For now several months, I see the face of Peter Brabeck, CEO of Nestle, bounce up and down my timeline like an angry, angry basketball.
Take a look at this picture. Do you really feel like having this evil looking CEO face engage you in a staring contest every other week? For the sake of my sleep I surely don’t.
I still find trouble sleeping though, and it’s not because of the man’s looks. It’s the quote, and the calls for action that usually follow in the comments.
“Humans don’t have a right to water” He said! Let’s boycott that evil brand!
I do agree that the position of corporations in our current economy must be debated until we finally can get some clarity. I also find this news, now gone viral, rather problematic, and here is why:
The quote is completely fabricated.
At first I thought it would make sense for the CEO of a major corporation to say something like that, since these people have a boring life and need to shoot their PR in the balls every now and then to find back their demonic smile.
Then I realized that I missed my carpal tunnel syndrome and headed to Google search.
It appears that every single article if found (like, say, this one) quoting Peter Brabeck stating that “Humans don’t have a right to water” use as a reference this Youtube video… which doesn’t contain the quote whatsoever.
Here is the actual quote:
Water is indeed the most important raw material we have in the world, it’s a question of whether or not we should privatize the normal water supply for the population, and there are two opinions on the matter:
The opinion I think is extreme […] declaring water a public right. That means that as a human being you should have right to water. That’s an extreme solution.
And the other view says that water is a foodstuff like another, and like any other foodstuff it should have a market value. Personally I believe it’s better to give foodstuff a value, so that we are aware that it has a price and that one should take specific measures for the part of the population that has no access to this water, and there are many possibilities there.
Why is it a problem?
The truth matters. That’s why.
Some might argue that the reported quote is an extrapolation of the interview, but as a matter of fact, Peter Brabeck did NOT say that.
“The truth” is an incredibly vast topic. But when it comes to verifiable facts, ignoring it or altering it (you know, telling lies) only contribute to foster battles of disinformation.
I personally want to join a cause or two, I just want to know what they are fighting for, and I certainly do not want to be manipulated.
You want people on your side of the fence? Truthful headlines might help.
The source video comes from “that” kind of channel.
While watching, I started to wonder about the video’s origin. It comes with no title, no credits, no copyrights, nothing to help me put the clip back into context.
With the hope that I could find similarly informative material, and maybe a clue about their origin, I clicked on the uploader’s name and checked his (her?) channel.
This is what I found. This mismatch of information and hypothesis, from content that could somehow make sense with a little more data to pure sensationalism gave me the impression to have once again hit the weird side of Youtube (don’t do that after midnight).
Why is it a problem?
When I open a newly acquired case of nuts, if everything I see in the case is nuts, I’ll assume that the whole content is nuts and shove these nuts down my mouth regardless of whether or not I might chew on a live fairy.
I tend to apply the the same thought process to the news I read or watch: If your whole content screams “I want traffic”, I’ll assume you just want traffic and couldn’t care less for little things like credibility and ethics.
It will also make me ask myself whether you believe in everything you are told without any further inquiry or if you want your audience to do just that. Or both.
Too bad, though, because if you do expose a useful piece of content, which actually represent a fact, I will discard it with the rest. Sorting the nuts from the truth (or what you believe to be true) is your job, not your audience’s.
Worse, since I saw the potentially helpful piece of content being reported by “that kind” of channel, and especially if it’s relayed by others of the same aspiration, I will stop giving it credit whatever the source.
This is why ethics are kinda sorta important when you want to deliver a message, and this is why, since I’ve had access to internet, goofballs keep on making activism look insane.
It appeals to reactions which miss other real issues by a lightyear or two.
Let’s say that I’ve had a persistent pain at the tip of my right hand’s middle finger, and that I am asking for you help on assessing its health. Which one of the following picture is more likely to provoke extreme reactions?
You will certainly find that my finger is healthy, but did you notice that my pinkie looked weird? Did you also notice the question about marfanic morphologies in the caption?
If you did, congratulations. If you didn’t, I can’t blame you, because picture #2 is meant to draw attention at a particular aspect of the problem.
The same goes for most of the pieces I have read about this video. Peter Brabeck has opinions about water distribution which are difficult to agree with, but his whole speech raises many, equally important issues:
- What is the current status of our water resources?
- Are we already wasting that much?
- What can we do to conserve water?
- What geographic areas are concerned?
- What’s the industrial impact of water being a public resource?
- What about water pollution by nearby population in developing countries?
- What would happen to the 250.000 employees of Nestle if we boycotted the brand all of a sudden?
- What would happen to the economy in general?
- Do we have alternative solutions to distribute water?
- Does water collection affects climate, the rain cycle?
- Is the sustainability of its company the unique goal of a CEO?
- Is the future as bright as Peter Brabeck says?
- Who is Peter Brabeck, is he linked to other controversies, what are his views on other topics?
- What is Nestle, has the company been linked to scandals or other controversies, what’s its history?
- And for the sake of actuality, what’s Peter Brabeck position on his statement, and is Nestle following up on this philosophy?
That’s a lot of questions, I am asking all of them in the most honest and innocent fashion – I know that every answer and point of view can contribute to our common knowledge on a broad range of topics, from morals to economy.
But no. Peter Brabeck is a bad guy who says evil stuff, that’s all we need to know, thus:
I know, I know, information is faster than ever, but does it mean that knowing the implications of the causes we defend and opening new perspectives via complete fact exposition isn’t worth it anymore?
Is it possible to keep an open mind when our focus becomes narrow?
If I do not pretend to know more than anybody about this issue, I know one thing for sure: if there is indeed an evil on this world, it resides not only in the hand of those who want us to lose everything, but also at the fingertips of those who make sure that, little by little, we get used to losing what we have, starting with our perspective.
Note: I chose this particular piece of new for how well it illustrates my thoughts about many cases of bad reporting. I am not defending Peter Brabeck or Nestle, and won’t opine until I have enough credible data do to so. The point of this article is to underline how many opportunities for clear outcome via informed debate and audience empowerment are lost due to poor reporting ethics -and how much it makes me cringe.
Also no, Brabeck never said anything about internet sucking at journalism.