Fish Tales

“The Big Lie” is a propaganda technique developed by Josef Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda, and Adolph Hitler in the 1920s prior to their taking power in Germany in 1933.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” said Goebbels, in explaining the technique that he helped perfect. “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”

In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler defined the “Big Lie” as a lie so colossal that no one would believe that anybody “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Since the Nazis came to power in 1933, many governments, corporations, and corrupt individuals throughout the world have used this tried and proven propaganda technique to seize power and to brainwash the population into believing unsubstantiated “facts” to further their goals.

In California, the greatest practitioners of the “Big Lie” are Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lester Snow, the Director of the Department of Water Resources, the state water contractors and their accomplices who have spread outrageous claims about the “need” for a peripheral canal and more dams in order to increase water exports to unsustainable subsidized agribusiness. Their most recent use of the classic “Big Lie” propaganda technique is to blame “fish” and “drought” for farm “unemployment” to further their campaign to build a peripheral canal and more dams.

As part of the preparation for the State Water Board hearing on the DWR/Bureau petition, Bill Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, researched the claims made by DWR and various water agencies and politicians that the drought had a huge impact upon farm labor unemployment. He found that the contention that the “drought” has been devastating for farmworkers is a classic case of “The Big Lie,” with no basis whatsoever in fact.

For example, Schwarzenegger portrayed a false crisis of farmworker unemployment “skyrocketing,” due to the supposed favoring of “fish” over “jobs” by state and federal agencies, when he addressed the recent “March for Water” organized by corporate agribusiness without the support of the United Farmworkers Union or farmworker advocacy groups.

This is similar to “The Big Lie” spouted by Schwarzenegger in the summer of 2007- that “no dams had been built” in California during a 30-year period – until myself and others exposed his lies and he finally stopped telling them.

“This march is about opening our eyes to the reality of California’s water crisis – and the reality is that farmers do not have a reliable water supply they can count on, farm workers fear losing their jobs because crops are not being planted, and in towns across the Central Valley, unemployment is skyrocketing,” claimed Governor Schwarzenegger. “I am determined to getting a comprehensive solution done once and for all that will update our water infrastructure, increase our water storage and restore our Delta.”

Likewise, actor and comedian Paul Rodriguez claimed, “We cannot ask a tree to wait a week, Governor,” trying to convey a gloom and doom scenario for west side San Joaquin Valley agribusiness unless exports into the Delta pumps are increased. “The tree has to have water. Our fields are turning into kindling wood.”

The Corporate Agribusiness Big Lie was repeated as scriptural truth by the corporate media, with little if any critical analysis of actual economic data as Jennings has done.

“Water agencies and politicians have been relentlessly claiming that the drought and environmental restrictions have had a devastating impact on farm worker employment,” said Jennings. “These claims have been widely reported in numerous newspapers and broadcast media articles. Unfortunately, they are substantially lies; facilitated by those seeking to relax environmental protection and facilitate a peripheral canal.”

Contrary to the claims that farmworker jobs have decreased, the fact is that farm labor employment in the San Joaquin Valley has increased since the “drought” began three years ago, according to Jennings.

“In fact, agricultural employment in the San Joaquin Valley has generally outpaced all other economic sectors,” said Jennings. “The rise in unemployment is recession-based and focused primarily on the construction, manufacturing and leisure and hospitality sectors.”

Jennings reviewed files from the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) Labor Market Information Division between March 2008 and March 2009. These files revealed that there was no basis for claims that farm labor “unemployment” was caused by the “drought” and court-ordered restrictions on pumping.

Here is the startling data that the Governor, DWR and the state water contractors didn’t want you to know:

• Fresno County total farm employment increased by 1,100 while nonfarm employment decreased by 8,900.
• Kern County total farm employment increased by 1,300 while nonfarm employment decreased by 2,500.
• Kings County total farm employment increased by 100 while nonfarm employment decreased by 700.
• Tulare County total farm employment increased by 1,200 while nonfarm employment decreased by 3,200.
• Merced County total farm employment decreased by only 200 while nonfarm employment decreased by 2,100.
• Stanislaus County total farm employment decreased by only 300 while nonfarm employment decreased by 4,900.

The same is true between 2006 and 2008, according to Jennings. Total farm employment increased by 2,600 in Fresno County, 4,000 in Kern County, 3,400 in Tulare County, 100 in Merced County, and 500 in Stanislaus County. Only in Kings County, the smallest of all valley agricultural counties, did agricultural employment drop – and then only by 600.

“The trends are the same, whether you’re comparing annual farm and nonfarm employment between 2000 and 2008 or historical monthly employment data (2000-current),” said Jennings. “The significant rise in unemployment in the San Joaquin Valley over the last few years is clearly not due to a loss of farm labor jobs, with the possible exception of King County where farm labor unemployment averaged over 10% between 2000 and 2008 Kings County has, by far, the smallest farm and nonfarm employment of any county in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Jennings noted that much has been written about the exceptionally high unemployment in the town of Mendota, as evidence of impacts from the “water crisis.” However, he emphasized that “unemployment in Mendota has always been high.”

“It exceeded 32% in 2000 and was the highest of the state’s 494 towns,” added Jennings. “Per capita income was below $8,000, which was the lowest level in the state. Unemployment is a serious problem in areas like Mendota and begs to be addressed. However, it is a structural long-existing problem not primarily caused by reductions in water deliveries.”

The unemployment numbers may change during the course of the coming year but, for now, “they shout lies” to the claims by agencies and water districts, Jennings concluded.

On the other hand, state and federal water policies that favor subsidized corporate agribusiness have helped to devastate Central Valley Chinook salmon, striped bass, sturgeon and other fish populations that the recreational and commercial fishing businesses depend on. Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and juvenile striped bass have declined to record low population levels in recent years, due to massive increases in water exports out of the California Delta, toxic chemicals and invasive species.

“The Big Lie” that the “drought” and court-ordered restrictions of pumping to protect delta smelt and endangered winter-run Chinook salmon have led to massive unemployment in the farmworker community is a cynical attempt by Corporate Agribusiness and their allies, Schwarzenegger and Snow, to pit fishermen against farmworkers, and Delta farmworkers, who are threatened by the peripheral canal, against San Joaquin Valley farmworkers.

As Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, so eloquently said, “Pitting the needs of one farm worker community against another is wrong. Environmental justice advocates, who address environmental impacts on the poor and people of color, do not advocate for the benefit of one environmental justice community against the needs of other environmental justice communities.

“Solving the economic challenges of farm worker communities in the Central Valley and the Delta must be done in a compassionate and moral way so as to recognize the dignity of the work that farm workers perform in the present, while providing them with new opportunities to become productive members of a diverse middle class California economy,” she concluded. “In addition, numerous workers in the fishing and recreation industries are workers of color who must also be protected by environmental justice advocacy.”

Jennings has exposed Corporate Agribusiness and Schwarzenegger for the “Big Liars” they are, but in the classic tradition of “The Big Lie,” they will probably come back with an even more outrageous lie to replace the one they are spinning in the mainstream media now.

DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com




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Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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