On The Importance of Appearing Sane
In yesterday’s comments, Terry apprised us of a rather odd column in the Toronto Sun by Michael Coren, a TV/radio talk show host and syndicated columnist (who is a social and religious conservative) called "Doggone Fools" from August 18, where he writes: "No need here for compromise or silliness. Animal rights types are mentally ill." He then proceeds to demonstrate his ignorance regarding animal rights, insult "animal nuts" some more, and conclude that animals "exist for us."
On the 25th, his "Dogged by Oddballs," was published, in which he described what has occurred since the original article, he changes his opinion from animal rights people are mentally ill to we’re "psychotic and dangerous," and he pastes some of the e-mails he received, sans expletives (and here are some comments to that article).
Now, I’m not asking anyone to respond to him (but if you’d like to, you are directed to do so through his website and his e-mail address is email@example.com), because, as Kenneth commented, he wouldn’t even know where to start. A letter to the editor of the original article at firstname.lastname@example.org might be nice, though.
What I’m asking is that you read the articles and the comments, as they are telling us something about how we are being portrayed and perceived. Now, Coren clearly has issues that prevent him from composing an article without resorting to irrationality and name-calling, but I don’t care about him. From what I know of him as a human being from his website and his columns, his life and his opinions don’t interest me. The people I care about are the ones who are supposed to be speaking for justice (or at least the desire for it), and for the ethics of humanity to catch up with science, and align the way we behave with what we know: sentient nonhumans suffer in the same way we do. There’s nothing insane about that; it’s a fact. And attempting to integrate that fact into our daily lives is nothing if not perfectly sane.
I understand the fury of those who read Coren’s articles and want to "cuss him out," as they say down here in the American South. But don’t you think that plays right into Coren’s hands? Don’t you think he had the follow-up article half–if not completely–written five minutes after the first one because he knew what was going to happen?
This is my plea: No matter how incensed you are when ignorant people demonstrate their lack of knowledge, not to mention their lack of manners, in a newspaper, on the radio, or on television, don’t react initially. It’s like when you were a teenager and you broke up with someone who cheated on you (or whatever) and your mother told you to write the person a letter but not to mail it. If you must curse and rant and rave, do it in your personal journal or to a friend, but don’t do it for all the world to see.
If, however, you can articulate your rage in a reasonable, logical way, without the use of profanity, go for it. And if you can address the writer’s points and refute them–even better.
Abolitionists are at a significant disadvantage (hey, I’m just being realistic here) because we are constantly associated with PETA, which we do not belong to but which has cornered the market on publicity, and because we are a tiny minority, even in the world of "animal people." We cannot afford to make mistakes, we cannot afford to look like crazy people, and we cannot afford to let our anger, which is legitimate and entirely rational, turn into something that can easily be used against us.
Look, I have no idea who the commenters to Coren are. Maybe they’re abolitionists, maybe they’re not. But it doesn’t matter because you will immediately be lumped in with them by some because your beliefs are more like theirs than his. We cannot control the unreasonable nature of others, but we can control our own responses and reactions and make a concerted effort to present them in the most productive way possible.
Pass it on.