Starsuckers is a feature documentary about the celebrity obsessed media, that uncovers the real reasons behind our addiction to fame and blows the lid on the corporations and individuals who profit from it. Made completely independently over 2 years in secret, the film journeys through the dark underbelly of the modern media. Using a combination of never before seen footage, undercover reporting, stunts and animation, the film reveals the toxic effect the media is having on us all and especially our children. Chris Atkins presents Starsuckers as a series of five lessons on fame in the modern world: how children are persuaded that fame is something they want, how television and the media reinforces the importance of celebrity and the efforts to attain it, how the mind and body reinforces our need to follow the activities of well-known people and strive to join their number, how the press became addicted to celebrity coverage, and how the art of promoting fame has led to celebrities and their handlers controlling the press instead of the press having say. Along the way, Atkins demonstrates how celebrity news with no basis in fact gets into print, why newspapers will run press releases almost verbatim, how parents will eagerly sign away the image rights to their kids, how certain mass scale charity events end up helping the performers far more than the causes they designed to support, and how publicists keep accurate but unflattering stories out of the news.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Readin', Writin' & Reportin' it Right: The BTK / KSN Defamation Case

The "Bind-Torture-Kill" Case Back in the News;

Kansas Supreme Court hears KSN / BTK Killer defamation lawsuit

Attorneys for the estate of Roger Valadez want a defamation verdict reinstated. KSN wants an outrageous conduct verdict dismissed.

Associated Press
TOPEKA - A Wichita television station that lost a defamation lawsuit for naming a possible suspect in the BTK serial killings told the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday that it did nothing wrong and shouldn't be penalized for its reporting.

But the attorney for Roger Valadez's estate, Craig Shultz, told the justices that the Dec. 1, 2004, report on station KSN amounted to defamation and outrageous conduct, as a Sedgwick County jury decided in October 2006. The jury awarded a combined $1.1 million on the two claims.

Valadez, 66, died a month after the trial, in which Emmis Communications, then the owner of KSN, and its then-news director Todd Spessard were defendants.

The station aired Valadez's name after his arrest at his home on minor outstanding warrants. Valadez never was charged in the BTK case and was released after DNA tests eliminated him as a suspect in the killings.

After Valadez died, a Sedgwick County judge dismissed the defamation verdict and reduced the total damages to $250,000 on the outrageous conduct claim alone.

Attorneys for Valadez's estate want the defamation verdict reinstated. KSN wants that decision to stand but wants the outrageous conduct verdict dismissed.

Dennis Rader was arrested in February 2005 as the BTK killer and confessed to 10 killings in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991. Rader, 63, is serving 10 consecutive life sentences at El Dorado Correctional Facility.

The two main issues during Monday's hearing were whether the station's reporting amounted to outrageous conduct and whether the defamation verdict should have survived Valadez's death.

Bernard Rhodes, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney representing the station, said KSN was correct when it reported Valadez had been arrested, his DNA taken and his home searched by BTK investigators. He said KSN also later reported that the police chief said Valadez wasn't a BTK suspect.

"The overarching issue this case presents to this court is whether the truthful reporting of the name of a criminal suspect as part of a police investigation into a high-profile case can be the basis for imposing liability on the media," Rhodes said.

But Shultz said the evidence "shows the shameful nature of reporting" that was done.

"In a sense, it was like a gamble. The press, KSN in particular, which gave up Mr. Valadez's name, made a bet. They bet they were going to come out right, and they weren't," Shultz said.

The BTK killer -- a name Rader coined for "Bind, Torture, Kill" -- had terrorized Wichita throughout the 1970s and had taunted authorities with anonymous letters. BTK resurfaced with new messages in 2004.

Justice Carol Beier asked if KSN had sources in naming Valadez.

"We had shoe-leather reporting. We did not have a source inside the Police Department," Rhodes said. "We had people on the ground at the house who saw in the middle of the night police conducting the search."

Rhodes said the station knew Valadez owned the house but didn't air his name until it confirmed that he had been jailed and a judge had set a cash bond of $25,000.

"Every other station in town was doing exactly the same thing. How can...," Rhodes told the court before he was interrupted by Justice Lee Johnson.

"That isn't true," Johnson said. "They weren't doing exactly the same thing. They were not identifying Mr. Valadez by name. Your client is the only news media using the name."

Rhodes agreed, again raising the question of whether the truthful reporting of a name is grounds for punishment.

"We have the right to report the facts," he said.

Johnson also questioned Shultz about whether Valadez was a BTK suspect. Shultz agreed that Valadez was a "person of interest" in the BTK investigation.

"There were elements of truth in their report, but this was an all-day deal," Shultz said. "They kept juxtapositioning these things that would imply something that simply wasn't true."

Shultz also said the defamation verdict should be reinstated because the jury reached its decision before Valadez died and that was a final judgment.

Rhodes said the trial judge ruled correctly and that the defamation decision shouldn't be reinstated.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Temple Grandin's "Humane" Slaughter Pen

The Joys and Pains of Being an Animal
Source: New York Times; By: Dwight Garner

Temple Grandin’s “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” (2004) occupies a special place among the animal books of the last few decades. Ms. Grandin’s autism gives her a special understanding of what animals, whether house cats or cattle, think, feel and — perhaps most important — desire. There is a revelation on almost every page, and Ms. Grandin’s prose (she wrote with Catherine Johnson) is ungainly in the best possible way: blunt, sweet, off-kilter and often quite funny.

Ms. Grandin’s new book, “Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals,” also written with Ms. Johnson, picks up where “Animals in Translation” left off. It has a slightly different focus: she concentrates this time on the emotional rather than the physical life of animals, although the two are clearly related.

There is a good deal of rehashing of material from her previous book, and she leans more here on the ideas of others than she did before. But to remark that “Animals Make Us Human” is a slightly lesser book than “Animals in Translation” is like saying Randy Newman's “Good Old Boys” is a slightly lesser album than “Sail Away.” If you liked the first one, you’re going to like the second.

Ms. Grandin bases many of her observations in “Animals Make Us Human” on the work of a Washington State University neuroscientist named Jaak Panksepp who identified a series of core “emotion systems” in animals: seeking, play, care and lust (on the positive side) and fear, panic and rage (on the negative).

“The rule is simple,” Ms. Grandin writes. “Don’t stimulate rage, fear and panic if you can help it, and do stimulate seeking and also play.” Ms. Grandin employs Dr. Panksepp’s terms throughout “Animals Make Us Human,” but they are really only a framework for her more interesting riffing and observations.

There are provocative chapters here on dogs (Ms. Grandin quibbles with some of the alpha-male ideas of Cesar Millan, television’s “Dog Whisperer”) and cats. Ms. Grandin is at her best, however, when she is talking about animals like cows, pigs, horses and chickens, as well as wild animals and those in zoos.

Ms. Grandin has designed humane and stress-free slaughter systems that are used now to process about half of all the cattle in the United States and Canada. There is some cognitive dissonance here. She is often asked, she tells us, “How can you care about animals when you design slaughter plants?”

