Three years ago, at Washington, DC, USA, Bryan Thompson, a 14-year-old student at Colonial Forge High School was suspended for running onto the field during a school football game — wearing a banana outfit.
Thompson was interviewed by WRC reporter Pat Collins (watch the video, above). Thompson wore the infamous banana outfit. Collins, not to be outdone, dressed like a grape, in a not-so-subtle attempt to make the point that Thompson was doing nothing wrong.
"It starts with a banana," Collins said in his report. "Then all of a sudden you have an apple, and an orange, and then maybe a grape, and before you know it, you have fruit salad in the schools. We can't have that."
Students who protested Thompson's 10-day suspension were given detention.
Faced with an onslaught of criticism — from reports like this one, as well as advocacy groups like the ACLU, school principal Karen Spillman resigned. All the suspensions were subsequently lifted.
Now, you might ask what has this got to do with oil palm planters and palm oil companies?
Well, it's about "taking sides" in speaking out against injustice and trade oppression oil palm investors and palm oil exporters face.
Is it ever right for mainstream media reporters to be vilified and branded as bias for "taking sides" with oil palm planters when they lay down the facts on the double standards definition of "forest destruction" between that of tropical Asia and western countries' pine forest?
Even some oil palm planters, who are so used to being relegated the whipping boy of modern agriculture, exclaim in relief "that reporter is on our side, she's on our side."
Sadly, some plantation companies which are bullied into wounded silence, forget they have every right to a very basic expectation ... insightful reporting from ALL journalists, commentators or market observers.
It's time for oil palm planters to step up to the plate in better communicating their contribution to the economy. Employees of plantation companies must learn to be comfortable with their show-and-tell skills and think on their feet. These "soft" skills are a necessity as Malaysia's economy shifts into a knowledge-based one.
It's time for decision makers of the palm oil industry to expect higher standards of journalism from editors in uncovering the truth on insidious trade barriers and the nasty implications on Malaysia's economy. After all, journalism has always been the last bastion of justice when other avenues fail.
Is the planting of oil palms anymore polluting than rainforest? Ladies and gentlemen, let's use our common sense.
Rainforest has more variety of big animals living there, right? Animals, trees and plants in the forest die from old age and diseases. So when termites feast on dead trees and maggots eat up dead animals, they emit carbon dioxide, yes?
So, logically, one can conclude that estates planted with young oil palms actually produce more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than old rainforest.
If saturated fats is bad for health, why do the same people who demonise palm oil advocate fish oil supplements, butter and cheese which certainly have higher content of saturated fats?
If oil palm planters think the current situation is just a straightforward trade rivalry with rapeseed, soybean and sunflower farmers .... think again. Take a few steps back and try and see the bigger picture. I leave you with the wise words of Albert Einstein.