mike Moore was hobbling to school in Whakatane, the days when he "devoured books", the then Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, offered his own version of the self-made myth to a radio audience. "Kiwi Keith", as he wanted to be known, had also left school at 14. After a days toil in the tobacco fields of Motueka, young Keith went to his cabin, where on the bedside table was a copy of Dickens. Or was it the Bible? Whichever, it was some really virtuous book. * 19th Century US President. Ed.
Moore Seeks To Delude Us That He Is The Champion of The Little Guy
But even from his own account, Moores story can be read less heroically. Moores widowed mother "came from a family where Labour was a religion not an ideology, and where memories of the Great Depression of the 1930s lingered long. We were tribal in our loyalty to Labour". Mum, Moore is saying, meant well, but she was not reflective. Hes implying that were living now in different times. Mums world has passed.
Moore wants us to know that he was too sensitive a soul for the Moerewa freezing works: "I hated the violence - not just the killing, but the brutality of the environment". Yes, Mike was ambitious too. Weve got it. We understand that Northland hasnt got enough. But did Moore never recognise that a society, which offered a boy a boarding scholarship, was not all bad? Young Mike must have been one of the last Kiwi children to suffer from polio. Has he ever considered that polio was eliminated by 1961 through the sort of public health immunisation programme that has become extinct since "new" Labour took over? Wasnt it good that boys in the provinces could find work in the local town?
Moores mum respected Michael Joseph Savage and the first Labour government that he headed. Her son, a member of the fourth Labour government that ran down New Zealands hospitals and schools and closed down so many of New Zealands country towns, might well offer her more than condescension.
So when Mike Moore was being promoted for the job of Director-General of the WTO as a trade unionist and a battler for the little guy he was creating his own myth. In "A World Without Walls", he wants to convince us that he is the champion of little countries fighting for a fair go against entrenched elites. His credentials as a down-to-earth bloke from little New Zealand were integral to this campaign. That Moore was in a bitter struggle to get the job he seems to have so desperately sought is not in doubt. The competition between him and a man from Thailand * was sufficiently acrimonious to make it to the general news section of the papers, where we were kept up to date with the latest odds, much in the manner of the final of TVs American Idol. * Supachai Panitchpakdi, the current WTO Director-General. Ed.
There is, though, quite a gap between Moores version of events and the conventional wisdom. In the former, Moore spent his time far from the comfort of his Geneva office and the self-serving bureaucrats he had to contend with at headquarters so that he could find out for himself what the developing world was saying. In the latter account Moore, deaf to the poorer countries, was trying to firm up some support in Africa and South America. The result of the 1999 vote, a dead heat, meant that the two men split the term in office. We get the impression that, had the contest at the WTO in fact been American Idol, Moore, the man preferred by the US, would have won at a canter.
From his hell of a boarding school, we are informed by adult Mike, that boy Mike "learned to despise power, privilege and the bullying that goes with it". So it came about that he dedicated his life to helping the humble and meek. Moores grounding for this included stints as a printer and a social worker. To be both a freezing worker and a social worker while still barely an adolescent was quite an achievement for a Labour man. Moore could now be seen as both an old-style working-class hero and a New Age sort of a guy with a feminine side. He entered Parliament at 23, the youngest ever NZ MP, he tells us.
Moore invites us to see him as a mover and shaker, a rugged individualist with an impatience for mediocrity. And all that stuff. This is another of his many and cliched visions. But it is the fate of so many of the worlds self-promoters, those who are forever writing books about themselves in these terms, to live a contradiction. If youre an honest toiler, you dont take time out to write about yourself. Neither, if youre a lonely, misunderstood and put-upon kid, do you find immediate favour with the power elites.
Some of Moores previous autobiographies are "A Brief History of the Future" * (wow, thats deep!) and "Children of the Poor" (the title an apparent borrowing from another early Labour hero, John A Lee). * Reviewed in Watchdog 91, August 1999; "Free Trade Fantasies", by Dennis Small. Ed.