Her reply is that “some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.” She argues that “the most important thing for an animal is the quality of its life.”

She adds: “The more I observe and learn about how dogs are kept today, I am more convinced that many cattle have better lives than some of the pampered pets. Too many dogs are alone all day with no human or dog companions.”

She worries about the “totally adversarial” relationship between animal advocacy groups and the livestock industry. She has kind words for companies like McDonald’s and Wendy’s (she has consulted for both), which are forcing their suppliers to treat animals more humanely. But she also praises activists. “The big companies are like steel, and activists are like heat. Activists soften the steel, and then I can bend it into pretty grillwork and make reforms.”

One of the major points in “Animals Make Us Human” is the importance of hiring and training good people to work with livestock. Strong, caring managers are needed; bullying and sadistic employees should be fired; and because turnover in these industries is high, constant training and retraining are necessary, as well as constant auditing from the outside.

Ms. Grandin is in favor of almost total openness — she’s among the writers who believe that slaughterhouses should have glass walls. “No animal should spend its last conscious moments in a state of terror,” she writes, and any visitor should be able to observe that they do not.

Ms. Grandin loves solid, declarative sentences: “Cattle hate being yelled at”; “Pigs are obsessed with straw”; “Cows like to learn new things.” So I’ll add one of my own: We’re lucky to have Temple Grandin.

But here’s something I thought about while reading “Animals Make Us Human”: while I would not want Ms. Grandin to discontinue her work with animals, even for a day, as a reader I’d be curious to watch her unusual mind play over other topics.

She has already written one very fine memoir, “Thinking in Pictures” (1995). I can envision a second, with a slightly different focus. Human beings can often be made to feel like cattle, especially in large cities. What would she have to say about subways, housing projects, stadiums, prisons, office cubicles, long-distance buses, shelters for the homeless, elevators or, I dunno, the security line at La Guardia? What are her thoughts about urban planning in general?

I’d spend $26 to find out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Journalist Picked for Surgeon General, Conyers Opposes

Conyers: Obama Should Not Nominate Sanjay Gupta
January 8, 2009 12:49 PM

Rep. John Conyers has written a letter to Democratic colleagues urging them to join him in publicly opposing the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General.

Conyers, the veteran Judiciary Committee chairman, writes that Gupta "lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance," and requests that fellow Democrats join him "in signing a letter to President-Elect Barack Obama that Dr. Sunjay Gupta not be nominated for the post."

Here's the bulk of the Dear Colleague letter:

I join in opposition with respected Noble Peace Prize award wining economist Paul Krugman, who has very serious concerns with having Dr. Gupta be the nation's Surgeon General. [...]

Also, there are highly experienced medical professionals who question whether Dr. Gupta has the necessary experience or even the medical background to be in charge of some 6,000 physicians or more who work in the United States Public Health Service. Gerard M. Farrel, Executive Director of the Commissioned Officers Association, stated in the January 7, 2008 Washington Post that Dr. Gupta will certainly face a "credibility gap" because he never served in the National Health Service Corp, and furthermore, does not have the "experience or qualifications to be the leader of the nation's public health service." Clearly, it is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America.

Conyers' letter represents one of the first critical takes on the potential Gupta nomination to come from the Hill. In most quarters, reports about the CNN medical correspondent have been greeted as a smart, if not provocative, pick. Howard Dean, a doctor himself, noted that Gupta's responsibilities would be much the same as those in his current job: explaining medical issues of public concern in a manner that the public could understand.

Outside of government, however, some have begun questioning whether the CNN correspondent has the proper qualifications to be Surgeon General. Krugman, in his post noted that Gupta accused filmmaker Michael Moore of inaccuracies, "when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong." Gupta and CNN would later acknowledge making a mistake and apologize on air. Others have questioned whether he is the right conduit for Obama's health care agenda, and whether or not he has ethical conflicts of interest stemming from the corporate sponsors of his show.

But while Conyers and these individuals have doubts, it's unclear whether the post of Surgeon General will elicit much of a fight, since no Senators (who must confirm the nomination) have spoken critically of Gupta.

Rep. John Conyers has written a letter to Democratic colleagues urging them to join him in publicly opposing the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General. Conyers, the veteran Judiciary Co...
Rep. John Conyers has written a letter to Democratic colleagues urging them to join him in publicly opposing the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General. Conyers, the veteran Judiciary Co...

Monday, January 19, 2009

ND School Board Bans Popular Book

Orwellian Times

Jan 18 2009 11:54AM
Associated Press
Eds: APNewsNow.

Beulah, N.D. (AP) The Beulah School Board has voted to ban the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," a Best Seller about a Savannah, Georgia murder, from the high school library.

The board voted 4-3 Thursday to remove the copy of the 1994 book by John Berendt, which was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The story involves four murder trials and an assortment of characters, including a voodoo priestess and a transvestite.

Beulah vocational Agriculture teacher Keith Bohn and Kathy Bohn, a school janitor, asked the school to remove the book after their son brought it home.

Keith Bohn said he did not read the entire book, but he read enough to decide it did not belong in school.

Superintendent Rob Lech said a school review committee unanimously recommended the book stay in the library. That decision was appealed to the School Board.

Information from: Bismarck Tribune,

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Cost of SLAPPing Down Journalism

Frum Sheldon Ramptons Blog; on Tue, 12/30/2008 - 15:49.

Topics: journalism

Alan Rusbridger, who edits the British Guardian, thinks fear of libel lawsuits from
big corporations may have contributed to journalists' failure to adequately report on the dangerous economic decisions that led to the recent implosion of the global financial system. In an article for the New York Review of Books, he recounts his own paper's "most recent serious brush with the British defamation laws" earlier this year when it was sued for libel by Tesco, one of the largest public companies in Britain and the fourth-largest retailer in the world.

The case centered around a report in the Guardian in which Rusbridger admits that the newspaper got some of its facts wrong. It reported correctly that Tesco was using complex financial deals to avoid paying taxes, but its reporters misunderstood the particulars of the arrangement, and "the sums avoided were much less than we had supposed."

The ensuing libel lawsuit from Tesco consumed more than a million dollars in legal fees, and threatened to go to millions more before it was settled out of court. "A full-scale defamation case develops an awesome momentum of its own," Rusbridger writes. "Letters rain in day after day, week after week -- drafted by counsel, amended by junior partners, redrafted by senior partners, few of them earning less than $500 an hour. Their tone is alternately sneering, bullying, threatening, and demanding. ... All this for a case where any damages would have been relatively insignificant."

Although Rusbridger admits that "this was a case in which the newspaper was on weak ground -- having its facts wrong," he points out that "there is no shortage of cases where news organizations, including several American media companies, have had to risk millions of dollars to protect solid reporting on matters of public interest." Moreover, he says the Guardian's error in this case was not malicious and is understandable, given that "the advanced tax planning undertaken today by most global companies is as intelligible to the average person as particle physics. This state of incomprehension extends to most journalists, editors, parliamentarians, and, importantly, company directors themselves -- executive and nonexecutive. It is the very problem these same people have in trying to understand the epidemic of 'innovative financial products.'"

