Gerry Harvey is taking a battering from the Internet. First from online competitors to his bricks and mortar retailing operation, now from online vigilantes who are organising a boycott of his stores because he is selling furniture made from legally (yes, you did read that right) harvested Australian timber.
I’m still happy to talk to him, even more so for his second problem.
When we set up On Line Opinion one of our major concerns was the potential for the Internet to break into ghettoes and descend into mob behaviour. That was 12 years ago, and that behaviour is now upon us, and I’m no longer sure that the OLO solution is the one that is going to work. Unfortunately, I think you are going to have to fight fire with fire.
This campaign against Harvey Norman is completely unfair. HN’s use of the timber is completely legal, and completely ethical, even by the standards that conservationists apply. The fact that it is sent to China to be processed is a xenophobic red-herring and only has bearing on trade policy.
If these “environmentalists” were really concerned about preserving native forests they would be campaigning about the tonnes of furniture sold in Australia every year made from illegally logged timber in places like Niu Guini, Indonesia and Fiji, instead of timber legally and sustainably logged in Australia.
I used to think of them as panhandling for social goods, but that is too benign a view. They’re really freelancing stand-over merchants who get their fee not from the victim, but from the vigilantes who pay to be part of the experience. It’s an online business model a bit like big game hunting.
I’d really like to talk to you Gerry.