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Just Two Lessons Learned for Today

I've decided that 20 lessons is a good number to stop at, and today I'll discuss what are probably the two most controversial ones, about the animal rights movement.

Lesson #11

The Appeal of Cliques

The first six Lessons Learned from 4 Years of Animal Person and numbers 7-10 hinted about cliques, but only the negative aspects. For me, preaching to the choir wasn't satisfying and also became ugly and time consuming because I positioned myself to be part of a clique and that didn't work well for me.

There's tremendous appeal in cliques. Particularly when vegans and animal rights advocates are a tiny percentage of the population, some find it necessary and desirable to go to a place where they are among friends (for the most part). There is comfort in a place where everyone is on the same page and uses the same language and the context is the same (more or less). Where the work of one or a couple of people is followed and promoted. I think it's great, given how hostile the world is to our minority opinions and lifestyle, that there are safe places, even if those safe places have ranting as their modus operandi. If that's what makes the people in that particular insider group happy, that's fine. To finally feel like you're among friends when most of the world–even people within the movement you belong to–appear to be on a different team, fighting a different cause, is a relief, and there's a place for that.

My only words of caution are about the image etched in the minds of the rest of the "movement" or the rest of the world, depending on the tone of the site. There's a substantial downside to creating a space characterized by bullying or venom. That downside is that it hurts the rest of the movement (which I suppose is the intention).

I bring this up because these are lessons I've learned about the way I did things and what I would change.

Lesson #12

Don't talk about the future as if you know for sure what's going to happen.

We humans can't even agree on what happened in the past. To talk about the future as if we know what theory or strategy will lead to our goal doesn't make sense. I guess this is more about definitive statements. Saying that only nonviolence of a certain definition will lead to your goal isn't accurate. Maybe what you mean is: This is what I am willing to do in the service of this goal. And that's fine. But say that.

Also, as the mutual fund industry disclaimer says, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." Things don't have to happen the way they did in the past, even given similarities of circumstances or tactics. We don't know whether further generations of welfare reforms might lead to us not using animals. We don't know that militant direct action (particularly given the national security climate) will lead us to not using animals. Again, all we can say is: This is what I'm willing to get behind because I believe in it and think it's the best thing for the animals (or whatever other cause).

I've come to a place where I don't want to spend my time talking about how other vegans aren't doing things the right way when billions of animals are dying.

After all, these are my lessons. And they'll conclude tomorrow . . .

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. As a blogger and having been a frequent contributor in the comments section of Animal Person in the past, I’d like to offer a different perspective on blogging. Although I'm making this comment in today's post, it addresses other "lessons learned" in the past two posts on this topic.

    For me, I write what I think is right (morally, conceptually, and factually), and in a tone and style that I think conveys the points well. I do not give any thought to what will appeal to any given audience. I’m not in it to market my views so as to appeal to any group, whether that group is “the choir” or “outsiders” or anyone else. If people agree with what I write, wonderful; if they don’t, that’s too bad, because what I write is unequivocally promoting nonviolence and justice. If “the choir” is predominately who reads my blog (and I presume they are), it may be because the choir knows right from wrong better than others. I'm not going to compromise my message to appeal to a wider audience. That's how PETA went from a legitimate AR organization in the 1980s to a sleazy AW organization now.

    I criticize regulationism (what I used to more frequently call welfarism) because whether the regulationism is “traditional” or “new”, it is an obstacle to both veganism and eroding the property status barrier. Regulationism is exploitation and exploitation is regulationism. In practice, the two are inseparable from each other. If I criticize the” rest of the movement”, it is because the rest of the movement promotes regulationism and therefore exploitation. The differences in the animal advocacy movement are NOT merely a matter of tactics, but a very deep philosophical chasm. We are NOT all on the same side, and perhaps never will be until regulationists drop their speciesism.