Of course, the complexity and confusion surrounding modern finance is part of the reason why the system has collapsed this badly. But when journalists have to fear multi-million-dollar lawsuits if they even attempt to understand it all, Rusbridger warns that no one will even dare make the attempt.

This is a problem that John Stauber and I have been talking about for more than a decade. In a 1997 issue of PR Watch, we pointed out that "The corporate technique of suing people into silence and submission has become so popular that it even carries its own cute nickname in legal circles. Such lawsuits are known in lawyer lingo as 'SLAPP suits,' an acronym for 'strategic lawsuits against public participation.'"

This use of legal muscle to strongarm journalists contributes to the dumbing down of society, as reporters find that it is safer to write entertaining but pointless pap about Hollywood celebrities and random street crime than it is to do real investigative journalism about important and often complex issues that actually matter. As Rusbridger warns,

Whether we are dealing with banks, taxation, security, religion, or climate change, we need more than ever to find ways of encouraging, not penalizing, news organizations that try to report matters of the greatest complexity and significance. The financial crisis currently facing newspapers in America and Europe is grave and comes at a time when they are more needed than ever. In years to come people may not question why newspapers got things wrong about such complicated matters as corporate tax structures or the behavior of investment banks; they may express wonder that they even tried.

And corporations don't just SLAPP down journalists. They also use lawsuits to harass and intimidate activists and everyday citizens. Ultimately, therefore, these tactics attack not just journalism but democracy itself.

Click on title above to go to Sheldon Rampton's blog |

Writer Meets Big Brother at Public Library

Twanna A. Hines
Posted December 31, 2008 | 05:09 PM (EST)

I'm a Writer, Not a Child Pornographer

I heard Facebook removed an obscene picture of a breastfeeding woman, and Craigslist tightened the reins on their erotic services section. However, like many people, I wasn't overly-concerned with electronic censorship -- that is, until it directly affected me.

Typing in isolation with my tush snuggled against my living room couch's cushions can be alienating; therefore, I prefer to pack my computer inside my red shoulder-strap bag and scout the city. To do my work, I need privacy, space to spread out and a powerful electrical source for my laptop. My partner in crime is old; he usually runs out of juice after an hour or two.

I go to the library because the threesome that includes my work, laptop and little brown me are welcome there. At least I thought we were until we were thrown into the lot with child pornographers.

Settling in for a long day's work at the Mid-Manhattan branch located on 40th Street and 5th Avenue, I ride the elevator to the second floor, set my personal laptop on the docking station table, tap into the free wifi and pull my chair to the table's edge. Creativity, like all living sources, requires feeding; therefore, I write regular entries on my blog,, to keep the momentum going.

"The site you are trying to access has been blocked by the New York Public Library," the warning screen shouted. Sites containing visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, and materials that are "harmful to minors" trigger the block.

I'd been banned, tagged as a "sex" website. Not surprising, I guess. I'm a dating, sex and relationships writer. I scribble articles about men who wear thongs, technology and sex, how to enhance consensual adult play with toys and other juicy topics that (I hope!) bring pleasure to people who read my work.

I've written for Lifetime, New York Press, Nerve, Gen Art, Fast Company, a Turner Broadcasting Company website called The Frisky and elsewhere. NPR, Sirius Satellite radio and Canadian national public radio (CBC) have interviewed me about my dating commentary. I mention some of my writing street cred to alert you I'm not the "oh-I'm-a-I-writer-but-I-never-put-in-the-hard-work-to-actually-get-my-stuff-published" kind. I sincerely care about my work.

I am neither obscene, a child pornographer nor harmful to minors. Hell, I receive more graphic and (adult) pornographic content via emails from friends than I do on my blog. So, when my site was banned, I got pissed off and the square keys on my laptop took the beating.

I mouthed off on Twitter, blasting my complaint to more than 1,400 of my followers. Dishing about the incident on my high-traffic blog -- Funky Brown Chick, the same one that NYPL banned -- I typed, "Book burning = bad. Banning sex ed websites = good. Okay. Got it."

To be clear, I don't expect NYPL to give underage patrons access to images of porn.

Where's the line and who decides what's on the wrong side of it?

Even if the ban on my site hadn't been lifted, web-savvy young library patrons could still access it via RSS feeds or anonymous browsing. (I was loath to mention that in my blog post because, more often than not, discussions about censorship workarounds trigger tête-à-têtes about how to fix these "loopholes" rather than constructive conversations about whether bans are necessary.)

In the end, an amazing person who identified himself as Gary says he successfully submitted a request to unblock my site. Hallelujah! Let there be sex.

"[NYPL internet access management systems] are automated, and look for sites that have heavy use of words like [explicative], sex, etc., and/or images related to similar words. But automated=lots of mistakes [...]" he notes in a comment on my blog, going further to mention filters are probably the most ethical way to meet organizational requirements for government cash. In other words, buildings that store our nation's literary documents need money, and they aren't going to risk access to federal funds over a blocked website or two.

I love the New York Public Library. "The very existence of libraries," T.S. Elliot tells us, "affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man." For now, even in times of financial hardship, our cities make it a financial priority to provide adults unfettered access to information. I hope that never changes.

For the record, I've owed overdue library fines for years. After this incident, I paid them. The fees are gone; however, questions about electronic censorship remain. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

The Huffington Post;

Friday, January 2, 2009

Wayne Pacelle a Victim of Meat-Industry "Co-optation" Strategy?

"True Animal Lovers" (who are they?) bashing HSUS Chief Executive Officer Wayne Pacelle accusing him and his org of supporting animal rights "terrorists?" Whether they do or whether they dnt, this vid wreaks of a meat-industry co-optation strategy to divide and conquor us as previously mentioned in the Jan 1st blog entitled " Writing & Fighting & Why We Must Unite;

Click the title above to watch YouTube vid against HSUS and Wayne Pacelle, and see what you think, but remember to check the sources; in this vid, a BIG one is The New York Times so be sure to see the Dec 16 blog about the infamous corporate controlled bias of the NY Times.

Then be sure and read the rather long-winded blurb below where the author is accusing HSUS and its executive director Wayne Pacelle, of NOT supporting animal rights is a true case of "ya cant please all of the people all of the time," and/or what kind of a "spin" you want to put on it. Whether HSUS or Mr Pacelle support "radical extremists" in any way, or whether they "publickly" denounce them (which is seems to me would be the only "outwardly" right thing to do lest they risk prosecution themselves) my point being that whatever they do or dont do, good or bad, DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT take away from the good that they do and/or the good ideas they grasp. Remember the Westmoreland bust. Was that not a wonderful thing and a giant leap for animalkind?
I am not endorsing or defending HSUS or Mr Pacelle himself personally in any way, just playing "devils advocate" and giving credit where credit is due. Perhaps if we concentrated more on "the good of us" rather than the bad, would help to better unite us? I hope I hope I hope.....


