A reader sent me this link, which you should all view (and notice the URL: "... peta.org/AnimalLiberation/"). Accompanying the link was his evaluation of it, an analysis that I find spot on and wouldn't want to try to improve.
In the spirit of the infamous "Holocaust on Your Plate", PETA has now come up with a new "animal liberation project" they're calling "We're All Animals". In this, they repugnantly compare the slavery of African-Americans, the genocide of Native Americans, the oppression of women, and child labor, to what else but "animal exploitation". Just like "holocaust" they use text and comparative photos to try to get the point of moral equivalency of animals and people across. It's highly odious and indeed, one could consider it racist. On the very first page there is a picture of an African man right next to a picture of a chimpanzee in what appears to be a dress. Certainly a racist, hateful comparison in my book. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this latest piece of hateful, venomous propaganda. . . ..
So — what do I think?
Any normal person looking at PeTA's presentation must be outraged and repelled by it. Like the Holocaust on your Plate campaign, which ran for approximately 2 years and for which Ingrid Newkirk cynically issued a non-apology apology, and PeTA's grotesque exploitation of staged brutality, it's principle effect will not be to sway public opinion in the direction of Animal Rights.
But, in my opinion, it's not intended to persuade the public. I believe it's part of a larger campaign to recruit people to "direct action."
First, and of lesser importance, this particular slide show, like so much of what PeTA does, is intended to attract recruits — not many, to be sure, but recruits of the right sort: people who experience a "click moment" from having viewed the slide show, who suddenly see the Truth, and who as a result become AR apostles.
Causing "click moments" is why PeTA so relentlessly targets kids: children, with their notoriously impressionable, unskeptical and inexperienced minds, are much more likely to experience a click moment and be recruited to the AR cause than adults. And once recruited, a fair number of them will become advocates of "direct action" (harassment, intimidation, vandalism, coercion) for the cause.
Targeting kids is not a new tactic — it's what religious leaders regularly try to do, and it's what tyrants and dictators have done from time immemorial. PeTA is just following suit, taking advantage of unformed minds to mold them to their AR ideology — and it works, which is why PeTA puts so much effort into this particular program.
The second, and I believe greater, effect of such propaganda is to incite some of the True Believers to action. Indeed, in it's campaign against "Wet Seal" executives and their families (op cit), PeTA calls upon their cadre of child and adolescent True Believers to harass the unfortunates who PeTA tags as targets.
And thus do kids become apostles and activists. They learn techniques, they establish patterns of thinking and living, and they aren't shy about acting at or slightly over the edges of the law. Once "here," they are unlikely ever to go back. (Anthony Pratkanis's article on persuasion is invaluable for understanding such phenomonea, as I argue here.)
As for the present issue — PeTA's slide show — it is, I believe, best seen as the kind of propaganda that cements in the mind of the True Believer the righteousness of the cause, and as an incitement of some proportion of True Believers to consider "direct action" of the sort favored by SHAC and ALF.
For their part, SHAC and ALF direct the PeTA disciples' attitude more narrowly towards violence. They do this by glorifying past "direct actions", and invite their recruits to carry on a proud tradition, helpfully providing lists of targets, comprehensive information about individuals and their families, useful techniques of vandalism and harrassment to emply in the name of the cause and appealing justification for direct action up to and including assassination.
And thus are born the Useful Idiots who conduct direct actions. To paraphrase David Martosko, PeTA doesn't produce bombs or hand out paint stripper to be used in "direct actions." They produce True Believers inclined towards "direct action" . . . Or so I would argue.
Thanks to Tom P. for the tip.
UPDATE: 7/11/05. Part 2 here.