I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with
the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the
Negro's greatest stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White
Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more
devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the
absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly
says, 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods
of direct action'; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for
another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised
the Negro to wait until a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from
people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people
of ill will."
- Martin Luther King Jr., excerpt from his April 16, 1963
letter from Birmingham City Jail.
Infiltrators, informers, and agent
provocateurs are not the only threats our movement faces. There's also the obstructionists:
activists who prevent others from doing the actions necessary to bring about real
and significant change.
Obstructionists can be found in every movement.
Martin Luther King Jr. called them "moderates" and Malcolm X called
them "Uncle Toms." As King's quote from above says, obstructionists
hinder the movement more than its opponents.
Their harm arises out of the
fact that they are "one of us." Because of this, good activists often
capitulate to the obstructionist's demands of inaction or ineffective action to
maintain movement unity. Movement unity is an important goal to strive for, but
it should not be achieved at the expense of the animals. In opposing most actions,
obstructionists also tie up good activists' time and energy in argument. These
repeated and unproductive verbal fights frustrate and dishearten the good activists,
and can drive them to burnout.
Because of the harms obstructionists cause,
it is important we recognize them and deal with them appropriately. The following
is a list of characteristic traits of an obstructionist.
OF AN OBSTRUCTIONIST
1. Despise many non-violent tactics. Obstructionists
pretend to hate controversy and ill-will leading them to argue against direct
action like civil disobedience. They fear protests might get "out-of-control"
so they take precautions to ensure it doesn't. They might not allow chanting,
or they might appoint protest monitors to keep activists "orderly".
The police and other authorities are often their best friends. Obstructionists
obey all commands of the police and have no problem giving them whatever information
Strangely enough, although obstructionists act like they oppose
controversy and ill-will, they only seem to hate it when directed at animal abusers,
for they typically have no problem verbally thrashing good activists who suggest
the group take other, more effective actions.
2. Overly concerned with
image. One of the obstructionists main arguments against effective actions includes
their desire to maintain a "good" image. They fear direct action makes
them look "extreme", and "radical." They have volumes of anecdotal
evidence which they recite to show that direct action harms our image.
there is some room and need to discuss image. We don't want us, as messengers,
to distract from the message. But at the same time, we must not let concerns of
image unnecessarily waste precious time. When considering the impact of an action
on our image, we should ask the question: Does this action make us look committed,
determined, sincere, and unwilling to tolerate animal abuse? or does it make us
look weak, apathetic, and apologetic? By answering this simple question we can
determine whether to do the action, or work on organizing a better one.
the animal rights movement is not a public relations firms. We are educators,
and in order to educate we need to agitate. Only by waking people out of their
slumber of complacency will we be able to get their attention and show them the
horrors of animal abuse. Large animal-abusing, environment-raping, human-oppressing
companies need P.R. Firms because they have to cover-up their destructive practices
and sugar-coat their atrocities. We, on the other hand, have nothing to hide.
So don't spend too much time worrying about image, and be wary of those who do.
Must have total control. Obstructionists must always have their way. Non-participation
with actions they disagree with is not good enough for them. They have a burning
desire to ensure those actions don't happen. Yelling, crying, guilt-trips, abuse
of power, lies, back-stabbing and playing on your sympathy are some of the artillery
obstructionists use to get you to obey their will.
Certainly everyone has
a right to their opinion, but compromise between activists should be a give and
take proposition. You will find obstructionists always take and never give.
Sabotage good activists. Obstructionists often try to minimize the effectiveness
of good activists. They do this for a variety of reasons. Good activists make
them look bad by making more sacrifices for animal, which results in more positive
change for animals. Unfortunately, instead of trying to do more to help animals,
obstructionists prefer to degrade good activists in an attempt to make themselves
look better. Other reasons for obstructionists to sabotage good activists includes
they are jealous, power-hungry, or have an overly-developed ego.
attack good activists in many ways. They prevent them from getting the resources
they need to be effective, kick them out of the organization, paint their successes
as tragedies that hurt the movement, spread damaging rumors about them, and use
other under-handed ploys to regain control and get their way.
5. Weak on
issues. Although this is not always the case, they are often weak on the issues.
They argue against veganism, make excuses for animal abusers, and despise direct
action activists more than animal abusers.
Unfortunately, not all obstructionists
are as clearly defined as the descriptions given above. They definitely work on
a continuum and sometimes it is hard to tell if they are an obstructionist or
just a naive activist. Therefore, the below rules on handling obstructionists
can be applied when working with all activists. These simple rules will help minimize
the negative effects of obstructionists, while encouraging movement unity.
FOR DEALING WITH OBSTRUCTIONISTS
1. Work together when possible. Work
with other activists -- obstructionists or not -- on issues and actions that you
agree with. Don't be afraid to work with them and support their actions which
help animals. Hard-core obstructionists will often refuse to work with you, treating
you like some kind of slime mold instead of graciously accepting your help. Regardless
of their unwillingness to work with you, continue to offer your help and support
for their effective activities. It should be the obstructionists who prevent movement
unity, not you.
2. Expect compromise to go both ways. As animal activists
in a diverse movement, we must realize that not every activist can get their way
all the time. When working with other activists be prepared to make compromises
(on actions NOT Animals!!!), but make sure they are willing to reciprocate. If
they are unwilling to do this, it might be time to part ways.
your conscience. The best advice when dealing with activists is to follow your
conscience. Even if it leads you in directions that are uncharted or scary, it
will not lead you astray. If the group you started has been infiltrated by obstructionists,
your conscience might tell you to leave it and start over. It might not always
lead you in an easy direction, but it will lead you down rewarding paths. Don't
fear following its lead.
