With all the recent flap about Dr. Jerry Vlasak - his testimony before a Senate Committee and his interview on 60 minutes, in which he reaffirmed his believe that killing a few scientists was morally acceptable if it would save many animal lives, and the wedge that testimony drove into the violent wing of the AR movement - it might be easy to lose sight of the fact that in many respects, the violent AR wing isn't the only source of . . . what . . . an AR threat. Not by any means.
An astute reader who really "gets it" sent me this:
This line in your post of Novemebr 24 struck me:
"The sick soap opera that is coming more and more to define Animal Rights in general and the violent wing of it in particular continues."
And thinking of this, the huge problem I see is that by having ALF etc "define animal rights" one makes HSUS far far more dangerous in actuality. (Peta is another story, but PETA only exists to make HSUS, AHA, Farm Sanctuary, etc etc etc seem mainstream -- and to give some people their jollies and fifteen minutes of fame. ALF does an even better job of this.)
This is completely correct - even to the phrase, which might seem a bit hyperbolic to the casual reader but isn't very - ". . . PETA only exists to make HSUS, AHA, Farm Sanctuary, etc etc etc seem mainstream --". The tactic is called "Moving the Middle," and as I wrote in an earlier post:
Here's how Patti and Rod Strand brilliantly put it in their book: The Hijacking of the Humane Movement:
Another radical flank effect tactic frequently used is that of animal rights advocates offering their own extreme view as opposition to the consensus position of the mainstream, while characterizing the mainstream as an opposite extreme. This establishes a playing field that assumes that two extremes are opposing one another, when in fact, the mainstream is already a midpoint consensus of public or professional opinion. The effect of being able to characterize the center as the other end of the teeter totter moves the entire issue into the extremists' territory. Hence, any movement that takes place is from the real mainstream center towards the extremist position. The mainstream, under these circumstances, has only the options of standing pat or allowing concessions. There is no opportunity to move further away from radical demands. [Emphasis added - Ed]
The continuum grows more populous as differences of opinion create splinter groups to provide a voice for specific concerns and to obliterate and replace the mainstream. In this manner, animal rights groups are following principles tested earlier (by) English animal rights and environmental movements as they spawn more and more spin off-groups, thereby legitimizing the influence that causes radical flank effect. Former Sierra Club executive David Brower describes this technique: "I founded Friends of the Earth to make the Sierra Club look reasonable. Then I founded Earth Island Institute to make Friends of the Earth look more reasonable. Earth First! now makes us look reasonable. We're still waiting for someone to come along and make Earth First! look reasonable." (pages 59 - 60)
"Moving the Middle" can be either a deliberate tactic, as in the case outlined above, or it can happen serendipitously, as in the case of Dr. Vlasak and his creepy thought proccess have shown. HSUS seems positively mainstream - but only by comparison to ALF - when in reality their ideology and goals are no less radical than those animating the ALF.
The point is that defeating the ALF, or bringing PeTA down, though both are necessary, aren't sufficient to defeat AR as a whole.
What must inevitably be defeated is the AR ideology - the loopy and incoherent premise that holds that the life of an animal and that of a human are of equal value, a belief that clearly distinguishes the Animal Rights activist, whether violent or not, from the Animal Welfare activist. It is this belief, fradulently packaged and sold cloaked in a faux veil of "compassion," that draws people to the cause and motivates them once within it. AR ideology is the main threat, a threat that is no less real merely because it's marketed by lawyers and clean-shaven executives who speak softly. (If you don't know the difference between AR and AW, you should read this. And if you want to understand the "moral logic" of AR, read this. For an overview of one person's take on the HSUS, an example of a "quiet talking radical AR organization, read this, and for an indepth description of their connections, agenda and modus operandi, read this.)
My correspondent continues:
It's incredibly hard to convince people that HSUS and their ilk are "animal rights" groups. They think - the "animal rights" people are the ones trying to blow up buildings and assasinate research scientists: the other groups are "helping animals." I rather imagine that Wayne Pacelle and his buddies are thrilled that Vlasak has taken center stage, since this just helps them appear benevolent, when, in fact, it is the mainstream AR groups that pose incredible danger to our way of life. ALF/ELF are never going to get anywhere as far as changing society, but it sure is helping HSUS and the others promote their vision and societal change.
I think this is a very important point, and I don't think I've emphasized it enough in my prior posts. But here it is right straight up: all Animal Rights activists share a common ideology and a common goal.
But there is a wide variety of viewpoints within the AR communityas to how the AR fantasy can be achieved: there are violent thugs, some of whom, like Dr. Vlasak, have openly advocated murder; there are some organizations, like the HSUS who have not openly advocated violence; there are a great many people who consider themselves to be AR activists who profess to be non-violent, but remain surprisingly silent and unwilling to criticize their violent bretheren, or the tactics of organizations they feel do not represent them (like PeTA), except from the safety of their on-line chat-rooms.
So we shouldn't focus too closely at the few thugs.
We must not lose sight of the fact that much, if not most, of the power of the AR movement lies with those who employ lawyers to further their AR agenda. And you aren't going to beat back the AR threat by focussing strictly on anti-terrorist methods.
To beat AR, you have to beat the ideology.
Thanks to my reader for the comments.