On July 24, Verlyn Klinkenborg published an article in the New York Times entitled: "The Story Behind a New York Billboard and the Interests It Serves." The "story" begins by noting the "PetaKillsAnimals.com" Time's Square billboard was paid for by the CCF (Center for Consumer Freedom). Klinkenborg then uses the presence of this billboard to enlighten his audience about who founded the CCF, the source of some/most of their funding, what the CCF claims to be and stand for, but really aren't and don't — which is why Klinkenborg feels the need to enlighten us . . ..
All in all, it's not a very flattering portrayal, but neither is it very persuasive for anyone with half a brain. For example, pointing out that Mr. Richard Berman, CCF's founder and (presumably) driving force, is a lobbyist is, like skin color or union membership, neither here nor their — virtually every interest group participating in the American Cultural wars has one or more lobbyist, including, I'd be willing to bet, the HSUS, the Sierra Club, the NAACP, RainbowPush, and whatever union represents the special interests of journalists. And PeTA certainly does (or did) employ lobbyists as well (Darcy Kemnitz served in that capacity).
Being a lobbyist or employing one tells us nothing at all about the principles and honesty of the individual or the group he represents. But when a columnist takes pains to point it out in a way — almost as a stereotype — that implies corruption and untrustworthiness, he is engaging in pure demagoguery, and that tells us much about the columnist.
Slashing by innuendo may give Klinkenborg great personal satisfaction, but he would not accept this form of attack were it directed against a group he is sympathetic to, and, further, for him to engage in such tactics himself shows immense contempt for his audience.
If there is evidence pointing to Mr. Berman and his CCF being corrupt or their statements and claims being untrustworthy, Klinkenborg should present it or shut up.
Who pays for CCF is certainly a matter of interest, but does not by definition relegate them to the "Pack of the Immoral" any more than a neighborhood animal shelter would be so relegated for receiving money for their spay and neuter program from terrorist-supporting PeTA.
If there is evidence that the money was illegally gotten, or that it has produced a misleading or deceptive message, Klinkenborg should present it — or shut up.
What counts is the accuracy of the facts CCF provides, whether they are honest about their agenda, and whether or not their philosophical views are broadly coherent. There is no excuse for willfully misrepresenting facts, and I haven't found CCF ever to have done that. They are right up front about their agenda, far less have they tried to hide it. And agree or disagree with their goals, they appear to be philosophically coherent.
There is a vast difference between advertising and promoting your case to an audience, and attempting to indoctrinate them. True, CCF employs aggressive tactics as part of their strategy — they attack — for which I applaud them. And they present their case in its best light (is there any interest group that does not?). But most importantly, the facts they present are verifiable, unlike those presented by PeTA, the group CCF criticized in their Time's Sqare Billboard.
If there is evidence that the facts CCF presents are fabricated, deliberately false or cunningly assembled partial truths intended to deceive and manipulate, present the evidence or shut up.
From my perspective, in the case of CCF vs PeTA, it is dispositive that the CCF is not afraid to present their evidence before the world in a forum where they can be challenged, and know they will be — you may recall that the CCF appeared to testify before the Senate, and to be cross-examined by Senators, when PeTA chickened out (pun intended).
What, I wonder, might Klinkenborg make of that?
But I'm not interested in taking more time defending CCF, though it's easy enough to do — you can judge them for yourselves by looking at their respective web sites (PeTA and CCF), and perhaps searching Animal Crackers to see what I have had to say about PeTA.
I would, however, like to return to Klinkenborg, who makes a feeble and contrived attempt to appear as if he's not in PeTA's pocket — which if true suggests to me he's been duped by their propaganda:
I hold no brief for PETA, which seems to me to be wrongheaded about as often as it is right-minded. But it has made common cause with more-thoughtful organizations in opposing the contemptible practice of raising animals like hogs and chickens - the source of most Americans' meat - in close confinement.
Klinkenborg can forgive PeTA, apparently, for their support of arsonists like Rodney Coronado and terrorist organizations like the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) because they (PeTA) have made common cause with more thoughtful groups whose agenda he approves of . . .
He can overlook the fact that PeTA is encouraging children to lie to further their (PeTA's) agenda — because PeTA makes common cause with more thoughtful groups whose agenda he approves of . . .