4. Speak the truth, but don't get hostile. Obstructionists
are quick to anger. Respond to their yelling by calmly stating your ideas, arguments,
and opinions. Their inaccuracies and distorted half-truths must be confronted
and corrected, but don't meet their hostility with similar anger. Our actions
need to show that any disunity in the movement is not caused by direct action
activists. We must always be willing to work with others, even those we disagree
with. However, we cannot let ourselves become obstructionists' doormats.
If you are an obstructionist . . . Some people reading this might recognize some
or all of the traits of an obstructionist in themselves. If this is the case,
it is a good time to evaluate your involvement in the movement and your relationship
with other activists. However, since all activists should strive to better themselves,
I invite all readers to take some time and answer the following questions:
are your priorities? Where do the animals fall into those priorities? How much
are you willing to sacrifice for the animals? Do you treat other activists with
respect? Why or why not? Does your involvement with the movement stem from ulterior
motives? What personal fears do you have about your involvement with the movement
or direct action? If your fears are realized, would life really end? Do you spread
damaging gossip about other activists? What three promises could you make or actions
could you do to become a better activist?
After taking some time to answer
these questions, please take action to make yourself a selfless activist for animals
who treats other activists with the respect they deserve.
Clifton: Obstructionist Extraordinaire
Merritt Clifton is a perfect
example of an obstructionist. He vehemently denounces being an animal rights activist
(which is true), even though he has no problem giving activists "pointers"
and explaining to them their "mistakes". Instead of an activist, he
claims to be an unbiased "journalist" who believes in the humane ethic.
paper Animal People has spread his obstructionist ideas to all corners of North
America's animal movement. In it, he defends businesses like Proctor & Gamble,
McDonalds, and Sea World; rants about the "psychotic" A.L.F. activists;
and pleads for activists to work with abusers to bring about change for the animals.
Clifton, with the help of his paper, has helped lull the movement into
a complacent slumber -- our outrage was pacified, ineffective campaigns were looked
upon as the animals' salvation, and direct action was dismissed as extremist and
ineffective. This is a good example of the potential dangers that obstructionists
pose to our movement.
In accordance with obstructionist tendencies, Clifton
opposes the non-violent direct action of the A.L.F. Clifton's fanatical hatred
of the Animal Liberation Front is legendary. He considers the A.L.F. to be "nightriders",
"psychopaths", and "terrorists". He compares them to the Ku
Klux Klan, saying they operate on the same principle that "might makes right".
down-plays the A.L.F.'s successes and assumes the worst. When the A.L.F. liberated
1,200 animals from the University of Arizona in 1989, he argues that the A.L.F.
torched the labs -- mice and all! Not even the vivisectors entertain such a ridiculous
idea. Clifton still doesn't seem to understand that members of the A.L.F. believe
in animal rights, and would not harm animals.
True to obstructionist's
principles, Clifton's main argument against the A.L.F. is that they hurt our image.
Clifton argues this image problem makes: abusers less willing to implement humane
changes, the media less willing to run stories on animal issues, and the public
less willing to adopt a humane lifestyle. In Clifton's words, "[coverage
of A.L.F. activities] tends to increase the perception that animal rights activists
are terrorists, crazy, and dangerous."
Clifton, although willing to
bend over back-wards to speak well of the abusers, apparently has no problem trying
to destroy good direct action activists. As any educated activist knows, you do
not spread rumors that other activists are infiltrators without hard evidence
(read War at Home; Covert Actions Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About
It by Brian Glick), or rumors linking people with illegal activities. However,
he has publicly argued on the internet that two people involved with the production
of No Compromise are agent provocateurs on the basis that they support direct
action. Clifton has also publicly suggested that three No Compromise activists,
whom he mentioned by name, were involved in certain specific A.L.F. actions which
none of them had been arrested or convicted for. I have not repeated the names
of the people he has tried to denigrate because those rumors are nothing more
than damaging lies which must be buried.
As someone who claims to have been
involved with environmental, peace, and animal issues for over two decades, Clifton
should know better. I think he does know better. And it is precisely because he
knows how harmful these rumors can be that he uses them. Direct action threatens
his perceived "empire" that he has created with Animal People and he
wants radical actions stopped. Since he doesn't recognize the fact that direct
action stems from committed people who demand change now, he is attacks the messenger
that reports on direct action, No Compromise, by attacking those people involved
in its production.
Clifton is also weak on the issues. For starters, he
admits to not being vegan while traveling. Equally egregious, he defends Sea World,
Proctor & Gamble, and McDonalds. He argues that Sea World has the world's
largest tanks, rescues dolphins, promotes environmental education, and has not
captured animals from the wild for over a decade. I guess we should just ignore
the fact that the animals are still imprisoned and that any tank, no matter how
large, is still a toilet when compared to the ocean.
When defending the
vivisectors, Proctor & Gamble, Clifton argues that P&G have donated $45
million to developing alternatives to animal tests, reduced animal use by 56%,
and in 1984 made a corporate commitment to phase out all animal tests as quickly
as possible. But if P&G is so good why is it that more than a decade after
their "corporate commitment", they continue to slice, dice, and sacrifice
animals for profit?
And how could Clifton possibly defend McDonalds? Because
the golden arches signed an agreement to only purchase brutalized carcasses from
factory farmers that meet the humane standards set up by some meat promoting organization.
Well, hooray for the largest animal killer in the world! Hey Merritt, sign me
up for the Humane Auschwitz Now campaign!
With friends like Clifton, the
animals don't need enemies. There are many obstacles in our way towards animal
liberation -- the abusers, the authorities, infiltrators, and agents. But we must
also remember that even those who claim to be friends of the animals can also
be obstacles. Just be sure to always place the interests of animals foremost in
your mind and follow your conscience when determining what is right and wrong.
Think for yourself and don't be afraid to rock the boat if that's where your conscience