Research Question: Does extremism have a net positive or negative impact on the animal rights movement? And can this extremism be applied more strategically as to make a more positive impact on the movement?
Thesis Moment: Inspired by the ideals they wish to make reality, most animal rights activists and organizations are peaceful and take action through education and boycotting (veganism/vegetarianism). But there are some factions of the animal rights movement that take their activism to the extreme through theft of corporate property (animal rescues), threat-making and destruction, and other aggressive activist techniques. Although these extremist actions may be well intentioned, they ultimately do more damage than they do good. These activists often act purely out of passion without proper planning and strategy. In this paper, I argue that while it currently detracts from the progress of non-extremists animal rights activists, if its use were to be better strategized, extremism could provide unique benefits to the animal rights movement and ultimately help to progress animal rights ideas throughout society (in the United States).
First I need to support the idea that extremism currently, has a net negative impact on society. This argument hinges on three main ideas; (1) extremism gives the movement a bad image making it harder for even non-violent activists to connect with their targets, (2) it often results in oppositional backlashes both on an individual and corporate scale that present ever more obstacles for the movement to overcome (origination of the Ag-gags), and (3) violent and extreme actions fail to connect with the societal factors that drive animal cruelty and therefore are at best delaying the onset of more unnecessary suffering.
Then I will make a series of strategic suggestions to best mitigate the aforementioned drawbacks of extremism while maximizing the potential benefits. One of these proposed strategies involves greater cooperation between extremists and nonextremist while the two still remain independent as do essentially play good cop bad cop as to redefine the spectrum of acceptable sacrifices. The second strategy relates to the rhetoric of extremist media so that animal rights ideals better latch to ideas that many individuals have already accepted as worthy or making a change for.
In my proposal draft, most of the time was spent abstractly discussing and identifying the pros and cons of certain animal rights extremist tactics. I tried to organize each of my paragraphs to directly reflect this by beginning each paragraph discussing the merits of the a particular topic and concluding each with a description of that tactic’s drawbacks. Similarly I created my infographic to highlight this analysis of pros and cons as I believe this discussion can clearly lead the audience to conclude that either extremism was having a positive impact or a negative impact on the rest of the animal rights movement.
Most of the comments I receive on my proposal were on the simplicity of my final argument; does animal rights extremism progress or regress the animal rights movement? In light of the comments and discussion, I feel that in the upcoming RBA I am going to continue my organizational pattern but expand my analysis from just extremism to all animal rights activist tactics. I believe that by broadening this research I will ultimately be able to further nuance my argument and ultimately make suggestions on how the animal rights movement can better organize and strategize to make the most impact on animal welfare in the United States.
Lack of scientific support and formal reasoning in social media activism for the animal rights movement.
Social media activism within the animal rights movement almost always consists of a picture of a cute animal and a catchy slogan or an infographic relative to the environmental consequences of the animal agriculture. Often these posts fail to connect with their respective audiences as they do not address underlying skepticisms that the viewers my hold. This brings up the question, would the addition of scientific support and formal reasoning to the existing animal rights social media template effectively address this skepticism or simply bore or scare the viewers away?
Activism vs. Activism! with respect to the animal rights movement.
Animal rights activists often set their goals too low, asking individuals and corporations to simple reduce their contribution to animal agriculture or to support “humane meat”. Such concessions can be seen as progress but reinforce the many of the ideas that are fundamentally contradictory to the animal rights movement. Jordan would have said that such individuals were merely settling for activism when they should be striving more activism!. Do the efforts of the activists trivialize the demands of the activists or is their collaboration more effective?
Violence and extremism in the animal rights movement.
As inspired by the ideals which they wish to make reality, most animal rights activists and organizations are peaceful and take actions through education and boycotting (veganism/vegetarianism). But there are some factions of the animal rights movement that take their activism to the extreme by damaging public property affiliated with the mistreatment of animals, threatening and blackmailing corporate officials, and throwing fake blood on people as they exit the burlington coat factory for example. Although these extremist actions may be well intentioned they give a bad image to the rest of the animal rights movement that do not condone violence and aggression. I argue that these violent few have come to characterize the public image of the animal rights movement as a whole as extremist, which that has marginalize the movements ability to connect and influence the decisions of the audience they are trying to reach. This topic is worthy of intellectual inquiry because if my claim were to be supported then it would serve as greater reason for the extremists that do exist within the animal rights movement to realize that their actions may be detracting from their cause. Ultimately such a realization could results in a more unified front in regards to the use of violence and aggressive actions, allowing the animal rights movement to reconcile their public image and more easily connect with their audience and cause change more effectively.
While it may be easy to believe that culture is created by the desires and needs of the individual, author of Activism!, Tim Jordan, claims the otherwise, “corporate and state cultural codes have come to dominate and constitute much of the landscapes of our desires, explicitly and all too successfully recreating and moulding our passions to their needs (Jordan 104).” In chapter 5 of Activism!, Jordan explains how activists! use a technique called culture jamming to reverse and transgress some of these culture codes. Often such culture jamming involves a reversal of the meaning of a particular symbol while leaving the general feel/appearance intact. One such example is the splicing of an ‘Employ Labour Now’ sticker to make a ‘No Labour Ploy’ sticker. Both products have a similar look and feel yet the jammed version has an entirely different meaning. Such subtleties are the marks of a good jam as they preserve the connection to the original symbol while provoking thought on the true nature of the symbols.
Later in the chapter, Jordan goes on to discuss the repercussions of the subtlety in culture jamming. He introduces the notion that this approach may be flawed in one of his many examples. He tells a story about an advertisement that depicted a Zapatista guerilla adorned in Box Fresh clothing that seemingly successfully culture jammed, yet at the end of the story Jordan contemplates the possibility that the culture jamming was secretly a ploy to raise publicity for Box Fresh. This speculation raises an important question, “Does the use of corporate, military, or state cultural codes reinforce these codes, even when the overt message is to oppose them (Jordan 114)?” I find this question interesting and relevant as it challenges the merit of culture jamming as a whole. It introduces the possibility that the publicity raised by culture jamming only further promotes the cultural codes that were meant to be blocked and even reversed. I believe this is an important consideration to make for any activist! before attempting a culture jam.