Moores Style: Name Calling & Rent A Cliche
Since he was 23, Moore has been a politician or a bureaucrat in government service, so the great champion of individual enterprise is necessarily inconsistent. Depending on the immediate needs of his lecture, Moore says either that politicians are plodding hacks or that they are visionaries. Had he not gone to Geneva, Moore quips, he would have been condemned to being New Zealands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "And being a New Zealand Foreign Minister is great: you have an opinion on everything and responsibility for nothing. We Kiwis have less than 1% of the worlds population, but a lot more than 1% of the worlds opinions" (p95).
This is quite a revelation coming from someone who is so opinionated that he puts out book after book containing nothing but a succession of opinions. Moores views on life are popped out like radio talkback, a torrent of generalisation, quotation, anecdote and factoid, usually without elaboration, always without nuance. It would be true to say that this book is notable in so far as it offers nothing except Moores predictable and narrow prejudices. Moore is the pub bore whose contacts with money mean no one on the other stools wants to be first to shut him up.
A reputation for putting down your own small country might position you well at cocktail parties in New York, but is it the sort of habit that a former Prime Minister of New Zealand should boast about? Do we want former PMs to think the country they represented should not have a foreign policy? Is it helpful for such people to imply to the people who elected them - the suckers who have paid for their air fares, their offices, their wine and their cheese - that New Zealand has no possibility of enacting independent policies to benefit its people? The point is not that his NZ readers will be shocked by Moores opinion. They have long experience of domestic "free traders" saying such things. Currently we are being subjected to a parrot shriek of politicians saying that NZs foreign policy should be uncritical support for US military adventures. We know that they think that yes-man acquiescence will inspire the US Congress to cancel its agricultural subsidies and thereby enrich our farmers. But if you boast of being such an OK bloke to global business elites, as you dip your cracker and sip your fine and subtle white, you dont retain any room to manoeuvre. Youre bargaining away any negotiating strength that might have remained.
When Moore, the former MP for Waimakariri, was back in Christchurch in those heady Geneva days, at yet another reception, he referred to protesters as "grumpy geriatric communists" (phrasing borrowed from his one-time mate, former PM David Lange). Worse, they were types who "tuck their shirts into their underpants". This was Moores most telling insult. The demonstrators were not cool, they were unhip. The boy from Whakatane looked out from the Centra Hotel and saw himself as he might have become. Moores critique, ostensibly based on a disagreement over economics, was as archaic as the placard wavers on the street. It was a last gasp colonial cringe.
Moore prefaces his book with a remark allegedly by George Bernard Shaw (GBS), a variant of one of the most characteristic of neoliberal cliches. "Reasonable people", quotes Mike, "dont make change, thus all progress is based on unreasonable people". With this remark, a standard at corporate seminars, the speaker congratulates himself for being dynamic, visionary, brave ... You name it. These guys are bullshitters. The effect, however, is spoiled when Moore continues with the suggestion that "nothing is certain but change, and the pace of change is accelerating" (p11). This, too, is a cliche, but it means the opposite of what Moore wants it to mean. You cant be at once a brilliant pioneer, an Albert Einstein or a Leonardo da Vinci, and insist on unquestioning allegiance to established practice.
The concept of inevitable change is invoked by the powerful to command compliance. Its said to remind us that the global corporate elites, the ones who have devised the WTO itself, are not about to put up with resistance. Its their world now. The Director-Generals job is to act as drill sergeant as the badly dressed geriatrics are lined up to salute. As Moore says, big finance moves fast in the new economy. "Virtual money" races around, currencies are driven up or down, Argentina melts down. "Forces of this magnitude are difficult for all but the most powerful nations to resist" (p32). Moore is clearly excited by it all. He wants to surrender. If we want to fight on, hell tell on us. So the contradiction is resolved.
Democracy Is Such A Nuisance
Confusions of cause and effect mar all that Moore wants to impress upon us. He spends some time pointing out what all his ilk point out - that things are changing fast these days. Theres lots of clever technological stuff around which makes it easier to keep in touch with people overseas or to mass produce widgets. Etcetera. Why do pop business hacks never tire of reminding us about stuff like this, which every child at primary school knows? Moore does so to try to get us to believe that theres a connection between privatisation and technological progress. If the neoliberalism that he favours were indeed the cause of faster phone connections, his case would be strong.