Pacelle is noted for having ‘no hand-on fondness for animals,” and further confesses that “To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal….’” However, that didn’t stop him from opportunistically grabbing a photo op with a factory farmed non-human animal whose suffering Pacelle’s putrid narcissistic careerism perpetuates.
By Dr. Steve Best ||


In August 2005, when HSUS (hereafter think “H$U$”) Executive Vice President Mike Markarian publicly “applaud[ed]” the FBI for arresting and imprisoning six amazing activists from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), my outrage over this self-serving betrayal of activists and animals alike inspired me to write “The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy,” a fierce critique of HSUS and its chief executive, Wayne Pacelle. I condemned HSUS for its divisive attacks on animal rights militants, its bureaucratic rigidity, its cowardly conformism, and its disturbingly cozy relationships with the animal exploiters they claim to oppose.

Despite a recent fluff piece in the Los Angeles Times that promotes Pacelle as a consummate animal champion and visionary leader, I am pained to report that his “humane meat” and “cage-free” egg campaigns have promoted more, not less, animal suffering and killing; that HSUS is a collaborationist with, not antagonistic of, various animal exploitation industries; and that HSUS has developed strong ties with law enforcement agencies and the FBI not only to go after animal abusers, but also animal activists, the hard-line militants prepared to do what it takes to stop the torture and murder of innocents. Specialists in political repression, the FBI has a long track record of framing innocent citizens, destroying social justice movements, and even murdering vocal opponents of the state such as Fred Hampton. They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but this is downright surreal.

The problems I pointed to in “The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy” have considerably worsened in the last three years, and it is now glaringly obvious that HSUS is part of the problem of, not the solution to, animal exploitation. Pacelle is a “leader” alright, one who is steering this great movement into a cul-de-sac where it is becoming increasingly coopted and ineffectual.

Ever more aggressively, HSUS promotes “humane meat” and “cage free” egg campaigns (marketing its “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label to meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy producers), rather than advancing the cause of vegan education that Pacelle claims to champion. Symptomatic of its bureaucratic deformities, HSUS raked in tens of million dollars from the 2005 Katrina disaster, but spent only a few million to help the animal victims of that hurricane. In fact, after Katrina, there was a second storm involving the furious backlash of grassroots activists complaining that HSUS obstructed animal rescue efforts, and then commandeered the lion’s share of credit and $30 million in donations. Subsequently, many activists and the Louisiana attorney general called for a criminal investigation into HSUS fundraising and demanded an explanation why this organization – like every other bloated bureaucracy, including the “impeccable” Red Cross – disregarded the clear intent of donors and spent a puny percentage of a mountain of money on helping victims of a catastrophe.

For bureaucratic monoliths like HSUS, a transnational corporation, the financial priorities lie in paying lavish CEO salaries (Pacelle’s annual salary tops $300,000), maintaining costly branches and staff throughout the world, perpetuating fundraising efforts (often absorbing as much as 53% of HSUS’ budget), funding lobbyists, building bank accounts, and inflating investment portfolios. What HSUS did in Louisiana amidst Katrina rescue efforts is what Greenpeace does in Canada or Japan during Captain Paul Watson’s effective tactics against the slaughter of whales, dolphins, and seals. They bully their way onto the scene, exploit the drama for photo opportunities, publish glossy pictures in their newsletters and websites, exaggerate their heroism and “victories,” urge their membership to generously fund future forays, and then laugh all the way to the bank.

In fact, like many corporate environmental organizations (the so-called “Gang of Ten”), HSUS not only does not support grassroots groups (few people are aware that they have no affiliation whatsoever with local “humane societies” and “animal shelters”), they often impede and attack their work. Whether the dirty tactics Greenpeace used against Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or the constant opprobrium HSUS has heaped upon SHAC and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), corporate bureaucracies seek to dominate their cause, promote their own interests, and block anyone who threatens their hegemony, viewing them as competitors rather than allies fighting the same cause. While grassroots groups and shelters struggle for money, HSUS builds assets of $223 million and operates with an annual budget in excess of one million dollars.

In 2007, Nathan Winograd published a stunning expose, entitled Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. A trenchant critique of the killing paradigm informing humane societies and shelters throughout the nation, Winograd also goes directly after the big game – the ASPCA, PETA, and HSUS — and in each case documents misuse of funds, cavalier killing of healthy and adoptable animals, and appalling failures to support the no-kill shelter movement gaining ground nationally. In contrast to The Los Angeles Times syrupy tribute piece, Winograd reviles Pacelle as a traitor to the animals and claims that he is “condemned by animal lovers from coast to coast.”

Ironically, Winograd documents, Pacelle is like a dry and detached doctor who tends to patients mechanically, has “no hand-on fondness for animals” and he himself confesses that “To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal.” Given that enormous compassion and empathy drive most animal activists, one has to ask: Why is Pacelle in the animal protection field? Why did he choose this career? What possible motivations propel him from day-to-day? If it’s not a love for animals, could it be instead a love for money, glory, fame, and power? Could it be that his robotic lack of empathy for animals explains why his organization perfunctorily kills so many animals and spends more time on constructing paltry rationalizations rather than building viable alternatives?

Like PETA, HSUS callously kills countless thousands of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs rather than dedicating their prodigious resources to advancing the emerging no-kill revolution. In 2007, for instance, PETA raised over $30 million, adopted 17 animals, and killed 1,815 cats and dogs. Unlike HSUS, however, PETA at least opposes breeding, whereas HSUS provides advice on “How to Find a Good Dog Breeder”! Like any group involved in mass killing, of humans or animals, HSUS prefers euphemisms to truthful terminology and exists in a perpetual state of denial and rationalization. Thus, just as HSUS unashamedly speaks of the by-product of violent slaughterhouse murder as “humane meat,” so they insist that they “humanely destroy” cats and dogs.

To comprehend the extent to which culpable people in bad faith resort to extreme evasions and ridiculous rationalizations, consider the Orwellian doublespeak of HSUS functionary Penny Cistaro: “We’re not, we’re not killing [cats and dogs]… in that “kill” is such a negative connotation. It’s… we’re not KILLING them. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death, we’re humanely destr[oying them] — whatever. But we’re NOT KILLING.”

Without melodrama or hyperbole, I suggest that these words could have been taken from the playbook of the German Nazis. But I might qualify the analogy because the propaganda of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933 to 1945, was eminently more sophisticated than Cistaro’s shrill, guilt-ridden rhetoric.

As true of PETA and other animal welfare organizations, the underlying assumption behind HSUS’s pro-kill instead of no-kill policy is that shelters are nasty, overcrowded, filthy hoarding hell-holes where animals suffer greatly, and so the only “compassionate” option is to “humanely destroy” countless of forlorn cats and dogs. The underlying flaw here is an either/or fallacy: either we cause animals needless suffering in shelters, or we “humanely destroy” them. Occluded here is the existence of a genuine third option – building clean, well-managed no-kill shelters where well-treated animals are adoptable and adopted. Winograd’s book, Redemption, argues that no-kill shelters are a pragmatic possibility and a moral necessity.

