One of the pleasures of writing a blog, at least for me, is that I can watch my thoughts evolve, often with the help of very smart commentary from elsewhere in the blogosphere. Here is an excerpt from an intricate post published on the Belmont Club that helped me understand Animal Rights and Eco-Extremists just a little better:
. . . In the current context, radical Islamists are better characterized as antinomians than nihilists. Having been anointed by Allah, they may perform any act, tell any lie, do anything and still regard themselves as being in the right. The Western Left on the other hand is philosophically much closer to nihilism. Nothing is inherently true and that makes it possible for a Leftist to believe two contradictory things simultaneously. Orwell gave this process a name: doublethink. In this mental universe one can burn the Flag and insist on its protection; work to destroy the Constitution and claim Constitutional liberty to do it; march in a Gay Pride parade in the morning and in a fundamentalist Islamic rally in the afternoon. Both are mentally wonderful places to be for those who wish to always be right; the first by definition and the second by virtue of the fact that wrong cannot exist. Personally, I wouldn't want to live there.
I see Animal Rights and Eco-extremist ideology as attracting people of both persuasions, antinomians and nihilists. On the one hand, you have the deeply religious people (the antinomians) like Tre Arrow (who is advised by trees) and the shaman Rodney Coronado, who has invented his own world of spirits and is channeling it for the great unwashed.
There can be no doubt about the sincerity and deep spiritual conviction of Mr. Coronado and Mr. Arrow: if they don't exactly claim to have been anointed by the spirit world, they nevertheless act as spirit world agents, defending it from defilement by grubby, materialistic human beings. In their case, "anointment happens," passively, by virtue of the strength of their conviction (as if strength of conviction is itself a highly moral condition).
The Rod Coronados and the Tre Arrows of the world are ascetics who advocate direct (= confrontational or even violent) action in behalf of a greater good. In my opinion, they have a romantic appeal to "seekers" - people who themselves feel a deep spiritual need that is unsatisfied by conventional religion. A small percentage of these people, I believe, turn out to be useful idiots of the William Cottrell sort. These people will go to any lengths to further their goals.
And then, you have the nihilists. I think the vast majority of Animal Rights people fall into this category. These folks believe that there is no objective reality and no objective truth. To them, truth is subjective - it is whatever you want it to be, and everyone's truth is equally "valid." It can change seamlessly, and in this subjective world, contradictions aren't seen fatal flaws. Rather, they are just a part of an ever-changing landscape, one whose features can be altered at no moral cost to accord with any picture you want the world to see.
This is why PeTA can, for example, claim that animals have the right not to be violated by humans (kept as pets, killed, kept in zoos, experimented on, eaten, hunted, farmed, etc.), while pressing hard to have dogs and cats spayed (thus depriving them of their reproductive rights). It is why people like Peter Tatchell can distort the nature of science with a clear conscience.
The nihilists are not completely free of the spirit world, though they don't consider themselves anointed. Rather, they assert that animals have an inalienable right not to be exploited by humans, pretend as if the assertion is true, and use it as a convenient moral peg to hang whatever action, press release or goal seems right at the moment.
From the group of nihilists comes the recruiters: these are the people who use the media (web postings, news medias, leaflets etc.) to inflame passions, identify targets (and their families and friends ...), and instruct in the effective techniques of vandalism, coercion and intimidation - all of which is perfectly legal. Their goal is for some anonymous useful idiot to step up and take what the recruters would euphamistically call "direct action", which they (the recruters) could "not approve of" while understanding and sympathizing with the motives that drove the useful idiot to act out.