In New Zealand Telecom is emblematic. It has been not only the countrys dominant corporation in financial terms, but telecommunications were a key sector in the late 20th Century stock market boom. Telecom is pretty much the Kiwi company most obviously linked to the brave future, its leaders among the architects of the new economic order, its head office the place least likely to put up with men tucking their shirts into their underpants. When Moore and his mates were privatising their country, excited acolytes spoke of increased telephone use as evidence of the success of Labours reforms. In truth, the telecommunications trend was international, spurred by scientific and social factors. Even if theyd bought them from a State-owned corporation, teens would have carried their mobiles.
It was the luck of Moore and the Lange government to take office as the last phase of the boom was powering up. Moore, though, begins his historical survey near the start of the Industrial Revolution. Yes, there are connections to be made with the concurrent development of capitalism, but Moore doesnt make them.
He should have, because he fancies the broad historical generalisation. Moore the theorist illustrates how Moore the activist is on the right side of history. He enjoys describing himself in terms once favoured by the Left. Having established his credentials as a revolutionary, as a fighter against colonialism and imperialism, an anti-fascist, an anti-communist, an anti-racist, the former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation has made his case. He holds high the banner of internationalism and solidarity.
GBS was fond of an amusing paradox, but even he might not have guessed that by the dawn of the 21st Century the old language would have been turned inside out. That is the nature of the revolution. The old slogans have been appropriated by the very people who were supposed to have succumbed before their power. The bureaucrats at the WTO (and doubtless the gnomes of Zurich as well) rule. As Moore tells it, Magna Carta, habeas corpus, the Enlightenment are just a few of the tottering steps taken by our species on the road to Geneva. There, we are to infer, the Director-General exists as a sort of culmination of historical progress, rather like the capitalist triumphalism epitomised by Francis Fukuyamas 1990s book "The End Of History".
These weighty European musings are buttressed by invocations of Plato, Churchill, the American Declaration of Independence, Lyndon Johnson, Karl Popper, FA Hayek, de Tocqueville, Mark Twain, Pavarotti, Louis XIV... Mike sure reads widely. But then, after invoking all these Europeans, Moore spoils the effect, for the pedantic reader at least, by declaring himself to be an opponent of "Eurocentrism". Or could he say that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds? Wasnt that one of Shaws? Mikes into postmodernism of course. Hes a post-colonial to boot. If its trendy and doesnt tuck its shirt into its underpants, hes onto it. What a guy.
One European influence that Moore does not much care for is parliamentary democracy. He advocates instead a "Community of Democracies", an American "creative reaction to the domination of the United Nations by dictatorships, oligarchies, and rogue nations" (p236). Moore is quoting the influential US journalist William Safire. Moores support for the 2003 war on Iraq as a means of extending what he calls market democracy can be seen in the light of this attitude. Moore spells it out:
"This democratic caucus could reach into... parliaments and congresses and bring into play a serious attempt to provide systematic oversight and begin to hold the great international institutions to democratic account - or at least under the eye of those who provide 90% of the finance and represent over 90% of world trade.... This democratic caucus meets now, very informally, in various fora around the world. I am arguing that we need, to a greater extent, to support both customers and owners to ensure that liberal democratic ideas prevail....".
These days, says the populist from the Moerewa freezing works, life is too complicated for the simple folk back home to cope in their quaint old ways. He asks a rhetorical question, as put by another of his many mates:
"How is the democratic state to function if the mass of the citizens is dependent on the expert knowledge available only to a tiny elite, an elite that in its formation and direct economic interest comes to represent only a narrow sector of society?" (quoting Richard Lewontin, p269).
Despite the negative connotation that this might have for the old-fashioned, the answer is that the democratic state need not function. Moore concludes the thought in his own words: "I think we have proven that freely operating markets, good governance and transparent standards of integrity get better results. When governments spend their income on guns and not children, on buying political power, and not on devolving that power to its legitimate owners, then the results are predictable".
In Moores immediate context of the Iraq war, and with the backgound of his "market" solutions as a politician to social issues and his subsequent extravagant campaign to get the nod at the WTO, these two sentences are quite remarkable.