On this and countless other issues, Pacelle – the consummate politician — talks a good game, but his actions belie his words which seek to mollify his donation base. According to Winograd, “Pacelle says that No Kill must be our goal, than [sic] he refuses to sign the U.S. No Kill Declaration. Wayne Pacelle says that feral cats should live, than [sic] he promotes a vision of sheltering in the Asilomar Accords [an August 2004 meeting of animal welfare industry leaders to reduce companion animal euthanasia numbers] which voted down a proposal to mandate TNR [trap, neuter, and return], claims feral cats are `unhealthy’ and `untreatable’ and are properly put in the same category as hopelessly ill or irremediably suffering animals and often share the same fate—death.”

And don’t we all remember the HSUS heroics during the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal in the summer of 2007? How the suave and unflappable animal champion, Wayne Pacelle, starred on cable news shows night after night, tirelessly condemning Vick’s barbarity? Pacelle tugged on the heartstrings of the nation, and the public, never doubting his sincerity, sent HSUS generous donations along with praise and gratitude. But the story did not end there. For what did Pacelle thereafter argue to the courts? That “it does not make sense to keep these animals alive.” Like the feral cats he condemns as “untreatable,” Pacelle wanted to dispatch Vick’s victims without a fingersnap. Fortunately, other groups – real animal advocates — intervened on behalf of these “kennel trash” pit bulls demonized as dangerous and unfit for human company, and adopted them to loving homes, thereby saving dozens of dogs from the killing clutches of Vick and Pacelle.

The paradoxical Pacelle, the “advocate” with antipathy for animals, easily surpasses Cistaro in his blunt and icy-cold language, as he admits that HSUS has “no problem with the extinction of domestic animals.” One might say that they share the same taste for doublespeak, but in fact the word “extinction” is not a euphemism, it is a frank, brutal, malevolent discourse of a final solution policy, and as cruel and heartless as one could possibly speak – one who happens to run the most powerful and profitable animal “advocacy” organization in the world. Like PETA, HSUS rakes in millions of dollars in the name of “animal protection,” as it does nothing for millions of animals who die annually in nightmarish “shelters” except to lend a killing hand.

Allow me to be brutally frank in speaking directly to Pacelle, Cistaro, and their army of accomplices: When you needlessly take life; when you refuse to seriously pursue alternatives to killing; when you condemn cats and dogs to die with contemptuous complacency; when you lie to the media, the public, your donors, and to the animals; and when you bullshit your way through the whole goddamn bloody process of killing homeless cats and dogs, this is not “humane destruction;” it’s just murder, pure and simple. And Pacelle, you have the gall to call SHAC and the ALF violent? Please, have the decency to at least shut your mouth when others take necessary measures to save animals, and you take unnecessary steps to kill them.

My analogies between HSUS and Nazis are not appropriate at all levels, I don’t think Pacelle is a racist (although you could argue that on his hypocrisy on the Vick case) or an anti-Semite. And whereas Hitler wanted to exterminate entire classes of people, Pacelle does not call for the destruction of cat and dog species; no, in fact, he does his part to support dog breeding and it is only homeless cats and dogs he wants, for the most part, to destroy. But anyone who rationalizes mass murder through the same semantic masks and ploys of Nazis has picked up a malevolent influence they ought to extirpate. I also think the analogy of “humane destruction” and the “final solution” is more than appropriate, because HSUS actually pursues killing as the first solution to dispose of a “problem population” and the final solution to be rid of “unwanted” dogs and cats.


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This hidebound hypocrisy of HSUS now takes me full circle, back to the beginning of my essay. For when three years ago HSUS seemed content to merely “applaud” the state for breaking into activists’ homes – armed and angry men breaking down their doors, stealing and destroying their possessions, separating them from their human and nonhuman families, and locking them away in federal prisons for years — now it seems that HSUS has taken its treachery and complicity one step further, by actually offering a $2,500 reward, in cooperation with the FBI and state and local law enforcement officials, to capture the person(s) who set off firebombs at the homes of two vivisectors in Santa Cruz, California in August 2008.

As one bomb exploded when the researchers and their families were here and someone could have been injured of killed, these actions were clearly not the work of the ALF, which adheres to a strict nonviolent policy that targets the property of animal exploiters but never the exploiters themselves. But in their zeal toward self-congratulatory moral purity and zest for demonizing militant activists and tactics, HSUS did not entertain the very real possibility that the firebombs were actually – recall the case of Fran Stephanie Trutt, who, in 1988, was set up, encouraged, and entrapped by the United States Surgical Company to plant a bomb underneath a car in their parking lot – the handy work of the state. Their clear motivation would be to damage the credibility of the movement and to justify unleashing still more repressive laws against the animal advocacy movement and yet another FBI witch hunt. If this is so, and there is good reason to believe it is true, then HSUS is nothing but an accomplice and extension of a repressive police state.

We must not, as some have counseled, “tolerate” or “appreciate” the diversity of the movement in all its diversity and “balance,” operating like many spokes on a wheel or components of an ecosystem. Rather, the reformist, welfarist, and (industry and state) collaborationist actions of HSUS must be ruthlessly criticized, for it is HSUS – not the ALF and SHAC – which is steering this movement away from substantive and meaningful goals. And while HSUS sucks up activists, other organizations, and barrels of cash, it actively collaborates with — sorry Lee Hall, not to offend your pious Buddhist-pacifist sympathies, but I have no problem with the word – our enemies: to be precise, our sworn implacable enemies in the animal exploitation industry with whom we are engaged in a serious battle because they have waged war against animals.

We must end, as Herbert Marcuse noted, our habituated practice of “repressive tolerance,” whereby tolerance is no longer a virtue (as in liberal diversity and multiculturalism) but rather is a vice. Captive to this mentality, we tolerate what Bush does to the Constitution, as we stomach what HSUS does to pervert the cause of animal rights and the ideal of ethical veganism, as it collaborates with our enemies in the corporate-state complex.

It is a tragedy, a nightmare really, that the largest and wealthiest animal “protection” organization in the world squanders its vast influence and treasure to only pay lip-service to the crucial need to build no-kill shelters while it advocates unjustifiable killing of cats and dogs. As Winograd writes, “HSUS continues to fail miserably in terms of moving this country away from traditional, reactionary, `adopt some and kill the rest’ sheltering practices, despite Mr. Pacelle’s facile claims to the contrary.” Moreover, rather than providing advice on “How to Find a Good Dog Breeder,” HSUS should lead a coordinated attack on animal breeding, for without the decline (and ultimate end) of the practice of breeding, along with aggressive spay-and-neuter and TNR programs, no-kill shelters may only lead – as some critics maintain — to animal warehousing.