And he can overlook the fact that the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) with its close ties to PeTA, once employed Dr. Jerry Vlasak as a spokesman, he who finds assassination to be "morally acceptable" in furthering the AR cause, and who openly advocates the practice itself — because PeTA makes common cause with more thoughtful groups whose agenda he approves of.
And then there is PeTA's careful use of a an obviously staged, horribly grotesque video on its PeTA2 (for kids) website, showing animals being skinned alive, irrelevant in the factual content of their campaign against Wet Seal, but carefully placed on a page to suggest that it depicts how Wet Seal's suppliers treat animals. Klinkenborg can overlook that, because PeTA makes common-cause with more thoughtful groups whose agenda he approves of.
I think that's clear enough.
And where, may I ask, did Klinkenborg ever get the idea that PeTA is any less thoughtful than the organizations they append themselves to, for purposes of publicity and expediency? You don't wake up one morning and find yourself having built an organization commanding a $25 — $29 million annual budget unless you're very thoughtful indeed . . . the size of budget alone attests to the brilliant minds behind PeTA's propaganda campaigns.
One can only conclude that Klinkenborg is deliberately trying to deceive his audience by striking up a moral equivalency between the CCF and PeTA, or that he was suckered into believing PeTA's propaganda, and wrote with stylistic authority about an organization he knew nothing about, other than what he learned from the propaganda he so unskeptically and enthusiastically consumed.
Which is worse?
Klinkenborg finishes his tope with a truly breathtaking flourish:
Is it hypocritical for C.C.F. to attack PETA? Since its basic rhetorical strategy is hypocritical, the answer is almost certainly yes. Is it hypocritical for PETA to euthanize dogs and cats, as C.C.F. claims it does? Only if you believe that the ethical treatment of animals never includes euthanasia. The obvious retort to PETA Kills Animals is PETA Saves Animals. But that doesn't make much of a billboard.g animals like hogs and chickens - the source of most Americans' meat - in close confinement. And it is probably capable of defending itself in a billboard war.
Here, Klinkenborg parades the full bloom of his ignorance before the world, with trumpets a-blaring and banners a-streaming. He clearly has no idea what distinguishes Animal Rights from Animal Welfare! PeTA, of course, is an Animal Rights group not an Animal Welfare group. Ooops.
Of course, the whole point of PeTA is that it is liberationist: Animals have "rights," which PeTA claims to be in the business of protecting! To deny animals their "rights" is to be a speciesist (and link); to an AR person, speciesism is a sin as morally indefensible as racism or sexism is. To put it another way, to an Animal Rights activist, a human life is of no greater value than a non-human life, and to believe otherwise is to be a "speciesist."
If you understand the prohibition against "speciesism" that figures so prominently in AR thinking — and Klinkenborg does not or is being willfully blind — then you understand this.
Though killing shelter animals is regrettable but consistent with the Animal Welfare position, when PeTA kills animals as a matter of course, PeTA is violating the core value of Animal Rights ideology. There are no "ifs", "ands" or "buts" about it. And when it turns out that PeTA kills a far higher percentage of animals than other shelters in its vicinity than their less affluent neighbors (op cit)), this is hypocrisy of biblical proportions.
What may even be worse is this: PeTA justifies its killing ways by claiming that most (but not all!) of the animals they killed are not adoptable, many having been abused ("damaged") by human owners. Here's what I wrote before:
PeTA has tried to claim that they killed only those that aren't easily adopted out: but their kill rate exceeds that of some genuine shelters in the area by a factor of 2-3, and killing animals whose only sin is that they were "damaged" by human abuse violates a fundamental AR principle, and raises a devastating question: why are unadoptable animals, especially those made so by human abuse, less deserving of PeTA's protection than cute, adoptable animals? Have the unadoptable animals lost their right to life simply because they are unadoptable? After all, PeTA has the bucks to run a non-kill shelter — they just prefer to spend their money on other things (op cit), including terrorist organizations and arsonists.
Klinkenborg certainly has a right to his opinion, and he may well continue (at the peril of his credibility) in his belief that PeTA doesn't deserve the label "hypocrite" when they so easily abandon the core value of their raison d'être and segue smoothly behind the protective values embraced by Animal Welfarists — values they specifically reject when it serves their interests to do so.
But such intransigency would be self-discrediting.
My thanks to Orac, who brought this to my attention.