So self-serving and so illogical are Moores nostrums that there is nothing to be gained by trying to elucidate them. He employs a sort of debating trick, whereby he pretends to concede that, yes, its true that weve made mistakes. This gambit supposedly disarms some of the familiar criticisms of his new order. Moore couples it with a denial that the criticism applies in specific cases which matter to him. For example, Russia got it wrong when it privatised, but NZ didnt. Governments have made mistakes, bankrupting their economies. So has the World Bank. Moore pretends to be balanced and judicious. Some readers might think the "mistakes" were inescapable consequences of WTO-type policies. Moore says that Russia, Argentina, Asia - and all the rest - did it wrong. This is a useful conclusion as it just goes to show that the world needs those Geneva bureaucrats, the great men at the top of the new "Community of Democracies".
Moore Has Always Been Right, In Every Sense
Moore has always been right. As always, he can zig while he zags. His advice to those who want to reform, he says (telling us he got the insight from Machiavelli) is that "reform fails if you signal your punches and dont build up constituencies for change" (p233). By this, Moore must mean that you plot with your unelected, rich and often foreign pals how to enact laws in sovereign parliaments for which you have no mandate. Conspiracy theory? He says so.
Its tough though because the plebs dont appreciate what youre doing for them. "Its a mistake to be right too soon", the great visionary sighs (p10), having forgotten that he should be humble, because "the people are always right, even when theyre wrong", as they were in 1990 when Mike lost his election (p4).
This book, a justification, appears very soon after Moores three years at the WTO were completed. In the UK it has been issued as "Reflections Of A Frustrated Global Governor". Moore means to imply that he, the restless and selfless champion of common sense, was thwarted by an uncaring system. If others wont give you credit, you have to explain yourself. Moore refers to his own "brutal honesty" and his "can-do" spirit. With Moore everything finishes as self-promotion. After 292 pages weve got the point. Mikes opponents at the WTO, the global bureaucrats, are pampered rich boys, uncaring for the poor huddled masses. Theyre unimaginative toffs who have never done a days honest work in their lives.
As a cartoonist Moore is unconvincing. He makes much of his forlorn attempt to make a stupid world understand him. The trouble is that we, his readers, come from that world, and when he is content to sketch caricatures, he cant expect us to see the details he claims to be drawing. Nothing in his account expounds Moores assertions that a deregulated, privatised global economy is entirely good. The more Mike repeats dogmatic slogans without offering us insight or example, the more were condemned to a mutual display of frustration. Whatever a readers impression of the WTO, this view will not be changed by reading Moores book because he gives no arguments with which to get to grips.
After Moores fleeting term as PM, at the time of the National governments electricity experiments, the high tide of the reforms, Tom Scott, the cartoonist, sketched the Minister concerned surveying a dam. The old system works in practice, Doug Kidd was saying, but does it work in theory? Scotts little jibe at free market fundamentalism makes its appearance in Moores telling of his clean broom sweeping through the Geneva bureaucracy where it has become the Director-Generals advice to a presumably awestruck assistant. The difference between the two cartoonists is that Moore claims his version as an original - and serious - insight. The onion layers of derivation keep peeling away.
Moore assures us that he has a good sense of humour (all the self-publicists enjoy a laugh at their own expense). He reproduces effigies of himself carried by protesters as though its a splendid joke. What he does not appreciate is that all he offers himself is cartoons. The difference is that the protesters have to use effigies and slogans because theyre on the outside. If Moore invited them in - as he pretends to have done - he might find that the cartoons are only a way of getting attention. Once youve done that, you have an obligation to analyse. You dont expend a book on touting yourself.
This book is one long wail from the Whakatane boy whos been weighed down all his life by the chips on his shoulder. Since his days in brutal Moerewa Moore seems to have devoted his life to getting even with a world of enemies. Hes an attention seeker, a sucker for the flattery that his role at the WTO invited. If you cant beat em, as a legion of the ambitious and bitter have found, join em. Its a pattern as familiar as the memory of Tricky Dick Nixon * and as old as all the other prototypes on which Moores thinking has depended. * US President, 1969-74. Ed.
Moore wants to be the shunned outsider who by the force of his will has liberated himself so that he can show us the way and the truth and the life by dint of heading the WTO. Its an absurd self-deception. At one point he remarks, as though with wry humour: "Its a melancholy fact that the best thing I have done for New Zealand was to leave". He means to suggest, with his habitual disdain for Kiwi modesty, that he is a prophet without honour in his own country. For once the reader might overlook any intended allusion, take Mike at face value, and agree.
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