Pacelle has as much credibility in his claim to “save animal lives” as Bush does in his rationale for invading Iraq. It is a farce that HSUS “applaud[s]” FBI repression of our movement and condemns those who take effective actions to liberate – not “humanely destroy” — animals, even if there is a disagreement on tactics. HSUS also says they oppose “violence” yet have no problem working to promote “Certified Humane” animal flesh, milk, and eggs. Again, Pacelle & Co. have no grounds for criticizing the ALF, who destroy property without injuring lives, whereas HSUS is directly responsible for the gratuitous killing of countless animals.

Pacelle has not only failed to advance the national momentum for no-kill shelters, he has impeded the efforts, and he bears significant responsibility for the five million cats and dogs that will be killed in “shelters” this year. As Winograd observes, Pacelle “has no idea how to lead the humane movement. It is clear he cannot see the future for himself. At the same time, we need to send a very strong message to Mr. Pacelle that we can see through his thinly veiled comments, his insincerity on the issue, his failure to truly challenge the status quo, to fight for the rights of shelter animals to their very lives, and to truly reform what has been a long sordid history of draconian HSUS policies as it relates to dogs and cats in shelters.”

For those who believe in the professionally crafted persona of Wayne Pacelle and the carefully managed public image of HSUS, I encourage them to read Winograd’s exposes of “The Real Wayne Pacelle,” to examine his critiques of PETA and the ASPCA as well, and to ponder the inherent self-serving, money-making, propaganda producing nature of any bureaucratic organization, whether the Red Cross, Greenpeace, or HSUS.

Pacelle is an animal killer, a traitor to animals and activists alike, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a tool for the state and corporate front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom, and an accomplice (witting or unwitting) of repressive law enforcement agencies and the paralegal thugs known as the FBI. While I have serious problems with PETA, I appreciate Ingrid Newkirk for her undying support of the ALF and for funding the legal counsel of numerous animal rights activists. For those like Gary Francione who throw HSUS and PETA into the same boiling pot of damnation, the difference here could be not clearer: PETA supports animal rights political prisoners, while HSUS seeks to create more of them, and Pacelle would probably be delighted –as would peaceniks like Francione and Hall — if the FBI rounded up every SHACtivist and ALF member and locked them away in Guantanamo Bay forever. Whereas PETA criticizes the corporate-states use of “terrorism” discourse for the biased and repressive framework that it is, HSUS uncritically and pompously employs it toward the same ends of the Bush administration and state – to demonize those individuals and groups it doesn’t like. But both HSUS and PETA, as well as countless other animal organizations, need to get out of the 17th century paradigm and enter the 21st century world moving toward the realization of no-kill shelters.

There are things about Winograd also that invite skepticism, such as granting an interview with the Center for Consumer Freedom, sworn enemies of the vegan and animal rights movements. His claim that “pet overpopulation” is a “myth” seems exaggerated and based on dubious assumptions that shelters can take in an unlimited amount of animals and every home in the country will adopt a cat or dog. While specifics in his proposals may be problematic, his vision is laudable and far ahead of the “leaders” of the animal advocacy movement. Winograd has emerged as a positive catalyst for a national no-kill shelter movement, whereas Pacelle remains an obstacle in the path of this and many other progressive changes for animals. As I am not uncritical or Winograd, nor is my critique of Pacelle and HSUS unqualified. Among other accomplishments, HSUS ballot-initiatives to ban cockfighting in the holdout states such as New Mexico (won in March 2007) and Louisiana (won in August 2008) were successful (such that cockfighting is now banned throughout the entire nation) and a May 2008 undercover expose of the Hallmark/Westland slaughterhouse in Chino, California brought national attention to the dire plight of animals in slaughterhouses and led to the largest meat recall in US history.

My argument is not that HSUS is an unqualifiedly regressive force, but rather that it mostly squanders its prodigious resources, that its “certified” “humane meat” and “cage-free” eggs campaigns promote more not less suffering and killing of animals (as “guilty carnivores” jump off their vegetarian wagons in droves and run en masse to their local steak joints and diners), and that on the whole it does more harm than good. Just as HSUS works with meat and egg industries at the expense of animals, so they cooperate with law enforcement agencies and the FBI to the detriment of fellow activists.

I was inspired to write this article because I saw no outrage or criticism of HSUS’s ambitions to help catch underground activists such as the courageous warriors in the ALF who have saved countless animals, shut down numerous exploiters, and obtained invaluable evidence of systemic cruelty in laboratories and other demonic dungeons. And while few animal advocates support bombing vivisectors, we all ought to be smart enough to identify a potential state frame-up rather than an actual underground action. But HSUS exploited the bombings for their own purposes, as part of their endless efforts to convince the animal exploitation industries, cops, FBI, and public alike that they are good, pure, and unalloyed moral forces, unlike those with bricks and bullhorns who corrupt the movement’s gilded goals and norms. In fact the problem lies with Pacelle and HSUS — deeply mired in the muck of bureaucratic corruption, corrupt and compromised to the point of complete crisis.

I’m alarmed, moreover, that few people (1) are sufficiently aware of the history, modus operandi, and true goals of the FBI, which is to suppress dissent at home, as the CIA performs the same dirty work abroad; and (2) are concerned about the consequences of the largest “animal advocacy” group in the world developing close ties with the repressive state apparatus, such that it could become an extension of the FBI or a friendly home to police informants. Let us not forget that the FBI elevated the ALF (along with the ELF) to the “number one domestic terrorist threat” in the country and that they fully intend to stop not only the ALF, but also the animal advocacy movement as a whole.

When an individual cooperates with the cops or the FBI, he or she is denounced as a “fink,” “informant,” “rat,” or “mole,” and is ostracized or perhaps worse. But what do we call it when an organization develops ties with corrupt cops and the FBI and offers cash rewards for the capture of an underground warrior? One term is “collaborationist,” and it is important to recognize that HSUS is not only in bed with many animal exploiters, they are also in league with the repressive state apparatus. In their slick, reformist, compromising campaigns, Pacelle has betrayed animals and animal activists alike, as HSUS prefers to develop closer ties with exploiters and cops than grassroots advocates and anti-speciesists.

I encourage people to send HSUS a polemic not a check, and to donate their hard-earned money not to robotic raconteurs but rather to ardent activists who fight on the front lines of the emerging war over nature with substantial results. I’m talking, for instance, about small groups such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; amazing activists like Anthony Marr or Gary Yourofsky, who foment revolutionary change on a shoestring budget; and stellar local animal rescue groups. People should research, explore, and support the best no-kill shelters they can find rather than fuel hypocritical killing machines and bureaucratic behemoths. Every dollar given to HSUS is a dollar that could have saved, not ended, the life of a cat or dog; that could have promoted veganism, not “humane meat”; and that could have supported, not undermined, our civil liberties which the state and FBI seek to annihilate.