    Why don’t I allow comments on my blog? The main reason is that I don’t have time to moderate comments. The secondary reason, related to the main reason, is that while many comments would be very welcome, enlightening, and insightful, probably just as many would be unwanted garbage of various kinds. Sure, most people can separate the wheat from the chaff, but in a world with so much chaff, why add opportunities for people to add more chaff? (And I do anticipate a new welfarist claiming that my comment here is typical of the "chaff" that should not be published.)

    What does it say about me that I don’t allow comments? Not much, other than that I don’t have the time or inclination to moderate comments.

    May 25, 2010
  2. BTW Mary, I think you are excellent at deconstructing the speciesism and related nonsense in the NY Times and elsewhere when it comes to nonhuman animals. If you continue to add content on Animal Person, I think that is where you are most effective and interesting. (Your other blog posts are effective and interesting as well, but deconstructing news, editorial, and opinion pieces is your niche, in my opinion.)

    May 25, 2010
  3. John #

    Interesting Dan. You comment and critique on one blog yet don't allow comments on your own. I'm sure Mary also has other things she can be doing rather than responding to a valid comment on her blog, yet she still does it. Thus your "excuse" is rather weak.

    May 26, 2010
  4. John,

    Mary obviously can do as she wishes, but if she asked me for advice, I’d say don’t waste your time allowing comments on your own blog. Instead, use your time to comment elsewhere. I'd give that advice to any *advocacy* blogger, especially those who advocate on unpopular or controversial issues.

    Let me explain why. Moderating your own blog’s comments section can be a time and energy drain, and for the most part, other people, instead of you, control when you need to be vigilant. You never know when an unwanted debate might pop up on your blog (whether it involves you personally or not), and the timing may not work for you. That is, it may be a bad time for you to moderate (i.e. read) every comment and you may not have time to reply when it might seem necessary.

    On the other hand, in commenting on other sites, you have far more control over when *you* want or have time to debate, and you certainly don’t need to read all the comments (as you do moderating your own blog). It is far more time-efficient.

    Most importantly, on my blog, the message I want to send is already there. Good comments may enhance it, but chances are that a greater number bad comments (especially in a speciesist society like ours) will need to either be moderated out or replied to. In other words, while comments sometimes enhance your message, comments also often, if not usually, distract people from your message and waste your time as a blogger.

    Further, the vast majority of my comments are on non-vegan forums and blogs where the majority of the audience is not vegan. (That’s the one of the biggest reasons I rarely comment on Animal Person anymore.) When I make comments on those blogs and forums, I’m certainly not preaching to any choir. Further, I’m often challenging the strong speciesism in those blogs and forums. But when I comment on my own blog, I’m mostly reiterating or clarifying my blog post and mostly writing for people who already agree.

    Finally, if I was blogging on issues like general philosophy or backcountry skiing where I wasn’t advocating for a cause and/or where people weren’t so strongly opinionated, I’d allow comments because debates would be unusual and/or friendly and I generally wouldn’t care what people thought anyway. There is a big difference in the nature of advocacy blogs and non-advocacy blogs.

    May 26, 2010
  5. By the way, that’s not to say there are no advantages to allowing comments, especially in non-advocacy blogs and blogs that advertise. For one thing, if you’re into hit counts (for advertising revenue or whatever), a comment section will definitely increase your hits.

    May 26, 2010
  6. John #

    Nice follow up Dan. Isn't the whole point of a having a blog to express your views and opinions, or bring up the view points of others? When you comment on someones blog your stating your opinion either for or against. I'm just saying…if I were a blogger I think I'd want to see the feedback from others reading it and thus allow people that follow it, to see those comments in return.
    I agree, time…and uh…energy?(I assume you mean mental energy) Yeah that is something one must consider while posting/moderating a blog.
    Now…I just wasted 10 mins. of my day commenting on your comment Dan! 🙂

    May 27, 2010
  7. I find that most blogs who don't allow comments tend to be the ones where the author feels that they already know all the answers, and that arrogance is enough of a turn-off for me that I don't usually return.

    July 21, 2010

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