As stated above, Wayne Pacelle was quick to step up and help feed a media frenzy calling for the demonization of Michael Vick and the rise of an overt and pervasive form of animal cruelty for which Vick became the poster child. Lost in this rightful attack on dog fighters and the like, however, is that Pacelle is no saint outing sinners. A pre-eminent member of DC-insider lobby culture, he was quick to learn self-serving, profit-making, power-play politics, as he perfected the art of sound bites and media charm. But let us not be fooled. This cunning cum-laude graduate of the Machiavellian school of politics will throw potential allies — and certainly movement competitors and opponents like Rod Coronado and Kevin Jonas — under the bus if it can earn him a penny of financial or moral capital.

Pacelle is a one-dimensional bureaucrat, a CEO and President of a huge global conglomeration that serves animals in name but pursues money and power in reality. He preaches nonviolence as he pulls the switch on thousands of cats and dogs; he praises democracy and rights as he bankrolls witch-hunts that ally him with the most repressive state apparatus in US history.

I’ve seen great activists hired and coopted by Pacelle, and witnessed their sad transformation from vibrant, iconoclastic, edgy, risk-takers into defanged, muzzled, and collared bureaucrats, party-line ideologues, corporate-yes men and women, and zombified conformists. They morph from critical thinkers into True Believers who think we can win animal liberation (in whatever bastardized form they conceive it) through welfare policies, reforms, collaboration with industries, and turn against the radical elements of their own movement — the important role of which they have absolutely no understanding.

However, billions of enslaved animals don’t give a damn about Zogby polls, FOX News commentaries, or tactics that might alienate the masses. They don’t want bigger cages, better euthanasia, or “humane” labels attached to their dismembered bodies. The animals want freedom. If they could speak our language, they would unquestionably applaud the ALF and condemn the corporate entities who seek to continue the oppression though misguided thinking and opportunistic policies.

Editor’s Note: Thomas Paine’s Corner posted Dr. Best’s substantial revision of this article today to replace the original version which appeared on 8/19/08. Therefore some of the reader comments do not mesh with the essay as it now stands. I take responsibility for the miscommunication which resulted in running Dr. Best’s piece before he had honed it to this final version—Jason Miller


1 Steven Best, “The Iron Cage of Movement Bureaucracy” at:

2 “Wayne Pacelle works for the winged, finned and furry” Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2008, online at:,0,4840426.story.

3 It is important that activists have knowledge of the history, goals, modus operandi, and real nature of the FBI, rather than the “good-guy” cartoon portraits one finds on TV series and the media generally. For excellent books exposing the FBI as the US version of the KBG, see Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States. Boston, South End Press, 2001; Brian Glick, War at Home: Covert action against U.S. activists and what we can do about it. Boston, South End Press, 1999; and Nelson Blackstock, Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1988.

4 See Nathan Winograd, “The Real Wayne Pacelle Legacy,” at:

5 “Red Cross, Humane Society Under Investigation,” March 26, 2006, The Washington Post, at: See this article for Pacelle’s defense of HSUS actions for Katrina-victim animals and his claim to responsible use of donation money.

6 On the contemptible approach Gang of Ten organization have taken toward environmental grassroots groups, see Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995. There are incredibly important lessons here for serious animal activists if they wish to avoid the same problems that led to the cooptation and defeat of the US environmental movement, such as already threaten the animal advocacy movement in this country and others.

7 See the “Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report” of HSUS, at: According to his biography, Winograd “is the Director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School, a former criminal prosecutor and attorney, was director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA, two of the most successful shelters in the nation”

9 Winograd, at:
10 Pacelle cited at:

11 For their enlightening recommendation, see:

12 Cited at:

13 Winograd, at:

14 See “Government Makes a Case, and Holds Dogs as Evidence,” August 1, 2007, The New York Times at:; “HSUS & Wayne Pacelle -Vick’s Dogs Must Die,” August 22, 2007, Dog Politics, at:; and “The Fate of Michael Vick’s Dogs,” August 23, 2007, at: As these websites document, HSUS and PETA share the same killing sentiments.

15 See for instance the superb work of Bay Area Doglovers Responsible About Pit Bulls (BAD RAP), at: The contrast between the compassionate outlook of BAD RAP and the cold attitudes of HSUS and PETA is dramatic.

16 Pacelle cited in Animal People, May 1993.

17 For a detailed argument that the post-Mandela South African government never addressed – they only worsened – the problem of ”species apartheid” and use Nazi-like, eugenic, and eco-fascist arguments that elephants “need” to be culled allegedly to protect biodiversity , see Steven Best, “The Killing Fields of South Africa: Eco-Wars, Species Apartheid, and Total Liberation,” at

18 On the August bombing of a vivisector’s house in Santa Cruz see:,0,519903.story. On HSUS’s treacherous betrayal of activists and animals by offering a $2,500 reward and thereby cooperating with law enforcement agencies that protect animal exploiters and persecute liberationists, see On some credible evidence that the recent Santa Cruz bombing may indeed have been a plant by animal exploiters and/or the feds to delegitimate the movement and authorize a new series of witch hunts on activists; see Rick Bogle’s blog, at:

19 See Herbert Marcuse, “On Repressive Tolerance, at: This brilliant essay published in 1965, in the ferment of the new social movements and counter-culture, is more relevant today than ever today, both for general social conditions and for continuing social and ecological crisis, and the dilution, perversion, and cooptation of animal rights/liberation goals.


21 See


23 See, and

24 Again, on the logic, needs, and operations of bureaucratic organizations, see my essay, “The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy,” at:

25 Winograd’s interview with CCF, “The Book HSUS and PETA Don’t Want You to Read,” is online at: The most detailed critical response to Winograd I could find was PETA’s polemic, “Nathan Winograd’s Redemption: `No-Kill’ or No Clue?” online at:

26 To be sure, HSUS offers (and often gives out) $5,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in activities such as cockfighting or dogfighting, which is a positive use of their largess (see “HSUS Rewards,” at; it is just unfortunate they try also offer rewards for potential frame-ups. Unlike peaceniks like Erik Marcus who praised HSUS’s actions and rigidly adhere to clichés such as “violence only breeds violence,” some in the animal exploitation industry saw through HSUS’s transparent motives and the disparity between their grave moral tone and laughably diminutive reward fee. On these opposing views, see Paul Davis, “The Misunderstood Vegan,” August 13, 2008,, at:

27 To contact and support these amazing activists, and get the biggest bang for your buck, see: Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, at:; Anthony Marr’s Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE) at:; and Gary Yourofsky’s Animals Deserve Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT), at:

Best is Cyrano’s Journal Special Editor for Animal Rights, Speciesisim and Human Tyranny over Nature.

Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media, globalization, and capitalist domination. Best has published 10 books, over 100 articles and reviews, spoken in over a dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (humans, animals, and the earth) and has been banned from the UK for the power of his thoughts. From the US to Norway, from Sweden to France, from Germany to South Africa, Best shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Writing & Fighting & Why WE MUST Unite!

From the journals of Inspector Lohmann


Co-optation, Radicals, Idealists, Realists, and Blogging

I Came across GOEBBELS' PRINCIPLES OF PROPAGANDA via Tutor and it's a fascinating read.

Then Tutor had this to say:

I am saying that the vocabulary of marketing, branding, and political speech (one way, two way or emergent) is systematically debased, and so is our critical intelligence. We the propagandized herd(s), whoever's brand we carry on our behinds, whether we bandy the memes up, down or sideways, are the product of our society - and a sorry commentary on it. Wealth Bondage knows no party, and favors no product. Its motto is "whatever works." It is the grammer of contemporary thought, that without which the contemporary mind is blank. And that is the measure of our slavery.

Tutor is right — "whatever works" is indeed it's motto. And one of their most potent tools in implementing this in a democracy — especially as it pertains to preventing social justice — is called "co-optation". Here, from John Stauber ( via Ratical, is an example of how it works:

...[C]orporate charity can buy the tacit cooperation of organizations that might otherwise be expected to criticize corporate policies. Some PR firms specialize in helping corporations to defeat activists, and co-optation is one of their tools. Some years ago, in a speech to clients in the cattle industry, Ron Duchin, senior vice-president of the PR firm Mongoven, Biscoe, and Duchin (which represents probably a quarter of the largest corporations in the world), outlined his firm's basic divide-and-conquer strategy for defeating any social-change movement. Activists, he explained, fall into three basic categories: radicals, idealists, and realists. The first step in his strategy is to isolate and marginalize the radicals. They're the ones who see the inherent structural problems that need remedying if indeed a particular change is to occur. To isolate them, PR firms will try to create a perception in the public mind that people advocating fundamental solutions are terrorists, extremists, fearmongers, outsiders, communists, or whatever. After marginalizing the radicals, the PR firm then identifies and "educates" the idealists -- concerned and sympathetic members of the public -- by convincing them that the changes advocated by the radicals would hurt people. The goal is to sour the idealists on the idea of working with the radicals, and instead get them working with the realists.

Realists, according to Duchin, are people who want reform but don't really want to upset the status quo; big public-interest organizations that rely on foundation grants and corporate contributions are a prime example. With the correct handling, Duchin says, realists can be counted on to cut a deal with industry that can be touted as a "win-win" solution, but that is actually an industry victory.

And why does this strategy work so effectively? He continues:

In part, because we don't have a watchdog press that aggressively investigates and exposes PR lies and deceptions. Its success is also a reflection of the sorry state of democracy in our society. We really have a single corporate party with two wings, both funded by wealthy special interests. On the critical issues -- taxation, health care, foreign policy -- there's rarely much disagreement. If there is, more special-interest money floods in to make sure the corporate agenda wins out. On a deeper level, we all want to believe these lies. Wouldn't it be great to wake up and find ourselves living in a functioning democracy? To be truly represented by our so-called Representatives? Not to have to worry about the destruction of the biosphere or the safety of the water we drink and the food we eat? I think we all buy in because we want to believe things aren't as bad as they really are.

The reality is, though, that the U.S. political and social environment is corrupt and deeply dysfunctional. Structural reforms must be made in our political and economic system in order to assert the rights of citizens over corporations. But since big corporations dominate the media, we're not going to hear about this on network news or in the New York Times. We're not going to hear about it from politicians who are bought and paid for by wealthy interests. The beginning of the solution is for people to recognize that it's not enough to send checks in response to direct-mail solicitations from politicians and public-interest groups. We need to become real citizens and get personally involved in reclaiming our country.

Tutor points to a more epistemological solution:

To think straight, regardless of your own self-interest - impossible? No, the measure of the mind.

But that assumes a structural re-adjustment that values and inculcates critical thinking in its citizens. And it's not going to happen by itself.

Lawrence Goodwin, once again via Ratical, shows us one possible way to get there:

Imposing cultural roadblocks stand in the way of a democratic movement at every stage of this sequential process, causing losses in the potential constituencies that are to be incorporated into the movement. Many people may not be successfully “recruited,” many who are recruited may not become adequately “educated,” and many who are educated may fail the final test of moving into autonomous political action. The forces of orthodoxy, occupying the most culturally sanctioned command posts in the society, can be counted upon, out of self-interest, to oppose each stage of the sequential process -- particularly the latter stages, when the threat posed by the movement has become clear to all. In the aggregate, the struggle to create a mass democratic movement involves intense cultural conflict with many built-in advantages accruing to the partisans of the established order.

Democratic movements are initiated by people who have individually managed to attain a high level of personal political self-respect. They are not resigned; they are not intimidated. To put it another way, they are not culturally organized to conform to established hierarchical forms. Their sense of autonomy permits them to dare to try to change things by seeking to influence others. The subsequent stages of recruitment and of internal economic and political education...turn on the ability of the democratic organizers to develop widespread methods of internal communication within the mass movement. Such democratic facilities provide the only way the movement can defend itself to its own adherents in the face of the adverse interpretations certain to emanate from the received culture. If the movement is able to achieve this level of internal communication and democracy, and the ranks accordingly grow in numbers and in political consciousness, a new plateau of social possibility comes within reach of all participants. In intellectual terms, the generating force of this new mass mode of behavior may be rather simply described as “a new way of looking at things.” It constitutes a new and heretofore unsanctioned mass folkway of autonomy. In psychological terms, its appearance reflects the development within the movement of a new kind of collective self-confidence. “Individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” constitute, then, the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. Their development permits people to conceive of the idea of acting in self-generated democratic ways --
as distinct from passively participating in various hierarchical modes bequeathed by the received culture. In this study of Populism, I have given a name to this plateau of cooperative and democratic conduct. I have called it “the movement culture.” Once attained, it opens up new vistas of social possibility, vistas that are less clouded by inherited assumptions. I suggest that all significant mass democratic movements in human history have generated this autonomous capacity. Indeed, had they not done so, one cannot visualize how they could have developed into significant mass democratic movements.

Does blogging hold a key for "people who have individually managed to attain a high level of personal political self-respect" to "develop widespread methods of internal communication within the mass movement"?

On the surface, yes. But let's assume "the movement is able to achieve this level of internal communication and democracy, and the ranks accordingly grow in numbers and in political consciousness, [and] a new plateau of social possibility comes within reach of all participants."

Is there a flawed and deeply inherent contradiction in creating a movement that:

relies on the very structural edifice we wish to challenge, one that provides us with the tools by which such "internal communication" is possible?

creates de-centralized, non-localized, non bio-regional "communities" of solipsists, where actors only know each other virtually?

transcend the medium's inherent virtuality to achieve practical results? (Ghosts can see furniture, but they can't move it.)

Social change through telekinesis?

If blogging (and, by extension, the web itself) provides the means by which such a community for social change can form how does it move to the next level?

I'm still new at blogging, and these are new, inchoate thoughts. I just wanted to record them here and now while they flit through my mind.

Hence I welcome the opportunity for additional thoughts to clarify and flesh out my own. I'm sure others have thought greatly about this, and I would appreciate both flashlights and maps.

[Note: all blockquoted emphases are Insp. Lohmann)
# posted by Inspector Lohmann at 11:12 AM
Inspector Lomanns Blog;

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."

— Dan Quayle, Vice President of the United States of America